Dead and Gondola (Christie Bookshop: Book 1) by Ann Claire

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Holiday, Christmas, Adult, Contemporary, Audiobook

Series: Christie Bookshop

Dead and Gondola—Book 1

Last Word to the Wise—Book 2

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

When a mysterious bookshop visitor dies under murderous circumstances, the Christie sisters and their cat Agatha call on all they’ve learned about solving mysteries from their favorite novelist in this new series debut.

Ellie Christie is thrilled to begin a new chapter. She’s recently returned to her tiny Colorado hometown to run her family’s historic bookshop with her elder sister, Meg, and their friendly bookshop cat, Agatha. Perched in a Swiss-style hamlet accessible by ski gondola and a twisty mountain road, the Book Chalet is a famed bibliophile destination known for its maze of shelves and relaxing reading lounge with cozy fireside seats and panoramic views. At least, until trouble blows in with a wintery whiteout. A man is found dead on the gondola, and a rockslide throws the town into lockdown—no one in, no one out.

He was a mysterious stranger who visited the bookshop. At the time, his only blunders were disrupting a book club and leaving behind a first-edition Agatha Christie novel, written under a pseudonym. However, once revealed, the man’s identity shocks the town. Many residents knew of him. Quite a few had reason to want him dead. Others hide secrets. The police gather suspects, but when they narrow in on the sisters’ close friends, the Christies have to act.

Although the only Agatha in their family tree is their cat, Ellie and Meg know a lot about mysteries, and they’re not about to let the situation snowball out of control. The Christie sisters must summon their inner Miss Marples and trek through a blizzard of clues before the killer turns the page to their final chapter.


First Line:

I swung open the heavy oak door and blinked at the figure taking shape in the blizzard.

Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire

I love mysteries set in bookstores and/or small towns, and this book has both. It was a given that I would accept the invitation from the publisher. I am glad that I did because this was a great mystery.

Dead and Gondola is the first book in the Christie Bookshop series. So, my usual drivel about reading previous books does not apply here. You can safely read this book and not wonder about storylines or characters.

The plotline for Dead and Gondola was interesting and engaging. Ellie has returned to her hometown to help her older sister run their family’s acclaimed book shop, The Book Chalet. Ellie wasn’t expecting an older man to show up at the shop, looking for a woman named CeCe and carrying a rare book. She also wasn’t expecting to witness that same older man get murdered. And she certainly wasn’t expecting her long-time employee to disappear simultaneously. With the roads out of town closed, Ellie takes it upon herself to investigate. What she discovers shocks her to her core and throws suspicion at everyone in her village. Who killed the older man? Why did her employee disappear? What connects the two?

Dead and Gondola is a medium-paced book set in the fictional town of Last Word, Colorado. I loved the description of the town. It is a ski town, and the author did go into what it was like living in a town that relies on skiing for income. But she also showed what living in a small town was like.

The characters in Dead and Gondola weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. But, seeing this is the first book in the series, I expect some character growth in the later books. Besides that, I loved seeing the assortment of people that made up Ellie’s world. They were as unique as the town was. I also liked the darkness in this town and the people.

  • Ellie—I liked her, but she annoyed me during parts of the book. There were points in the book where I couldn’t connect to her. She became almost obsessed with discovering who murdered the older man and why. I did feel bad for her when the murderer was revealed. Honestly, I was shocked and understood why she felt that way. Also, I did like her flashbacks to childhood and reading. I was the same way!!

The storyline with the older man, the mysterious CeCe, his murder, the book, and Ellie was well written. The author took me on a ride with this one. It had more twists and turns in the plotline than a mountain road. And the red herrings!!! There were a lot of them. I loved the twist the author put into this plotline. And who the murderer was!! I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t who I was expecting it to be.

The storyline with Mrs. Reed, her disappearance, the shop, Ellie, and Meg was also very well written. I was with Ellie for almost half the book. I thought something terrible had happened to her. But then she was found, and I couldn’t help but be slightly irritated by Ellie. I was like, “Leave the poor woman alone!!” Then the author had a twist in this plotline that had me shaking my head. And the author led me to believe one thing when the opposite happened.

Dead and Gondola fit perfectly into the cozy mystery genre. The author kept me guessing a few things (see above), and a big twist at the end of the book took me by surprise.

The end of Dead and Gondola was interesting. The author was able to wrap up the main storylines in this book in a way that I enjoyed. But she did leave enough wiggle room for book 2. I can’t wait to read book 2!!

I recommend Dead and Gondola to anyone over 16. It is a clean book (no kissing, no sex), but there is some mild language and violence.

I want to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Ann Claire for allowing me to read and review Dead and Gondola. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading my review of Dead and Gondola, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Affinity for Pain (Newborn City: Book 1) by R.E. Johnson

Publisher: IngramSpark

Date of Publication: October 21st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance. Dark Fantasy

Series: Newborn City

Affinity for Pain—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and Keri Lake’s
Nightshade, Affinity for Pain is a dark paranormal romance that is steamy,
action-packed, and full of emotional intrigue.

Hope Turner is the ideal human-hunting assassin, and she is damn good at her job. A daughter of the Chakal, a race of hybrid demons lacking physical sensation and
emotion, Hope was always brutally efficient in her work. She never struggled with a case, that is, until she was assigned to take down Ciaran O-Connor – a stubborn,
strong-willed bodyguard with a dark past and severe PTSD.

He also happens to be her soulmate.

When the omaeriku – an inescapable soulmate bond – takes hold of her, Hope is hit with a wave of emotion and physical sensation for the first time in her life. Finding herself unable to kill Ciaran and ending up on her former boss’s hit list, Hope and Ciaran must escape into hiding. Immediately, the chemistry between Hope and Ciaran is electric. However, they must try to direct their focus on finding a way to take down Marcus Dentry, their newfound common enemy, who was both Hope’s former boss and Ciaran’s former captor and torturer.

However, as they spend more time together and succumb to their physical desire for each other, the newfound emotion and pain brought forth by the soulmate bond begin to overwhelm Hope. Can Hope learn to handle her sudden emotions, both the good and the bad, before it drives her away from the only person who can make her feel? And can Hope and Ciaran track down Marcus and exact their revenge before he gets to them first?

Inspired by the works of authors like Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, Affinity for
Pain is a great next read for smut-lovers seeking a romance that includes action,
intimate vulnerability, and electric chemistry. Click “Add to Cart!” today!


First Line:

“And now I’m late. Ugh. This guy better die quick.”

Affinity for Pain by R.E. Johnson

One of my guilty pleasures is reading books that contain a lot of smut and have the tropes of fated mates. Yes, I am one of those people who read those werewolf smut snippets on Facebook (come on, you know you did it!!). So, when I read the blurb for this book, I was immediately intrigued. Not because it has werewolves (spoiler, it doesn’t) but because it was the same kind of book, except it has demons. So, how could I say no? Well, this book was a lot darker than those snippets. Not that I didn’t enjoy it (I did), but this book might not be the right fit for most people.

Now, saying that, I am going to put the trigger warning up front. I am not easily shocked (by anything in life). But the triggers in this book shocked me. Some things discussed in the book took me by surprise, and some (to be frank), disgusted me. So, here are the trigger warnings, and there might be a spoiler or two in there (sorry!!) This book contains cursing (a lot of foul language), explicit sex that includes kink (some BSDM, praise, and first time), torture (graphic), sexual assault (on a male), discussion of past trauma related to male sexual assault and captivity, kidnapping, combat, gun fights, mentions of suicide, and pregnancy. If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading the book. As I said, I am not easily shocked, but this book shocked me. I took the trigger warnings directly from the author’s website.

Affinity for Pain is the first book in the Newborn City series. Because it is the first book in the series, you don’t need to read another book to catch up on what’s happening. There is a website (see the paragraph above) where you can see trigger warnings, the book synopsis, a glossary, and the characters. I found it very helpful as a reference while writing this review.

Affinity for Pain had a dark but exciting plotline. Set in the fictional city of Newborn City in New York, this fast-paced book is centered around Hope Turner, a Chakal demon assassin, and Ciaran O’Connor, an ex-underground fighter who escaped the demons who kidnapped and tortured him. Hope has been hired to assassinate Ciarian. She is chosen because she always gets the job done. But once Hope sees Ciaran, she realizes she has bonded to him, which is called an omaeriku. With her race, it is a cherished bond, but she doesn’t want it. Unfortunately for her, it has happened, and she can’t kill Ciaran. As the bond intensifies and Hope experiences pain for the first time, she becomes overwhelmed. She channels everything into finding Marcus, her ex-boss and Ciaran’s ex-captor. Will they find Marcus? Will they be able to defeat him? Will the bond stay intact?

The author created complex characters for this book. There were so many layers; I feel she didn’t even show everything and kept some layers under wrap for the next book.

  • Hope—I liked her. A bit of background here, she is a Chakal demon. Hope is a successful assassin because she lacks pain and wants to keep it that way. The females of her race cannot feel pain until they meet their soul mate. But once she sees and realizes that Ciaran is her soulmate, she goes back and forth if she wants to be with him. The best way to get rid of the bond is to kill him. But she didn’t; instead, she forced herself to embrace the one thing she didn’t want. I was a little confused by that but hey, her fictional life. I will say that she was loyal, and once she decided to trust someone, she had their back. Overall, she was a solid character.
  • Ciaran—Holy crap, where do I begin with this guy. He was kidnapped and forced to fight in an underground gladiator arena against other demons. He was also Marcus’s special pet (use your imagination, shudder). He was instrumental in escaping and burning the club where he was being kept captive. And because of that, he has severe PTSD and intimacy issues. My heart broke for him. When he came to New York, he was full of wonder and wanted to see the world. Instead, well read above. He was a lethal killer. His time in the ring made sure of that. I wanted to ship him back to Ireland, get him into therapy, and let him heal.
  • Marcus—He was one of the evilest characters I have ever read. Yes, I know he was a demon, but he took evil to a new level. The things he did to Ciaran were unspeakable. I was left shaking after certain events in the book because I wanted to hurt him.

The secondary characters in Affinity for Pain were just as well written as the main ones. But, the author left a lot to the imagination. Dimitri is who I am talking about. I couldn’t figure out his deal except that he was loyal to Ciaran. Even the type of demon Dimitri was wasn’t talked about. All I knew was that he was from Russia, a demon with extraordinary power (he used that twice), and that was it. It made me want more!!!

Affinity for Pain is a very dark paranormal romance. It fit very well in the paranormal category. I loved the backstory of how the author introduced the demons to the world. It was fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what other kinds of demons are out there. As for the romance angle, I was a little iffy on that. It was an Instalove situation (fated mate bond). I am not a fan of Instalove. But in this case, it worked. I also felt that there was no work to the romance. It jumped from the bond to sex, sex, and more sex.

The storyline with Hope, Ciaran, and their bond was interesting. I liked how the author explained how the Chakal demons society worked. It was interesting to see a male-dominated society with its own Gods and rules. The only thing I disagreed with was forced breeding. But the author didn’t spend much time on that. I did like how Hope and Ciaran worked together. She was also good for his PTSD and wasn’t judgemental when he finally told her about what happened to him while kidnapped.

The storyline with Ciaran, Marcus, Ciaran’s kidnapping, and his ultimate journey for revenge was heartbreaking. I will warn you; it does get graphic. Marcus does some awful things to Ciaran, and the author doesn’t sugarcoat it.

The end of Affinity for Pain was interesting. I say interesting because of what happened and how everything was resolved or not resolved. I will not get into it, but I look forward to seeing what book 2 brings with Hope and Ciaran. I also hope that Dimitri and Reddina are featured more. I want to know more about him and her.

I would recommend Affinity for Pain to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, graphic language, and graphic sexual situations. Also, see the trigger warnings at the beginning of the review.

I want to thank R.E. Johnson and Novel Cause for allowing me to read and review Affinity for Pain. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Affinity for Pain, 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:

Goodreads Monday: Lord of the Blade (Legacy of the Blade: Book 1) by Elizabeth Rose

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.


Lord Corbett Blake is determined to bring honor back to his family name. King Edward III has told him he needs to marry, or lose his lands and title. Corbett’s late father made the mistake of marrying a commoner, and because of this, it is up to Corbett to make things right.

Now he searches for the perfect lady, but his reputation proceeds him. Three times he has lost future brides to death before they ever reached the altar. Some say he is the messenger of death himself, with his pet raven perched upon his shoulder. But now, he searches for the troubled girl with the green eyes, who calls out to him for help every night in his sleep.

Devon has been raised in secret, hidden inside the walls of the monastery for the last eighteen years. Now, the black-hearted Lord of Steepleton has discovered her. She is excited at first when she hears he will be bringing her to the castle, that is, until she realizes he wants her to be nothing more than his servant.

Deception and secrets are many within the walls of Blake Castle, but they can’t hold a candle to the passion that stirs between Corbett and his servant, Devon – a woman who can destroy everything he is, with the power of just one kiss.

Goodreads Monday: The Dark Rift: The Supernatural Grail Quest Zombie Apocolypse (The Last Artifact Trilogy: Book 1) by Gilliam Ness

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.


When they come into possession of a mysterious prehistoric cube, relic hunter Gabriel Parker, and the alluring artifact historian Natasha Rossi, find themselves inexplicably bound to a dark mythology dating back to the roots of civilization. Throughout history the long lost Cube has been sought after by emperors, popes, and caliphs alike. It is believed to be a container of knowledge; a holy vessel capable of emancipating humanity from the confines of earthly mortality. Now that it has been found, demonic forces are surfacing to destroy it. Their presence marks the return of a potent nefarious entity that once reigned supreme in Earth’s distant reptilian past.

Under the apocalyptic shadow of global unrest and rampant natural disasters, Gabriel and Natasha battle to prevent this sinister blight from being unleashed. With nothing but a tattered journal to guide them, they race from Italy to Morocco, and finally to the mountains of Northern Spain where they must locate a Lost Labyrinth spoken of by the ancients. There, deep in a Sacred Chamber, they will find salvation for mankind, but not without a price. A cosmic clock is ticking. It marks the world’s entry into the oblivion of the Dark Rift, and the final days that remain.

Cathedral of Time (The World of Agartha: Book 1) by Stephen Austin Thorpe

Publisher: Creating History

Date of publication: April 10th, 2018

Genre: Middle Grade, Fiction, Historical, Fantasy, Mythology

Series: The World of Agartha

Cathedral of Light—Book 1

Toquchar’s Prisoner—Book 2

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ghostly sightings of a legendary murderer. The discovery of a hidden stash from a bank robbery. The disappearance of a well-known TV personality, and the most prominent family in town entangled in all of it. Makayla Brown’s ideal life is about to be blown to smithereens. She’ll need to race across space and time, plunging herself into another world in hopes of saving her own. When Makayla disappears off the face of the Earth, the dedication of her two best friends, Tanner and Andrew, will be tested as they attempt to follow her trail through a dangerous new world and encounter beasts and beings the likes of which they’ve never seen. Will they reach Makayla in time to rescue her from certain death and bring her safely home, or will they be doomed to spend eternity in their new world, sealed by the rule of the fates?

Author Stephen Austin Thorpe, the son of a school teacher who made magic with her words by varying intonations and playing with pronunciation to add dramatic flare, grew up loving words. But it wasn’t until he sat down to document the flow of a video game he planned to create that he realized how much he loved to write. And so Cathedral of Time, the first in The World of Agartha series, was born. Stephen’s love for Ancient Rome, and history in general, grew from his service as a 19-year old missionary in modern-day Rome. Stephen lives in Utah with his wife Maria and daughters Jenny and Mary.


First Line:

Makayla “Mick” Brown was about as all-American of a girl as there was at Edmonson County Middle School.

Cathedral of Time by Stephen Austin Thorpe

It had been a minute since I had read a middle-grade book. When I read them, I usually do because I am checking the content for my 9-year-old daughter. So, when the email came from the author asking me to read and review this book, I did hesitate. But, what ultimately made me choose to review Cathedral of Time was that this book used Augmented Reality as part of the plotline. I had only read one other book that used this and was curious to see how it would go with the book. I am glad that I did. The book was a good read, and the augmented reality was fantastic!!

The author provided me with an app that went with the book. The app is Xperience Books. It is free and can be used with iPhones and Android phones. You need to register with the app, which takes about 5 minutes. But once you are registered, you can scan the QR codes supplied at the end of each chapter. I did a few chapters (with the QR codes) and found the content quite good. There was AR (I brought one up with a bear. It stood on my dining room table….lol), voice clips from the different characters, filters (the one I tried was Tanner’s baseball hat), links to the cave mentioned in the book (it is real) and links to book merch. This app was a plus and made my reading experience more fun.

There are some triggers in the Cathedral of Time. They are the death of a sibling, divorce, verbal and maybe emotional abuse of a child, and depression. The author does spend some time on all of these (mainly because they happen to one child), and he writes about them respectfully. If you are triggered by these or feel that your child will be, I suggest not reading this book.

Cathedral of Time is a medium-paced book that takes place in quite a few places. I loved the pacing of this book. It was just fast enough for me to enjoy the action scenes but also slow enough for me to process everything. I loved the locations where this book took place. It took place in Kentucky (past and present). But, as soon as the kids found the portal, the book shifted location to a different world that led them to Mount Olympus, the River Styx, and Ancient Rome.

The three main characters were well-written. They acted like tweens, and I loved it. Any book where the kids act their age instead of years older immediately gets bonus brownie points.

  • Makayla—I loved her. She was resourceful and determined to solve the mystery of her ancestor. But, simultaneously, she was embarrassed by what he did. I did feel bad when her huge secret got out. I didn’t think that Tanner or Andrew ratted on her. Something else must have happened. I did get irritated with her when she set off by herself. She was mad and decided she would be the only one to solve the mystery of her ancestor. And that did come back to bite her in the butt, big time.
  • Tanner—My heart broke for him. This poor child endured more than anyone should at his age. The guilt over his sister dying ate at him, as did how his father treated him. Everything manifested in him trying to be the best at everything just so his father would say something nice. I wanted to cry during his chapters. His self-esteem and self-worth weren’t there. But the author did something in the middle of his and Andrew’s storyline that made me smile. He made Tanner realize his self-worth.
  • Andrew—I didn’t know a lot about him. He was a bit of an enigma. All I knew was that he was uber-rich, intelligent, and a very loyal friend to Makayla and Tanner. Other than that, nada. I hope that more is revealed about him in the next book because I feel there is more to him than what is shown.

There were a ton of notable secondary characters. The author included regular made-up characters (Mick’s mom and dad, the sheriff, and Tanner’s mom). He also included, which I loved, figures from mythology and history. Jupiter, Hades, Persephone, Demeter, and Nero appear in the book. The secondary characters made this book much more fleshed out and three-dimensional.

Cathedral of Time was a mishmash of genres, so I can’t just pin it down to one. It fits into the genres of middle grade, fiction, history, and fantasy. There is also a Christian angle to the book. The author gave an excellent overview of Christianity and how it survived in Ancient Rome without being too preachy.

The storyline with Mick and her journey to prove her ancestor’s innocence was engaging. I felt awful that Mick felt her father was up to something shady. But, in her defense, he was acting shady. Then when she found out about who she was related to, it was almost too much for her. I felt she was reckless when she set off alone in Agartha. But the adventures she had and the advice she was given were priceless. There were a couple of twists in her storyline that I saw coming. But it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of seeing where she went and who she met.

The storyline with Tanner and Andrew was just as good as Mick’s. They were on a rescue mission and determined to get to Mick no matter what. They did go about getting to Mount Olympus differently than Mick did. They traveled down the River Styx, met Persephone, traversed a bottomless pit, and beat Hades to reach Ancient Rome. I disagreed with them messing with history, though. Or what happened when they tried to get Mick out of prison. I will say that Nero was pretty scary (he might be too frightening for younger readers). The twist at the end of their storyline was pretty good.

The end of the Cathedral of Time was interesting. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with what Mick’s mother said about Tanner and Andrew. The author did wrap up a couple of the storylines but left the main ones wide open. I also am interested in what happens in the next book.

I recommend Cathedral of Time to anyone over 10 (with a parent) or 12 (without a parent). There is mild violence, very mild language, and the triggers I mentioned above.

I want to thank the author, Stephen Austin Thorpe, for allowing me to read and review this free book. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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The Sylvan Horn: Book One of The Sylvan Chord by Robert Redinger

Publisher: iUniverse

Date of publication: February 23rd, 2009

Genre: Fantasy

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Before the days of men, there were elves. In a time they were great and powerful, the first dwellers, the brightest ray of dawn upon the earth. They brought light and music to the world and every breeze that stirs and wave that crashes still echoes with the wonder of the fair folk.
But a foulness is brewing in the east, where men deal in sorcery. They summon dire forces, unleashing a terrible power into the world. And the elves, once immortal, now fade from the earth. But knowing that all sorcery comes from Runes that were carved ages ago, Efkin, a young elf lord, races to find and destroy the hidden Runes before all is lost. He sets out to recover the horn of his ancestors that long ago summoned the forces that shaped the world. Only the horn has the power to break the Runes. He journeys into the east, but comes too close to the heart of sorcery and does not dare blow the horn. If he is tainted by the poison of the Runes the horn will sound a ruinous note that could spell the end of the earth.


First Line:

It was early dawn when a wagon rumbled across the plain along the eastern part of Khazinth in its way toward a village the stood between the mountains and the sea.

The Sylvan Horn by Robert Redinger

When I read the blurb for The Sylvan Horn, I immediately thought of The Lord of the Rings series. Except the Humans were the bad guys, and the Elves were trying to protect the rest of the world from them. So, I immediately accepted the invite and dove right in. While I wasn’t right about it being like The Lord of The Rings (not even close…lol), I did enjoy reading this book.

The Sylvan Horn had an exciting plotline. The boundaries that have protected the Elves’ realm are failing. That is allowing Trolls to infiltrate their forests and kill their people. Attempting to broker peace leads the Elves to discover that there is more going on than just the Trolls attacking them. It is up to Efkin, a young Elf with almost mythic magical powers, to retrieve an artifact that can help him. This artifact, The Sylvan Horn, is held by the humans in a mountain of iron….which is deadly to Elves. As Elfkin makes his journey, he discovers there is so much more at stake. The bindings on The Runes, which can destroy the world, are failing. And there is only one god that can help them. Can Efkin survive the journey? Will he be able to reach the Horn? And what will Efkin learn about himself on the journey?

The Sylvan Horn is book one in The Sylvan Chord series. As it is the first book in the series, I can’t say the usual stuff I put in this section.

The Sylvan Horn was a medium-paced book. It did get off to a slow start, but the author used that to introduce most of the main characters. It picked up when Efkin started his journey but did falter a little in the middle of the book. But I still enjoyed the plotline. Once Efkin reached the human lands, the book picked up its pace and zipped to the end.

There were a lot of characters in The Sylvan Horn, most of which were introduced in the first few chapters. It did get a little confusing. But once Efkin was on his journey, I was better able to keep track of characters better.

I want to add before I go any further and forget that I wish the author had included a glossary. That would have made keeping track of the characters and the cities/countries/continents Efkin and his group visited so much easier.

This book is supposed to be a young adult fantasy. The book fits perfectly in with the fantasy genre. The author hit every single earmark for that genre, and I enjoyed it. I was iffy about the young adult genre, though. Some of the vocabulary was a little adult. Even I had to look some words up.

I loved the main storyline and the lore that went with it. Efkin was a likable character who was determined to get the Horn. I loved reading about his side journies while continuing on his main quest. The ones that stood out the most to me were the water giant (who protected him against the dragons) and the count who was training birds for war (I got a good laugh about that). I liked the twist on who Efkin was. It made sense during the last half of the book (with what he could do).

The Sylvan Horn ended on a cliffhanger. I have questions about the druid that this one didn’t answer. I am looking forward to reading the next book

I would recommend The Sylvan Horn to anyone over 13. There is violence, no language, no sex (or sexual situations), and no other triggers.

Thank you to the author for allowing me to read and review The Sylvan Horn.

Goodreads Monday: A Promise of Home (Lake Howling: Book 1) by Wendy Vella

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.


Reclusive. Grumpy. Irresistible.

Dr. Jake McBride loves two things in life. His people, and chicken cheesy-crust pies. Returning from Iraq, he’s done with medicine and strangers… in fact, life. He knows all about trauma, and plans on dealing with it, his own way. His needs are simple, solitude and working on his new career as the town recluse. The only problem with that… well two actually, are the interfering towns folk of Lake Howling, and Branna O’Donnell. He’s damn sure that her return means nothing to him… until it does!

His first mistake was kissing her. His second was doing it again.

Branna O’Donnell is burnt out and needs a place to stop running. Strange how that place is back where she’d once been happy. Settling in to small town life again comes with complications and the biggest has a serious attitude. Once the town golden boy, Jake McBride now wears a permanent snarl, not that anyone but her seems to notice the sexy doctor has changed.

Sharing a bed complicates things but no way is Jake leaving Branna alone until they find who is threatening her, and even then he’s not sure he’ll be able to walk away. He can feel himself changing, and it’s all on her, but when her past comes calling with it comes the realization that more than lust is involved. He’s not sure he can be her hero but he knows he wants to try.

If you enjoy your small town romance sizzling with a side of crazy, then Lake Howling is for you. Meet the real authority in town – the local book club – and Jake’s interfering hot friends. Swim (or skinny dip!) in the ice cold lake, then warm up with coffee and a mystery muffin at The Hoot Café. Plenty of feels and LOLS, all wrapped up in a town that will have you packing your bags to head there, from the very first page.

Goodreads Monday: The Day Human Prince (Day Human Trilogy: Book 1) by B. Kristin McMichael

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.


Book One of The Day Human Trilogy, featuring characters from The Blue Eyes Trilogy.

Devin Alexander grew up as the only day human in a world surrounded by night humans who drank blood, sometimes his blood. He spent his life training toward one goal: the protection of one of those blood drinkers, Arianna Grace. But what is he supposed to do when the blue-eyed girl of the legends doesn’t need him anymore? What does his life mean then? How is a guy supposed to move on when the girl he has yearned over for a decade has chosen someone else?

Before he can even start to figure out his new life without Arianna, Devin has to deal with another problem. He needs to take care of some unfinished business with a night human he has known for less than a month, but with whom he is magically bound.

Vanessa McKinny has promised that she knows a way to undo the spell she placed on Devin to save his life. Devin would do anything to break the bond to be free of her, even if it means traveling to the sidhe village, a place inhabited by a race of night humans that has not had a day human visitor in more than a hundred years. If he doesn’t want to get stuck, he must work with Nessa to find a way to break the bond. Only then can Devin have time to get back to finding his new goal in life, unless he discovers that his path lies with the sidhe.

The Art of Prophecy (The War Arts Saga: Book 1) by Wesley Chu

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey

Date of Publication: August 9th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Adult, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Literature, Asian Literature, Science Fiction Fantasy, Adult Fiction, Epic, Cultural, Asia

Series: The War Arts Saga

The Art of Prophecy—Book 1

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

An epic fantasy ode to martial arts and magic—the story of a spoiled hero, an exacting grandmaster, and an immortal god-king from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lives of Tao.

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals.


First Line:

The line of broken soliders stretched out of the training pit and around the arena, spilling out onto the streets.

The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu

I love long books, but only if they are well-written. I have read books (not this one, thankfully) that are well over 500 pages, and they ramble, but that is not the case with The Art of Prophecy. This book is 528 pages which kept me captivated to the very end.

The Art of Prophecy had an exciting plotline. Taishi, a grandmaster of marital arts who controls the element of wind, has arrived to evaluate Jian, who is prophesied to defeat the Eternal Khan. She finds a spoiled brat who can barely do martial arts or fight. When an ordinary soldier kills the Eternal Khan, Taishi finds herself doing the unexpected; saving Jian and hiding him away from people who want him dead. After a few months on the run, Taishi decides that Jian would be better hidden in plain sight and leaves him with another grandmaster. There, she hopes he will learn the discipline that he needs. But she also has an ulterior motive. Taishi will find the sect of monks who originally wrote the prophecy and see what it says. But it isn’t going to be easy for both Taishi or Jian. Jian has to deal with a school where people see him as a joke, and he cannot display any knowledge of fighting. If he does, his cover is broken. Taishi must stay one step ahead of the assassins sent to kill her. Add a morally gray character (Saliminde) whose only wish is to free her people and a psychotic bounty hunter (Qisami), and there is no telling what could happen. Can Jian stay hidden? Can Taishi find the monks and figure out the prophecy? Will Saliminde’s people be free? And will Qisami get her bounty?

As I stated in the opening paragraph, this is a long book. So, if you are going to read it, make sure you settle in for a while. Because I can guarantee you that once you start, you will not be able to put it down. That is a promise.

I loved that this book was set in an alternative (fantasy) China. The author did an excellent job of building up that world. It wasn’t an easy world to live in. It was violent, and the people lived under the constant threat of war. But, saying that, I would love to visit it!! The descriptions of blade dancing on the grass of the Grass Sea and its floating cities captivated me.

There are three (and, towards the end, four) main characters in The Art of Prophecy. They were all well-written and had their distinct personality. The characters are:

  • Taishi. I didn’t like her at first. She did come across as pompous and a little bit of a control freak. My dislike of her only lasted a short couple of chapters before I got glimpses into who the real Taishi was. That Taishi was a good person who wouldn’t let a child (who reminded her of her son) be killed. I also loved that she had a disability (she only could use one arm) and could still kick bad guys’ butts.
  • Jian. I felt terrible for Jian up to the middle of the book. He was the Champion of the Five Under Heaven. He was supposed to kill the Eternal Khan. Instead, the Khan was killed, and Jian ended up on the run with Taishi. It was a rude awakening for him. For the first time in his life, Jian had to work for things. By the middle of the book, I started to get aggravated with him. He kept having a “woe is me” mentality and was a jerk to the other kids at the school. By the time he and Taishi were reunited, he had grown out of that, and I got a good glimpse into the man he was going to be.
  • Saliminde. I liked her right from the beginning. She was The Viperstrike (head warrior) of the Great Khan’s army. Her weapon was one of the coolest ones I have ever seen described in a book. She was such a bad-a** that she decided she wouldn’t commit ritual suicide for the Eternal Khan. Instead, she was going to find the next Eternal Khan and free her people from slavery. She didn’t kill to kill; she had a code about it. By the end of the book, I couldn’t get enough of her scenes. That last fight scene with Taishi and Qisami was 100% epic.
  • Qisami. Ok, so I wasn’t a big fan of her when she was introduced halfway through the book. She was 100% psychotic, and the author made no qualms about it. She didn’t care who she killed (a 300-year-old drugged-out monk, for instance). She loved it. I found her constant talking in the fight scenes distracting. But, she did give both Saliminde and Taishi a run for their money, fightwise. Her ability to move through the shadows was terrific. By the end of the book, I still didn’t like her but understood her motivations for looking for Jian and Taishi.

There were many notable secondary characters in The Art of Prophecy. Each character added flair and depth to the book. I hope that some of the characters showcased at the end of The Art of Prophecy are made into more mainstream characters in the next book.

The Art of Prophecy also featured a fantastic fantasy storyline with action and adventure. I haven’t read a book that featured martial arts as prominently as this book did, and I still liked it. As for the fantasy, I couldn’t get enough of the world that the author had built up (if you can’t tell by me by fangirling this entire review).

As for the storylines, I LOVED them. There were some that I wished were expanded more upon (like Qisami’s origins) and some that I could have done without (the mapmaker), but they made the book.

The end of The Art of Prophecy was terrific. There was a truly epic fight scene where I did think one of the main characters had died. The author did not end any of the plotlines. Instead, he added to them during the last scenes of the book. Talk about making me want to read the second one!!!

Three reasons why you should read The Art of Prophecy:

  • Amazing characters and storyline
  • Martial Arts!!!
  • Great world building

Three reasons why you should not read The Art of Prophecy:

  • The book was super long (528 pages)
  • A lot of graphic violence
  • Some storylines could have been shortened or omitted.

If you enjoyed The Art of Prophecy, you will enjoy these books: