Masked by Moonlight (By Moonlight #1) by Nancy Gideon

Masked by Moonlight Cover

IN THIS STUNNING FIRST BOOK FROM NANCY GIDEON’S SIZZLING NEW SERIES, A TENACIOUS COP AND HER SHAPE-SHIFTING ENEMY SACRIFICE EVERYTHING FOR FORBIDDEN DESIRE. ALL SHE WANTS IS REVENGE.

New Orleans homicide detective Charlotte Caissie is dedicated to bringing down the crime boss responsible for her father’s murder. Using Jimmy Legere’s mysterious and irresistible right-hand man is a dangerous gamble, and not only due to his reputation as more monster than man. Because her feelings for Max Savoie are complicated.

THEN HE RISKS HIS LIFE TO SAVE HERS. Rescued from the swamps as a child, Max exists silently in Legere’s shadow, heeding only his voice—until Charlotte Caissie awakens his emotions and tests his loyalties. Stepping outside his cautious rules threatens more than just his heart. He could expose his darkest secret.

NOW THEY’RE BOTH IN OVER THEIR HEADS. Testing boundaries they weren’t meant to cross means facing the truth about who and what they are—and what they need from each other. If Max is the murderer she seeks, Charlotte could be his next victim. She can’t afford to trust any man. Good thing Max isn’t one.

My Review of Masked by Moonlight

Masked by Moonlight (Moonlight, #1)Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Way more of a romance than an urban fantasy.

Charlotte is a detective in New Orleans. A rubbish one but that’s ok because the murder mystery doesn’t amount to much anyway. Max is the bodyguard of the underworld crime king and he has been in love with Charlotte for years. Cue much angst and drama.

The setting of New Orleans is massively underused. I understand that New Orleans is an unusual city with a distinctive style and atmosphere but this could have been set anywhere. The story outside of Charlotte and Max’s relationship starts with potential but gets lost in all the romance drama.

There isn’t one scene that Charlotte and Max don’t end up together in, talking and flirting. Normally with Urban Fantasy, I get annoyed because the love interests spend so little time together so you’d think I should have liked this. But, I don’t know why, it just got too much, even for me. I think it was done at the expense of building Charlotte’s world and so it all feels very limited.

Max is a sweetheart and my heart breaks for him the way he’s head over heels and just wants to be with Charlotte. For a character that’s supposed to be a hardened killer, he seems like just a big softie. He carries the whole book and I read it really just for him.

Charlotte is independent and fun to read but also she’s kinda mean and closed off. She has her reasons but Max is such a sympathetic character and it’s easy to forget he’s a killer so it makes it hard to like Charlotte when she is so cruel to him.

The writing is average, there are some dodgy bits here and there but it’s not offputting and it’s a fun and easy read. There are 10 books in the series though so hopefully it will improve as it goes on!

I intend to read the next one, all the setup has been done so I’m hoping for a bit of a more in-depth story. If not I’ll be quite happy with just reading another book with a lot of Max in it!

Masked by Moonlight is a fun, quick Urban Fantasy romance read with a likeable and very sweet love interest!

Terrible cover though.

Masked by Moonlight
By Moonlight
Nancy Gideon
Urban Fantasy
May 25th 2010
Kindle
375

Consider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham

Consider Her Ways and Others Cover

The six stories in Consider Her Ways and Others, the second collecton of John Wyndham’s short tales, continue his exploration of the science fiction staple – what if?

In the title story we are introduced to a world where all the men have been killed by a virus and women continue to survive in a strict caste system – bottom of the heap are the mothers.

In others we meet the man who accidentally summons a devil and then has to find a way of getting rid of him without losing his immortal soul, as well as the woman who, thanks to an experiment in time, discovers why her lover abandoned her.

‘Wyndham writes strongly and has a gift for bizarre plots’ – Guardian

‘One of the few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence’ – Spectator 

My Review of Consider Her Ways and Others

Consider Her Ways and OthersConsider Her Ways and Others by John Wyndham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not his best work, Consider Her Ways contains six stories that are all variations on a theme. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing but by the third story, it all starts to feel repetitive.

The first, and also the longest, story starts out ok with a woman walking up in an all-female society and in a body that she does not think is hers. I found it interesting at first but it descended into a long debate on the oppression of women and whether love is real or just something to invented to distract women from rebelling and becoming independent. An interesting idea that I think has some merit but it’s also perpetuating the idea that love and romance are women’s things that men just tolerate for an easy life. And I actually got a bit angry with it when a female historian had this to say:

“I will admit that we have lost some minor conveniences – you will have noticed, I expect, that we are less inventive mechanically, and tend to copy the patterns that we have inherited….Perhaps men could show us how to travel twice as fast, or how to fly to the moon, or how to kill more people more quickly; but it does not seem to us that such kinds of knowledge would be good payment for re-enslaving ourselves.”

Oh, Where Now, is Peggy Macrafferty? missed the mark it was aiming for. I think it was going for a modern feel but that isn’t John Wyndham’s strong point. My least favourite in the book and easily skippable.

Two of the stories I did enjoy were Odd and The Long Spoon. Both are quite short and fast-paced, both a bit offbeat, The Long Spoon especially made me laugh.

Overall I’d say there are some good ideas but he’s not at his best. Probably only for completists.

Consider Her Ways and Others
John Wyndham
Sci-Fi
1956
Paperback
190

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

The Toymakers Cover

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! 

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical.

My Review of The Toymakers

The ToymakersThe Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was not what I was expecting from the blurb. I was thinking it would be a light-hearted and magical Christmas read but it turned out to have a lot more depth to it and be a whole lot darker than I thought.

It starts out as a magical Christmassy story. Cathy is pregnant and running away from her family who want her to give up her baby. She sees an advert in the paper for The Emporium, a toy shop that opens only during winter, and instinctively feels that it’s the answer to all her problems. When she arrives she finds that the shop is full of magic and wonder and finds a place to raise her baby in safety.

The two brothers Kasper and Emil are at war with each other. They have been playing what they call the Long War since they were little, battling against each other with toy soldiers. They are also competing over who can create the best toys, the most magical, the ones that sell the best.

Emil takes the contest very seriously because as the younger brother he has always felt inferior to the confident and gifted Kasper. The toy soldiers he makes are the only way he can live up to the abilities of his father and his brother.

When Cathy arrives at the Emporium Kasper and Emil also fight for her attention, even when the arrival of her baby force the two boys to begin to grow up. The intrusion of the first World War causes a further rift between the brothers.

The author has created some interesting characters but they mostly feel flat and two dimensional. The female characters especially have no personality, we have The Martyr in Cathy who spends her life working for the happiness of the people she loves, and The Harpy in Nina, who berates Emil constantly. Both exist only to cause conflict in the men. Cathy is the supporter who cares for Kasper after the war and Nina pushes Emil to the edge so he has to take desperate measures.

The magical feel of the book starts to fade as the family deal with the effects of war and what’s left behind is quite dark and depressing. Cathy is the main character in the book but she doesn’t have the personality to carry the story or shine a light through the dark places.

A heartbreaking read but it aims higher than it reaches and the characters are too flat to hold interest.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The Toymakers
Robert Dinsdale
Fiction
February 8th 2018
Kindle
320

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Winterglass cover

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.

WinterglassWinterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the atmosphere and the slow pace. I couldn’t quite picture the world, there weren’t enough details about it but the imagery and descriptive prose created an atmosphere, a feeling, so strong it almost didn’t matter to me. I’m left with lasting impressions of an icy, powerful queen and a beautiful, cold world here you have to be ruthless to survive.

Winterglass meshes sci-fi and fantasy – I’d say it’s sci-fi at the core but it’s based on a retelling of Snow White and the fantasy feel is very strong. It’s so well combined that it wasn’t until afterwards that I found myself wondering what genre it is. It’s definitely original and inventive and brings something new to both genres.

The writing falls just short of (or goes a bit too far over) the beautiful, descriptive style the author seems to be aiming for. Edging just too far into complicated, it made it difficult for me to follow the story. It ends up in ‘why use one word when you can use ten’ territory and drops in so many unusual ‘big’ words that I found myself having to use the Kindle dictionary on nearly every page. I don’t mind looking up words every so often but this was too excessive for me and interrupted my enjoyment of the story.

Near the end, I was struggling to concentrate enough to follow what was happening. I found myself reading other books as a break from the amount of brain power I had to use on this. I’m still not sure what the author was trying to do with the ending and I can’t tell if the story is done or not. It’s open-ended so a sequel is possible but it’s also possible that the author intended the story to be done.

Nuanced, intricate stories where you have to work out for yourself the characters motivations might be your thing, if so I think Winterglass could easily be a four-star book for you. I appreciated the depth but I found it hard to follow and I couldn’t grasp the reasons behind Nuawa’s actions at the end. I also felt the use of so many fancy words came across as the author trying too hard to impress. For these reasons, I’m only giving three stars.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Winterglass
Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Sci-Fi
December 2017
Kindle

The Blue Sword (Damar #1) by Robin McKinley

The blue sword cover

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

My Review of The Blue Sword

The Blue SwordThe Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this. It’s a fantastic fantasy adventure story, if a familiar one, but it’s full of sensible characters that have tons of personality. Even the horse and the cat creature were interesting in their own right.

The world building is wonderful and detailed. I could picture everything as I was reading and imagine myself there with the characters.

Corlath the hill king is lovely, if not as arrogant as he perhaps should be. I wanted more romance though! It’s aimed at teenagers so it’s probably good that it’s more about Harry growing up and gaining confidence in herself than about Harry being soppy over a man. I do love a good bit of romance though, I would have liked more of Corlath and Harry.

Harry is a special snowflake, but she is humble and kind, and down to earth, so I didn’t really mind that. I think she’s probably a good role model for teenage girls. The only thing I didn’t like is that she single-handedly saves everyone and unites two nations. It was a bit much at the end and pushed my rating down from four to three stars.

Apart from that though this is an intelligent and entertaining young adult fantasy. I wish I had read this when I was a teenager!

The Blue Sword
Damar
Robin McKinley
Young Adult Fantasy
1982
Paperback
256

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #1) by Vaseem Khan

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra cover

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs.

My Review of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector ChopraThe Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A lighthearted and warm story of elephants, mystery and murder, set in the busy Indian city of Mumbai.

Inspector Ashwin Chopra is a man of integrity with a strong sense of morals and honesty. He has to take early retirement because of heart problems but he can’t let his last case as a police officer drop. A boy was drowned and everyone seems to want to accept that it was suicide. Upset that the case is not being treated properly, Chopra starts his own investigation.

To make things more complicated, his uncle has bequeathed him a baby elephant to care for! Not an easy task when Chopra lives in a flat in the middle of Mumbai.

Chopra loves the city he lives in, that much is obvious. He treats us to an exploration of Mumbai, a bustling, lively city that is expanding fast. But Chopra is an honest man, so we also see the darker side of Mumbai, the slums, the criminals and the corruption. The busy, noisy, overcrowded feel didn’t quite come alive for me but it was a decent effort to create the atmosphere.

I like Chopra but my favourite character is by far the elephant, Ganesh. He had the funniest scenes in the book, the part where Chopra’s wife Poppy dresses him up as an elephant god had me laughing!

This is at heart a detective novel, and I fully enjoyed the mystery and Chopra’s investigation. There were a couple of ‘too easy’ or ‘too coincidental’ moments that let it down near the end but he did do a fair bit of footwork and detecting to solve the case.

I didn’t like the female characters in the book. There was the stereotypical harridan mother in law and Chopra’s wife Poppy who was described as confident and taking no nonsense but was actually written as a typical dependent wife. I know the culture in India is different to where I live but I still find it hard to read when the author has the protagonist’s wife tell us, “A woman abandoned by her husband had no value in India. She would become invisible, a ghost that no one wished to associate with.” and there is no criticism, it’s just accepted as normal and ok.

The drama between Chopra and Poppy felt a bit fake, I don’t think it was necessary. They’ve always been close and told each other everything yet suddenly they stop communicating and start keeping secrets? It’s like it was just added in to create a bit of tension for Chopra. I ended up skim reading the bits with Poppy in.

This is one for someone that enjoys cosy mysteries. It’s lighthearted and fun and the authors love for the city of Mumbai shines through. I didn’t like the female characters but they’re not a big part of the story and I could just skim over those bits.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra
Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation
Vaseem Khan
Mystery
September 15th 2015
Kindle
320

The Prophetess by Desy Smith

the prophetess

Fallen from Heaven and forced to live amongst the humans in exile, angel Ezekiel bares the tragic fate of a disgraced angel. Having overheard the rebellious Lucifer’s plans to rise up against the sanctuary of Heaven Ezekiel remains silent. For his inaction he is cast from the pearly gates and into the unforgiving lands of the mortals. Two thousand years pass  and  Ezekiel resigns himself to his fate.

However, in the year 2016 the winds of fate begin to change and Ezekiel is given a chance to return to his home. If Ezekiel can stop Molach from helping Lucifer return he will be welcomed back into Heaven. However, there is more than just a demon in his path. Ezekiel must uncover what else fate has in store for him, including a lovely solitary Prophetess named Isabelle and the endless possibility for joy and whimsy she offers.

My review of The Prophetess

The Prophetess by Desy Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m struggling to give a rating for this one. I enjoyed the story but there are a lot of issues with it.

It’s massively in need of a good editing. There’s a lot of spelling mistakes, and some layout issues that make it difficult to tell which character is speaking. A lot of the action doesn’t flow, it jumps between scenes and things don’t logically follow on from each other. I think it’s self published though so I can forgive things like this, a good editor will sort things like this.

I had major issues with Isabelle. Meant to be 23, she acts like she’s 13. Rude, aggressive, immature and completely unlikable. Branding other women as whores because they give a man their phone number (or for any reason really) is inexcusable. Knowing your own mind and standing up for yourself is good but whinging and throwing insults around doesn’t achieve anything.

Ezekiel is the saving grace in this book. I liked his character, and I enjoyed reading his viewpoint. And I loved the thing with the gold dust from his wings!

There’s a decent story in here too as much as I disliked Isabelle I was enjoying the romance that was building up between the two of them. I genuinely felt a bit angry when the book ended because I wanted to see where it was going! There is some good world building in places, but most of the scenes ended up too focused on Isabelle instead of on what was happening. A lot of chances at creating atmosphere or pulling the reader into the story were missed.

I hated Isabelle but I liked the story and Ezekiel is lovely. I’m think I’m going to have to go with three stars, simply because of the feeling when it ended. Surely that’s the best judge of a book?

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

The Prophetess
Desy Smith
Urban Fantasy
170

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Dark Matter Cover

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely, and desperate to change his life, so when he’s offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it.

Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year, Gruhuken, but the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice: stay or go.

Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return–when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible.

Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark.

My Review of Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter by Michelle Paver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of the expedition to the Arctic is interesting and the descriptions are brilliantly done. The characters felt real to me, and I cared about what happened to them.

But I didn’t get enough of a feel for the the isolation or the darkness. Jack is never alone for long, then when he is he’s busy. I liked the journal format and I think it worked, but when Jack writes in it he condenses his day to the interesting bits and the long lonely hours aren’t included.

I did read it in the middle of summer, which didn’t help the atmosphere. I think this book would benefit from being read on a cold, dark evening. If you’re on your own, even better.

The important question: was I scared? Well, sort of, but not really. There was a nice build up, but it went on for too long. The reveal of how the ghost was created was creepy and very dark but felt a bit rushed and crammed in at the end. It feels like the book ends just as the scary things get going.

As a ghost story it falls a bit flat, but as a story about an Artic expedition with some dark, creepy elements then it works really well.

Dark Matter
Michelle Paver
Horror
September 1st 2011
Paperback
288

The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House by Mary Chase, Peter Sís (Illustrator)

the wicked wicked ladies in the haunted house

Maureen Swanson is the scourge of the neighbourhood. At age nine, she already has a reputation as a hard slapper, a loud laugher, a liar, and a stay-after-schooler. The other kids call her Stinky. So sometimes when Maureen passes the crumbling (and haunted?) Messerman mansion, she imagines that she is Maureen Messerman–rich, privileged, and powerful.

Then she finds a way into the forbidden, boarded-up house. In the hall are portraits of seven young women wearing elaborate gowns and haughty expressions. Maureen has something scathing to say to each one, but then she notices that the figures seem to have shifted in their frames. So she reaches out her finger to touch the paint–just to make sure–and touches . . . silk!

These seven daughters of privilege are colder and meaner than Maureen ever thought to be. They are wicked, wicked ladies, and Maureen has something they want.

The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted HouseThe Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House by Mary Chase
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In which an unpleasant young girl meets her match in seven unpleasant sisters.

Why are the sisters considered so wicked? Because they are heartless? Because they shoplift pretty trinkets? Well, sure that makes them unpleasant but I wouldn’t call them wicked for that. Because they send Maureen back in time and were mean to her? Well, she called them all sorts of names and took Ingrid’s bracelet. The sisters did first go to Maureen’s house and try asking for it back, Maureen lied and said she didn’t have it. so I’d say they were all as bad as each other.

I think this is a book very much of its time. Written in the 60’s when a woman that didn’t care about anyone and wasn’t polite and kind probably was considered wicked.

I didn’t find it scary or spooky at all, maybe children will but I’m not convinced. I’m easy to scare, by contrast children seem to love scary things.

I did enjoy reading it though, it’s a fun adventure story with a non-typical heroine. I would just have liked to have see Maureen keep some of her mischievous ways and not become so much of a “good girl”.

The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House
Mary Chase, Peter Sís (Illustrator)
Children's Fantasy
September 1st 1968
Kindle
128

Sentient (The Mentalist Series #2) by Kenechi Udogu

Sentient Cover

Mastering her Progressive Empath abilities isn’t going as well as Gemma hoped. In fact, months after finding out what she really is, she still has no clue what this truly means. All she can do is wait to see if any new abilities will eventually manifest.

When she is plagued by recurring nightmares, Gemma realises things are changing and knows she has to do something, fast. The arrival of two sets of strangers in town, both offering the much-needed assistance she needs to unearth her powers, escalates the situation even further.

Gemma attempts to decipher whose intentions are genuine, but does she have enough time to figure out who has her best interest at heart?

My Review of Sentient

Sentient (The Mentalist Series, #2)Sentient by Kenechi Udogu
My rating:
3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this sequel to Aversion, though I don’t think it’s perfect. It has the same flaw as the first book in that the story is told in a stream of consciousness from Gemma. It reads like a diary entry, and I found it hard to get a picture of what Gemma’s world is like.

Though saying that, this second book in the series does flesh out a lot of the details around Aversion and the Avertor’s community and politics. In terms of world-building, it is an improvement on the first book, which felt a bit like it was happening in an isolated bubble.

We get some really interesting new characters, and I think where this series really excels is in its character creation and development. Russ and Gemma are both great characters. They are genuine and realistic and they are very sweet together! I like the introduction of Laura and I’d love to see her get more page time in the next book.

Gemma is running the risk becoming a bit of a special snowflake. She has powers that no one has heard of before, and they keep appearing from nowhere with no precedents. It could have been interesting to see how she deals with them but most of the book is about Gemma thinking about her new powers and worrying about them. Her internal narration comes across as genuine and self-deprecating though, and that stops things from getting irritating.

Even with the diary style narration I still found this book easy to get into and enjoyable to read. Just a bit less thinking and a bit more plot next time, please!

I received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.

Sentient
The Mentalist
Kenechi Udogu
Young Adult Fantasy
October 27th 2013
Kindle
155