Book Review: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero is a horror set in the 90’s that is a take on Scooby Doo and his gang grown up and dealing with real monsters and not some man in the mask. I is a little similar to the new DC run Scooby Apocalypse, where the gang is a little more grown up and deal with real monsters. Meddling Kids is a combination of Lovecraftian creatures meet the Goonies being portrayed by the Scooby Gang. The twist and turns mainly come at the end a few are a stretch but some I really enjoyed. It has LGTBQ representation in the lead character of Andy. The book is a slow build up to an exciting finish but it will test the readers patience by having slow pacing. A. Z. Kimrean the lead of This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Both of Us Cantero’s follow up book makes an oh so brief cameo in a mental ward.

The Plot: In 1977 a group of kids started the the Blyton Summer Detective Club where four kids and a dog solved local crimes. The last case when they caught an old man in a creature mask, and admitted to the crimes calling them ,meddling kids. But 13 years later the group is still haunted by what they saw, on member Peter has recently committed suicide. The criminal has been released and when confronted he admitted it didn’t commit the crimes, but lied so he would be protected in jail. The Blyton Summer Detective Club decides to get back together and solve the crime they missed.

What I Liked: there’s a lot of clever pop culture references. Nate seeing a ghost of Peter device is used really well, and adds to the mystery. I like what they did with the dog to make it “Scooby-like” at the very end. I liked what they did with the town bully, Joey. The climax was really exciting with a couple twist and turns. There was a lot a well placed Scooby references. One of the coolest cover art’s Ive seen for horror.

What I Disliked: The pacing is super slow at the beginning, it takes the gang way to long just to get to the town on their road trip. The monster’s could have been described with more detail, it was hard picturing. Never have a I read a story that needed a flashback scene so bad, I think a flashback scene would have solved most of my problems with it.

Recommendations: I think Edgar Cantero is a really clever writer, but this one didn’t live up to my expectations after liking This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Both of Us so much, so therefore I can not recommend this one. In This Body’s Not Big Enough for the Both of Us the plot is very focused, where Meddling Kids the plot keeps going off in tangents. I rate Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The House on the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune is a heartwarming Young Adult novel about intolerance in magical creatures the world misunderstands. This story is the themes of intolerance in the X-men comics by Stan Lee and Chris Claremont meets the odd yet lovable characters from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Rasom Riggs. This book is mainly Young Adult, but it brought up some adult themes that were refreshing, body image, LGTBQ issues, and Christianity. the LGBTQ characters are handled with care and love like I haven’t seen before, being gay is not a huge revelation and the book gets that gay people are actually all shapes and sizes. The themes of intolerance are layered though out wither it be sex, religion, and race. See something say something is a common phrase in the book posted on billboards and repeated through out. This book has been blowing up the blogsphere and I’m happy to say it lived up to the hype.

The Plot: Linus Baker is a by the book official whose job is a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he visits orphanages and checks too make sure the orphanage and child is safe. He is quiet in his observations and never invoking feelings into the cases. He lives a quiet sheltered life with his cat the only exciting thing about Linus is he’s gay, but he never seems to put himself out or dates. He dreams of the ocean, but has never been, then finally he gets a chance as Linus gets an ultra sensitive case with an orphanage on the Cerulean sea. He gets this case because it requires no emotions and he is so unbiased. He reads the first file and passes out at what the first child is and can be, and there is 7 of them. This will be the hardest case of his life to have no judgement.

What I Liked: The heart of the story is full and beating, I couldn’t help but get emotional, as Mr. Baker grew to the person he was supposed to be. Lucy and the record store owner was my favorite scene, the dialogue was hilarious. Chauncey was my absolute favorite character, he has all the heart, all he wants is to be a Bellhop, just let that kid be a Bellhop. Runner-up character is Sam, I love what his character becomes. The Gay relationship was done with such tenderness and affection. I liked the twist when Linus gets the full file. The overall story really works, sure the reader knows where the story is going but it was still beautiful being there with Mr. Baker when he figures it all out.

What I Disliked: I wanted to see the change in Sam, it is only talked about I would have loved to see his voice change. I would have love to see the stoner guy do a counter protest when the town turns. I didn’t like the Zoe relationship thrown in at the end, since we rarely ever saw those characters say two words with one another.

Recommendations: I recommend this heartwarming story of intolerance for the young adult audience. There’s some adult themes but it it brought up both playful but taken seriously. I think this book will open some eyes on intolerance, which is always a good thing. I rated The House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune 5 out of 5. It was a wonderful story that made me feel things and like a character that I did not at the beginning.

Book Review: Icebound: Shipwrecked at The Edge of the World by Andrea Pitzer

Icebound: Shipwrecked at The Edge of the World by Andrea Pitzer is a one part quest for a trade route from Europe to China through the north, and is one part survival story of the nature. This nonfiction account of William Barents three journey’s to find a passage through the north pole and his last journey where he was trapped for a year with a crew of 15 in no mans land with ice, snow and polar bears. The story is filled with history and personal accounts, through letters making the situation very real. This book shows just how vicious polar bears can be, and how hard they are to kill. The weather is the constant enemy snow, ice, and rain with extreme cold thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to imagine anyone in current time surviving, not to mention people living in the late 1500’s. The writing was straight forward with little or no emotion, as reader my imagination took over about the mutiny and dealing with below freezing temperatures. I read Icebound: Shipwrecked at The Edge of the World by Andrea Pitzer for free thanks to Netgalley and Scribner it was published on 1-12-21.

The Plot: In 1590’s the Dutch Republic wanted a quicker trade route to China, with the current route taking to long and losing ships to pirates. They hired William Barents to find a route through the North, he takes 3 voyages to find a pass, but the elements don’t let him the final voyage he and his crew are left stranded in the ice until the next summer. His journey notes and observations lead to many discoveries in science and exploration.

What I Liked: The tale of survival and the descriptions of isolation and the extreme weather are pretty terrifying. Polar bears are scary and stealth. The polar bear attacks are brutal and really frightening. I liked learning about the navigational tools at the time and how genius Barents was to navigate it. I liked learning the legacy after Barents death.

What I Disliked: There was a part of the story where it seemed that Barents and the other officer didn’t do anything, it explained they were the most valuable so the other crew members took the risk, but it’s almost as the characters go missing 30 pages until something that happens that needs leadership. it was sad that most of the crew did not have names, or any description of what most of the crew looked like.

Recommendations: I will recommend this nonfiction, the history is not to boring and the treat of death is everywhere and you feel that tension. This book reads like a horror in some places, the biggest fiction I could compare it Dan Simmons’ The Terror which is fictional based on the true Story of the HMS Terror where explorers were trying to get the North Pole. The actual journey of the HMS. Terror was influenced by Barents. I rated Icebound: Shipwrecked at The Edge of the World by Andrea Pitzer 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spiderman Volume 1 by Stan Lee

Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 by Stan Lee is the birth of Spiderman as we know and love him. This is where we learn that “with great powers must also come with great responsibility”. This graphic novel contains Amazing Fantasy 15 and The Amazing Spider-Man 1-10. We get to see the origin stories for Spiderman’s greatest foes, like Electro, Doctor Octopus, The Vulture, The Lizard and Sandman, all goes that have been featured in various Spider-Man movies. Doctor Octopus and Sandman are the only origin stories that are the same as in the screen. We get multiple cameos of the Fantastic Four, with Spiderman trying to join them. Spiderman battles Dr. Doom and throw away villains the Enforcers and the Living Brain. We get glimpses of Peter Parker’s love life, home life, and work life. The Amazing Spider-Man comics reminded me of Archie comics with action. Peter’s love life is funny and his handling of bully Flash Thompson, who just happens to me Spiderman’s biggest fan. I’m read this as a bonus to find out which new Spiderman villain will show up in the next Spiderman movie.

The Plot: We meet Peter Parker as a nerdy teenager who has a love of science and no muscles. Gets bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives him special powers, with abilities of a spider. He tried to cash in and ends up fighting for money. He is no crime fighter and watches as a burglar escapes, saying that is not his problem. The burglar who he let go ends up killing his Uncle Ben, and he vows to do good, and becomes Spiderman. He makes New York safe from burglars and costumed foes.

What I Liked: The bully relationship with Flash Thompson and Peter Parker, it is one of the best things in these issues. I love how, it’s a competition between the two for Liz Allen, but when Peter trying to lure out the head of the crime syndicate, Flash tries to hush him for Peter’s protection. I love J. Jonah Jamison’s reason for hating Spiderman, because he’s envious. I liked the love life and all the ups and downs. I liked how serialized the early issues were the bad guys were bashing the month, but the relationships keep forming and getting stronger. My favorite villain was Doctor Octopus and I loved his origin story, not a bad guy but the arms fixed to his body making him insane.

What I Disliked: Every time Peter Parker wears glasses, the way it was drawn looks so awkward. They have a bonus story where Spiderman invites himself to a Torch of the Fantastic Four’s girlfriends house and he acts like a complete jerk, and kind of deserves the beating the Fantastic Four give him.

Recommendations: I think everybody should read about how Spiderman was created. I got this graphic novel for the insane price of 99 cents on kindle thanks to a Christmas deal, I was well worth it. I have always been a fan and have wanted to read some of his landmark moments. I rated Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man volume 1 by Stan “the man” Lee 5 out of 5 stars. I will be reading a lot more Marvel Masterworks I bought a lot when Amazon had the sale.

Book Review: Batman: Three Jokers

Batman: Three Jokers by Geoff Johns is a what if question? what if Batman’s most deadly foe The Joker was not one man but three? The Joker has had a couple of different origin stories, where he was A gangster before he fell in a vat, a failed comedian, and a deranged clown, and in those stories the Joker has done a lot of things to Batman and his family. The criminal Joker was said to have given the order to kill the Wayne family, the Clown Joker beat Jason Todd to the edge of death when he was Robin, and Batgirl was paralyzed by the Comedian Joker. All of the past and present come back to haunt Batman and his family. The writing was just okay I have only been familiar with Geoff Johns’ excellent Aquaman run in the new 52, which was great at first then started tanking, the premise for this comic is excellent, but in my hype and expectations were maybe a tad bit high, because i was left feeling underwhelmed. There some great moments but it could have been better. Batman: Three Jokers collects issues 1-3 of Batman: Three Jokers.

All The covers and variants

The Plot: With three origin stories out there in the DC universe which one is true? They all are there is three jokers The Comedian, the Criminal, and the Clown, and they are looking to make another one. Do they have their sights set on Jason Tood, The Red Hood, who was one a victim of Jokers crime’s, he now where a red hood and goes by the moniker of one of the Joker’s first gangs, or is someone else in mind.

What I Liked: he premise of taking these different origins and making some thing out of it was really clever I was instantly interested. The Jokers are referred to each other as the Criminal, the Comedian, and the Clown, but in trying to turn the batman family they refer to Batman as the Killer, Batgirl as the Broken , and Jason Todd as the Child. The artwork is really good I like all the throwback artistry to The Killing Joke storyline. The opening as Batman reflects on all the villains that have caused him scars, the Joker has done it three times, where every other rogue has done it once. I like how Joe Chill was involved in the story and what it meant for Batman.

What I Disliked: Batman’s reaction to the huge news that there is not one Joker but three with a meh. A member of the Bat family killer some one on purpose and Batman again is like meh what can I do, with barely any conversation on right and wrong. The story at times felt a little bit rushed and forced at times.

Recommendations: This story is a pretty weak mythos into the batman legacy, There’s one thing it adds and it’s not even about the Joker but about Joe Chill the original murderer of the Wayne family. I’m a huge fan of the Batman Joker legacy, if you’re like me, you are going to read the book anyway. This is a book for people that know the Joker origin and have read The Killing Joke and other Death in the Family storylines. If you want to read a graphic novel that nails the complex relationship of Batman and the Joker check out Batman; White Knight by Sean Gordon Murphy. I rated Batman: Three Jokers by Geoff Johns 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews: Persephone Station by Stina Leicht

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht is a confusing female lead space opera. This novel is very confusing especially at the beginning, this is one I fought with myself over do not finishing but I pushed through. The story is like a one off episode of Star Wars The Clone Wars, merged with some characters from the Alien franchise, there’s an Ellen Ripley in Angel, there’s a Call in Kennedy, and a whole lot of Private Vasquezs. The character are different but most of them all talk the same. The plot is pretty crazy and doesn’t really start going until half way, we get the villains motives at the 90 percent mark. There is bits of exciting action but once again most it is often hard to follow. The bear action scenes were awesome. The best part of this novel is when the Merc crew talks crap to each other, there’s some good lines that I would include in this review but I read an ARC copy, thanks to Netgalley and Gallery Books, and can not post words since they are subject to change. The book does have a non-binary character and lesbian characters to represent the LBGTQ. When I read the description I had high hopes for this novel as it is being publicized as a female lead Mandolorian like space opera, but I just did not enjoy it.

The Plot: Women with political influence start getting murdered, they are linked to indigenous alien race that have advance technology. The villain wants the tech for her own devices. The Merc crew perform a suicide mission protecting the race against and army of mech suited soldiers.

What I Liked: The scenes of the women talking crap about past missions and relationships was the best I wish it had more scenes like that. The bear verse mech suit was the highlight of action, there’s another scene where one of the aliens communicates with a bear that was pretty cool. There is some great lines of dialogue, most take place in the two talking crap scenes. I do love te female empowerment and LGBTQ representation. I like the characters of Angel, Kennedy, Beak, and Sukyi. The relationship with Angel and the ship the Kurosawa was a special one.

What I Disliked: The whole first half of this book is so rough, you will have twenty names in the first thirty pages and 17 of them all talk the same, making it impossible to form a connection. It jumps a round to weird spots, who set up the log bobby traps? why is one team now separated when they were just together? The villain’s motive is way too late the woman seems to be evil and then she starts getting bossed around, it was bad. The world building is half realized, or we as the reader only see half of it. Catholic religion is brought in briefly then never talked about again.

Recommendation: I recommend you skip this book if you need LGTBQ charters in a science fiction setting please check out the excellent Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Star Wars the ultimate for your space opera fix. The Star Wars series has been bad about not having too many strong female protagonists, but has been slowly changing and making effort for more, so check out the newer novels. I rated Persephone Station by Stina Leicht 2 out of 5 stars.

TBR: January 2021

January 2021 TBR list: last month was so successful I read all 8 books plus 1more, I’m going to stick with 8.  I have my reading goal for the year set at 80 books.  I had a good book haul at Christmas, and will me going through those; I also bought a lot of Marvel Masterworks since the kindle price is 1.99.

The House in the Curulean Sea by TJ Klune – This book got a lot of hype last year,  and I have had this book highly recommended.  It is about a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, tasked with determining if six children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht Which is a science fiction western about female assassins. I don’t know a lot about it I got an advanced copy from netgalley it is published on the 1-5-21

Icebound by Andrea Pitzer is a true story about Dutch polar  explorer William Barents, who was stranded in the Arctic with his crew for a year. This true story was inspiration for Dan Simmons horror novel The Terror.

Batman: Three Jokers by Geoff James is the book that Batman finds out that he has not been terrorized by one Joker but three. It takes the tales of the three different origin stories and has them all me true.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero is a spoof n the Scooby gang where in 1978 they apprehend and old man in a mask who they believe to be the monster, but in 1990 when one of the gang is dead and the old man is paroled, that there worst fears come true that the wrong man was arrested and that the monster lives.  I read This Body’s not Big Enough for the Both of Us by Edgar Cantero a wise cracking detective novel where a detective has split personalities one the detective and one the wise cracker, I found it very crazy and funny.

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher is a good new horror story that is getting raved about. It was nominated in Goodreads choice awards for best horror of 2020.  A man finds his step fathers writing while cleaning up his mother’s house after her death. What he thought to be crazy ramblings he starts to see signs that the writing is true.

The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan reteam to create a new series called the Blackwood tapes. I was a fan of the Strain trilogy. The plot sounds a lot like Fallen an old Denzel Washington movie,  about an enity who can leap from bodies causing violent acts.

Marvel Masterworks The Amazing Spiderman Volume 1 by Stan Lee is the birth of Spiderman and his many villains.   This  graphic novels has the  beings for Doctor Octopus, The Sandman, The Vulture, and Electro

Wrap Up: December 2020 book Reviews

Dear Readers, December was a great month I had 5 books I requested at the library all show up at once.  I read 9 books this month. I read 2 science fiction, 3 books nominated for Goodreads choice, and 1 graphic novel. I started 0 new series and read 2 from a book series. I made a TBR and read every book on it and added 1.  I read two 5 star books,  five 4 star books, one 3 stars book, and one 2 star book.

Five Star Reviews:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a family drama about race, focusing on the light and darkness of skin color. The book will really make you self reflect your own prejudice and bias based on skin color. Bennett doesn’t just analyze the white standard of skin bias but the black on as well. The book starts in the 1950’s and goes up to the early 1980’s. The story follows 3 generations of the Vinges family women.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a powerful story of systemic gun violence in America written in verse. The verse is written in small poems barley ever going over two pages really well painting a picture that lets you the reader control the narrative adding the details that the verse misses. The story is like a cross between Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Ghosts of the past board the elevator on every floor starting with the 7th and talk to young Will about what he’s going to do when he gets when he gets to the bottom floor; kill the guy he thinks killed his older brother. The ending is one of the powerful endings I’ve read.

Four Star Reviews:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab is part memoir through time and history, and part present day love story. I say love story lightly because from this reader’s perspective I don’t know if one character can love. The story is great a deal with the devil gone wrong, but with a unique twist. This story will make you the reader question, what would you do in the same scenario? The story is unique, yet familar if you know Schwab’s other works like Vicious and A Darker Shade of Magic. I feel Schwab took some of the best parts out those novels and combined them.

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells is book four in The Murderbot Diaries, book series. This is the last of the 4 novellas the next books in the series is a full length novels. The fourth book comes full circle all the way back to the first book and the first humans that he saved and started to generally care about. This novel has a bit more heart because of the reunion and the character of Murderbot has grown emotionally throughout the series. The ending was perfect for this chapter in Murderbot’s life.

The Krytos Trap by Michael A. Stackplole is a novel that balances three different genres, court room drama, prison escape, and medical stopping viral spread, with X-wing action as well. The Krytos Trap is the third book in the X-wing series that follows the exploits of Rogue Squadron. The novel starts right where the last one ended. This has been my favorite novel so far in the series, it is the book with the least X-wing action, but I was really into the political intrigue. The reviews for this one have been mixed, either people really enjoy it or they complain about lack of action.

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers is a beautifully written debut that takes a witch cursed to die young and love a man that will constantly disappoint her, time and time again. A Witch in Time tells a great love story about missteps and sacrifice. It hits the right beats in time and history as we observe four life times starting in 1890’s and ended up in present day. I loved aspects of the curse and how both the cursed and the watchers of the curse can manipulate certain aspects of it.

Snow, Glass, Apple by Colleen Doran adapted from a Neil Gaiman short story is a haunting adaptation of Snow White told in a graphic novel form. The story is told from the Stepmother’s perspective, notice I didn’t say evil stepmother. In this story it is flipped where the stepmother is good and loving, her stepdaughter is evil incarnate. The images are hauntingly beautiful and very graphic. The images leave a lasting impression with the mix of bold color with dark colors.

Three Star Reviews:

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam is a hard book to describe. The book deals with class, race, comfort, and guidance. The story is one part dystopian and the other part is about togetherness and finding comfort in the new dystopia, sort of; that’s the best way I can describe it. Conversations rule this book over actions, what I found interesting are characters acting civil while civilization is falling apart. The book plays with the reader asking who do you trust or why don’t you trust characters? The book is tense and claustrophobic, with the ongoing pandemic adding to the tension

Two Star Reviews:

You Can’t Scare Me! by R.L. Stine is about pranking someone to admit their scared, only the prank accidentally involves real monsters. You Can’t Scare Me! is the 15th book in the original Goosebumps series. This story is 80% lead up to any actual monsters. This story was hard to identify with the group of scaredy cat’s are determined to make one girl scared. The girl isn’t horrible of mean, she does one thing with a bumblebee, but the rest of the time she doesn’t deserve them messing with her. The group is mad at themselves for being scared and lashes out on this girl to make them feel better

Wrap Up: Best Books Read in 2020

Dear Readers, 2020 is over! It was a horrible time for everything but reading. I broke new records for myself reading 103 books this year. Out of the 103 I have read 40 that were published this year.  My big goal this year was to finish up a good deal of book series. I have a bad habit of not finishing, and I finished 6 this year.  I will rate the top 10 books I have read that were published this year., the top 5 books I read not published this year, and the top three series I finished this year.

Top 10 of books published this year:

1. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse is a groundbreaking new fantasy that is inspired by the history from Pre- Columbian Americas.  I did not know a lot about this story going in and was amazed with the world building and unique characters. Black Sun is the first book in The Between Earth and Sky trilogy. The story is rapid paced, with so much conflict, it is hard telling who exactly is on what side of the good or bad coin, but the story was a fun read. The look at politics and religion is the best thing, do you believe in the prophecy? Do you believe so much in the prophecy you will do anything to stop it?

2. What Lies Between Us by John Marrs is one crazy book that you can’t predict or put down.   I read this book back in May and it has stuck with me, the book is totally bonkers as characters flip from being good to bad, as the reader learns more secrets. This book has some of the most cringe worthy scenes, not because of gore or anything horrid, but because you are reading about a character that keeps digging themselves into holes. This is family dysfunction at its finest. What would it take for you to chain your mother in her room? The answers come quickly but the reasons behind them stay buried in lies. 

3. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is a nonstop thriller that mixes elements of a ghost story with a mystery. This story earned it’s spot at number 3 for pure fun, the book was a blast to read. The pace was nonstop from the beginning, and did not let up as it reached the climax. The story is really fun, I enjoyed finding out more about the ghost and why they haunted the Sun Down Motel. 

4. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a family drama about race, focusing on the light and darkness of skin color.  I love a good book that will make me think long after I have read it , and this book does that.The book will really make you self reflect your own prejudice and bias based on skin color. Bennett doesn’t just analyze the white standard of skin bias but the black on as well. The book starts in the 1950’s and goes up to the early 1980’s. The story follows 3 generations of the Vinges family women.

5. Harleen by Stjepan Sejic was a fantastic Harley Quinn origin story. The approach was a romance novel gone wrong, and it works really well, so well the book earned a spot at number 5 of my favorite novels of the year. Harleen was runner-up in the Goodreads choice for graphic novels.   Harleen managed to balance all four, drama, action, romance, and comedy very evenly. The character of Harley generally wants to do good and help people, the Joker manipulates her feelings, but did she really change the Joker and make him care for her?

6.  His & Hers by Alice Feeney is a deeply psychological mystery thriller. This is a great mystery with layers upon layers. This who done it, will have you constantly changing who you think is the killer. His & Hers reminded me of the best parts of The Girl in the Train, the unreliable narrators. Both main characters lie with in the first passage already showing you the reader mistrust.

7. The Living Dead by George A Romero and Daniel Krause is a great zombie epic! It’s scary as hell, in its graphic descriptions that make you see, smell, hear, and even taste the gore. The first 200 pages don’t read while eating please take my advice. This novel is so much more than just a gorefest, it there is heartbreak, love and betrayal. The Living Dead is a morale tale, which ask what is living really?

8. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager is a top notch thriller wrapped in a ghost story. Home Before Dark reminded me of why I love Riley Sager so much, good writing that for the most part keeps me guessing while adding that level of believability, that it could happen that way.

9. Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir is a fantastic, clever, new take on a witch locking a princess in the tower story. The one thing that is clear is Tamsyn Muir is a clever writer and thinks out side of the box. Her writing so far is all about female empowerment with this novel taking it to another level, Princess Floralinda does not need a man to save her, she’ll do it herself.

10. The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton is a historical nautical mystery that takes an Agatha Christie plot and adds the devil. The plot has so many twist and turns that all make sense. The novel is a fun who done it, with so many suspects all with murder that will make you head spin. The standouts for me is the plot, however crazy it gets there’s always a plausible reason and character work is so good giving all 20 supporting characters their unique voices who all have their own motives and actions.

Top 5 books read this year not published in 2020:

1. The Shining by Stephen King is a truly horrific book. I was shocked how much story was not covered in the movie. Alcohol and ghosts do not mix! King gets into true fear, having someone you love, a father and husband, say, “I’m going to bash your brains”, then attempt to do it. The Shining is a ghost story but the scariest monster in the book is addictions and how it changes your rational choices, to choices that jeopardize your family.

2. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow is Scarface and the Godfather rolled into one. You live as the good guys the bad guys and the people in between that are casualties of the drug war. This looks at both sides like I have never read before, it shows the good guys having to cross lines they never thought they could cross and the bad guys crossing those lines to keep what they have.

3. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman is the second book in the Arc of the Scythe series. Rarely do sequels ever make my best of list, butThunderhead ramps up the action, expands on the already great world building, it has one hell of a climax, and Dmaintains the high quality writing, that will make you think long after the book is finished. I love this series so much, it is going places I could not imagine.

4. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus is a clever mystery that blends the characters of the Breakfast Club with the secrets of Pretty Little Liars. The storytelling was really simple with an easy to follow mystery with so many twist and turns. I’m happy to say that I did not guess the killer, kudos to those who did. The story gets going right from the beginning 5 people go to detention, but only 4 make it out alive.

5. Full Throttle by Joe Hill is comprised of 13 short stories, two are written with his dad Stephen King. Some stories are bone-chilling tales of fright, while others give whimsical insight of the unknown. All tales draw you in in some way, some let you go easily, while other try to hold you in a death grip and not let go.

Top 3 best series finished this year:

The Power of the Dog trilogy by Don Winslow which follows the birth of the DEA and the Mexican cartel.  The story starts in 1970’s and ends in our present. The story is Scarface meets The Godfather.  The first two books were 5 stars and the last was 4 stars.  The Power of the Dog trilogy is The Power of the Dog, The Cartel, and The Border.

Arc of the Scythe trilogy by Neal Shusterman an incredible young adult trilogy that looks at Earth’s future in a smart way. Arc of the Scythe takes the Grim Reaper character and humanizes it, by well making it human and showing the need of death. In a futuristic Earth human’s have beat aging. Thanks to Nano technology there is no disease and death can be reversed in most cases. Scythes bring a permanent death to curb over population. The Scythes are human’s who have been appointed, they have a kill quota must be unbiased in choosing it’s victims. The first two books are really strong earning 5 stars, with the last book falling to 3 stars. The Arc of the Scythe trilogy is Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll.

Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco  Is a four novels and short stories Young  Adult series that starts in 1888 England and ends in America in the early 1900’s. It follows Audrey Rose Wadworth and Thomas Cresswell who are learning to be forensic scientist while not courting each other.  The series is romance meets serial killers.  The setting is old but feels fresh using feminist ideas from today’s society questioning what is lady-like? This series doesn’t hold back on blood and descriptions of the horrid acts. I rated the majority of books in the series 4 stars. The Stalking Jack the Ripper series is Stalking Jack the Ripper, Hunting Prince Dracula, Escaping from Houdini, Becoming The Dark Prince, and Capturing the Devil. 

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers is a beautifully written debut that takes a witch cursed to die young and love a man that will constantly disappoint her, time and time again. A Witch in Time tells a great love story about missteps and sacrifice. It hits the right beats in time and history as we observe four life times starting in 1890’s and ended up in present day. I loved aspects of the curse and how both the cursed and the watchers of the curse can manipulate certain aspects of it. The story bounces back in time in the form of dreams, which I thought worked really well as I was never confused about what time I was in and who’s life I was reading about. The story is good but is slightly similar to Victoria Schwab’s most recent The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, which deals with a curse and time, while this book I liked more and focused on past lives more than a singular life there are comparisons. The writing style which was simple but really connected me to the story and character’s, it reminded me a lot of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing style’s in Daisy Jones and the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I was selected for an advanced readers copy for Constance Sayer’s new novel The Ladies of the Secret Circus, which I’m really excited about after reading A Witch in Time.

The Plot: Helen is on her first date since her divorce almost a year ago, she’s meeting Luke on a blind date. When she meets Luke she swears he looks familiar to her. Luke says we’ve met before just not in this lifetime. This sends Helen in a spiral remembering through her dreams of France in the 1890’s and how she was cursed. She remembers Luke who looks just the way he does now protecting her after the curse had been placed. Luke is light on the details only saying she doesn’t have long, that it took him to long to find him and she must remember everything. Helen lives three lifetimes as she keeps getting connected to the same two people every time. Another thing Helen has noticed is she is getting powers and they get stronger with each lifetime. Helen is strong enough to finally break the curse but is she strong enough to do what it takes?

What I Liked: The lifetimes were described really well I wanted to stay longer in the Silver Age of 1930’s cinema. I liked the curse and the thought that went in to it, it was a fun mystery to unravel. I liked the love triangle, you could see every time why she picked the wrong love. Clint was scary I almost wish he was more connected to the story. I liked that we got to see her witch powers grow through out time. I’m a huge fan of the movie The Prestige and I liked that this story and that story used the real magician Angiers and twisted him. The narrative of flipping back and forth in time works really well, the story was complex but easy to follow.

What I Disliked: The novel repeats it’s self an awful lot, this is something I have found in a lot of debut novelist, who often don’t trust the reader to keep up, which I was able to do really easily, and didn’t need the reminder. The flow could have been better toward the end, the chapters got longer and slowed the momentum.

Recommendations: A Witch in Time is a fabulous debut of a talented writer in Constance Sayers. If you like witches and time travel then this is a perfect mix of the two. The novel is easy to read and hard to put down. I see great things from this author in the future. I rated A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers 4 out of 5 stars, this was almost a 5 star rating. I will read her new novel The Ladies of the Secret Circus pretty soon thanks to netgalley and Redhook books.