Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

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This book, based on the juvenile writings of the Bronte’s is a sweeping and imagined world. Coakley has obviously committed to research and it pays off in a lovingly crafted story that draws you into the world of the Bronte’s as strong as the worlds of Verdopolis and Gondal.

I enjoyed every page of this beautiful book. Coakley has done such a wonderful job of bringing the moors and the world of the Bronte’s to life. Delicate yet dark and a number of references (and foreshadowing characters) to their adult works that made them famous.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the Brontes, 19th Century literature, or speculative historical fiction.

5/5

 

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Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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From the moment Laura Rivers steps foot into Englewood High, she notices the stares—and they aren’t the typical once-overs every pretty new girl endures. The students seem confused and…spooked. Whispers echoing through the halls confirm that something is seriously off. “That new girl looks just like her,” they say.

It turns out Laura has a doppelgänger, and it isn’t just anyone—it’s Sarah Castro-Tanner, the girl who killed herself by jumping into the Navasink River one year ago.

Laura is determined not to let the gossip ruin her chances of making a fresh start. Thanks to her charming personality and California tan, she catches the eye of Englewood’s undisputed golden boy, Charlie Sanders, and it’s only a matter of time before they make their relationship official.

But something is making Charlie and his friends paranoid—and Laura soon discovers it has to do with Sarah Castro-Tanner.

What really happened to Sarah? Why is Charlie unraveling? And how does Laura Rivers fit into it all?

After all, she’s the dead ringer for a dead girl.

Dead Ringer by Jessie Rosen is an exciting and suspenseful read. A YA cosy mystery, we follow the story from multiple points of view. There is no confusing jump around and each past tense story shines a light on the death of Sarah Castro-Tanner.

An intriguing and refreshing story, I felt engaged with these characters. It was suspenseful and the author kept us along for the slow reveals throughout the novel. I loved that there were no outright good or bad characters. Each person is well rounded and flawed. They are human and relatable.

The story is interesting and deals with the subject matter in a different way. It does not preach and it does not attempt to be a guide in how to think or act. The story is presented and it is up to the reader to decide how they feel about what has occurred and if it changes their perspective or actions.

4/5

Last Light Falling: The Covenant by J E Plemons

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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If your fate has already been chosen for you, would you change it? Fifteen-year-old Arena Power blindly accepts her destiny in a world filled with tragedy, chaos, and a lingering wickedness that will tempt every man’s soul until the last days on Earth. Set in the United States in the year 2053, America, like most of the world, has undergone catastrophic earthquakes, famine, and an economic collapse, which has rendered the nation hopeless. It has turned to other nations, like Russia and China, to help restore what was once a world power. Unfortunately, the new America has grossly caused civil unrest that will eventually be the precursor to a much bigger war of biblical proportions.

Last Light Falling was a book I was intrigued with from the cover and the blurb. I have been reading and enjoying a lot of dystopian novels of late, so I was keen to get my hands on a copy.

Reading this, for me, was hard work.

I found the narrative to be more telling rather than showing. Our main character is 15 years old and I just didn’t believe half of the things she said, or said she felt. Supporting characters were, at times, cardboard cut outs of cliched characters.

World-building had promise but I was always left asking more questions. Parts of the dialogue didn’t sound like the characters compared to other sections of the book. Additionally, phrasing and word usage sometimes didn’t match the characters.

Going in, I really wanted to like this book. But I found it derivative and unpolished. I won’t be reading any more of the series.

2/5

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.

I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.

The lucky one.

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

An engaging, suspenseful story, Black-Eyed Susans follows the story of Tessa Cartwright, the sole survivor of a serial killer. We join the story as a group of lawyers attempt to free the convicted murderer from death row. They come to Tessa for help. Tessa, now an artist and single mother trying to leave her past behind her, reluctantly agrees to revisit her past.

I was captivated by this book. Such an engaging story line that weaves two timelines, Tessa in 1995 when she was found in the open grave, and present day Tessa. Suspects are everywhere and plot twists litter the narrative.

Tessa is a broken woman but a strong character. There is an immediate empathy as you follow this dark path into her past. If you enjoy a compelling mystery that is New Adult/Adult as opposed to Young Adult, you will enjoy this book. The language is accessible and the action demanding (in a good way!).

Supporting characters are strong and believable. Heaberlin has successfully amassed a wealth of research of a scientific nature and implemented it into her story in a way that is easy to understand. Her scientists are real and accessible. The reader never feels like they are talked down to.

A special mention to Tessa’s neighbour Effie who provides at times a comforting comic relief and always affection.

4/5

A Killing Among Friends by Toni Morrow Wyatt

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Sennie Lacefield has always felt safe at her family’s peaceful mountain lodge . . .

The only break in her tranquil life was the death of her boyfriend Patrick Devon, which left her heartbroken and unable to understand Patrick’s sullen, withdrawn brother Lonnie. But when her best friend Reatha Alcoker disappears, her sense of security is shattered. With the help of Reatha’s boyfriend Milo Durham, she launches a search for her friend.

More girls disappear, and bodies begin turning up . . .

A rural cozy mystery, A Killing Among Friends, is set in a small community impacted by secrets and lies. Our main character, Sennie, is starting her junior year of high school and a burgeoning adult world threatens to rob her of her innocence.

Sennie is a proactive heroine, eager to solve the mystery and find her best friend. I liked her but wish her character had been expanded slightly. She seems to be an analytical thinker but where does she know how to conduct an amateur investigation? If she’s a sleuth is it because she’s obsessed with Nancy Drew books? I wanted a little more to explain how she could jump straight in to her investigation.

Supporting characters were interesting and it was nice to see a functional normal family engaged with and supportive of the main character. I enjoyed the older residents, a pastoral relief when dealing with a dark subject.

Morrow Wyatt has created a genuine setting and likable characters. As you read through the book you can see her love of this place and the people she has created to inhabit it. Some of the dialogue doesn’t seem to match up the characters but that may just be my interpretation.

3/5

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Set in New Orleans after ‘the Storm’ has ravaged the iconic city, The Casquette Girls tells the story of Adele Le Moyne just returned from Paris to her home town and a family secret that threatens to consume the whole town.

Alyse Arden has created two starkly different but emotive worlds. We are introduced to the desolate wasteland of New Orleans after ‘the Storm’ has wiped out most of the City reverting it to a time before the abundance of the modern world. Our second world is the dawning of New Orleans as we know it today and the dangerous journey faced by those coming from the European continent to start a new life.

I find these two worlds perfect together. Adele is having to start her life over again and it is nothing like the world that was taken from her before the storm. It is a dangerous world of dark deeds and magic. This is perfectly juxtaposed with Adeline’s story, coming from the extravagance of Paris for the savage new world.

I loved the characters in this book. They were beautifully characterised and jumped off the page. I believed Adele as a real person and cared for her from the moment we were introduced. She is real and believable and Arden has done a great job of remaining true to her character throughout the book.

I couldn’t put this book down (^can you tell?!). I read it with my eyes struggling to stay open late into the night. It was different, it was interesting and I am VERY looking forward to the next installment.

4.5/5

Unhidden (The Gatekeeper Chronicles #1) by Dina M Given

I received this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Unhidden is the story of Emma, a mercenary with amnesia. She lives in modern day New York City and works alongside Daniel, a younger brother type figure she met in a foster home, and Jason the good looking ex-military man who shares an awkward past with the heroine.

During one mission, Emma comes into contact with a foe that works with the darker forces of the unknown and magical world. This shakes her up and leads her on the path to discover who she is and where she comes from.

There are some likeable characters in Unhidden and others with real potential. The main character, Emma, is an echo of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake. She dresses like her, looks like her and acts like her. Emma throws around the one-liners, clichés and pop culture references.

As a first book in the series, I was eager to learn everything I could about the world of Emma and her cohorts. By chapter three I was still left wanting. The action in this story was not an issue, but I wanted to know more about Emma. I wanted to feel connected to her and follow her on her journey but I didn’t feel like I knew anything about her until halfway through the book. This left me a little disappointed.

The movie and TV references became a little much for me by the end of the book. However, in the second half of the book the various supernatural creatures came in to play and the action sped up. From here the story took on quite an interesting turn.

I felt the writing was rushed. There were many times when the characters would agree they need to go somewhere and in the next sentence they were stepping off a train at the location. In the sentence after that they were getting out of a taxi. There’s not a need for a blow by blow description but there should be, at the very least, a bridging action that takes us from each scene. It was confusing and because it happens a number of times in the book, it slowed the narrative.

Overall, it was interesting story. If you like early Anita Blake or the middle seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer then you will probably like this book. It received a number of four star reviews and a lot of buzz. For me, I wanted a little more from this book. Unhidden is available now via Amazon or City Owl Press.

2.5/5