Review: Midnight Horizon by Daniel Jose Older

Series: Star Wars: The High Republic
Author: Daniel Jose Older
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Released: February 1, 2022
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Midnight Horizon, by Daniel Jose Older, continues the tale of several Star Wars characters that many fans (myself included) have come to cherish. For those enjoying The High Republic run of novels, you’re not going to want to miss this one.

Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy are heading towards Corellia to investigate strange disappearances being reported. Accompanying the Jedi are the padawans Reath Silas and Rom Jomaram, and a surprise guest – Crash.

Once again, what should have been a relatively simple mission for the Jedi to handle has become a complex web. One that has the Nihil lurking in the center. The political stake has never been higher, and time is running out.

“The wind touches us. We experience it,” Kantam said, finishing the teaching. “It is real. But it passes. So, too, do our feelings.”

It’s official: I’m adding Daniel Jose Older to my list of favorite Star Wars authors. Admittedly, that list is longer than I would have expected, but I’m happy to say that every book I’ve read by Daniel Jose Older has been a brilliant addition to the world.

Midnight Horizon is another fast-paced read that bounces between several perspectives, giving readers the full breadth of the situation. I’ve grown fond of most of these characters (Ram especially – sorry, not sorry) over the last couple of books. Crush is the only new perspective, and I quickly found her one of my favorites.

My one regret about this series is that there isn’t a movie or TV show based on these events (yet – a girl can hope!). I would give anything to see it all play out on the screen. I would also love to see my favorite characters cast. On that note, any fancastings I should know about?

Midnight Horizon is the last novel in Phase 1 of The High Republic. I do not know if this means we’ll be saying goodbye to these characters forever (my poor heart if that is the case) or if we’ll see them at a later date. Personally, I know which option I’m rooting for.

Thanks to Disney Lucasfilm Press and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell

Series: The Family Upstairs #2
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria
Released: August 9, 2022
Received: Own (BOTM)
Warnings: Domestic abuse, rape, child abuse

3 kitties

Talk about a sequel you didn’t know you needed! I didn’t know that The Family Upstairs would get a second novel. Still, The Family Remains is perfect for fans who want to know more about this particular family.

Three sets of characters. Three different plots. DCI Samuel Owusu is determined to find the truth behind a set of remains recently discovered by the water. Meanwhile, Rachel Rimmer is about to receive news that no spouse wants to hear.

Then there’s Lucy Lamb, one of the infamous characters from our previous tale. It’s time for Lucy to finally come home, see what remains of her family, and make peace with her past. The question is, will her past be so willing?

“And when you hate someone, it leaves deeper scars on your psyche than loving someone ever can.”

I think I made a mistake. I didn’t take the time to re-read The Family Upstairs before diving into The Family Remains. As such, it did take me more than a few chapters to get into the flow of things (again). Then again, with the addition of at least one new plot, maybe that would have happened anyway?

The Family Remains is split into three perspectives, each carrying its plot. As one might expect, the plots eventually converge, but that will take some time. In the meantime, my brain was SO busy trying to understand what one series of events had to do with the other.

Overall, I sincerely cannot complain about The Family Remains. It’s the sequel I didn’t expect, but it was still nice. I’d be shocked if there was another sequel, but who knows? (Yes, I just checked to see if there was an announced third novel, nothing yet).

I would have to say that The Family Remains holds up to expectations set by The Family Upstairs. We have the same Family, the same dark history, and the same level of winding plots with painful twists. So it’s a pretty perfect read for fans of that original story. It’s also perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell.

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Review: The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

Author: Fiona Davis
Publisher: Dutton
Released: January 25, 2022
Received: Own (BOTM)

4 kitties

The Magnolia Palace was one of my three BOTM picks for January, and I am so glad I took a risked and nabbed it. I don’t read as much historical fiction as I should (sorry), and this choice was an effort to correct that. And boy, was The Magnolia Palace the right pick!

Lillian Carter’s life has been slowly crumbling for a while, but it took the death of her mother for it all to fall apart. On the run, desperate for cash and a cover story, it is hard to believe that she was the famous model that all the artists were clamoring for once upon a time.

Nearly fifty years after Lillian’s story hits its peak, Veronica Weber is about to find herself embroiled in the same story. She’s desperately seeking the life and career of a model, and it isn’t going so well. However, it did open a surprising door for her.

“The rich think they’re protected, that they have magical powers, when in fact they’re only mortals, like the rest of us. Bodies break down, betray you. People you love die. Children die.”

If you pick one historical fiction novel to grab this year, let it be The Magnolia Palace. This novel enchanted me, taking me away to two very different lives that somehow found a connection, despite all odds.

I’ll be honest with you – it took me a little while to get into The Magnolia Palace. At first, I was second-guessing my decision to read it, but once I hit the thirty percent mark (or so), I was hooked. This went from being a book I was nominally interested in to a book that I devoured. I do love it when that happens.

To be clear, The Magnolia Palace takes place at two different points in time, and the novel jumps back and forth between the two women and their stories. Lillian’s story comes first and is set in 1919. Veronica’s story follows fifty years later.

These two perspectives weave in and around, leaving readers wondering how they’re so connected. That connection builds a mystery, one that left me desperately turning pages to see how it all worked out. In other words, it made for a fun night of reading for me, and thus I cannot recommend this book enough.

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Review: Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty

Author: Mur Lafferty
Publisher: Ace
Released: October 4, 2022
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

Wait, what? Is this seriously a book that combines classic mystery tropes with science-fiction elements? Sign me up! Station Eternity, written by Mur Lafferty, is a book that I never knew I needed in my life. And now I want more.

Mallory Viridian has always been surrounded by death and murders. That’s no exaggeration. Everywhere she goes, somebody dies – leaving poor Mallory to solve the crime before fingers get pointed her way.

To escape this unending cycle, Mallory found a way off the planet. She’s so far away from humanity that there should theoretically be no more risk of murder, right? Wrong. Something big is about to happen, and Mallory will quickly find herself surrounded by the deaths of aliens and humans. She will have to solve the case before all hope is lost.

Huh. So Station Eternity is basically Murder, She Wrote in space – with a few twists. In other words, this book is EXACTLY what I’ve always been looking for. I just didn’t know it. We have one character, Mallory, who always finds herself in the heart of every local murder case (sound familiar) – even when those murders happen off-world.

I love the idea of merging this trope with science-fiction elements. It’s so much fun. That probably made me slightly biased in favor of Station Eternity because I love that concept. But I still enjoy the read!

Station Eternity is a complex read with two primary perspectives (Mallory and another human). As we near the story’s climax, other perspectives begin to take over, making things a bit more complicated. It just shows how complex murder on a space station would be! But seriously, while these perspectives were interesting, I’m not 100% certain that they were all needed.

All things said and done; I found Station Eternity to be a fun and compelling read. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m hoping this novel will turn into a series (hey, there’s hope!). I would absolutely read another adventure centered around Mallory.

Thanks to Ace and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Author: Sunyi Dean
Publisher: Tor Books
Released: August 2, 2022
Received: ARC
Warnings: Controlling behavior, stalking

4 kitties

Almost every reader has used the phrase “I devoured this book.” For most, this term means that we loved the book so much that we read it in one (or two) sittings. But The Book Eaters is about to put a whole new spin on that notion.

The Family has always been good at staying out of public sight. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. They reside on the Yorkshire Moors and are perfectly content living their lives away from the rest of society.

For The Family is a family of book eaters. That is to say, novels are their food source and need no other sustenance. For most book eaters, that is. Some are unlucky enough to be born needing another source of nourishment.

“Maybe, Devon thought, that was the best anybody could hope for in life: to be missed when gone, however one had lived.”

Over the years, I have learned that there are certain tropes and promises that I cannot avoid – because I love them too much. If you promise me a book about books, I will read it—end of story. Enter The Book Eaters, which turns out to be a surprisingly literal title.

Devon is like everyone else in her family (The Family, if we’re being technical). She eats books for sustenance. And that’s arguably not even the strangest thing about her family, though it is pretty close.

It takes a while for the family history to unfold. It takes even longer to understand Devon’s place in this convoluted history or what her current goals are. It made for a twisting story with an urban fantasy setting. Or maybe science fiction? It has strong cosmic horror vibes, even if they are on the milder side of things.

Everything said and done; the character development and mystery kept me invested in The Book Eaters. I was determined to discover what Devon was hiding from everyone (readers included). Likewise, I was interested to see how she changed throughout the story as more of her plan came to light.

I ended up enjoying The Book Eaters. I’m so happy that it came across my plate and that I took the time to read it. If you’re looking for a dark and mysterious yet quick read, let The Book Eaters be your choice.

Thanks to Tor Books for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Blackmail and Bibingka by Mia P. Manansala

Series: Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #3
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Publisher: Berkley Books
Released: October 4, 2022
Received: Own

4 kitties

Ohhh! It’s that time again! No, seriously, we may only be three books in, but the new release of Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery has quickly become something I look forward to. The latest installment is Blackmail and Bibingka, and it is pure perfection.

We’re heading into the Christmas season at Shady Palms, which means there wille lots of food and festivals. And probably a murder or two, based on how things have been going here lately. Lila Macapagal will be at the center of all this chaos, naturally.

The odds of mischief and mysteries increase when Lila’s cousin, Ronnie, comes back to town. The boy has always caused trouble, and his habits don’t seem to have changed much as an adult. Though only time will tell.

“If you’ve turned up after all these years just to break Tita Rosie’s heart again, I’ll kill you. I’m serious. And Ate Bernie will help me hide the body.”

Guys! Words cannot describe how excited I’ve been for the next novel in Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery. This has quickly become my favorite cozy mystery, and if you haven’t given it a shot, please reconsider. It’s amazing.

Blackmail and Bibingka bring us back to Shady Palms – an area full of local cuisine, colorful characters, and a couple of murder cases. Like many a cozy mystery, Lila Macapagal always finds herself in the middle of these investigations. Mostly because she can’t leave well enough alone; it’s an oddly endearing trait!

I love that this story takes place during Christmastime (though I almost wish I had been patient enough to line up the holidays). It added even more charm and whimsy to an already abundant setting.

Speaking of the setting, I think I enjoyed the setup more for this particular novel. More than the beauty contest, at any rate. This time, we’re focused on establishing a new winery, which is fascinating on all fronts. It also fits in nicely with the food-oriented themes.

The mystery was enjoyable; the stakes were high (but not so high as to induce anxiety), and the characters were on point. Oh, and of course – Blackmail and Bibingka made me crave Filipino food like you wouldn’t believe. So plan for that.

As always, I’m charmed by Mia P. Manansala’s writing and cannot wait for the next addition to this series. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait more than a year or two.

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Review: Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski

Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals
Author: Laurie Zaleski
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Released: February 22, 2022
Received: NetGalley

4 kitties

I’ll admit that I’m pretty trash about reading non-fiction novels. I’d love to change that, but I get distracted by yet another fantasy series every time I make that promise. Yet, there was something about Funny Farm that called to me. I’m confident it was the animal element, being a pet lover myself.

Funny Farm is a memoir and thus very much a true story. Laurie Zaleski shares her story about how she worked hard to bring her mother’s dream to life, only for her mother to pass mere months away from that dream becoming a reality. It’s so painfully relatable, especially as Zaleski decides to complete her mother’s vision in her stead, and thus Funny Farm was born.

Funny Farm is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It’s a painfully relatable story, at least for me. I could very much see myself doing something like this in my mother’s memory, so that hit hard, as did the love of animals, for obvious reasons.

I enjoyed Zaleski’s writing as she regaled us with the story of Funny Farm. Though again, much of that story was bittersweet. I honestly don’t have much more to say on the matter than that every animal lover should consider giving it a read.

Thanks to StMartinsPress and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Servant Mage by Kate Elliot

Author: Kate Elliot
Publisher: Tor.com
Released: January 18, 2022
Received: NetGalley

3 1/2 kitties

There are certain authors where I will read whatever they write: no need to read the description or previews. That was the case for Servant Mage. I knew it was written by Kate Elliot, whom I love. I also knew that S.A. Chakraborty highly praised it, and really, those two facts were more than enough to sell me on reading it!

Fellian is what is known as a Lamplighter. It means she has the gift to create light magically. However, she lives in a society that turns people like her into little more than servants. Worse, if we’re being brutally honest here.

Somehow, Fellian is about to get wrapped up in a political scheme, one that doesn’t much care how she feels about either side of the rising war. Her skills are in need, and that means she is needed. But if she plays her cards right, she might just be free by the end of it. Assuming she doesn’t end up dead.

“Honor never dies, even when traitors stab it in the back.”

In case it wasn’t obvious, I went into Servant Mage with extremely high hopes. However, while I did enjoy the read, I didn’t love it as much as I was hoping. Perhaps that is partially my fault, since I set such high standards for this book.

The other part of the problem is that much of Servant Mage felt rushed to me. I didn’t get much of a chance to become attached to Fellian. By the time the novella ended I understood her and her motivations okay, but I would have loved a chance to get to know her (and her world) better before that point.

What I did see of the magical abilities in this novella fascinated me. I wish I could have seen more. Fellian is a lamplighter, which is actually a pretty cool name for an already cool ability. This specific gift is needed by a group of rebel Monarchists, and that was all she wrote.

On that note – I wanted to like the political side of things here. It had SO much potential. But again, much of that was grayed out where I was desperately hoping for more details. Still, it was enough for me to get a mostly solid impression of both sides. I was able to appreciate some of the ironic twists that followed too, so I really can’t complain.

Long story short, Servant Mage is a fun and quick read. It didn’t go as deep as I had expected or hoped, but otherwise I do appreciate what Kate Elliot did here. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

Thanks to Tor.com and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Christmas Vendetta by Valerie Hansen

Series: Emergency Responders #4
Author: Valerie Hansen
Released: November 30, 2021
Received: Blog Tour

4 kitties

Christmas Vendetta is the fourth novel in Valerie Hansen’s Emergency Responders series. Though, if I’m being honest here, I have not had the fortune of reading the first three novels. However! I had no problem hopping right in here and enjoying every minute of this read.

The moment Sandy Lynn Forrester hears about the attack, she knows it had been meant for her. Over the holiday, her roommate attacked, and it’s clear to Sandy Lynn that this was a case of mistaken identity.

Yet nobody will believe Sandy Lynn when she warns of the attacker’s identity. Well, almost nobody will. Her old flame is willing to listen, which is fortunate, given that he is an ex-officer. Will he have what it takes to stop this situation from getting worse?

If you’re looking for a romantic holiday read that has a heavy dose of suspense, then Christmas Vendetta is the book for you. I would bet that the entire series (Emergency Responders) will be precisely what you’re looking for.

It has been a while since I read a book that checked off both suspense and inspirational read, let alone one with romantic elements. It made for a completely different read for me, and I appreciated the change of pace!

Overall, the story is very easy to get into, as Sandy Lynn’s backstory is both compelling and straightforward (if only the authorities within the novel believed that!). Despite the tenser moments that come from suspense, this straightforward nature made for a surprisingly relaxing read. Though naturally, the romance helped to ease out all remaining tension.

Thanks to Harlequin Tours and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston

Author: Andrea Hairston
Publisher Aqueduct Press
Released: February 1, 2011
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Rape, lynching

4 kitties

Redwood and Wildfire is the latest read in my fantasy/historical fiction stint that I’ve been working so hard on. This novel has a lot to offer written by Andrea Hairston, as it merges many of my favorite fictional elements together.

This is the story of Redwood and Aiden. One is an African American woman, the other a Seminole Irish man. Both can conjure, and they do so frequently. Sometimes as a performance, and sometimes for personal reasons.

These powers do little to negate all of the odds stacked against them. They live in a world that wants to see them fail. Yet together, these two will find their way from Georgia to Chicago, where hopefully a new future will be waiting.

“No one should let yesterday use up too much of today. Easy to say, hard to live.”

Redwood and Wildfire is a complex novel. It’s multi-layered, thought-provoking, and defies easy description. Naturally, that is making my job just a tad difficult here. This is a heavy yet beautifully written novel that seamlessly merges real life with fantasy.

I honestly don’t think that the description (any version I’ve seen) has done Redwood and Wildfire justice. Perhaps it isn’t possible. This is one of those books that you have to experience for yourself.

Though I should mention that there are a lot of complex subjects within this book, including a couple of notable trigger warnings (rape and lynching). So please consider yourself warned before picking up Redwood and Wildfire.

Thanks to Aqueduct Press and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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