Book #9: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

‘There’s a scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.’

From the moment Dr John Watson takes lodgings in Baker Street with the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, he becomes intimately acquainted with the bloody violence and frightening ingenuity of the criminal mind.

In A Study in Scarlet , Holmes and Watson’s first mystery, the pair are summoned to a south London house where they find a dead man whose contorted face is a twisted mask of horror. The body is unmarked by violence but on the wall a mysterious word has been written in blood.

The police are baffled by the crime and its circumstances. But when Sherlock Holmes applies his brilliantly logical mind to the problem he uncovers a tragic tale of love and deadly revenge . . .

Sherlock Holmes is an iconic literary character, a detective with astute observational skills. He is known as the first detective character just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is known as the father of the detective novel.

I love mysteries. I love the Victorian era. Let’s face it, I’m a booknerd who loves Sherlock Holmes adaptations. And yet… and here is the part where you gasp… I have never read a Sherlock Holmes story.

Until now.

My problem was that I was never sure where to begin. I wanted to begin where they began in their own world, not necessarily in the world of the readers. So, after years of searching, I also learned that my brain couldn’t quite formulate the world through Doyle’s words. That meant finding an audiobook I liked.

I found Stephen Fry’s and now I’m good to go.

For a first story, A Study in Scarlet does set up the character dynamics well. You see how the dynamic duo, Holmes and Watson, became roommates. You also see just the beginnings of what will become literature’s most well-known detective.

As for the mystery… well, I liked it. I didn’t care for the middle part where we are given a totally new storyline and characters. It diverted from the main narrative and pulled me away from the story. That said, I understand why the story was needed. I just wish there was a different way Doyle did it. It may be common for the time period it was published in, but it doesn’t mean I have to like that part of the book.

In all, I felt the story is a good beginning to a series and I’m sure I’m just going to continue to love it as I continue reading their adventures.

Final Rating: 3/5

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Book #6: The Last Vampire Book One by R.A. Steffan and Jaelynn Woolf

There’s a smokin’ hot dead guy locked in my garden shed.
That part’s bad enough. But now, he’s trying to get out.

Growing up, my father always told me that I’d come to a bad end, just like my mom did when I was a kid. Hearing that kind of shit when you’re little eventually gets to a girl, but I can’t say I ever expected my ‘bad end’ to involve an angry vampire with a severe case of iron deficiency and a panty-melting English accent.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Ever since my mother was assassinated, I’ve felt like there was something vast and frightening hidden beneath the fabric of the world. Something none of us are supposed to know about.

So far, finding out I was right hasn’t been nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped. I guess the trick will be staying alive long enough to shout ‘I told you so’ from the rooftops.

But before I can do that, I really need to figure out if the vampire who just bit me is one of the good guys or not. 

I received an Audible copy for an honest review via Audiobook Boom. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation for this review.

The Last Vampire: Book One is the first in a trilogy about a 26 year old woman who is thrust into the paranormal world after a brief bitten encounter with a vampire. The last vampire in fact. Go fig.

The story is what I consider a slow burn. Our love interest and MC just barely know each other in the events of the book. In fact, they are only with each other in three solid instances. That says something there. It makes me label this book more on the urban fantasy versus romance field.

There is some sex going on near the last quarter of the book that I have read is more clinical than steamy. I personally found it to be both and I found the reason for that to be logical and interesting.

The MC is a “girl with unknown power” and does do the enigma trope well but I feel she could get better as the books progress. If anything, I’m not ready to pass judgment on her completely even if the book ended.

The writing is easy to get into and there were parts that were funny, as intended. I did find the book to be enjoyable and wouldn’t mind reading book two. There were moments I was scratching my head trying to figure out where the authors were going and I was super stoked at who the baddies were. Honestly, these guys are hardly ever the baddies… THANK YOU!

I did have an issue with the way it ended. It seemed to just end instead of having a climactic moment and solid resolution. That said, there is a second book and I do hope that book has a better ending in comparison.

All in all, it was a fun romp and I could see myself continuing the series.

Final Rating: 3/5

 

Book #3: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic… 

I didn’t know about this book until some internet friends in a Facebook Group I’m in called The Booket List mentioned there was an Audible sale on it. To expand on that, the FB group is called The Booket List. It has a reading challenge that involves a 100+ reading list that you have to read throughout the year. The Kiss Quotient happens to be on that list and with the Audible sale, I went ahead and got it.

I’ll admit that, for once, I didn’t read the blurb before getting the book. This is something I never do. I read blurbs. I even read the last few pages of a book before I finish it. Hell, sometimes before I even start the book. That said, once I did read the blurb (after I actually started listening to the audio, mind you), I knew this book was going to mean something to me.

I am not in the Autistic spectrum. At least, I don’t think I am. I’m not sure. I was never tested for it and if I was today, it wouldn’t change anything. That said, I do have family in the spectrum. Listening to this book made me think about how my family members also think and what they go through with. It was comforting to see someone who is always so stressed out, likes a system, and can be overstimulated as the main character in the book.

I felt a kinship with Stella. I understood her. I’ve had the same thoughts as her whether it was how to deal with people, being obsessive about something, or even the almost crippling effect your lack of self-confidence (and the reactions of people around you) can be with even the people who are closest to you.

I don’t usually cry in books. I don’t usually have an emotional response of any kind. I read books and I find myself dissecting them or analyzing them to see what makes a text work or not. And though I didn’t cry with The Kiss Quotient, I did clap. I screamed in praise of the minor characters. I snapped at Michael, the book’s second main character. I found myself choosing to say that this book is more than a 4.

The Kiss Quotient is more than just Stella with her Autism. In fact, that is just a detail about the character that isn’t expressed like an important aspect. I think the best way to explain it is with Michael’s attention of her or even her own realization about herself in the end. This is a romance book that has a character with Autism. This is not an Autistic story with romance.

For anyone who might say this is a poor representation of a “disorder”, I disagree. On both points.

As a sister of an Autistic person, I wasn’t raised to see Autism as a disorder and I refuse to call it that. In fact, I only use that word when I am talking to others because others aren’t able to understand that Autism is just a way that others are wired to think. People with Autism are passionate, you just need to have the patience to learn what their passion is. They are honest, you just need to learn to stop deceiving. They like peaceful days, you just need to learn to stop being so loud and fast. So, no, Autism isn’t a disorder.

As for a poor representation of Autism, again, I disagree. This is a great representation. Autism is a spectrum. No two people are exactly the same. Not even identical twins are completely identical. By saying this book doesn’t represent the spectrum, you are placing a value on one end of the spectrum versus the other.

Now that I’m done with that soapbox, I truly am sorry for that by the way, I want to get to the real meat of the story: the romance.

This book has your typical romance tropes of misunderstanding and lack of communication. But one great difference that this book has from other romances is the way the relationship evolves.

Most romance books have the “will they/won’t they” aspect. This book did away with that and played with the idea of “will they stay or will they break up”.  It felt like a book that stressed the relationship and not the budding of a relationship. I liked that. It felt different from other contemporary romances I’ve read and I really appreciated that.

That said, I can’t help but feel it should really be a movie. Maybe that’s just my little reading/movie adaptation nerdy self, but I really would like to see this in theater. I feel this book would give my mom the feels too. It didn’t have the same issues of a romance book and it felt real.

I highly recommend reading this book if you were thinking about it.

Final Rating: 5/5

*** For those interested in what the full list is for Booket List: check out the group HERE***

Book #1 of 2019: Enhancer 2 by Wyatt Kane

Having superpowers can be awesome, but they always come at a price. 
Ty Wilcox didn’t really believe in superheroes before he became one himself. Now, he has an incredible power he’s just beginning to understand, lives in a mansion, and is in a relationship with two of the most amazing women alive.

But when a flying, teleporting demon-woman appears outside his work, the price of his new life becomes apparent.

There’s a supervillain after the device that gives Ty his power. This villain will do anything to get it, and has an entire army at his command.

The price of Ty’s new life is never-ending danger.

Warning and minor spoilers: Just like book 1, “Enhancer 2” is an 18+ book intended for mature readers. It contains sex, violence, and nudity. It includes very light gamelit elements, occasional bad language, and is set in a cyberpunk alternate future. Within its pages you will find threats, battles, destruction of property, evil plans, betrayals, wrongful imprisonment, major violence, death, and the unfortunate realities of living in a world dominated by mega-corporate greed. The malevolent boss from book 1 is still there, as is the monstrous bad guy. But so are the gorgeous superheroes who are comfortable with unconventional, polyamorous, harem relationships, and there might be someone new in that mix as well.

If you don’t enjoy a good time, this book isn’t for you.

I received an Audible code via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. It wasn’t compensated in any way.

I had listened to the first book a while back and I did like it. It was a fun take on superheroes, had great geek references, and I like the relationship between Ty and the girls. So, when I saw that Audiobook Boom had Enhancer 2 in its list for books needing reviewers, I jumped at it. The first book was a fun and simple 3-star rating. Nothing too exciting but enough to keep me intrigued.

Enhancer 2 had pretty much the same feel. There were less geeky references but it closely follows the events of book one. In fact, it starts on the next day. I actually liked that tidbit. It gave a sense of how superheroes work. Their work is never done with and they are always on.

In this book, the main conflict is that the demoness we meet in book one is actually not the villain we first see. She needs Ty’s help.

To not get too far into the storyline, the book centers mostly on Ty working through his abilities and his relationship with Dinah and Tempest. There is the introduction of a crime boss as well as the theory of who the big baddie is.

In all, it is a fun book to listen to just like the first. I have no complaints with the chosen narrator (same as before) and was able to get into the world. There is a third book on the way and I hope to one day listen to that as well. I’d recommend it to someone who just wants to have fun with their reading.

Final Rating: 3/5

Book #104: Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon

If her love life is going down in flames, she might as well spark a revolution.

Finding out on your sixteenth birthday you’re a shape-shifting dragon is tough to swallow. Being hauled off to an elite boarding school is enough to choke on.

Since Bryn is the only crossbreed at the Institute for Excellence, all eyes are on her, but it’s a particular black dragon, Zavien, who catches her attention.

Zavien is tired of the Council’s rules. Segregated clans, being told who to love, and close-minded leaders make freedom of choice almost impossible. The new girl with the striped hair is a breath of fresh air, and with Bryn’s help, they may be able to change the rules.

At the Institute, old grudges, new crushes, and death threats are all part of a normal day for Bryn. She’ll need to learn to control her dragon powers if she wants to make it through her first year at school. But even focusing on staying alive is difficult when you’re falling for someone you can’t have.

I want to begin this review by stating I received an Audible code via Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation made for this review.

Now, I want you to look at the cover. It doesn’t look very interesting, right? Just a girl who looks like she may have a skin issue. Well, this girl doesn’t need to speak with a dermatologist, she needs someone to keep her anger in check and this girl is angry. Bryn McKenna had a pretty normal life and didn’t have much to worry about. That is until a stalker comes into her life and she learns a few things. Turns out, she’s not human and when someone angers her, they can get burned.

Going Down in Flames starts pretty predictably. You get your normal girl turned powerful and you have your angry people who don’t like it. That said, It turned around close to the 15% mark. I found the story itself enjoyable and the world interesting. What I loved most about this book though was the main character.

Bryn McKenna is a strong and stubborn young lady. Despite most books with the “powerful girl” trope having a powerful girl who only seems to pretend to be stubborn, Bryn definitely felt like it. She is kicked hard and low but keeps coming back up and kicking hardcore ass. She holds her own in the world she is thrust into and I found her relatable.

The narration isn’t bad though I do think the narrator was a bit slow. This is easily taken care of if you just speed up the reading in the audible app. For me, it works at 1.05 speed. So, it didn’t take much to help it along. The narrator herself wasn’t exciting at first, but once the world really started going, so did the voice. I feel the narrator was a good match for this book because of that.

In the end, I found myself being disappointed that the sequel is not in audio yet. I want to fly into this world more and see Bryn’s evolution as a dragon. I would recommend this for young adult readers and readers of urban fantasy shifter fiction.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #103: Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets by Audible Original

Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy—welcome to Victorian Secrets. Over 12 fascinating episodes, Stephen Fry explores the weird and worrying ways of Victorian Britain through true accounts delving deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality.

A deeply immersive audiobook, Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets is a nonfiction book that dives into the secret lives of Victorian people. Listeners will have everything they thought was true flipped over their heads.

The book is narrated by Stephen Fry but is a full cast of people. There are actors reading from the diaries of Victorian people, there is music, and on top of all that, we hear from the experts themselves as they explain their research and what also astounded them.

I am a big fan of the Victorian era. There is something interesting about a time period that is seen as a subdued moment but is actually quite progressive. Even a self-proclaimed Victorian buff, such as myself, would learn something new in each chapter. I found myself getting excited about the book and choose to listen to it with friends in the car. I gasped, was speechless, and nearly peed myself in laughter at times over this book.

Every chapter is interesting and pulls you deeper into the web of secrets. They are juicy and left me wondering just how much more do I not know about. I will most likely listen to this audiobook again and it was well worth it.

Final Rating: 5/5

Book #97: Death Rites by E.A. Copen

Old gods die hard.
Professional necromancer Lazarus Kerrigan knows all too well that the Big Easy is anything but. Crime is up, business is down, and someone–or something–crushed an innocent girl to death on his doorstep.

After the search for the murderer brings the police to his front door, Laz must prove his innocence by hauling in the real killer with help from the dead.

When the sun sets in New Orleans, more than monsters go bump in the night… And what Laz awakens in his quest for answers might just get him–and everyone else in town–killed.

I received an Audible code through AudiobookBoom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation made for this review.

I find the Urban Fantasy genre to be a very fun genre. You have your kickass hero who is usually solving a crime and using magic to do it. It is usually action-packed and the reader is almost always in for a good ride.

Death Rites by E.A. Copen isn’t that much different. Now, the concept of a wizard in a city solving a murder isn’t all that unusual. You have your Dresden Files for example. And really, Lazarus Kerrigan is very much a Harry Dresden-esque character. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if good old Harry wasn’t an inspiration for Laz.

That said, I feel this book does stand on its own. You have a basic feel of pantheon mythologies mixed into the Fae and shove in a dash of your Urban Fantasy stylized magic. Voila, you have the Lazarus Codex series.

Basically, if you like one, you are likely to like the other. That said, you may not like it if you have oversaturated yourself in Urban Fantasy. I haven’t done that, so this is me liking this series (I can just admit that there are similarities that go with the genre that could make this just another one of the batch).

All in all, this is a fun ride of an Urban Fantasy and I do want to continue with the series.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #95: The Remnant by Channing Whitaker

In this suspense-filled, neo-monster, horror novelette, a writer named Gene Winfield discovers an ominous, handwritten book among the belongings of his late, adventurer aunt. As Gene reads, he becomes captivated with the volume’s account of a savage, unearthly creature. In spite of the book’s warning, with his writing career failing, Gene can’t resist the inspiration. Near the roaring fire in his aunt’s otherwise cold, empty manor, Gene begins a story of his own, but will he unleash more than his imagination…

I received an audio code through Audiobook Boom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. There was no compensation made in exchange for this review.

Now that that’s out of the way, The Remnant is a short horror/suspense story. It starts off just before the death of Gene’s aunt and then follows Gene through his process of her estate and his failing writing career.

Since the story is short, it would be hard for me to make a long review that doesn’t spoil the rest of it to you. Suffice to say that for a pretty basic premise, the story lent itself to be suspenseful. The evil itself was just enough to keep you wanting more. There is also a twist ending that may or may not be easy to figure out.

I would read more from Channing Whitaker.

Final Rating: 4/5

Book #80: Enhancer by Wyatt Kane

Ty Wilcox doesn’t really believe in superheroes. Then one is murdered right in front of him. 
Ty is just a normal guy trying to do his best. He’s single, stuck in a dead-end job with the most hateful boss in the universe, and struggling under a mountain of debt.

When he witnesses an impossible battle between two superpowered people, every instinct he has tells him to run. Instead, he becomes the owner of a device that can change his life in ways he can barely imagine.

All he has to do is survive for long enough to learn how to use it.

Warning and minor spoilers: “Enhancer” is an 18+ book intended for mature readers. It contains sex, violence, and nudity. It includes light gamelit elements, occasional bad language, and is set in a cyberpunk alternate future. Within its pages you will find attempted murders, actual murder, home invasions, kidnapping, fights, betrayals, destruction of property, random deaths that can be considered self-defense, a really malevolent boss who treats Ty very badly, and a monstrous bad guy who treats him even worse. Most importantly, you will find gorgeous superheroes and beastkin beauties who are comfortable with unconventional, polyamorous, harem relationships, and there are waffles on offer as well.

Read at your own risk.

I received an audible code of this book via Audiobookboom for an honest review. What follows is my opinion and mine alone. I was not compensated for this review.

I should begin by saying that I’ve always wanted to try a Litrpg/Gamelit style book. If you don’t know what a Litrpg or Gamelit book is, it is basically a book that has the similar styles or schematics as an rpg or game system. In the case of Enhancer, a lot of the rpg style is seen in the way the main characters’ stats are shown in the electronic device that literally enhanced him from a typical human to something more.

The story follows a nerd everyman type of character. There doesn’t seem to be anything too special about Ty Wilcox and he basically lives his life to the least. What I mean by that is, he doesn’t really try to change his situation in life. He seems pretty stuck and, though not content at being stuck, doesn’t seem to do anything to get out of it or seems to decide to get out of it.

That is until he witnesses two superpowered humans fight and one dies at his feet.

The story is a pretty basic concept of an everyman being thrust into a predicament that he may have wanted to stay away from. However, there was enough about this world that Kane made this hero journey into something interesting. There was humor and the story itself did grab me. I loved the geek factor and references from anime that I’ve been a fan of myself.

I’ll admit that I was hesitant about the polyamorous twist in the book, but was surprised that the more adult scenes weren’t a focus and didn’t become graphic. Not that graphic would have necessarily bothered me, but I did like that the story itself was more important and that the relationships between the characters seemed to enhance (pun intended) the story.

In all, it wasn’t a bad story. It was a good beginning to a world that I wouldn’t mind revisiting. I would recommend this for the geek at heart, anime fan, and the person who likes the idea of electronics making the superhero.

Final rating: 3/5

Book #78: Sticky Fingers 2 by

Diverse, dark-humored, and deliciously bite-sized: JT Lawrence ratchets up the tension with this compelling collection of short stories perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Roald Dahl.

GATSBY’S DOUBLE

An artist’s Pomeranian has been replaced by an imposter.

COURT, MARRY, KILL

Whose body ends up being unzipped by fish on the ocean floor?

ROCKABYE BABY

A female-only cult has a very dark side.

HE DID IT

A detective relies on his gut (and his hallucinations) to help him solve murder cases.

THE BRAIN BLEACHER

He can remove your pain by hacking your memory, but his own suffering is here to stay.

***

“Lawrence makes every word count, telling each story with elegance and emotional punch.” — Patsy Hennessey

“Each story is masterfully constructed … Humorous, touching, creepy, but most of all entertaining, this collection is superb.” — Tracy Michelle Anderson

***

If you’re a fan of Roald Dahl or Gillian Flynn you’ll love this collection of unsettling stories with a twist in the tale. Get it now. 

I received a copy of this audiobook anthology through audiobookboom (which is amazing and everyone should check it out). I was not compensated for this review. Everything that you read is my opinion and mine alone.

I have been in the need for a mind twist for a while. What was great about this audiobook was that each story set itself apart from the rest. Each one grabbed the reader and took them on a journey. Sometimes I got the twist before it happened, but most of the time I was excited to find out I was wrong.

I’m not from South Africa, but this anthology’s setting doesn’t push the reader to know anything about the country, the cultures in the country, or the people (though now I am interested to know more than what my past World History courses have taught me). What the anthology asks of the reader is to immerse themselves into the characters, to feel and to witness what is unfolding or is about to unfold, and, most importantly, to wonder what will happen next.

The narrator, I feel, was well placed. Her voice is melodic and pulls in the reader. When she is reading an especially odd story, you can’t help but be pulled even if the story itself isn’t the best.

It is here I should mention that out of the twelve stories, I didn’t really care for two of them. But, that was just the content of the story and not the writing style or narration. It just wasn’t my cup of tea at that moment.

In all, this anthology was good. I would read more from J.T. Lawrence and am wondering what I should read next from this author.

Final Rating: 4/5