The Stroke of Eleven

BOOK 1: The Beast of Talesend  by  Kyle Robert Shultz

BOOK 2: The Tomb of the Sea Witch

The Stroke of Eleven  description:

The adventures of Beaumont and Beasley are at an end.

The Council of Scions has finally caught up with Nick Beasley and his friends–and the sinister enchantress Madame Levesque has plans for them. Nick and Cordelia must solve an ancient mystery for her. Otherwise, Crispin and Molly will be lost forever.

The investigation leads Nick and Cordelia to the Castle of Basile, a bizarre place detached from space and time. Old friends are trapped there, and Nick and Cordelia are soon imprisoned along with them. Their jailer is the Fairy Godmother from the tale of Cinderella…who turns out to be far less benevolent than the storybook version.

A masked man offers to help–but can the White Rabbit really be trusted? What is Cinderella’s dark secret? And what will happen when the clock strikes twelve?

BOOK 3: The Stroke of Eleven   3 STARS

Like the other books, this was a new and rather dark twist on the fairy tales we know and love. After surviving on the run for so long, they’re finally captured. It’s interesting to be back dealing with the Council, as well as Nick’s dream Beast still coming in to play, and them finally questioning what really happened to Cordelia’s father. It helps to tie the stories together to develop this larger over arching plot, and not just a new case of the week. The building of the time loop, and how the world changes around them was fascinating, and practically apocalyptic. And while this is supposed to be about Cinderella’s real story, it was surprisingly more Beauty and the Beast than even the first book was. With the outfits, the song, and even living furniture making little debuts, which was rather charming. However, I found it ridiculous how the other magic users in the story kept ignoring Nick because he was just an ordinary guy, even if he is currently a beast. After all he’d done and the cases he’s solved, it felt like a rather strange turn of events to act like any idea he comes up with couldn’t possibly be worth their time. Also, while this story had so much to offer, and a lot of questions were answered, as well as plenty of plot lines that could build for more stories, it ultimately ended up being rather predictable. The “big reveals” were more of a confirmation of what you already knew. It was a good book, but just wasn’t on par with the previous stories. Even the whole sci-fi bit of Doctor Who style clockwork people and robots really tainted the normally magical aspect. Plus there were a lot of typos. It feels like Shultz may have rushed this story. I still do look forward to see what happens next, especially after that ending which really makes me wonder which Liddell was in that locked room.

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The Last Days of Lady Cordelia

The Last Days of Lady Cordelia  by  Kyle Robert Schultz  description:

Lady Cordelia Beaumont is dying.

That’s what her mysterious nurse tells her, at least. Even worse, her magic powers have abandoned her, her friends are missing, and her whole world has completely changed. Everyone around her is insisting that magic and fairy tales aren’t real. Even the name of her city is different. She’s not in Talesend any more—she’s in a place called London.

Cordelia is determined to return to her own reality, but dark forces are working against her. An old friend may be able to help—but he doesn’t remember who she is.

Who are the Neverwolves? What is the secret of the Shadow Parallel? And how can Cordelia use magic to escape from a world where magic doesn’t exist?

BOOK 1: The Last Days of Lady Cordelia   4 STARS

Honestly this shouldn’t really be considered a series all on its’ own. It’s really just part of the regular Beaumont and Beasley series, like maybe BOOK 2.5, because it seems to pick up where The Tomb of the Sea Witch left off. Although it is taking place in a sort of other world, it wouldn’t really make sense without reading the other 2 books. However, it is a rather short story, but an interesting one that does promise a more intricate plot later on. I really loved the idea of the Neverwolves, and how this isn’t just some throwaway short story that can be easily done without. It’s a really good tale, and one that didn’t need to be a full book, but definitely makes me want more. The only thing is that it did need better editing. There were typos that could’ve been easily fixed with another read through. Regardless, worth the read and can’t wait for the next one.

The Sugar Queen

The Sugar Queen  by  Sarah Addison Allen  description:

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.
Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.
The Sugar Queen    5 STARS
Warning: This book will make you crave every sugary goodness that you ever heard of and then some. I love Allen’s books, because they’re always filled with such hope and possibility. There’s never any direct magic, but there’s always these little things. Men who literally can’t break their promises, books that appear when you need them, and the color red bringing about good things. Josey is a character that’s easy to understand, she has a secret love of candy and romance novels, and has no clue what to do when her secret love suddenly shows interest in her. She’s trapped in a town that still holds the things she did as a small child against her, with a mom who doesn’t want her to be able to go out and find her own life. But as usual it’s never just about one person finding her way in the world. There’s Chloe, Jake, Adam, and even several others who get swept up in the story as you go. Allen always create a world that is alive and real in the way that you know these sorts of places, and either are or have met these kinds of people. Yet this isn’t a simple every day story, and I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up late reading it, and immediately started back the moment I woke up. Fantastic!

Beauty in Autumn

Beauty in Autumn   by  Ruby Dixon    description:

Inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, a short and sexy interpretation of the classic fairy tale…

For years untold, there has always been a beast in the cursed forest. Every year at the Harvest Festival, a new bride is sent to him…never to return. But when Willow is chosen to be the newest bride, she seeks out the help of the local wise woman.

Willow might be able to break the curse, but to do so, she must refrain from looking at the beast entirely. It sounds easy enough, but as things get heated between them, can she keep her promise? Or will she need to see who – and what – she’s bedding first?

Beauty in Autumn   3 STARS

This is a really short story, and it’s shown as book 3 of a series of stories written by different authors, but they aren’t in any way connected as far as I can tell, and so it’s just as easy to read them in whatever order you want or just read this one which I very much enjoyed. While this is said to be based on Beauty and the Beast, about the only thing that ties it to that fairy tale is the roses that are mentioned. It really comes across as more of a retelling of East of the Sun West of the Moon. Regardless of what fairy tale it resembles most, it was a rather interesting twist, and I liked that Willow wanted this, that she realized that this was her fate and she went in gladly. Of course, since it’s Dixon, you should know just how naughty it’s going to be. It’ll make you blush, giggle, and have you speeding right to the end.

A Girl in Black and White

BOOK 1: A Girl Named Calamity  by  Danielle Lori

A Girl in Black and White   description:

My once upon a time didn’t end with happily ever after—but with blood-stained hands and cold blue eyes. The story of my life had been laid beneath my feet since childhood, but until death, I’d never known that road was paved with stones called lies.

In this city of sun and heat, cloaked in dark, both inside and out, I became somebody other than Farm Girl. There was no assassin behind my back. No, my shackles were just as tight but came in a different form.

Like Death’s icy fingers running down my spine, the ones that had gripped me for months, my past haunted my present in the guise of nostalgia. My old chains still left marks on my skin, their owner’s gaze following behind. But he didn’t know I lived. He didn’t know I was so close, that I heard his name spoken every day. That I still hated him. Until my hate started tasting suspiciously different.

One mistake and everything I’d created unraveled. A liar. Corruptor. He stood in front of me now. The air was heavy with expectation, tense with the possibilities of how this would unfold, of what he would do.

But there was always two sides to every story, and maybe in this version, the corruptor wasn’t him, but me.

BOOK 2: A Girl in Black and White   5 STARS

I really enjoyed the first book, but wow this one was a total step up. It’s nearly a year after the end of the first book, and a lot has happened in this time, and during such Calamity has clearly matured. She’s also started figuring out her powers, as well as the truth about her life, her mother, and all the plans her grandmother had for her. While it initially bothered me how much of the first book turns out to be a facade, hiding basically all of the truth and everyone’s intentions to the extent that by the end of this book it feels like everything was just a lie. It’s also sort of amazing to read a book that pulls it off so well that by the end you’re just stunned into silence and wondering where the hell you can get the next book, because you need it right now. Everything, from the Sisterhood she’s being forced into, the return of the Untouchable Prince, as well as Weston who is still just such a psycho murderous dreamboat, is all so perfectly laid out and balanced to make for a book you can’t put down. I glad so many of the characters that I loved from the first book make an appearance, but I also enjoyed the fact that since this all takes place in one city this time we get a full new cast of different sorts of people and all the interactions and relationships that have formed around Calamity. It makes for a very involved plot with so many possibilities. But mostly I loved the development of her relationship with Weston, and how it no longer feels like a silly girl with a crush, but an actual woman dealing with feelings she has for a man she knows she shouldn’t have feelings for. Altogether a great book.

Siren Suicides

Siren Suicides: Second Edition  by Ksenia Anske  description:

On a rainy September morning 16-year-old Ailen Bright flees her abusive father by jumping off the Seattle Aurora Bridge. Instead of a true death, in the water she finds several silver-skinned sirens who convert her to one of their own. As a newborn siren she is dead, supernaturally strong, and hungry for her new sustenance—human souls.
Ailen refuses to kill…at first. With time she must face the agony that comes with starvation, while being relentlessly pursued by a siren hunter. An enthralling and dark look into the mind and heart of a suicidal teenager, this urban fantasy follows Ailen’s struggle to figure out the meaning of life, her confusing feelings for her best friend Hunter, and her desperate battle for her father’s love.

Siren Suicides   3 STARS

The best thing about this book is how wonderful the writing style is. Anske does a beautiful job of drawing you into this world, and making it so vivid. She doesn’t just tell you what a room looks like, you discover it through the characters interactions, their insight and emotions, and it’s all done with ease. I loved her new take on sirens, how you become one, and the fact that she harkens back to the original Greek mythology with the names, and that she didn’t make the mistake of turning them into mermaids with a fishtail. The best part of this book though was the very beginning before Ailen turned into a siren. Seeing into her mind, and knowing why she loves sirens so much, and her still suffering from the loss of her mother, it was something that was tangible and understandable. I’m glad that Anske didn’t in any way romanticize suicide. She gives you the harsh reality of what it would be like hitting the water, what it does to your body, and how it feels to drown and the regret the victim goes through during it all. But once Ailen becomes a siren it’s like everything went into overdrive. It felt like everything was so on the nose with the whole siren bit. And as the story goes the way it circles around death can be extremely depressing and worrisome. I will say that right there at the end it finally began to really flow and Ailen goes through some real self-discovery and there is a lot of character growth that helped make this a book worth reading in the end.

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker description:

‘Alone with the dead! I dare not go out, for I can hear the low howl of the wolf through the broken window’

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

Dracula   5 STARS

You know that scene in a horror movie when it gets dark and ominous music begins to play and you know that at any moment the killer is going to suddenly appear and murder everyone in a horrible fashion. That intense build up, and the anxiety of wondering exactly when you’re going to be scared, because you already know it’s coming. That’s this entire book. I had to take breaks at times to read some short stories that were a bit lighter, because the unnerving fear for the characters, as we the reader know what’s happening, could be a bit much at times. However, it’s easy to see why this is a classic, and how it has inspired others to delve into the dark world of vampires. Though, considering I’ve mainly read paranormal romance, it’s a bit disconcerting to see how the original was so completely evil. The vampires in this are soulless, not misunderstood, and kill children and anyone that gets in their way without remorse. More so, it’s incredible all the powers they are given, not just immortality and strength, but real mystical sort of powers, that I wish hadn’t been pushed off to the side in the other stories I’ve read. Beyond all of that though, I don’t believe I have ever come across a story written in this style, and it was this style that really made the tale such an intriguing one. Sure there have been plenty who have done rotating first person, but this is told in pieces of people’s diaries, the letters they’ve written to others, and even newspaper clippings. You’re getting the events after the characters have experience them and have pondered over them, as they try to understand what exactly is going on. Because of this you get to see how it all slowly melds together, and what each character really is thinking, and a much more personal aspect of the story that allows you to really feel for each of them as if these were actual historical letters that someone has stitched together. And I do so hope people were ever like this, this goodness and bravery and the way in which they talk so passionately about everything. It’s really a wonderful book. Though I would advise getting a version that has footnotes to explain certain things. Such as words that are no longer used in this way. As well as some of things that are referenced. I’m sure you could easily enjoy this book without such, but it was rather nice to have.

Doctor Strange: “It’s not about you.”

Doctor Strange is like other Marvel movies in its good sense of humor, awe inspiring special effects, and the story of a regular man becoming a hero. Yet, within all those laughs and spectacular fight scenes there is a bit of wisdom that delves into what we’re meant to do here in our life. What we’re meant to contribute. And it all resides in one line: “It’s not about you.” I believe what makes this line so important is how it contrasts against Doctor Strange’s original statement, “You’re just another tiny, momentary speck within an indifferent universe.” It represents the progression that Strange makes throughout the movie, as well as a point of view that anyone can take on in life. It’s the difference between believing that nothing we do matters and that we should really on care about taking care of ourselves, a rather nihilistic point of view as it were, against the idea that what we do matters, and each point of view in itself sends out ripple effects in the way a butterfly’s beating wings can create a hurricane.

Starting at the beginning of the movie, and the idea that we’re just momentary specks and the universe in no way cares what we do, and is essentially in no way affected by our individual actions, we can see how such thoughts would create a rather narcissistic personality that Strange portrays. He only cares about himself and what makes him look good. He wants to be the best doctor there is, not by saving as many lives as he can, but by picking the most interesting medical cases and then only those he knows he will be successful in. He’s not alone in this, as after his accident another doctor points out that he won’t take on Strange’s case because he has his own reputation to think of. But this isn’t just about narcissism, which is something that Strange comes to realize when his very words are said back to him by the villain Kaecilius, who is intent on handing the world over to Dormammu. Kaecilius is narcissistic in a way, in thinking he knows what’s best for the world. Thinking he knows how to save it. Beyond that however, he believes that this world is doomed and that on our own we can’t make a difference, on our own we’re only going to be suffering, namely because here there is death.

One could say Kaecilius is trying to find meaning in what he sees as a meaningless world. After all, what does any of it matter if it’ll all end in death anyway. He doesn’t believe in what anyone would consider a normal code of ethics. He kills freely, and doesn’t even appear bothered when his own followers die. This isn’t exactly strange in a villain, but his pursuit of Dormammu in the idea that there will be no more death, and perhaps his belief that it’ll undo the deaths that have already occurred makes his actions one that have to be taken in a different light. After all, he thinks he’s saving the world from the very meaninglessness that he feels. Kaecilius would definitely have understood Macbeth’s words,

“Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Just like Macbeth, Kaecilius sees this world as nothing and empty, while Doctor Strange isn’t as aware of his feelings as such. Not until he loses the use of his hands, in at least the capacity to use them for surgery, at which point the entire meaning he has given to his life evaporates. Without that, he is lost. He goes to extremes to get that sense of importance back. He sees the world and his life within it as hopeless and empty. Even as he tells The Ancient One that she’s nothing but a tiny momentary speck, he really sees everyone that way, including himself. The universe has been indifferent to him, he had his great gift taken away because of it, if the universe had cared then surely someone like him would’ve been spared such a tragedy. Yet, ultimately, isn’t he given something even greater than the chance to show off how skilled he is with a scalpel? He is instead placed right where the universe needed him to save the world. After all, “It’s not about you.”

The Ancient One even points out that his becoming a doctor was never about helping others. It wasn’t about doing what was right or good. “You became a doctor to save one life above all others. Your own.” Strange doesn’t have a true foundation of ethics, he doesn’t try to do what is good, because he doesn’t really see things in such a way. Sure he doesn’t agree with Kaecilius’ actions, and he wants to stop him in a vague sort of way, though it’s not for him to do such, and he complains when he gets put in a position where he’s forced to fight them. Yes, he wants bad people to be stopped, but away from him so it won’t bother him, because it’s all meaningless in the end and he just doesn’t want to be bothered by it. So while he might argue his code of ethics as a doctor to do no harm, in reality he just doesn’t see the point of any of it. Just like Kaecilius, his nihilistic point of view leads him to be unwilling to put himself in harm’s way to do good, because that forces him to face his own mortality; the one thing he’s been trying to prevent in his pursuit of bettering how doctors can stave off the clutches of death. He too sees death as the ultimate destroyer for the meaning of life.

Once more The Ancient One understands this fear as she tells him, “We don’t get to choose our time. Death is what gives life meaning. To know your days are numbered, your time is short.” Because death isn’t what makes life meaningless, it’s focusing only on ourselves, and letting our fear of the unknown control us is what will truly destroy the meaning of life. “It’s not about you.” It’s about all the things you can do in this world, and for this world. It’s about all the interactions, and the consequences of those actions. Like any superhero movie, it’s a subsequent set of events that ultimately leads Doctor Strange to having mystical powers and rising up to fight Dormammu. It took not just his hands being destroyed, but a series of interactions with other people that made him who he now is.

It took a nurse at a physical therapy clinic to not just tell him of a patient who overcame an irreversible injury, but to take the time to find the file and prove to Doctor Strange that it did really happen. That a paraplegic was able to get up and walk again. Now some have asked what are the odds that the one person who was helping Strange during this time would happen to know of this one other case, but that’s life isn’t it? Sometimes coincidences happen, and things just line up perfectly, and if we’re there to act when it’s required of us and do what needs to be done we can make a difference in another person’s life that we may never have imagined possible, or even ever know that it happened. We can’t see the ripple effects our actions send out, we can’t see the tiny changes and larger outcomes to everything we do. It would be wonderful if we could, but all we can do is be willing to take a chance, to be there to do what needs to be done, and to believe in something bigger than ourselves, even if that is simply the betterment of humanity. Now beyond that nurse, there was Jonathan Pangborn, the paraplegic, who was willing to tell Strange of what he did to be cured and able to walk again, and where he needed to go to seek help. Baron Mordo saved him from the thugs, and then brought him to Kamar-Taj, where he also beseeched The Ancient One to teach Strange their ways and give him a chance. Then there was The Ancient One who did choose to teach Strange, and give him a chance, and understand that he would accept the choices The Ancient One had made, even as Mordo could not. These were all the tiny ripples that made Doctor Strange the hero that no longer feared for his own life or well-being, but chose to sacrifice himself again and again to Dormammu in order to hold the destruction of Earth at bay.

Strange finally came to see that life had meaning, that it was worth fighting for, that there is good and evil in the world and that there needs to be someone to hold the line. More so, that he had the capability to fight that evil, and so he had the obligation to do what needed to be done to save the world, even at the possible cost of his own life. Repeatedly. “The bill comes due” (Mordo). In the end everything we do has consequences, and so everything we do has meaning, because with each action we change not just our lives, but the lives of those around us. We have meaning in this universe because of what we can bring to it, and each of us are at times placed in a position that could make huge changes in another’s life whether we realize it or not. Let the ripples we send out be those to make the world a better place; let the universe know that you do indeed have a purpose and that it cannot be indifferent to someone who could so easily change it.

What’s New Pussycat?

BOOK 1: An American Werewolf in Hoboken  by  Dakota Cassidy

What’s New Pussycat?  description:

Derrick Adams is not happy. His pack of wolves isn’t like all the others. He’s got a brother who found his lifemate in the pound, a cousin who’s a vegetarian and now he has a lifemate of his own and she isn’t barking.
Martine Brooks is in a pickle. Derrick Adams is in a jam.
Pickles and jam. Not exactly a hot combo. Unless the “pickle” is a sultry, sassy cat shifter and the “jam” is a gorgeous hunk of wolf.

Derrick is cursed to die if he doesn’t make the woot-woot with his life mate on the night of the next full moon. Martine’s been held captive by a power-hungry warlock for six long months, forced to do his bidding before finding herself stuffed in a cat carrier and ditched at a 7-Eleven.

After rescuing her from a dumpster, Derrick and Martine strike a mutually beneficial deal: Mate, save a life, walk away—both alive and kicking. Win! Yet, there are kinks in the plan. Like the fact that Martine’s one-time captor is on the hunt, planning to extinguish all of her nine lives at once. Or the fact the curse threatening Derrick’s life is about to throw him a monster curve ball.
But the biggest kink might prove to be Derrick and Martine themselves, two avowed commitment-phobes…who are beginning to wonder what forever looks like.

 

BOOK 2: What’s New Pussycat?   3 STARS

The humor wasn’t as prominent as it was in the last book, though it still managed a light, fun story. However, it’s such an overused and ridiculous trope to have the two main characters be completely against the idea of a forever sort of love, and to then be surprised and unsure why they suddenly think about the other so much and are so happy to be near them. Regardless, it was nice that from the very beginning Martine knew exactly what was going on with Derrick, and happily agreed to be there for him, which did allow for other plot twists to come up. As well as for the fact that they’re in Cedar Glen for the most part, and so we get to see all the characters that were brought up previously and really get to know the strange bunch of paranormals that make up this little safe haven. It really added to the story, and makes for the promise of more books set here a rather appealing one. I want to know what’s to come of all these characters, not just the main ones that are the star of the book. Derrick, of course, is a werewolf, and it was funny for him to be initially opposed to Martine being his potential mate because she’s a cat, and we all know cats and dogs don’t mix. Martine was really the more interesting part, because she’s not just a cat shifter, she’s a witch’s familiar. This is the big driving point of the story, and gives us a lot more magic to deal with than just another shape-shifter to read about. Altogether it was a good story with a surprise ending.

An American Werewolf in Hoboken

An American Werewolf in Hoboken by Dakota Cassidy  description:

Wooing a life mate can be hard enough for a wolf, wooing one while under the threat of a curse even more so.
Wooing a mate while pretending to be her dog? Nearly impossible.

After being drugged and captured by Animal Control, Max Adams is on Hoboken’s doggie death row when his life mate adopts him, takes him home, and promptly names him Fluffy. While JC, in all her new-pet-owner-ness, feeds “Fluffy” vile kibble, dresses him in mortifying dog couture, and schedules to have his manhood removed, Max’s human side gets to know JC. Especially in the biblical sense.

Hopefully well enough to make her fall madly in love, mate with him under the full moon, and move with him to Cedar Glen to live happily every after forever and ever amen. And fast.
Because the curse comes with a deadline…and the clock is ticking.

BOOK 1: An American Werewolf in Hoboken   5 STARS

This book earned every star for all the non-stop laughter it gave me. I was practically smothering myself trying to remain quiet in public, because it is that hilarious. Yet, while it had it’s silly quirks, it honestly brought up some interesting challenges and dangers that a shifter might would actually face in the world. Like being caught in wolf form by animal control, and drugged before you knew what hit you. And the things Max goes through trying to keep JC happy, and unaware that her new dog is actually a man, was so wrong it was… yes you guessed it, hilarious. There are no complaints about this story. From the way the paranormal world works, to why Max is cursed, and all about their little haven in Cedar Glen was just a fun adventure. JC is an awesome girl with a big heart who just wants to take care of her overgrown dog she just saved, and Max is just a man stuck in an impossible situation and trying to figure out which way is up. All the characters around them really filled in the tale, and are something to look forward to seeing again in future books. I’m definitely going to be diving into book 2 as soon as I can.