Book Review

Drag Queen of Scots- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4.5 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★★  (5 / 5 stars)

First, a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK…now…an author! Lawrence Chaney has arrived with a bunch of tips, tricks, and jokes about becoming a Drag Race champion yourself. Filled with her quick wit humor and personal struggles, Lawrence’s story is inspiring…and should ignite the supermodel inside all of us.

I’ve read a handful of books by RPDR girls, such as Bianca Del Rio and Trixie & Katya, and quite frankly, Lawrence’s book has been my favorite so far. While the former books played entirely on humor, Lawrence’s book also serves as a memoir where we see his struggles, as well as how he has grown as a performer. It gives an insight into his time on Drag Race (and whether or not you thought they should have won is an entirely differently issue), and the self sabotage he faced along the way. No matter who you are, I think these are lessons that everyone can carry.

Of course, some elements of this book weren’t directed towards me, a cis woman. Some of Lawrence’s advice and stories really are for the aspiring LGBTQ+ Drag Artist. Still, it was fascinating to hear his thoughts and advice, since it gives a different perspective than the Lawrence we saw on television.

I keep say “hear” and “heard” in this review. I think it is important to note that I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Lawrence Chaney himself. I think having him narrate this book really helps bring it to life. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed it as much if I read it on my kindle or as a physical book.

That being said, I really did enjoy this book. I think it was a sincere insight into the life of a Scottish Drag Queen (who also won RPDR), and I can’t wait to see what Lawrence does next!

What’s it about?

Lawrence Chaney has wowed audiences across the globe as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. From the tiny town of Helensburgh, near Glasgow, Lawrence has exploded on to the world stage, charming us with their charisma, humour and damn good looks. But as with any success story, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

In Lawrence (Drag) Queen of Scots, the loch ness legend themself takes us through the struggles faced to get to where they are now. From a little boy feeling self-conscious and turning to humour to avoid being bullied, to finding drag as a vehicle towards confidence and self-love. With their top tips on everything from padding and make-up to building your own drag community, you’ll have all you need to strut your way to the top, too.

You’ve seen the looks, the laughs, and my goodness you’ve seen a lot of tears, but now it’s time to grab a bottle of Irn-Bru and dive heard first into the purple haze that is the world of

Book Review

Pains and Penalties – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3.5 / 5 stars)

Kalina Greystone expects life to be quiet when she returns to Ellesworth. But when her great-aunt collapses at the Solstice Fair, she takes it up as her personal mission to find out who is responsible. While trying to dodge the annoyance of her former high school sweetheart, Detective Christian Harper, Kalina searches for the answers before the mysterious murder…determined to stop it before the culprit takes their next victim.

Honestly, going into a cozy mystery, I expected a fast paced and cute story…and that’s exactly what I got! While there was nothing unique about the murder, and the answers came quickly, I got a sense for Kalina’s personality as well as her connection to others in town.

The author has also addressed some of the pitfalls in the story in her acknowledgments, that being the overly simplistic nature of the crime. But, to an extent, that is what you expect. I do think if she added a bit more to the story, then the mystery would have seemed more…well…mysterious, as well as the characters more developed.

Overall, while Pains & Penalties isn’t a unique book, it was certainly entertaining and fun. That’s all I can really ask for in a cozy mystery, isn’t it?

What’s it about?

A new amateur sleuth is on the case in the first book of the Geeks and Things Cozy Mystery novella series.

Small-town life brings big-city problems when Kalina Greystone returns home to Ellesworth, MA to take over the family’s comic book shop. A murder in plain sight at the annual Solstice Fair pushes Kalina to snoop where she doesn’t belong, much to the chagrin of former high school sweetheart, Detective Christian Harper.

As Kalina digs into the victim’s past she uncovers a dark truth that the victim and her closest friends were hoping to take the grave. A truth the killer wants revealed.

Will Kalina and Chris catch the killer before the killer’s thirst for vengeance is sated?

Book Review

Trial by Obsidian – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (3.75 / 5 stars)

Juniper has a mission: collect obsidian and return to her brother. But when the Chambers ambush her, she is held captive with a death threat over her head. In a world where her magic has been outlawed and her people are in hiding, can she trust the Beta, Reuben to help her? Will she be able to fight? Or will she be sent to the gallows to hang?

Truthfully, I enjoyed this story more than Kelly’s more popular novel, Meraki. While Meraki has better writing (and editing…more on that later), I felt like Trial by Obsidian was a stronger story. While the plot was fast paced (which made me want more), I knew enough about this world by the end of the story to appreciate everything. The magic system was unique, focusing on different elements…a trope with magic that I adore. It had enough limitations though where no one person was overpowered, in turn creating tension throughout the climax of the story.

As I read the story, I kept going back to Meraki. Why did I enjoy this story more? It came down to a single trope: Enemies-to-Lovers. While Trial by Obsidian does have a slight enemies-to-lovers plot, it really isn’t enemies-to-lovers. I would have classified Reuben as a perceived enemy, but once the narrative progresses, we see he never was an enemy at all. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m really not a fan of enemies-to-lovers. Personally, I feel that few are written where I feel like the romance is authentic. Most of the time it feels forced or unhealthy, and I don’t enjoy that sort of relationship when reading. This of course is not a judgement on anyone who enjoys this trope…it’s just a personal taste of mine.

I have two reasons why I can’t rate this story higher though: 1) the pacing and 2) the editing. Let’s talk about the pacing first. While the speed isn’t terrible, and I really did enjoy the story overall, I felt like this story could easily have been longer or a duology. There is so much in this world to explore, as well as character relationships, that I think the author could have really expanded more upon this. This is a product of me being greedy too: I always want more! The second issue though is more fundamentally a problem: the story desperately needs editing. While mistakes are expected in any publication, there was nearly a spelling, wording, or grammatical mistake on every page. Also one little thing that drove me crazy, as I read this on my kindle, was the lack of table of contents. While this was overall an annoyance that didn’t pull me from the story, it was something I notice. This could all easily be corrected with a second edition.

Overall though, Trial by Obsidian is a fun, fast paced story that will enthuse any lover of elemental magic. If you want a fast paced read, I encourage you to pick it up! I think you’ll enjoy it!

What’s it about?

The poverty-stricken southern lands of Deshure have kept Juniper Obsidian hidden all her life. Her concealed identity kept her safe. Until now. The northern lands of Sinlara are home to the Chambers. Here rules are enforced and wars are waged, but since the end of the War fifteen years ago things have been quiet. That is until they get their hands on Juniper.

When an enemy who has an uncertain a past as she does a future offers her help, Juniper must question what really makes us who we are? Can she trust the man before her?

Is there more to loyalty than a boarder? More to family than a blood-line?
The time has come where she must learn to stand and fight.

Hiding is no longer an option.

Book Review

Ghostsitter – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★✰✰  (3 / 5 stars)
Audio Book Performance: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

When Tom’s great-uncle passes away, he is offered an inherited he’s never imagined: a ghost train! At first it sounds like a simple carnival-type attraction…but it turns out to be so much more: now he is in charge of an attraction led by a ghost, a zombie, a vampire, a mummy, and a werewolf! But, there are people out there trying to take control of this ghost train. Can Tom prove that he is the rightful heir of this train? Or will it be too much for him to handle?

A fun listen with a talented cast, Ghostsitter is a quick audiobook that the whole family will enjoy. Reminiscent of classic children’s cartoons, each “episode” will paint a picture of adventure, fun, and amusement. I could honestly see this as a cartoon on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network!

But, due to the episodic nature of each chapter, there is no real conclusion to the story. To me it is clear that this is leading into more stories and adventures for Tom and his gang…and I am sure children of all ages will be ready to pick it up! While I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next one (if there is one), I can certainly appreciate the story behind it.

I think the problem for me is how little actually happens in this audiobook. Tom inherited the Ghost Train and meets the group…but we don’t actually see him running the Ghost Train or uncovering any secrets. He just fends off the “caped-creep” (and I apologize for forgetting his name) and organizes the train.

But, overall, I think kids will love this story and definitely want more! In the end, it’s their opinion that matters. So if you want a story that’s fun for the whole family, definitely check out Ghost Sitter!

What’s it about?

When Tom is invited to the reading of a will of a great-uncle he’s never heard of, there’s no way to know what to expect. But on the long list of possible things to inherit, a travelling carnival ghost train is the very last on the list.

To get his full $10 million inheritance, all Tom has to do is run the antique ride until his 18th birthday. Easy. Except for a strange caped-creep he’s never met, who’s trying to con him out of the money…and the actual ghosts and ghouls who call the ride home.

Over the decades, vampire Vlarad, zombie Wombie, Hop-Tep the mummy, werewolf Welf, and ghost girl Mimi have created their own unique family, and they welcome Tom into their circle as a first-time “ghostsitter”.

Keeping the spirits secret from the outside world is not easy, but with wit and ingenuity, Tom proves, time and again, that he is exactly the right person for the job.

Book Review

Short – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆  (3.5 / 5 stars)

Julia has always been short. She has always blended in, unnoticed in her family and friends. But, with her friends gone for the summer, and the weight of her recently departed dog in her heart, her mother encourages her to try out for the local Wizard of Oz production. At first she is reluctant to participate, but soon she uncovers the magic behind show business – and her own talent – with the help of Olive and Mrs. Chang. Could this summer be the year she finally grows?

I’ll be honest, I picked up this book at a thrift store a few months ago for two reasons: 1) I love the Wizard of Oz and 2) I’m short as well. A warmhearted middle grade novel, it carries a very important message: no matter your size, you can do great things. The author does a fantastic job capturing the essence of a child. I could hear a little girl talking about these events, fixating on specific details, and riding emotions of confidence and fear.

Yet, while the story has a fantastic voice, Julia’s voice is also it’s downfall. Because she doesn’t see everything, we only get partial understanding of what is happening…which makes sense, as this is a middle grade novel. Yet, this also left room for holes in the story. The biggest one for me was right at the end, and I reread the last few pages a couple times to make sure I didn’t miss anything…but why didn’t Julia ever say goodbye to Olive? Why does she spend those last pages only talking about the director and Mrs. Chang when Oliver is her mentor? Did I miss something? It’s possible.

Overall though, Short is a heartwarming story about growing up, finding yourself, and reaching outside your comfort zone. This is the sort of story I needed when I was eleven or twelve, struggling with my own height and confidence. Ultimately, I think a lot of children will benefit from it as long as they remember…it’s inside that counts!

What’s it about?

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive–one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins–and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background–and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

Bubbling over with humor and tenderness, this is an irresistible story of self-discovery and of the role models who forever change us

Book Review

Crime Scenes, Cats and Killer Heels – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4.5 / 5 stars)

Alice Harris works a morbid job: she cleans up crime scenes! It doesn’t sound fun…but someone has to do it! But one day, upon arriving a crime scene, a cat begins to speak with her. What? Crazy, right? But this cat might just be a key to the murders occurring around town…and Alice might finally be the one to save the day.

I picked up this short story while on the incumbent bike the other. Already, I’m familiar with Violet Schofield’s writing, so I knew it would be a light hearted slice-of-life type adventure that would make me smile. Schofield has a way of putting the reader into the shoes of the characters. Even in this short book, we are drawn immediately into the character’s personalities; from the cat’s snark to Alice’s determination. This characterization is what makes Schofield’s writing shine, and not every author can connect with their readers in such few pages.

I think my only hang up is with the pacing, hence why I rated the book 4.5/5 stars. Personally, I think if the story was just a tad bit longer, it might have really helped paint a picture of the stakes regarding the High Heel Killer. But then again, I’m a selfish reader…and I always want just a tiny bit more to hit that sweet spot when reading a story.

Overall, I can’t recommend Schofield’s writing enough. Between this short story and The Chronicles of Polaris, I think I can say I’ll be a long term reader for sure!

What’s it about?

A short story about a socially awkward crime scene cleaner who can talk to cats.

***

People die every day in every way imaginable.

Sometimes it’s an accident. Sometimes it’s on purpose. Sometimes it’s just the course of nature.

People die all over the place. On the road. In hospitals. At home.

Sometimes when people die, they leave a mess.

That’s where I come in. Alice Harris. Crime scene cleaner. I’m the one who scrubs the blood splatter off the wall. I get rid of the couch that’s beyond rescuing due to the bodily fluids that have seeped inside. I clean up the skid mark (to put it nicely) from the carpet that someone left when they were scared to death.

Morbid? I know! It’s a morbid job, but someone’s got to do it.

Book Review

Any Witch Way You Can – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (3.75 / 5 stars)

Bay Winchester has recently moved back to Hemlock Cove to be with her family – her abrasive Great Aunt Tillie, her mother and aunts, and her annoying cousins Clove and Thistle. If that wasn’t bad enough, she comes from a long line of witches that grant her the ability to communicate with ghosts. When two ritualistic type of murders occur in town though, rocking the otherwise quiet atmosphere of Hemlock Cove, Bay and her family are put to the test. Can they figure out who is committing these crimes? Or will they be the next victims?

I actually started reading Any Witch Way You Can a couple years back. At the time I wasn’t reading as much, and I put it down after 20%. Not for lack of interest – just lack of motivation to read. Recently I was going through my Kindle Library and saw I still had it checked out on Kindle Unlimited. Despite the long break, the beginning stuck with me, so I picked it up right where I left off.

Overall, Any Witch Way You Can is a fun read that is more about family and snarky comebacks then about murder. The Winchester family will remind anyone of how they bicker with their siblings or parents or grandparents. It’s natural and amusing, and it really makes the characters pop.

The murder mystery itself in this story is somewhat predictable. Less of the story was about solving the crime, and more about the “witchiness” – which is all fine, really. But, I did figure out who was responsible a few chapters before Bay, Clove, and Thistle did. I think ultimately, I wanted more of the witchcraft and more of the murder, and a bit less bickering. That is what would have made this story pop.

Overall though, I’m glad I returned to this story. I might pick up one of Bay’s other adventures someday. So if you like cozy mysteries with a bit of witchcraft…it’s definitely worth the read!

What’s it about?

Bay Winchester is having a tough week.

As the local editor of Hemlock Cove’s only newspaper, she just happens to be present when a body is found in an area corn maze. To make matters worse, the police believe the murder may have something to do with the occult.

This wouldn’t be a problem for a normal reporter, but since Bay is descended from a well-known line of actual witches, the town is understandably on edge.

Between the suspicious townspeople, the befuddled police presence and that random hot biker guy that may or may not have something to do with the murder — Bay has her hands full.

When you add the typical family problems, multiplying ghosts — and one monster of a zit that she’s sure came from her aunt’s curse — Bay is just struggling to make it through the week.

Of course, when the killer sets his sights on Bay, things could get a whole lot worse.

Book Review

Rebound – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★✰  (4 / 5 stars)

The war has ended…at least so it seems. Judas, Nadine, and Samhain have started to settle into a new normal, but out of the ashes of Denme has emerged a new group, the DRG, determined to bring back Our Leader’s rule. Now, the Rebellion must come back together to fight a new foe, all while facing their own internal demons…and choosing their own paths.

LJ Kerry takes us back to this dystopian world where even after the “good guys” win, there is still much to be done. This is a realistic approach not always taken in dystopian literature; often, we see the Rebellion succeeding…and then all is fine. But here, there is countless contention amongst the groups, as well as an attempt as normalcy. Between fights, the team goes bowling, goes on dates, and even gets ice cream! But the terror is still there.

One thing that I really appreciate Kerry taking the time to explore is PTSD and mental illness. Judas, Nadine, and Samhain – the three POV characters in Rebound – have their own demons. Judas struggles with PTSD of killing during the Rebellion; Nadine is facing her own nightmares regarding her father’s betrayal; and Samhain battles schizophrenia, leading to erratic decisions. These are realistic and often overlooked aspects of the genre, and I applaud Kerry for putting this into her writing.

Overall, Rebound is much better written than Listed; the prose is stronger, the descriptions and characterization more sound. Yet, Rebound is also a story with less at stake. Yes, there is the DRG raising chaos across the nation…but there isn’t a single leader or rule they are trying to dismantle. Rather, Rebound is an exploration of internal struggles…and determining what is best for each character in the end.

While I think Rebound is the stronger book, I preferred Listed’s plot more for this reason. I liked the higher stakes. Some of critiques from Listed carry over to Rebound as well; so much happens in these two books, I almost feel like they could have been a trilogy…or longer! There’s so much more I want to know about Denme’s rule, Samhain’s childhood, and Nadine’s family. Plus, there are so many parts of Denme, Olympia, and the rest of this dystopia world that we could have explored!

Yet, with that being said, Rebound is action packed and will keep you on the edge of your seat through each twist and turn. You’ll be screaming at certain deaths, and your heart will stand still when the stakes are high.

If you want a good dystopian read, the Listed Duology is definitely one to add to your TBR!  

What’s it about?

They should have never won. . .

Everything seemed fine for Samhain, Nadine, and Judas while they tried to heal from the events of the Uprising a year and a half ago. That is until a new group started threatening their safety, trying to bring back the ruthless regime they had fought so hard to eradicate. The new threat already burned down Samhain’s home, leaving Judas lost and having to open up his home for his stranded friends while they can do nothing but watch history repeat itself.

But the trio are soon called forward by the new government, who have decided to re-establish the shattered Rebellion in a desperate bid to shut down the threat. However, with so many unknowns about who or what the threat is—time may be running out to save an entire nation.

Book Review

Lanterns in the Sky – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆  (3.5 / 5 stars)

Lucy’s life was normal, her life dominated by the mundane of school and her friends. Most of her time is devoted between her family and her best friend, Valerie. But one day, when a falling star knocks her out, her entire life changes. Suddenly, her past unravels. She learns that she is the reincarnated Starlight Princess…and she holds the key to protect the world from impending shadoews. Meanwhile, her friend Valerie, her supposed sister in a past life, has been kidnapped. Can Lucy, as well as Jason and a cohort of angels, save the world and find Valerie in the process? Or will she cause darkness to fall?

I was drawn to Lanterns in the Sky after reading Starlight a little over a year ago. While Starlight takes place in a more “high fantasy” type of world though, Lanterns in the Sky takes place today. But I’m so glad I read Starlight first – it gave a better perspective on Lucy, Valerie, Jason, and the angels. Rather than diving headfirst into the conflict, I could see the starting points. I think without it, I would have ended up confused and unsure of what was happening.

Ultimately, the story itself is fast paced, focusing on one thing not explored too often in writing: friendship between two women. Lucy and Valerie do everything for each other. While Jason tries to infiltrate it with his own agenda, it’s their friendship (and ultimately sisterhood) that shines. They’ll do anything for each other, as well as work together to save the world.

And I hope that will continue…despite the twist at the end!

Yet, the fast-paced nature of this story is what hurts it as well. The story could easily have two novels in it: the first half when they rescue Valerie, and the second half as they confront the shadoews while the Starlight Barrier falls. This would have allowed for more worldbuilding and cleared some things up for readers who hadn’t read the Starlight novella.

I did enjoy the overall story though and can’t wait to read what happens next. So many questions hang in the air: Jason’s loyalties and feelings, what Lucy will do late, and Valerie’s destiny! I am sure the next book will throw us in for another rollercoaster adventure with this crew!

What’s it about?

Everything was normal for Lucy Maisfer until the day a star fell from the sky and knocked her out. Upon waking, she comes face-to-face with Jason Woods, who also happens to be the mysterious new guy in her best friend, Valarie’s, life.

Then the strange dreams begin, and she learns about the Starlight Princess— who must not under any circumstance be reawakened. Driven to uncover the meaning of it, she finds herself caught up in a strange twist of events that eventually lead to bigger danger than she ever anticipated. Before long, Lucy is forced to make a choice between saving the world, or saving her best friend; only to discover that Valarie cannot be saved… that she has an even darker secret, and that her supposed star-crossed romance with Jason might not be so destined after all… 

Book Review

Lost in the Neverwoods – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★☆☆  (3.5 / 5 stars)

When she was a child, Wendy disappeared with her brothers, John and Michael.  She returned home on her own, with no recollection of what happened, and with her brothers missing. Years later, disappearances are occurring again, reminiscent of her own disappearance. But when a mysterious boy seems to fall from the sky and land on her truck, she wrapped up in a story that she used thing was a fairy tale.  

In this retelling of Peter Pan, we are reintroduced to Wendy Darling – now eighteen – who has been suffering from anxiety and depression due to a gap in her memory. Her brothers have been missing for five years, and she doesn’t remember why! Of course, her name says to the reader everything: she and brothers went to Neverland. But what happened to them? That’s the question that weighs on her mind…constantly.  

The excitement begins almost right away with Peter Pan’s arrival. Of course, Wendy doesn’t believe it! I think her disbelief is believable as well. Would you believe that Peter Pan existed? But soon, she grows to trust Peter. 

I wish I could say they went on a wild adventure though. Instead, most of the story takes place with her internal monologue while she tries to decide if she’s going crazy. Sixty percent of the way into the book, I realized…nothing much had happened. They chased Peter’s shadow, Wendy was interrogated by cops, and more kids went missing. That was about it. The story did pick up around the 70% mark, but by then I felt like I was just reading the book to finish it.  

In addition, Wendy’s romance with Peter is a little odd. Peter is aging fast. When she first runs into him again, he’s probably about 13. But, due to his loss of magic, he ends up being Wendy’s age by the middle of the book. Yes, Wendy and Peter always seemed to have some sort of romantic connection (in the original stories and in retellings) but this switch in age lingers in the air a bit. Is Peter immortal? Yes. But he still acts like a child…and that’s a little odd. If he had started aging when he first met Wendy, then it might have been a bit different. But he aged in such a short period of time that it felt strange. 

Yet, the story is still wonderfully written. Aiden Thomas knows how to paint a picture and tug at emotions. I have Aiden’s book, Cemetery Boys, on my TBR list…and that won’t be changing. The words captivated me…and that’s really all I could ask for in a retelling of Peter Pan. 

Overall, the story is still a wonderful read. I especially liked the symbolism in Peter’s role and I think Thomas handled that quite well. I just was hoping for a little bit more adventure…but perhaps that is the point? Growing up sometimes leads you into a forest of confusion and self-reflection. It isn’t always an adventure.  

What’s it about?

When children go missing in the small coastal town of Astoria, people look to Wendy for answers.

It’s been five years since Wendy and her two brothers went missing in the woods, but when the town’s children start to disappear, the questions surrounding her brothers’ mysterious circumstances are brought back into light. Attempting to flee her past, Wendy almost runs over an unconscious boy lying in the middle of the road, and gets pulled into the mystery haunting the town.

Peter, a boy she thought lived only in her stories, claims that if they don’t do something, the missing children will meet the same fate as her brothers. In order to find them and rescue the missing kids, Wendy must confront what’s waiting for her in the woods.