4 star, adult

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Image result for the death of mrs. westaway Harriet Westaway – better known as Hal – makes ends meet as a tarot reader, but she doesn’t believe in the power of her trade. If she did, what would the cards say about the choice that lies ahead of her?

When Hal receives a mysterious and unexpected letter bequeather her a substantial inheritance, she knows that it wasn’t meant for her because Mrs. Westaway is not her grandmother. Struggling with crippling debt, Hal is presented with a difficult choice: ignore the letter, or use her cold-reading skills to potentially claim the money and change her life.

After a loan sharks pays Hal a threatening visit, she decides to attend Mrs. Westaway’s funeral. she meets the family at Trepassen House, the Westaways’ country estate. Once there, Hal discovers more secrets than she could have ever imagined. There is something very, very wrong with this family, and somehow Hal and the inheritance are at the centre of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


4 Drink Me Potions


Never believe your own lies.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway begins as an almost innocent backdrop of a story. Classic rich grandmother leaving behind a massive fortune in a dramatic reading of her final will. However, the story (and mystery) is so much more than what can be seen on the surface. Behind layers of lies and deceit lies the story of a girl who has never known family, struggling to find her place in a world which seemingly has no place for her.

This mystery follows the life of our protagonist, Harriet (aka Hal), who was born into a poor life and tries to make ends meet providing tarot-reading services on a pier. This is important, as the tarot cards become the crux upon which the story moves along. It is completely fascinating and enthralling, as the whole mystery is almost like a lengthy tarot card reading on its own. As the suspense unfolds, each path is laid forward by the explanation of a different card, and this really gave the whole story a mystical element. Even if you don’t believe in such things, Ware really gives it life in this number.

One for sorrow, Two for joy.

Hal was raised by a single mother, who tragically passed away in an accident when she was eighteen, leaving her an orphan. Forced to take up her mother’s role in tarot reading with no family to turn to, her life takes a surprising turn when she receives a letter indicating she is a beneficiary in Mrs. Westaway’s will. As her crippling debt comes catching up to her, she is forced to go to Trepassen to find out what is in store for her in the Westaway family.

Preparing herself to attend her “grandmother’s” funeral, she does not realize what she steps into when she arrives. Behind every member of the family seems to be another door, with secrets of their past hidden. While every mystery may be like this, instead of a murder mystery, this story revolves more around the secret of Hal’s past – just how is she linked to the Westaway family? And will she be caught in her own lies as she tries to take a piece of the Westaway fortune with her to repay her debts?

The whole novel has a very ethereal quality and an air of mystique. It is impossible not to follow along the signs the cards give, and the omens given in the magpies as we follow Hal down the dark alley of her past. The overarching theme of mysticism and cold-reading are beautifully woven into the story, and spellbinding really is the word to describe this page-turner of a suspense. Definitely an enjoyable read – full of mystery even without revolving around a murder.

Overall Recommendation:
If you are into mysteries at all, and the suspenseful writing of a whodunnit novel, this book is definitely for you. This story features a young adult fighting her way through thick and thin, with only her tarot cards and cold-reading skills to guide her through. While understandably the whole art of tarot may be met with skepticism (admittedly for me as well), this book definitely paints it in a different light. Additionally, it really was well woven into story and really was the propelling force of the whole suspense. I definitely recommend this one!

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4 star, YA

Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

Series: Talon #1

talon -julie kagawaTHE DRAGONS OF TALON: Once hunted nearly to extinction, they are now poised to take over the world. 

THE ORDER OF ST. GEORGE: The legendary dragonslayers will stop at nothing to wipe dragons from the face of the earth. 

These mortal enemies are locked in secret and deadly combat, with humanity none the wiser. 

To take her rightful place in the Talon organization, young dragon Ember Hill must prove she can hide her true nature and blend in with humans. Her delight at the prospect of a summer of “normal” teen experiences is short-lived, however, once she discovers that she’s also expected to train for her destined career in Talon. But a chance meeting with a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught.

As Ember struggles to accept her future, St. George soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian is tasked with hunting her down. But when faced with Ember’s bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything the Order has ingrained in him—and what he might be willing to give up to uncover the truth about dragons.


4 Drink Me Potions


There’s just something about dragons. Although there aren’t too many books out there that stand out in my memory featuring dragons, I’ve always loved them.

These fearsome, deadly creatures. Both agile and cunning. They can be depicted as good or as evil as they come (think The Hobbit!).

Now combining one of my favorite authors, Julie Kagawa, and a whole series/lore on dragons, and it’s like a recipe meant for me.

Filled with action and brimming with imaginative detail about the world of Talon and their dragonslaying counterpart, the Order of St. George, Talon is one novel that continues to surprise you and sets the stage for a remarkable series.

Twins Ember and Dante are dragon hatchlings, just learning to fit into human society. That’s a huge criteria for dragons to survive and adapt while keeping the humans oblivious. The world of Talon and how it’s run are masterfully crafted to the fine details. Different roles for different types of dragons, how it functions even with humans, and the process of training a hatchling.

Then there’re the rogue dragons! Every strict exclusive society has got to have some of those. We don’t get too much detail yet into how these dragons fit into the picture, but dang the rogue Riley sure makes a whomping presence. You just know something’s gonna go down with him.

And while this story is very much dragon vs human, the ultimate plot arc is one of my favourites. A forbidden romance blooming between a dragon girl and her enemy St. George soldier. Makes me wonder how anything could come of it, especially once they figure out who each other really is.

Now, why didn’t I read this book/series earlier if it’s so up my alley? The answer’s simple. I hate love triangles. I never know who to cheer for and if I’m setting myself up for disappointment.

Well, what I’m telling you now is that both boys are pretty great in different ways. Though I’m definitely partial to the soldier, Garret. While Kagawa spent a lot of time describing how Talon operates with regards to hatchling assimilation and training, there’s equally dedicated space for the Order of St. George and how they operate and the brotherhood among the soldiers. It’s enough detail to get me wanting to know more!

Even if you’re not the hugest dragon lover, I think just maybe, this book may change your mind about it. Talon is the story about a boy meeting a dragon girl, first as enemies but possibly becoming more, and maybe the only thing to resolve the centuries old war between them.

Overall Recommendation:

Talon should be any dragon lover’s go-to story. With those exciting fire breathing creatures portrayed as intricately as humans, the dragon world of Talon and their long sworn enemies, the Order of St. George, are creatively crafted by Julie Kagawa into a masterful story about understanding those who are different from us and standing for what is right, even against all that we once believed in. Julie’s done it again and Talon is the perfect foundation for this saga on dragons and dragonslayers. I highly recommend you give it a try!

3.5 star, YA

Review: Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

Series: Dance of Thieves #1

Dance of Thieves_FINAL 9.18A new novel in the New York Times–bestselling Remnant Chronicles universe, in which a reformed thief and the young leader of an outlaw dynasty lock wits in a battle that may cost them their lives—and their hearts.

When the patriarch of the Ballenger empire dies, his son, Jase, becomes its new leader. Even nearby kingdoms bow to the strength of this outlaw family, who have always governed by their own rules. But a new era looms on the horizon, set in motion by a young queen, which makes her the target of the dynasty’s resentment and anger.

At the same time, Kazi, a legendary former street thief, is sent by the queen to investigate transgressions against the new settlements. When Kazi arrives in the forbidding land of the Ballengers, she learns that there is more to Jase than she thought. As unexpected events spiral out of their control, bringing them intimately together, they continue to play a cat and mouse game of false moves and motives in order to fulfill their own secret missions.


3.5 Drink Me Potions


Smart and filled with an interesting cast of characters, entering back into the world of The Remnant Chronicles was like slipping on a cozy shawl in the winter and sitting by the fireplace in Dance of Thieves.

Although my memory isn’t what it’s used to – so you can guess just how many details I recall from the other series – little tidbits dropped here and there made me smile, though you definitely don’t have to have read any of Mary Pearson’s other books to jump right into this one.

I liked that I never quite knew what was exactly gonna happen next. One moment, our heroine Kazi has everything in control, and the next? She can find herself tied up with a guy like Jase Ballenger. And from there, things do get interesting.

The pacing is fast enough, settling into the story right away. And it doesn’t stay in one place for too long so I never felt like it dragged its heels in for scenes/moments that should’ve been done with a long while ago.

Yet. There’s something in me that feels like the story took its time in laying out the foundations too much. You don’t get many details into Kazi’s mission to the Ballengers in the beginning, only vague notes about having to come under the guise of something else. And you don’t get why the Ballengers may be doing something wrong.

Where it’s not as high action as I had hoped from this author, the romance was sufficient. I know. Not a very heartwarming comment but at the moment, not many romantic relationships in books have really tugged at me. Frankly, I feel almost bored with them so this is a compliment at this moment.

Yes, it was a bit rushed at times. But the reality of how their feelings built through the moments they shared and the trust they slowly gave to each other was real.

And though these elements are normally essential to me as a reader, nothing warmed my heart as much as the focus on family ties and fierce girls who can kick butt. The Ballengers were large in number but they had each other’s’ backs over anything else. Likewise, Kazi’s group, the Rahtan, that served the queen was like a found family from different backgrounds now all serving one purpose together.

In reality, without some of these extra things, Dance of Thieves may have been harder to swallow.

And of course, wonderful appearances of our main cast in the Remnant Chronicles are featured here so that was the icing on top.

While I may have been expecting too much from this story (what with everything that I remember from Mary’s writings), this novel still weaves together an imaginative new story in a familiar world that has intrigue, fun personalities and the different families we have. A definite story to check out for fans of Mary and her previous series, but also for anyone looking for a fantasy read in a well crafted world.

Overall Recommendation:

Dance of Thieves features a mostly new cast in the wonderful world of the Remnant Chronicles. With enough romance, a decent plot pace and an intriguing mission hanging over our heads, diving back into this land is like slipping on a shoe. Two different families, the Rahtan and the Ballengers, come head to head as missions collide and tenuous trust is built. Beautiful world building and surprising appearances of former characters, this novel is a perfect companion to the previous series and something fun to read if you’re into all-things fantasy.