CheriePie's Books

A mostly paranormal and urban fantasy book review blog, with a bit of mystery, history, and spice thrown in from time to time.


Unseen - Amber Lynn Natusch

This is the follow-up to Unborn, which I read and reviewed earlier. I didn't really care for this all that much and don't really understand all rave reviews it received on Goodreads! More than half of the story was spent with Khara running around the Underworld, seeking answers to questions from those who would rather hide the truth from her. I believe she sums it up rather nicely in her own words at the beginning of chapter 21:

It seemed as though all I had done upon my return was storm through the maze of halls in the Underworld in search of others. Others with answers that I lacked. The monotony of it was beginning to gnaw at my resolve.

Sing it, sister! I hear you loud and clear!


When Khara first returns to the Underworld, she's trying to discover the reason she was hidden away, but we've already learned in book one that any daughter born to Ares would be put to death. Is that not reason enough for her to be sent from her true parents and hidden away? Why is she not satisfied with this answer?


But then, a tragedy befalls one of her brothers, and suddenly she's got different priorities, and an entirely new set of questions she's seeking answers to. Throughout the story, Khara continues to act recklessly, disregarding any and all warnings placed in front of her. For example, after she knowingly takes all the evil souls from the Fields of Oudeis into her, she then decides to leave the Underworld, taking all these confined souls along with her. And is then surprised when something goes wrong. Ummm ya think???


The way things unfolded in this book reminded me of a sitcom, where all manner of chaos and misunderstanding ensues simply because one person neglects to tell another the full and true story. Haven't we learned by now the trouble that can come by withholding information? Isn't Khara constantly harping on Oz over that very thing? Of course, her hypocritical actions serve to drive the plot forward, but it's weak at best. And it's only about 70% in that some action finally starts to happen.


So were there any redeeming qualities to this book for me? Well, it was more fun once the real action started. I only wish it hadn't taken 200 pages to get there!


Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, 47North, for providing me an advance copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.


Unborn - Amber Lynn Natusch

The premise to this story sounded pretty interesting, but the execution fell a bit short in a few areas, namely character and world building.

Khara was a denizen of the underworld, where she grew up as a ward of Hades, never knowing who her real parents were. One day, quite unexpectedly, she's taken up above ground by a Dark One and mysteriously dumped in the middle of the slums of Detroit, where she's nearly killed by someone who then claims to be her brother... which apparently he was able to figure out just by touching her, a trait that was never really explained or expanded upon. And therein lies the crux, it felt like a lot of key points were left out for the reader to figure out on their own. Not so bad in a mystery, but it made certain parts of the plot a bit muddy.

I would've liked to have gotten to know Khara a bit better too, but she felt a bit flat and one-dimensional. It wasn't just the formal speech, I get that, it made her seem more like a stranger in a strange land and all, but we never really get inside her head and find out what makes her tick. And unfortunately, the brothers came across the same way. We've got the level headed one, the caring one, the smart one, and the one that's always itching for a fight. Beyond that, we know next to nothing about them except that they work for an organization called the PC (Petronus Ceteri) that polices the supernaturals in Detroit to keep the balance.

The author then falls back on Greek mythology to tell the story about the rest of the characters and Khara's background, though none of them really play a key role in this book so far, so I guess the lack of enlightenment here's alright for now. Unlike many other first books in a series, where the author does way too much describing and set up, this one goes in the complete opposite direction and you never really get a feel for the characters or the world around them. Those were my principal problems with this book.

That said, I did like the premise of the story, as I already stated, and the Greek pantheon thrown into the mix. I'm not sure it really jived with the whole fallen angel thing, but I think I'd still be interested in reading the next book to see where it goes, especially since I have it waiting here on my TBR pile anyway. :)

Thanks to the publisher, 47North, and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Onyx Webb: Episode One: The Story Begins

Onyx Webb: Episode One: The Story Begins - Andrea Waltz, Richard Fenton So what do three separate stories with three very different protagonists, all taking place in completely different time periods, have to do with one another? I don't know yet, but I suspect that question will be answered in an upcoming episode.

Onyx Webb: Episode One: The Story Begins is the first episode in a new series, described as "paranormal suspense, supernatural romance, with a dash of historical fiction". Onyx Webb, now a ghost 75 years after her death, is narrating part of the story, and that's most of what we've got so far in the way of paranormal. If you're expecting vampires and werewolves, you won't find them here, and like me, some may find that a welcome change. At the end, you also catch a glimpse of another ghost that may enter into one of the story lines, but we'll have to wait for episode two to find out more about that.

As a whole, this semi-short 130 page story ended with multiple cliffhangers and left me wanting. Only one of the current plots was resolved, the rest left in wait of episode two. I think I would've preferred to read several episodes at once, rather than be left hanging with what felt like an unfinished book. Since this is currently being sold only as an e-book, and only through Amazon at the moment, I think the author's would've been better served publishing it as a "Kindle Serial", so that future episodes would be automatically delivered to the reader after their initial purchase.

The aesthetics of the book are gorgeous, with old photographs, diary excerpts, and inspirational quotes interspersed between the chapters. I liked how the three stories, seemingly unrelated right now, will somehow tie together at some future point in the series. There's a deeper meaning beneath the stories as well: one that says to live in the present, and live each moment to the fullest, for you never know when it will be taken away from you. After I finished the book and had a chance to ponder it a bit, I went back to look at the pictures and reread certain key passages. When I did, I discovered small clues sprinkled throughout that hinted as to how some of these character's lives might interconnect, some even in explicable ways from beyond the grave.

Despite all its good points, the telling of the story didn't endear itself to me quite as much as the stories themselves. Most of the characters felt flat and one-dimensional, and I didn't get a strong sense of place from any of the scenes. The only exception was with the ghost of Onyx Webb. It was only through her narratives that I was able to fully connect and feel what she felt. (heh it's funny that the only character I connected to was the supernatural one.) As to the other stories, I believe it had to do with the author's way of telling us what was going on instead of allowing the reader to experience these things through the protagonist's eyes. And so I never really connected with any of the other characters, and couldn't immerse myself in the story the same way I did with other recent books I've read, those by Anita Diamant and Ann Aguirre for example.

Overall, I did find the stories interesting enough to want to find out what happens in future episodes. Though I do hope the authors are able to bridge that gap and let the stories captivate me and draw me into their world like I wish they would.

I would like to thank the authors, Andrea Waltz and Richard Fenton, for providing me with a copy of their book in exchange for an honest review.


Horde  - Ann Aguirre Wow! What a riveting, fantastic read! In this third and final installment of the Razorland trilogy, the Freaks have begun to amass in a large horde surrounding Salvation. They've already taken out a couple of the surrounding settlements and now have their sights set on wiping out Salvation as well.

Deuce realizes she's more than just a Huntress now thanks to her time in Salvation, but she also knows she must return to her roots and meet the horde head-on if there's to be any hope for survival. So Deuce, Fade, Stalker, and Tegan set out from Salvation against improbably high odds, intending to raise an army that will allow them to defeat these inhuman monsters. Because it's not just about Salvation anymore. Now, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of the human race.

I truly loved this book, and the entire Razorland series. I admit that the second book, Outpost, may have been slightly less awesome than books one and two, but it's a middle child after all. ;) Throughout this book, I laughed, I cried, I even let out a couple of war whoops along the way. I was immersed in the story so deeply that I completely lost track of time as I was reading. Yes I may do so with other books, but I'm just saying, the level of immersion here was so complete as to be absolute. I felt as if I was marching alongside Deuce the entire way.

While a bit sad, I loved the ending. This was no cookie cutter plot, and thus you were never really sure how things would turn out. I couldn't automatically assume a happy ending because, as we've seen in other YA dystopian trilogies, the heroes and heroines are not always among the survivors when the story comes to a close. And though we lost some key people here, the sadness was tempered with great joy as well, and I finished this book with a huge smile on my face, and a swelling of my heart.

If you haven't read this trilogy yet, I strongly suggest you do so.


Restoration - Ann Aguirre This short story recounts the last few scenes of Outpost, but from Fade's point-of-view. We get a bit more insight into what's been going through his head since the summer patrols that caused him to pull away from Deuce at the end of that book. While only about 10 pages in length, it's a nice little interlude between Outpost and the third book Horde, which hadn't yet been published when this short story was released. To that end, it served to remind readers how the second book ended, while giving additional insight to Fade's feelings, in preparation for book three.

Of course, this short story will really only make sense to readers who've read the other two books in this series already, but since I had, I enjoyed it for what it is.

The Boston Girl: A Novel

The Boston Girl: A Novel - Anita Diamant "How did you get to be the woman you are today?"

When Addie Baum's 22-year-old granddaughter, Ava, asks her grandmother this very question, she is regaled with the wonderful narrative of Addie's life, reliving every vivid moment from the time she was 15, a young Jewish girl growing up in Boston during the early 20th century. Addie Baum, now 85, was a smart and spunky young spitfire, with progressive ideas for the time she was living in. We get to see the world through her eyes, and to experience many world changing events going on around her, from child labor and women's suffrage to fighting with her parents to allow her to remain in school. She's loved, she's lost, but she was always been her own person. She's a strong likeable character with a knack for telling a story, which I suppose is really the author's knack, but the way it was written, you never felt like she was reciting, but definitely reliving.

This was such an interesting and engaging read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book since it's not a genre I normally read. Historical fiction, yes, although there's usually an element of fantasy or steampunk to my usual historical reads. This book, while still fiction, was simply a well-written piece of fiction told in an autobiographical memoir style.

Since it took place in Boston, and setting was such an important element to this story, I knew I had to read it. I've been in California five years now, but I often long for home and there's lots of things I miss about New England, and Boston in particular. So much of this story elicited strong feelings of place within me. I could truly picture myself walking along the streets of the North End, small little tenements lining each side, or down the cafe-lined streets of Hanover Street. The author certainly has a knack for emoting with a place, and I loved experiencing it through this novel.

I don't know a lot about Jewish families and traditions, having only experienced them from the outside, but so much of the Jewish family dynamics reminded me of my own Italian roots, from which I'm descended on my mother's side. I truly felt like I took a very entertaining, and yes educational, trip through history after reading this book, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.


Foundation - Ann Aguirre This was a free short story that takes place before the events of Enclave, the first book in the Razorland trilogy. We learn more about the virus that sent families underground, and get a glimpse into the life of a young 14-year-old boy named Robin, one of the original settlers of the enclaves.

This book won't mean much to you unless you also read the Razorland trilogy, which is indeed a fantastic read. I've actually still got the last book in the trilogy, Horde, left to read but wanted to catch up on a few of these short stories first. :)

The Journeyman

The Journeyman - Michael Alan Peck

After the bus they're traveling on has a head-on collision with another vehicle during a snow storm, Paul Reid and a few other interesting NYC residents will get to experience the afterlife firsthand. The Commons is a place of judgment, filled with the Essence of all the souls that have passed through. Normally, each traveler would have their own unique journey through the Commons, during which their soul is weighed and their fate is decided. One man, however, believes that all the Essence obtained from all these souls is his to command. Will Paul, Annie, and Zach have what it takes to be the master of their own destiny? Or will the reign of Mr. Brill continue to keep all this stored Essence in check. Only one person has the power to challenge the arrogant megalomaniac... but can he survive the journey?

This was an engaging read with an intriguing cast of characters and fine detail to world building. The peculiar landscape devised by the author is at once wildly fantastical yet wholly believable for an afterlife. The author is quite skilled at putting words to paper and the prose, pacing, and even word choice used throughout this novel kept me wanting to read more. The only single problem I had with it, and I assume this was done intentionally to give insight about his character, is how Zach kept referring to his mother as Zach's mother. I could never really get a handle on Zach's character. He was only 5 years old, and didn't talk, yet he was continually referred to as a special boy, leading one to believe he was autistic. Unfortunately, I found most of his scenes to be somewhat boring, at least for me personally. Did I like it enough to want to read the sequel when it's released? Of that, I'm not quite sure. I guess it'd depend on how many other books I've got on my plate at the time.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Owl and the Japanese Circus

Owl and the Japanese Circus - Kristi Charish

Ex-archaeology student turned international antiquities thief—though she'd be loathe to admit to the thief part—Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, has only one rule: No supernatural jobs... EVER! Unfortunately, she has no choice but to accept a job offer from Mr. Kurosawa, the red dragon who owns the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. As luck would have it, he also promises to get rid of the pack of vampires that have been on her tail for the last year, a benefit Owl certainly can't overlook.

From Japan to Bali and back to Vegas, Owl hunts down the clues she needs to find the requested scroll for the dragon. With a little help from her best friend Nadya, along with a sexy mercenary, Owl bumbles her way through various dig sites, where trouble is never more than a step behind her. But will she be able to deliver the coveted treasure before her enemies catch up to her?

I truly enjoyed this great start to an exciting new urban fantasy series. As a character, Owl is extremely likeable. She's very headstrong, but also quite impetuous and even a bit frustrating at times. While she definitely knows her stuff when it comes to archeology, she lacks the forethought to plan properly and continuously places herself and her friends in danger with her short-sighted decisions. How she's managed to survive as long as she has is beyond me. It's a lucky thing Rynn is around to save her ass! Or perhaps she's got nine lives like her cat! ;)

Speaking of cats, I've never been much of a cat person but I have to say that Captain rocks! An extremely smart Egyptian Mau that's bred to hunt vampires, Captain has managed to save Owl's hide just as much as Rynn has. He can open windows, sneak through air ducts to get where he needs to be, and even understand and retrieve things for Owl. He's a wonderful companion for her and really adds a lot to the story.

With an assortment of supernaturals thrown into the mix, from nagas to nymps and everything in between, this was an exciting, action-packed read, and I look forward to adding this new urban fantasy series to my must read list. Going forward, my only criticism is that I sincerely hope Owl will take time to learn from past mistakes, as it's hard to imagine her being around much longer at the rate she's going. A few fighting lessons from Rynn could go a long way too.

Owl and the Japanese Circus will be released on January 13, 2015, but is available for pre-order at Amazon now. If you're a fan of urban fantasy with strong female characters, and particularly if you're interested in archeology, then I strongly recommend you check this one out!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Pocket Star Books, for providing me with a pre-release copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Prayer

Dark Prayer - Natasha Mostert

Eloise Blake is on the run from a life she no longer remembers. Having went into some kind of fugue state that's lasted about two years now, she's left behind her former life as Jenilee Gray, taken up a new hobby with a tribe of free runners, and is living in a run down squat. Eloise's new identity is as different from Jenilee as night is to day.

Enter Jack Simonetti. Jack is a bit of a spoiled playboy, living off his rich father's purse strings, and recently transported from the UK to NYC. Dear old dad threatens to cut off Jack's money supply unless he does a favor for an old friend, Daniel Barone. Grudgingly, Jack agrees but eventually heads off to London to meet with Barone. Barone, who was Eloise's former guardian, fills Jack in and tasks him with getting close to Eloise and convincing her to return to her previous life. For as luck would have it, Barone is an expert in memory manipulation, and believes he has the skills to help Eloise return to her former self.

Unfortunately, things aren't quite that straightforward. Eloise has had one too many "accidental" close calls and Barone is certain that someone is dogging her, intent on doing her harm. Though Jack manages to get close to Eloise, using their common interest in parkour (free running) as his in, he starts to develop feelings for her. So if he manages to convince her to trust Barone and return to her previous life, she'll no longer remember him or any other details about her life as Eloise. So what's a guy to do??

I thought this was a fantastic story. I loved how much of the memory stuff was backed up by scientific fact, something I didn't fully realize until the author's note at the end. I know the whole "boy meets girl, falls in love, saves girl from bad guys" can be a bit cliché and overdone at times, but seriously, that small but overly simplistic piece of the plot was done up so well around an amazing thriller of a story, that you barely even realized that's what was going on.

The author did a wonderful job building her characters and the world around them. Eloise seemed tough as nails at the start, but as Jack gets to know her, she starts to let a bit more of her vulnerable side show, and you feel like you're peeling layers off an onion. (Shrek anyone? LOL)

Seriously though, if you like mystery and suspense thrillers, you owe it to yourself to check this book out. And now I realize I've had one of Mostert's other books, Season of the Witch, languishing on my TBR shelf for far too long. Must push that one towards the top of the pile!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Portable Magic, Ltd., for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Screams: Volume One

Dark Screams: Volume One - Brian James Freeman, Kelley Armstrong, Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark, Richard Chizmar, Stephen King

This collection of short horror stories, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar, both of Cemetery Dance Publications, was both creepy and thought provoking. Some stories were definitely better than others, namely the one by Simon Clark which really stood out for me, seeing as he's an author I hadn't come across before.

WEEDS by Stephen King
Jordy Verrill wasn't all that bright, but when a meteorite lands on his farm one night, dollar signs flash before his eyes. Unfortunately, this is no ordinary rock, and it seems as if the life force inside has found it's first victim.

This was a decent short story, reminiscent of classic King, not surprising seeing as it was originally written back in 1976. But that said, I didn't care for it all that much since I didn't really relate to the main character. He was a bit of a lughead, by his own admission, and there wasn't a whole lot else going on.

THE PRICE YOU PAY by Kelley Armstrong
There's always a price to pay... just never pay more than you owe. Words Kara Snow has attempted to live by after the traumatic events of her childhood. Unfortunately, certain habits are hard to break, relationships in particular, and Kara finds herself in hot water all over again when her childhood friend Ingrid comes back into to her life.

I'm a fan of Kelly Armstrong and I found this short story more to my liking than the previous. The main character was quite relate-able and the circumstances surrounding her story all too real. The surprise ending indeed took me by surprise, but still delivered a closing I was quite happy with.

MAGIC EYES by Bill Pronzini
Edward James Tolliver lives his life among the criminally insane, convicted of a crime for which he insists he's innocent. Adamant in his innocence, yet constantly pressured by his doctor to accept responsibility for his actions, how can he do so without revealing the presence of these spectral invaders that have been visiting him... when doing so would only prove he's exactly where he belongs.

This was a creepy tale about an inmate who sees demons in the people around him. It's conducted mostly in monologue as the protagonist Edward writes in his journal, and I found that got a little tiring after awhile. But I suppose this type of delivery helped to emphasize the crazed mind behind the story. Overall, I found it just alright, but nothing special.

The best of the bunch. A gripping story reminiscent of old Saw movies. John York awakens in a large underground sewer, having no idea how he got there, and chained by the neck to a large, scary killer. How far will he go and what will he do to save himself?

I really enjoyed the suspense with this one, never knowing where it was going to lead next, the crazed killer a mere 10 feet away from the protagonist the entire time. The author did a really good job building the suspense, especially for a short story, and I found myself really empathizing with the main character. Simon Clark is now a name I will definitely watch for in the future.

THE WATCHED by Ramsey Campbell
Young Jimmy meets a man in the woods on his way home one day. Claiming to be a local policeman, the man asks Jimmy to keep an eye on the house next door. But why would a policeman have a young boy running errands for him, and why does this man look like he hasn't slept in days? What Jimmy discovers over the course of the next few days will impact his life forever more.

Though not nearly as suspenseful as the previous Simon Clark story, this one had enough going on to command a different sort of suspense. Keeping secrets, yet never quite sure what was really going on, Jimmy's actions leave the reader constantly searching for clues, just as Jimmy is himself.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for providing me with a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land

Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land - Pieter van Dokkum

This is one of the few non-fiction books I've read this year. I usually stick to fiction for the escape from reality it provides, but I do like to indulge in some good non-fiction now and again, especially if it relates to a subject I am particularly passionate about. And dragonflies are indeed one of those passions... beautiful, splendid, awe-inspiring dragonflies!!!

I have been an avid lover of dragonflies for a long time. When I lived in the Boston area, I was surrounded by many more dragonflies than I have been since moving to California, probably due to the lack of ponds, marshes, and streams in the immediate vicinity of where I live now. And I do very much miss seeing them on a daily basis, precluding winter of course, like I used to.

Dragonflies are often seen as a symbol of change, reflecting a profound understanding on the deeper meaning of life, due to their metamorphosis from nymph to adult, and the fact that their underwater nymph stage is very different from their adult life spent soaring through the air. There is plenty of other symbolism associated with the dragonfly, but more often than not, these symbols deal with self-actualization and strength, particularly the strength to make positive change in yourself. This site describes a lot of the symbolism I've come to associate with dragonflies over the years. When I moved from Massachusetts to California, and made some major life changes in the process, I got a dragonfly tattoo on my ankle which spoke to me of these very same changes I was experiencing in my own life. But I digress...

I found this book quite informative and interesting, filling me in on several facts about these graceful, elegant insects, all without getting too bogged down with scientific and technical terms. For example, did you know that the majority of a dragonfly's lifespan is actually spent underwater in their nymph stage? The adult dragonfly, once it's gone through it's metamorphosis, is usually only a few months beyond that. This book is not a field guide, but instead geared towards the layman dragonfly lover or beginning hobbyist, those who love these mysterious and transformative creatures as much as I do, and want to learn as much as they can about them. It's filled with page after page of beautifully photographed images, all while explaining their life cycle, hunting habits, mating habits, and lots more. If you live in the Northeastern United States, you may recognize a lot of the dragonfly species photographed within its pages as this is where the author hails from, and he claims that about 1/3 of the photographs were taken from the pond near his home. The remainder come from various locations in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, and The Netherlands.

I think this would make a great coffee table book, the pictures within so fascinating to look at again and again. At the end of this 176 page volume is an appendix with specific recommendations for further reading, especially useful if you wish to further study dragonflies in the field.

This book will be published on March 31, 2015, by Yale University Press, and I may well pick up a hardcover copy at that time. For now however, I am extremely grateful to NetGalley and Yale University Press for allowing me to review an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of this exquisite, exceptional book.

Chronicles of Steele: Raven: The Complete Story

Chronicles of Steele: Raven: The Complete Story - Pauline Creeden

This was a highly entertaining steampunk fantasy. Raven is a reaper that lives by the reaper's code: for every life she takes, another must be redeemed. She's just about broken even, and has been seriously considering settling down and leaving the reaper life behind completely. But when she's asked to provide protection to the young Baron Darius of New Haven and bring him before the Wood Witch to help cure his malady, she decides to take this one last job. Unfortunately, things aren't quite as straightforward as she would've hoped, and along the way, it's not only her own life and that of her charge that are put in danger. To survive this trip, Raven will have to call upon all her reaper training, and examine her true feelings in the process.

I thought the author did an excellent job with the character and world building. The story takes place in an alternate universe, with cool steam-powered gadgetry, mechanical servants who look completely human, and yes evil witches too! I really connected with Raven's character. Despite her occupation, she's very real and vulnerable underneath her kickass exterior. I'm happy to see that Ms. Creeden will be releasing another book in the Chronicles of Steele universe in 2015 which will focus on young Darius, now the Duke of New Haven. I look forward to delving into more of this fantastic world.

Four Divergent Stories: The Transfer, The Initiate, The Son, and The Traitor

Four Divergent Stories: The Transfer, The Initiate, The Son, and The Traitor - Veronica Roth This book is a collection of four short stories, each published individually but also sold together as a unit as well, told from Four's point-of-view. The first three take place prior to the events of Divergent while the last takes place during the events of Divergent, after Tris has entered the picture.

Four: The Transfer
This short story gives us a glimpse into Four's life with his father, Marcus Eaton, where he's known by his given name of Tobias Eaton. We see the hardships he endured under his father's control, get to experience his Choosing Ceremony, and learn the true reasons he left Abnegation to because Dauntless.

This was a well-written short story, engaging from the start, and though the enlightened reader who's already read the trilogy may already know most of the back story contained herein, it gave me a new appreciation for Four and everything he went through to get where he is today.

Four: The Initiate
This well-written and engaging short story focuses on Four's initiation into Dauntless, and the beginning of his rivalry with Eric. Although he's still learning to assimilate his learned Abnegation morals into his new Dauntless lifestyle, he's started to make friends and eventually makes a name for himself as he progresses through his initiation with the highest of scores.

As he's adjusting to the Dauntless way of life, Four begins to get the feeling that things are not as they appears to be. His father's fervent warnings that he not show awareness under simulation during the Choosing Ceremony's aptitude test begins to coincide with some of the things he's experiencing. Is this faction system all it's cracked up to be, or is it just another way of controlling people, the way his father always controlled him?

Like the previous story, I loved this glimpse into Four's initiation, and I loved getting to know Shauna and Zeke more too, who were more minor characters in the book trilogy. The foreshadowing at the end left me happy that I have the collection of all four stories to read on hand.

Four: The Son
This short story picks up right where Four: The Initiate leaves off. A major twist is introduced, causing Four to further question all he's known his whole life. Four: The Son finds Four examining the relationship he had with his parents, and how it's affecting his current situation.

Like the previous two short stories about Four, this one was just as good. As top of his class of initiates, Four's asked to be a leader, to help shape the future of Dauntless initiation, but after a couple meetings, he's come to realize this isn't what he wants at all. He's begun to feel that the faction system is just another form of control, one he was trying to escape when leaving his father and Abnegation. So instead, Four begins to exert himself through small acts of rebellion against being controlled, all while keeping it on the down low.

Four: The Traitor
It's been two years since the events of the previous short story, this one taking place during the time of Divergent. Four confronts his inner demons about becoming a traitor to his faction as he ponders what to do with some important information he's discovered. At the same time, he also begins to examine his feelings for Tris and decides to open up to her.

I enjoyed seeing the events surrounding Tris's initiation into Dauntless from Four's point-of-view. When I first read Divergent, I was slightly put off by his seemingly indifferent attitude towards Tris, but in this short story, we get to see what he was really thinking, and it allowed me to understand his character a lot better.

Though these short stories aren't necessary to the story line, I felt they added a lot to it, giving the reader a whole new dimension in which to view the events of the books. Almost makes me want to read the books all over again knowing what I do know about Four. :)

The After House

The After House - Michael Phillip Cash

Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life in the small historic town of Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, New York after Remy's divorce. Little do they realize however that one of the house's previous occupants, a whaling boat captain who passed away in 1841, is still lurking... a specter who hasn't been able to find his way to the light. As Remy struggles to put her life back together, will the Captain's presence hinder or help her?

This was an alright read for me. The writing threw me off a bit at the beginning as I found it overly descriptive, particularly of characters as they were introduced, the author recounting details that often had very little to do with the rest of the story. In many cases, I felt it would've been better to leave some of those details out and allow the reader to discover them on their own, if indeed they were necessary. About 17% of the way through (I was reading on my Kindle), things got more interesting with the appearance of the ghost of Captain Eli in Remy and Olivia's life.

I'm not much of a romance reader—I find much of it too corny and cliché for my taste—and unfortunately there were a few romantic scenes between Remy and the local mayor, Hugh, that gave me that same feeling. This and the verbose descriptions were my primary criticisms which detracted from the story for me. But outside of those criticisms, the rest of the story had an interesting premise, and while the ending was a bit predictable, I was still satisfied with how it all turned out.

Thank you to the author and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles

Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles - Anne Rice It's been twenty years since the completion of the Vampire Chronicles, twenty years since Lestat brought his last fledgling, Mona Mayfair, into the blood and then retreated to the seclusion of his family home in the French Auvergne.

Now however, an evil presence has awakened, drawing the ancient ones from their long, dark slumber beneath the earth and inciting them to violence against their own kind. Vampires the world over are being hunted; it seems as if none are safe. As the radio ambassador to the Vampire community, Benji Mahmoud begs for the ancient ones to come forth and offer their assistance, for one to act as leader to their Undead tribe and provide a unified front against this malevolent Voice which can speak directly to ones consciousness. Lestat, while not quite a Child of the Millennia, has long been looked upon as the Brat Prince of Vampire kind, and as such is also implored by Benji to make himself known and come to their aid as well. But Lestat wants no part of this, his days in the limelight are done, and he'd much prefer to simply be left to his solitude to finish the meticulous restoration of his remote family estate.

But the Voice is not to be silenced, and as it continues its violent rampage, the Vampires realize Benji is correct, and if they have any hope of quieting this Voice, and getting out of this intact, they must join together as one.

If you didn't read the previous Vampire Chronicle books, you may not appreciate Prince Lestat all that much, not really recognizing most of the characters referenced throughout. Granted there is an appendix with characters and their chronology, but I found that more of a refresher for previous readers as opposed to a suitable introduction for new readers. But to keep things interesting all the same, there are a few new characters introduced that didn't appear in previous books.

My only criticism is that there were several parts of the book, especially in the middle, than the character's inner dialogue became a bit excessive and repetitive, like they were just droning on about a particular subject ad nauseum, i.e. how wonderful Lestat is, and I found my mind wandering during those times. This was probably the primary reason I didn't award it full stars. This 458 page book could have easily been 300 something just by eliminating a lot of the repetitiveness and babbling.

I also found it odd that while references to past events were scattered throughout the book, the most recent tales of the Mayfairs and the Taltos that took place in Blood Canticle were strangely absent. Perhaps due to the harsh criticism that book received, Ms. Rice decided to just act like it never happened. *shrug* Fortunately, its dismissal didn't really affect the current story in the least.

I think fans of the previous books will definitely enjoy this one, to find out where all the characters are at now, and what's changed for them over the last 20 years. Those who didn't already read the Vampire Chronicles may want to pass this one by for now.

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