Your Next Great Read: Tess and Amy's Book Reviews

Published Monday, July 6, 2020
The Widow of Rose House
Diana Biller

5 out of 5 stars

Alva Webster has returned to New York for the first time in twelve years. Following a tumultuous (putting is mildly) marriage and the subsequent scandal that followed after she left her husband, his death a couple of years later only added fuel to the fire, but Alva is determined to create a life for herself in her own name. So she's purchased a home in Hyde Park with plans of renovating and in the process penning a book about home decorating. Things seem to be looking up for Alva, despite the whispers that still follow her around in "polite society". That is, until it comes about that the house she purchased is supposedly haunted. Having a tough time getting her contractor to work due to the haunting, Alva turns to the only person who is willing to help: Professor Samuel Moore.

Sam is known for his genius and eccentricity. He comes from a family of brilliant and renowned scientists, and once an idea gets in his brain, he has a compulsive need to see it through to fruition. This time around the idea of monitoring / communicating with ghosts. Of course the beguiling Mrs. Webster also plays a role in Sam's interest, as it seems apparent that interest runs on both sides, but early on it becomes apparent that Alva hasn't yet been able to put her husband to rest. No matter, Sam is up to the task to help Alva move forward with her life and rid her of ghosts both past and present.

When I first heard of The Widow of Rose House I was expecting it to be a heavy-handed gothic-style read, but I am really glad I actually took the time to read the blurb and read what others were saying about it. Beneath the slightly dire looking cover (not a criticism just an observation of the dark coloring) is a read full of wit and hopefulness, but also a wonderful message about accountability and worth and being seen and having a voice.

The issues surrounding Alva and her marriage are heavy and dark. It's not difficult to discern all that she went through even before she gives us her story in full. Seeing such a strong character who doesn't know she's strong and seeing her continue to live and want to move forward was powerful. I loved Alva's character and I loved that Diana Biller wrote her story in a way that gave Alva the time to heal. There wasn't a rushed feeling, there weren't scores of people telling her she needed to "get over it and move on", no. Instead there is support and understanding that there is no time period for a person to get over their trauma. It will happen when it happens.

Balancing out the heavier issues, Sam's character was a breath of fresh air, sunshine on a rainy day. I don't know that I've ever read another romantic hero quite like Sam. The positivity that surrounds him, the belief that there's an answer for any question if you look hard enough, just leaped off the page. His care and thoughtfulness in his interactions and pursual of Alva is steadfast yet he is also without the stigma of pressure. He understands her past - even before she spells it out to him - and he knows that pulling a possessive alpha-male type situation on her is not the way to go. I really loved everything about Sam from his affability to being able to look past societal labels. Alva and Sam work so well together because, as mentioned above, they balance each other out really well as characters.

I loved that the ghost aspect was both literal and metaphorical in Alva dealing with the ghosts of her past while also literally dealing with the ghost inhabiting her new home. I would have liked just a little more time spent on this actual ghost aspect as it too presents a compelling story of the past that very nicely ties into Alva's own experiences, but I cannot fault The Widow of Rose House for giving more focus to Alva.

I honestly could read book after book of Alva and Sam being historical ghost hunters. As of this moment I think this is a standalone book, but hopefully someone else out there knows the right person's ear to bend to get this to happen.

This is a wonderful debut and perfect for this time of year, surrounded by spooky but also with a strong message of moving on. Diane Biller is now permanently on my radar.

- Amy

Check Availability
Kristyn Merbeth

3.5 out of 5 stars

From a young age the five Kaiser siblings have been instilled with the idea that you can only count on your family. In a family of smugglers, it’s pretty sound advice. That is, until oldest brother Corvus abandons them to fight in the civil war on his home planet of Titan.

At least, that’s how Scorpia Kaiser felt the day her older brother left without so much as a goodbye. But in the three years of his absence, Scorpia has taken over the captain’s seat, and she’s gunning for running the whole smuggling operation once their controlling and manipulative mother deigns to hand it over to her.

Except their mother has taken up a new mysterious job that leads the family right back to Titan, and Corvus. When the job goes completely, and unexpectedly, off the rails, Scorpia, Corvus, along with their siblings Lyre, Andromeda, and Apollo will have to learn how to trust one another again, and work together as a family, if they want to avoid a war of intergalactic proportions.

From the onset it’s clear that family will be the most important aspect of this story and, I’m assuming, this series. The point of view shifts between Corvus and Scorpia and, for the most part, I understand why Kristyn Merbeth made this decision. I believe that Corvus’s leaving impacted Scorpia the most – even if she’d never outright admit that—as they were closest in age to one another.

The thing is, I just didn’t feel like we delved as far into the family dynamic as we should have. Trust me, there’s plenty to unpack about the Kaisers, there’s no way we could have gotten through it all in just this one book, but to put Corvus and Scorpia front and center and not fully deal with their issues in a more head-on way left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.

It takes a good chunk of setting up the world and the family before Corvus and Scorpia are even in the same space together. The anticipation for these two to come face to face after three years with no contact drives much of the first part of the book. When they do meet up again, they basically avoid the much-needed clearing of the air required to happen so they can actually work together cohesively. Otherwise it’s basically them running circles around each other. The good news is that when they do make some headway, those are the best parts of the book hands down.

I would say potentially Fortuna is a good setup and more will come, but I really want siblings Lyre, Apollo, and Andromeda to get their own time in the spotlight. If that happens, I fear the potential for other issues to get swept under the rug. It’s just one of those things we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

As far as the rest of the world, Kristyn Merbeth gives an interesting future that has an even more tantalizing history as to how it came to be. Complete with alien creatures who are seemingly extinct, but whose presence is still deftly felt throughout the galaxy. I look forward to—in addition to the family stuff—exploring this more in the next book as well.

Despite feeling like the story could have gone a little further with the siblings, I’m holding out hope we’ll get a good continuation with the next book. Plus, mysterious alien lifeforms!

- Amy

Check Availability
Wicked Saints
Emily A. Duncan

4.5 out of 5 stars

Hello to my fellow readers, latest read that I will be talking about is Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan. I must say that it was quite a WOW read, overall I rate it a 4.5/5 stars. I will admit when I first started to read the book the beginning was a bit slow and I began to get skeptical if I would truly like it or not. BUT to get to the great parts you must go through the slow parts and I must say that it was very worth the read. The ending of this book it electrical and fast-paced, hitting you with revelation after revelation, with an ending that will leave you shocked and quite frankly conflicted with everything you have previously read. Enough with my ranting, I will now tell you why you need to read this book…….

1)NADYA……she is a woman who can speak to the gods and wield their powers. Beyond this, she is honestly such a strong character who proves that she is able to take care of herself. She is someone who you do not want to mess with due to her strength, willfulness, and cunning intellect.

2) SEREFIN……..not going to lie I thought that he was super evil at first and that I was going to hate him, BUT he turned out to be this very smart and humorous character as the story developed. Above all, he just wants what is best for his kingdom and that is something that I can respect.

3) Malachiasz……who is probably one of the most complex characters I have ever read. He is this intriguing darkness that is seen throughout the book, but even with this darkness you cannot help but love him.

Overall, I really did love this book and I cannot wait for the second one to come out. I think that the thing I loved about it the most is the fact that there is this blurred line between light and darkness that is seen throughout the book. This blurred line is seen especially in the end of the book, but I will not spoil it for you. The thing about these characters is that each one wants to do what is best for their people and the way to this may lead them into darker paths. Overall, their hearts are in the right place!

- Tess

Check Availability
Elle Katherine White

4 out of 5 stars

While away investigating the deaths of Idar near the Castle of Selwyn at the northern border of Arle, Aliza and Alastair Daired came face to face with House Daired’s sworn enemy Tristan Wydrick, previously thought dead, but still very much alive. That is, alive and ghast-ridden­ (playing host to violent shadow creatures). Wydrick imparts the same warning as others in the area: a great evil has been biding its time but is getting ready to strike.

As Arle prepares for a convocation between neighboring nations, and Tekari attacks are happening with more frequency, Aliza and Alastair must gather together all those able and willing to fight for Arle, because the evil is already at their shores.

picks up right where Dragonshadow left us, with Aliza and Alastair in pursuit of Wydrick. It’s not long before they realize it’s a fruitless endeavor as he’s already escaped for now. In other words, the book starts off running and while it seemingly has moments of pause and reflection, looking back as I write this review, I feel like Flamebringer—when compared to Dragonshadow’s languorous build—sped through the story too fast. It’s almost like books two and three are just parts two parts of a whole. They go hand-in-hand moreso than the first book which stands on its own more solidly despite having certain elements that were tied into the last two books.

Mostly, I felt like there were still a lot of issues that Aliza and Alastair needed to deal with that get pushed aside without any meaningful resolution because of the overarching conflict that has arisen. I loved how Elle Katharine White portrayed their marriage. You can feel the love they have for each other even when life happens and puts them on paths that are askew from one another. It’s one of the most honest and true relationships I’ve read recently. Yes, we love the Happily Ever Afters (at least I do), but what really solidifies a relationship is working through the difficult times and the times you’re at odds with your significant other.

I was super happy that there was a brief return to Hart’s Run and reuniting with Aliza and Alastair’s families and more characters from the first book. I felt like Dragonshadow really set the Daireds apart, and slightly adrift, from those they care about—an almost desolate feeling—but Flamebringer brings them back into the fold, so to speak, and you can feel that strength of heart and spirit that being around your loved ones provides. Elle Katharine White certainly doesn’t pull any punches throughout this series and with it being the final battle, you know Flamebringer is going to have some pretty big emotional moments.

is an engaging read. For all that I thought it went by too quickly, mostly that’s because I am really interested in the world Elle Katharine White has created, and don’t want to leave it so soon. I feel like there are still corners of Arle, and beyond, that beg for exploration, and there is certainly a plethora of characters who can take up the mantle in Alize and Alastair’s stead. Fingers crossed we get to explore some more. Overall, though, I’m really impressed with a series that started as a classic retelling but developed its own history and mythology that stand apart on their own merits.

- Amy

Check Availability