Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter


Title: The Photographer
Author: Mary Dixie Carter
Publisher: Minotaur
Release Date: Published May 25, 2021

Mary Dixie Carter's The Photographer is a slyly observed, suspenseful story of envy and obsession, told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.


As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.


But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.


That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.

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This is one instance when the cover sells a book. It's gorgeous!

So what's the story about?

Delta is a gifted photographer. She loves to look at life through the lens of her camera. She works as a photographer for children's parties. Her fees are high and she is sought for her talent. 

Her next job brings her to the Straubs. She is to take pictures of Natalie's 11th birthday party at the Straub's home. The Straubs are renowned architects and their home is gorgeous. Delta is fascinated by them and she does everything possible to enwrap herself into their life from babysitting Natalie to picking up their dry cleaning. Soon, she wants more...

The premise was a good one. A younger beautiful woman immersing herself in the nook of the family she envies. She wants what this family portrays. A home, a beautiful child, a handsome husband, an elegant wife. Delta can already imagine herself as part of their family. She just needs an opportunity.

The Photographer is a quick and fast-paced story that you can read in just a few hours. Some parts of the book felt flat to me maybe because of a lack of character development or the unbelievable aspects of some of it (Who leaves their child with a stranger on the day they meet?). 

Despite the ending being a  little rushed, overall I was entertained and found myself turning the pages one after the other one.

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Minotaur via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb
The Tawny Man #3

Title: Fool's Fate
Series: The Tawny Man #3
Author: Robin Hobb

The triumphant conclusion to the Tawny Man trilogy, from the author of the bestselling Farseer and Liveship Traders trilogies. The moving end to the tale of the Farseers, in which kingdoms must stand or fall on the beat of a dragon's wings, or a Fool's heart. A small and sadly untried coterie - the old assassin Chade, the serving-boy Thick, Prince Dutiful, and his reluctant Skillmaster, Fitz - sail towards the distant island of Aslevjal. There they must fulfill the Narcheska's challenge to her betrothed: to lay the head of the dragon Icefyre, whom legends tell is buried there deep beneath the ice, upon her hearth. Only with the completion of this quest can the marriage proceed, and the resulting alliance signal an end to war between the two kingdoms. It is not a happy ship: tensions between the folk of the Six Duchies and their traditional enemies, the Outislanders, lie just beneath the surface. Thick is constantly ill, and his random but powerful Skilling has taken on a dark and menacing tone, while Chade's fascination with the Skill is growing to the point of obsession. Having ensured that his beloved friend the Fool is safely left behind in Buckkeep, Fitz is guilt-stricken; but he is determined to keep his fate at bay since prophecy foretells the Fool's death if he ever sets foot on the isle of the black dragon. But as their ship draws in towards Aslevjal a lone figure awaits them.

Satisfying ending to this trilogy!

Hobb is able to connect all the loose ends and make its conclusion a smooth one. 

In the Fool's Fate, Fitz is trying to prevent the Fool from getting into the ship leaving for the island of Aslevjal. As per the last book, Elliana has asked Dutiful to bring him the head of IceFyre in order to seal their alliance. The Fool has confided in Fitz, the Fool knows he needs to save the dragon but traveling to the island means his death and Fitz will do anything to prevent his friend from dying.

During the voyage, things are not easy. Thick is seasick and with his Skill, he is making everyone feel miserable on the boat. Tempers are running high and Dutiful puts Fitz to the task of helping Thick who in turn asks Nettle for help. Yet, their dreams are invaded by Tintaglia who wants to learn more about IceFyre.

Before leaving for the frozen island where Icefyre is supposed to be, they learn of a legend involving the Black Man. Once on the island, someone is already waiting for them. Can you guess who?

The Skill and Witt coteries are in disagreement. One wants to slay the dragon, the other one wants to save it. 

So many secrets are finally revealed including the Pale Woman, the Black Man, the dragons, the Skill, the Witt, Fitz, The Fool, the memory stones. I love the explanation we are given about why the Fool and the Black Man were able to change colors while the Pale woman was not.

The Fool and FitzChivalry's friendship and bond are unlike anything else. I love these characters together. I was also happy to see so many other characters reappearing and completing their circle. Yes, they were also some very sad moments that hurt me just as well.

I'm not sure knowing there are 3 more books involving the Fool and Fitz (after the Rainwild 4 books) is a good thing. I think I liked how this ended and I'm not sure I want to know what happens next. What am I saying? Of course, I need to know. 

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

Golden Fool by Robin Hobb
The Tawny Man #2


Title: Golden Fool 
Series: The Tawny Man #2
Author: Robin Hobb

Prince Dutiful has been rescued from his Piebald kidnappers and the court has resumed its normal rhythms. But for FitzChivalry Farseer, a return to isolation is impossible. Though gutted by the loss of his wolf bondmate, Nighteyes, Fitz must take up residence at Buckkeep and resume his tasks as Chade’s apprentice assassin. Posing as Tom Badgerlock, bodyguard to Lord Golden, FitzChivalry becomes the eyes and ears behind the walls. And with his old mentor failing visibly, Fitz is forced to take on more burdens as he attempts to guide a kingdom straying closer to civil strife each day.

The problems are legion. Prince Dutiful’s betrothal to the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands is fraught with tension, and the Narcheska herself appears to be hiding an array of secrets. Then, amid Piebald threats and the increasing persecution of the Witted, FitzChivalry must ensure that no one betrays the Prince’s secret—a secret that could topple the Farseer throne: that he, like Fitz, possesses the dread “beast magic.”

Meanwhile, FitzChivalry must impart to the Prince his limited knowledge of the Skill: the hereditary and addictive magic of the Farseers. In the process, they discover within Buckkeep one who has a wild and powerful talent for it, and whose enmity for Fitz may have disastrous consequences for all.

Only Fitz’s enduring friendship with the Fool brings him any solace. But even that is shattered when unexpected visitors from Bingtown reveal devastating secrets from the Fool’s past. Now, bereft of support and adrift in intrigue, Fitz’s biggest challenge may be simply to survive the inescapable and violent path that fate has laid out for him.

Golden Fool is full of intrigue and secrets. Some of them revealed, some of them waiting to come out in the next book, I hope.

The Prince is now in Buckkeep and Fitz and the Fool are playing their parts. The Fool is Lord Golden and Fitz is known as Lord Golden's bodyguard, Tom Badgerlock.

Many things are happening simultaneously:

The Piebalds are still trying to hurt the Prince and unmasked him as someone who is Witted.

The betrothal ceremony of Dutiful and the Narcheska Elliania of the Out Islands is underway but Dutiful is not happy with linking his life with someone who is mostly a child. Worse, Elliana is hiding something too and she, like Dutiful, is not happy with the betrothal.

Elliana asking Dutiful to bring him the head of a dragon in order to seal their alliance and bringing an end to the war between their kingdoms.

A Bingtown delegation has arrived to talk to Kettricken, the Queen about uniting forces against a common enemy, and Selden Vestrid is there to ask for help with Tintaglia and the dragons.

Amber's friend, Jek has come with the LiveShip's delegation to meet with Lord Golden.

FitzChivalry has to teach Dutiful about the Skill and they find out that others might have it too. After all, Dutiful must have a coterie.

The Queen wants to meet with Old Blood representatives to discuss a way to move forward. This is where Web's character is introduced to us.  

Burrick's son, Swift has arrived in court.

Fitz meeting Thick, a simpleton who is a powerful Skill-User. 

Fitz dealing with his adopted son, Hap living in Buckkeep town and the mistakes he might be making.

Fitz Skill-dreaming with Nettle.

The Fool knows that he as a White Prophet and Fitz as the catalyst, will have to fight against the Pale Woman's plans.

Golden Fool was another wonderful addition to this world. Characters are fully developed. The lore of the Witt and the Skill continues. We learn more facets of each magic and once again Fitz is the Changer of many things to come.

The strings are all set for a wonderful conclusion of this trilogy. Hobb has every piece in motion to converge masterfully in The Fools' Fate.

Cliffhanger: No

4.5/5 Fangs

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb
The Tawny Man #1


Title: Fool's Errand
Series: The Tawny Man #1
Author: Robin Hobb

For fifteen years FitzChivalry Farseer has lived in self-imposed exile, assumed to be dead by almost all who once cared about him. But that is about to change when destiny seeks him once again. Prince Dutiful, the young heir to the Farseer throne, has vanished and FitzChivalry, possessed of magical skills both royal and profane, is the only one who can retrieve him in time for his betrothal ceremony--thus sparing the Six Duchies profound political embarrassment...or worse. But even Fitz does not suspect the web of treachery that awaits him or how his loyalties to his Queen, his partner, and those who share his magic will be tested to the breaking point.

What an amazing journey this is turning out to be!

In order to understand how happy I am after reading Fool's Errand, you have to be a fan of Fantasy. It could be Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, or insert your favorite here. Just think more books in the world you adore are available.

I’m back with FitzChivalry Farseer and the Fool. What a team!

The last time we saw FitzChivalry Farseer, he had saved the Six Duchies yet no one knows he did (well almost no one). For the last fifteen years, Fitz has been living like a hermit with Nighteyes and Hap. Hap was brought to Fitz by Staling when he was a child. Fitz has raised him as his adopted son. Fitz is hiding his identity and going by the name of Tom Badgerlock.

Now that Hap is becoming a man. He needs money to learn a trade. Fitz fears that is time for him to let him go. 

Then his past comes knocking. 

First, there is Chade who wants Fitz to come back to Buckkeep to teach Prince Dutiful the Skill. 

Then, The Fool returns from who knows where (haha we do know) and stays for a little while. 

Then a messenger from Queen Kettricken arrives asking Tom to come back to Buckkeep, his help is needed. When he arrives, he discovers that Prince Dutiful is gone. He has been taken and just before his betrothal ceremony! Fitz must find him before it's too late. Fitz, Nighteyes, the Fool, and Huntswoman Lauren will embark on this errand.

Between the Skill and the Wit, this is another magnificent piece of fantasy that Robin Hobb gives us.

Fitz is more mature and suffers less although I do feel like he has been used and coerced more times than he should.

I won’t lie, a certain part of the book made me ugly cry. #Devastated. I will say no more.

Starting the next one now.

Cliffhanger: No

4.5/5 Fangs

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren


Title: The Soulmate Equation
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: May 18th, 2021

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents--who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno--Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father's never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn't "father material" before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that's predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly's founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can't wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we'll pay you. Jess--who is barely making ends meet--is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the "Diamond" pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist--and the science behind a soulmate--than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.

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When I think about romance, I’m happy that Christina Lauren can write them and write them well. 

This time, this pair has succeeded again in crafting interesting characters in Jess, River, Juno, and Fizzy. Furthermore, this one had a futuristic undertone by using something like GeneticAlly. 

The premise: With just a small sample of saliva, you can be successfully matched with your soulmate. Forget about the dating apps when DNAduo can tell you which relationship will have a favorable outcome.

Jess is a single mother who's doing the best she can for her daughter, Juno. Her grandparents are a big part of her life since her parents are not. Her father or better said, sperm donor was never in the picture and her mother was a junkie. Juno's father is also not in the picture. He bailed when she was pregnant without a backward glance. Juno's friend, Fizzy, wants Jess to start dating again but Jess is not sure she is ready. Then on a night when she is feeling down, she decides to submit her own sample. She is shocked when she learns they have found a match for her and the identity of this so-called match is even more astonishing.

For River Pena, the scientist behind the technology, learning that he has his own diamond match (98%) astounds him. If he was not the scientist who created it, he wouldn't believe it. A diamond match is almost unheard of and this could make his company become an instant success. Learning that Jess is his match flabbergasted him until he starts spending time with her and Juno.

I know I should mention how much I enjoyed The Soulmate Equation but I think I should say instead of how much I loved Fizzy and Juno in this one. Fizzy was everything someone should want in a friend to be and Juno simply put, was adorable. They made the story more believable and complemented Jess and River's storyline perfectly. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb
The Liveship Traders #3


Title: Ship of Destiny
Series: The Liveship Traders #3
Author: Robin Hobb

As Bingtown slides toward disaster, clan matriarch Ronica Vestrit, branded a traitor, searches for a way to bring the city's inhabitants together against a momentous threat. Meanwhile, Althea Vestrit, unaware of what has befallen Bingtown and her family, continues her perilous quest to track down and recover her liveship, the "Vivacia, "from the ruthless pirate Kennit.

Bold though it is, Althea's scheme may be in vain. For her beloved "Vivacia "will face the most terrible confrontation of all as the secret of the liveships is revealed. It is a truth so shattering, it may destroy the "Vivacia "and all who love her, including Althea's nephew, whose life already hangs in the balance.

The conclusion of this trilogy was satisfying in all the ways that it counts!

I was happy to see that all the Vestrid women were strong in character. They did what had to be done, despite all being in different situations with different dangers. The same thing goes for Wintrow who became a man despite his young age and his little brother, Selden, who stood up when it was vital.
My favorite character development hands down has to be Malta. She evolved from someone I hated to becoming my favorite character (sorry, Althea but it's true). Malta went from an annoying little brat to a resourceful and interesting young woman who has been well-matched with Reyn.

The next best character development was Paragon. Through this book, we learned what truly happened to him and by who. Thanks to Amber in Ship of Destiny, he is comfortable in his own skin. Or should I say wood?

Tintaglia was a wonderful addition to the mix. I can see how she will change the future of the realm.

If I have to say what I disliked about this book, I would have to say it had to do with where the story went with Kennit. I felt it was a wasted use of an antihero. I'm also not sure I liked the new Vivacia but I guess it had to happen. 

I can't finish this review without making a stand. If you are an impatient reader (which I am) this series is not for you. The Realm of the Elderlings series is full of books that are long, detailed, and slow prosed. They are meant to be savored and unless you have been warned like I was (thank you hubby), you won't enjoy them.  You will think why are all these details important? Why does it matter? I would answer that the key is most of the time in the details. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Broken Prey by John Sandford
Lucas Davenport #16

Title: Broken Prey
Series: Lucas Davenport #16
Author: John Sandford
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: Published May 2, 2006

The first body is of a young woman, found on a Minneapolis riverbank, her throat cut, her body scourged and put on display. Whoever did this, Lucas Davenport knows, is pushed by brain chemistry. There is something wrong with him. This isn’t a bad love affair. 
The second body is found three weeks later, in a farmhouse six miles south. Same condition, same display—except this time it is a man. Nothing to link the two victims, nothing to indicate that the killings end here.
“This guy…” Lucas said. He took a deep breath, let it out as a sigh. “This guy is going to bust our chops.”

And soon he is going to do far, far worse than that…

Lucas is back!

This time he is after a real piece of work serial killer. Someone so evil that he doesn't care if what he tortures and kills is a man or a woman. 

The first body was of a woman. She was brutalized and displayed. Sloan, a homicide detective, and Lucas's friend is on the case. Unfortunately, as the days passed and no other lead becomes available, the case starts to become a cold one.

Then, three weeks later, a second killing occurs. Some DNA is found and this leads Lucas to a recently released inmate named Charlie Pope. Pope had been incarcerated in a hospital where 3 other inmates could have been advising him on how to perfect his crimes once he was free. The only problem Lucas has is that everyone who knew Pope thought of him as someone rather dumb. 

Lucas begins to question if there's a second killer involved?

Broken Prey was quite different from other books in this series as we are kept in the dark about the killer's identity. Things don't go as smoothly as in others novels since Lucas can't seem to catch a break. Also, he's missing his family since Weather and the kids are away in London. Worse, his friend Sloan is thinking of retiring. 

Through Broken Prey, the major point in levity comes from the list of songs Lucas is making. Lucas received a gift for iTunes and he's trying to create the best 100 rock song's playlist. The characters keep on advising Lucas on which songs to add or eliminate from his list. At the end of the book, the list is there and I can say, that I approved. Might need to add a few of the songs I don't currently have on my playlist and some Beatles too :)

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb
The Liveship Traders #2

Title: The Mad Ship
Series: The Liveship Traders #2
Author: Robin Hobb

The Farseer trilogy continues the dramatic tale of piracy, serpents, love and magic. The Vestrit family's liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia's love as the ship slowly acquires her own bloodlust. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but she lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship.

In the second breathtaking volume of Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy, a new tide of glory and terror sweeps forward the story of the Vestrit clan, their liveship Vivacia, and all who strive to possess her.

As the ancient tradition of Bingtown's Old Traders slowly erodes under the cold new order of a corrupt ruler, the Vestrits anxiously await the return of their liveship--a rare magic ship carved from sentient wizardwood, which bonds the ships mystically with those who sail them. And Althea Vestrit waits even more avidly, living only to reclaim the ship as her lost inheritance and captain her on the high seas. But the Vivacia has been seized by the ruthless pirate captain Kennit, who holds Althea's nephew and his father hostage.

Althea and her onetime sea mate Brashen resolve to liberate the liveship--but their plan may prove more dangerous than leaving the Vivacia in Kennit's ambitious grasp....

The second book in this trilogy has the Vestrit family members all over the place.

Althea is in the Ophelia and doing a good job at it but her thoughts are all about recovering her ship Vivacia. She dreams of being able to be back on her ship and sailing her. 

Ronica and Kefrria are trying to deal with the loss of their family fortune and keeping their house and holdings the best way they can.

Malta is still behaving like an obnoxious and selfish kid but as the story progresses, I can see hints of a different person emerging.

Wintrow is a captive onboard the Vivacia. He's shocked when he realizes that Kennit has started charming the ship and stirring her into piracy. He also starts believing that Kennit is not all bad.

Amber wants to protect Paragon from getting destroyed. She wants to buy him to avoid the liveship from being chopped into pieces.

Brashen finds himself close to piracy too until he hears that Vivacia has been taken by Kennit. He will go back home to alert the Vestrits of her capture. They all know that they will need help getting Vivacia back and Paragon might be the answer to their prayers.

The Mad Ship sets up a good foundation for the end of the trilogy. All the Vestrits are in danger one way or the other and Hobb never makes things easy for any of them. Although, not as hard as they were for Fitz. 

Great character development especially with Malta and an amazing woven and intricate world-building as always. 

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fang