If you’re looking for a cozy thriller that has a team of young women with Charlie’s Angels vibes, tech that even James Bond would be jealous of, and with just a sprinkling of sweet romance, then “Spies Never Quit” may just be for you. In the first book of the series (each book following a different woman in the group) follows Mari, a brand-new college freshman, as she attempts to rescue her mother. Mari’s mother is a brilliant scientist working on nano-bot technology who has been kidnapped in order to force her to give up her specialized codes for evil gains. Mari would do anything to save her mother, and, lucky for her, retrieving her mother’s work just so happens to be the Banana Girls mission, too. Normally, I am all for a spy thriller with a predominately female cast of characters, but something always felt just a tad off to me throughout the story.
Hazel in “The Final Rider” is a kind of protagonist I haven’t encountered before, but hope we get to have more of in the future. Forced to leave her little village, Hazel toils away in a mine, not wanting to be noticed by anyone, when she uncovers a dragon egg. When it hatches for her, she becomes the first, and last, dragon rider since dragons and the majority of magic left their world centuries ago. In a land with tense alliances and creepy, mysterious witches, Hazel is thrust out of her simple life into one of violence and adventure—both of which she doesn’t want anything to do with being so introverted, and easily overwhelmed with people and the luxury suddenly a part of her daily life. Hazel is not the confident YA fantasy heroine that has become so common today, which makes her incredibly relatable and likeable, even if at times I wanted to shake her.
This book fell victim to the hype for me—both positive and negative. I was honestly expecting amazing things from this book because it has, I thought, so many of the things I adore: dragons and riders where the dragons choose who they want based on merit, and a heroine that no one expects to survive. I love everything about that. But the hype train on this sold me on the idea that this was THE book I had been waiting for all year and, while it had a strong start and an exceptionally strong finish, I soon found the middle to be lackluster, to feel like it was slogging through a checklist of tropes that are better suited in YA novels, where this book definitely does NOT belong (not a dig at YA either, just saying).
“The Witch Finder” is a dystopian post-apocalyptic story where the America we once knew, and the world as a whole, has been practically destroyed when fragments of the moon crashed to earth, triggering a nuclear war. In the aftermath, the survivors went back to tribe-like societies, forgetting their history in order to survive. By the time the book starts, we are close to a thousand years after the apocalypse and are in the south of America where magic is real, and The Church has become God instead of the other way around. That’s where Malachi and his crew come in. They hunt down not only magic users (witches, that all tend to be women) but also heretics and people who go against The Church in a “free thinker” sort of vein. Malachi is not likeable to start, he’s not meant to be, as the whole story focuses on his transformation from staunch believer in The Church to a free thinker himself. I just don’t think his transformation was as complete as I would have liked.
I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. Lately I’ve been so enmeshed in modern crimes that it was interesting to step back in time and read about a grisly Victorian era murder that sparked the craze of the “detective” and the amateur sleuth—something that continues today and is far more embraced than it was in the 1860’s. The author takes a deep dive into this well to-do family that wakes up one morning to find that someone within the household has murdered a three-year-old little boy. Perhaps the deep-dive was a bit too deep into tangential topics at times, but I really enjoyed seeing how the murder of little Saville sparked a fascination that is still raging today.
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!