Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween


Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful day with no tricks and lots of treats!

We did our Halloween celebrating over the weekend and had a family day of fun carving pumpkins, making cupcakes and watching movies. It was my youngest nephew Aidan's first Halloween so I couldn't resist dressing him up like a pumpkin & doesn't he just look adorable! Then I taught my brother, sister-in-law and oldest nephew how to carve pumpkins as they've never done it before.

Me, Subasana, James & Swopan

Swopan was so proud of himself & I think he did a fantastic job 
(must be because I'm a brilliant teacher hahaha)

My Dad didn't carve a pumpkin as he 
was too busy entertaining this little one!

Five little pumpkins sitting in a row

Brothers


We had such a brilliant day and have decided it definitely needs to be a new annual family tradition. Next year I think we all need to dress up in costume though LOL.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Review: Her Halloween Treat - Tiffany Reisz

Trick or wicked treat!

It was a devastating dirty trick - Joey Silvia just found out her boyfriend of two years is married. What. A. Dick. Joey knows her best chance to get over one guy is to get under another. Of course, heading home to her family's remote cabin in Oregon poses some challenges in the "available men" department...until she discovers this cabin comes with its own hot handyman!

Holy crap, Chris Steffensen. When did her brother's best friend turn into a hard-bodied pile of blond-bearded hotness? He's the perfect Halloween treat - and a surprisingly dirty rebound guy. For a couple of weeks, anyway. Except that Chris has other ideas...like proving to Joey that this blast from the past is a whole lot more than a naughty Halloween hookup.

Men at Work Series:
Her Halloween Treat
Her Naughty Holiday
Ian's Dream Girl (Free online short story on the Harlequin website)
One Hot December

Visit Tiffany Reisz's website for more information.

Review:
As a huge fan of Tiffany Reisz's Original Sinners series of course I wanted to read this new trilogy the minute I heard about it. I always know I'm in for a hot read with Tiffany's books but Her Halloween Treat was much lighter and more funny than her other series, it's still hot as hell but it's also full of humorous banter and an adorable romance. It's not often I give full 5 star ratings to contemporary romance stories, it takes something a bit special to get the top rating, but this story totally deserves it - it hit the spot perfectly and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

Joey decided to surprise her long-distance boyfriend when she was travelling home from Hawaii to Oregon for her brother's wedding so she stopped off in LA for a flying visit. Only to find him at home in the loving arms of his wife, yes that's right, her boyfriend of two years was already married, he just never bothered to mention the fact. Understandably heartbroken she heads to her family cabin early planning to lick her wounds alone before the wedding ceremony. What she wasn't expecting was to bump into her brother's best friend Chris when she got there. The nerdy boy she used to know has grown up into a total hottie and like her best friend is always saying "the best way to get over a man is to get under a new one" so she decides Chris is the perfect guy to have a holiday fling with before she's forced to go back to reality and working with her cheating ex.

I absolutely adored this couple, they have brilliant chemistry but they also have a strong friendship and a lot of history together. The banter between them was hilarious right from the get go and I could happily have read a book with double the number of pages just to spend more time with them. Chris always had a thing for Joey and now that she's finally noticed him he's going to do everything in his power to show her how good they'd be together on a permanent basis. I completely fell for the main couple but I also loved the side characters, Joey's best friend Kira was hilarious (please tell me she's going to get a book!) and I really loved her brother and his husband too.

Tiffany Reisz has another hit on her hand with this series and I can't wait to read the next two books!

Source: Received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Review: Front Lines - Michael Grant

Just when you thought Michael Grant’s GONE series had taken us to the darkest limits of his imagination, the evil genius of young adult fiction is back to take you to the Front Lines of terror. In the tradition of The Book Thief, Code Name Verity and Between Shades of Gray, Front Lines gives the experience of WWII a new immediacy while playing with the ‘what ifs?’ of history.

It’s WWII, but not as you remember it from history lessons! This time the girls aren’t stitching socks for the brave boys at the front. Meet 17-year-old Rio Richlin and her friends Frangie Marr and Rainy Schulterman, three of the newest recruits in the US Armed Forces. They stand shoulder to shoulder with the boys from home as they take on Hitler’s army.

In the face of reluctant colonels and sceptical sergeants, the teenage soldier girls must prove their guts, strength, and resourcefulness as soldiers. Rio has grown up in a world where men don’t cry and girls are supposed to care only about ‘money and looks’. But she has always known that there is something wrong with this system and something else in her. Far from home and in the battlefields, Rio discovers exactly who she is and what she can accomplish

The first in an exciting new young adult trilogy. Front Lines is the saga of a modern teenage heroine in an alternate past that could only have come from the man who gave us GONE, BZRK and Messenger of Fear.

Soldier Girls Series:
Front Lines
Dead of Night (World Book Day Novella)
Silver Stars

Visit Michael Grant's website for more information

Review:
I have to admit that Front Lines isn't the type of book I usually pick up but I was intrigued by the premise when Egmont sent me a copy for review so I decided to give it a try. This is my first book by Michael Grant (although I've heard amazing things about his Gone series) but it definitely won't be my last because he's an incredibly skilled writer. I think it's a difficult thing to rewrite history in a way that's believable, you're walking a fine line between creating something amazing and incredibly thought provoking or coming across as insensitive, especially when you're writing about something like WWII and the millions of people who died during the conflict. Luckily Michael Grant has come down on the correct side of that line and Front Lines is just an incredible read on every level.

It's obvious that the author done a huge amount of research into WWII and a lot of the battles and scenarios included in this book are based on real events. He's just made one major change, one that meant women were not only allowed to voluntarily enlist in the army but were actually subject to the draft just like men were. It doesn't sound so shocking now but we're talking of a time when the army was segregated so that white and black soldiers didn't even serve in the same platoon so adding girls to the mix just makes things even more complicated. Michael Grant doesn't shy away from the racism and anti-semitism that was much more prevalent at that time and the female soldiers are also subjected to prejudice because of their gender. It's not always comfortable to read about the attitudes of some of the white male soldiers but it is completely believable and realistic to how things would have been in that era.

Front Lines follows the journey of three female American soldiers who all signed up for very different reasons and whose army careers take them in very different directions. First we have Rio Richlin who almost enlists by accident thanks to her friend Jenou, Rio has already lost her sister in the war and she wants the chance to make a difference herself but she's not quite prepared for the shock of becoming an infantry soldier. Frangie Marr has always dreamed of becoming a vet but money is tight and her family need the paycheck that she can get by enlisting so she puts her future on hold to sign up, her path sees her training as a medic but that doesn't mean she's safely away from danger, in fact she's right there on the front lines patching up the wounded soldiers as fast as possible. Rainy Schulterman knows something horrible is happening in Europe, the complete lack of contact the Jewish community is getting from family and friends abroad is enough to convince her that she needs to play a part in this war and of the three she's the most determined to get over there and start kicking some Nazi butt.

I don't want to talk much more about these three girls individual stories, instead I'd like to focus on the friendships they make along the way and the loves they find and lose while going through their training. We get the chance to meet some wonderful side characters from all walks of life, there are moments of sheer terror but there is also humour and companionship, it's the bond they all form with the other members of their squads is what will help them push through the fear they feel. None of the girls expected to be sent to the front lines but times are desperate and the army needs every able body it can get if they want to have any chance of winning. We're talking young girls and boys who are barely old enough to get married and yet they're now half a world away from home and fighting for their survival. I know girls weren't really on the front lines but the point is they could have been and hundreds of thousands of boys were in this exact situation. It's a sobering thought when you look at things through their eyes and see just how terrified they must have been.

This is the kind of book that I think should be included in school curriculums, it puts such a personal spin on the horror of WWII and the inclusion of female soldiers just makes it even more accessible for everyone to read. Front Lines is an outstanding novel and I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the trilogy.

If you're still not sure whether you want to read this book check out the trailer below, I'm pretty sure it'll convince you to give it a try:



Source: Received from Egmont in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Friday, 28 October 2016

Review: Revenger - Alastair Reynolds

A superb science fiction adventure set in the rubble of a ruined universe, this is a deep space heist story of kidnap, betrayal, alien artifacts and revenge.

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilizations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives.

And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them.

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It's their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded by layers of protection--and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore's crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

Revenger is a science fiction adventure story set in the rubble of our solar system in the dark, distant future--a tale of space pirates, buried treasure, and phantom weapons, of unspeakable hazards and single-minded heroism and of vengeance...

Visit Alastair Reynolds' website for more information

Review:
I've heard great things about Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series but for some reason I've never got around to trying it so when I was offered a copy of his new YA novel Revenger for review I jumped at the chance. This was actually a great introduction to his writing and it's definitely left me planning to read more of his books in the future, I'm actually hoping for a sequel to this one but I'll have to check out some of his other books while I wait.

Adrana and Fura have led fairly sheltered lives but their father's lack of business sense has left them struggling financially and the girls feel responsible for turning the family's fortune around. Adrana is the more adventurous of the two and she manages to almost trick her sister into joining Rackamore's crew of space pirates, promising Fura that they'll be able to earn enough money in six months to pay off their father's debts and to give them a secure future. Fura is reluctant at first but once she gets away from her father's influence she quickly starts to enjoy her adventure, until it all goes horribly wrong and she's left wishing she'd never left home at all. Fura now has a difficult decision to make, head home with her tail between her legs and beg her father for forgiveness or set out on her own terms to rescue the people she cares about and to get revenge for everything that they have suffered.

Alastair Reynolds has created a really interesting world here and I was fascinated by the idea of the baubles that are scattered throughout the universe hiding secret worlds that can only be accessed at certain times and contain all kinds of long forgotten treasures. It takes specialised skills to be able to get inside one of the baubles and if a team is lucky they can find riches beyond measure in a single trip. Of course the dangers are high and even if they're successful in their retrieval mission they may find themselves up against fellow pirates who have been targeting the same bauble. I think my only slight disappointment with the story was that I wanted a little more information about how these baubles were created and who left them behind, there are hints that they're leftover relics from alien civilisations but I'd have liked to have seen that expanded upon a bit more.

Revenger is a fast paced pirates-in-space adventure mixed in with a story of growing up and finding your place in the world. It's about being brave enough to do the right thing and standing up for what you believe in and it's about friendships and the family you can create for yourself. Although the story has a proper ending it definitely leaves things open for a sequel and I'm really hoping that we'll get the chance to spend more time with Fura and her crew of pirates.

I alternated between reading this myself and listening to the audiobook so I thought I'd mention that the narrator Clare Corbett did a great job telling the story. I did find that the volume wasn't always consistent which meant I'd have to turn it up high one minute only to be deafened the next but apart from that I enjoyed her performance.

Source: Received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Hardback / Kindle:

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Review: Winter's Heart - Robert Jordan

Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, is slowly succumbing to the taint that the Dark One has placed upon the saidin - the male half of the True Source. His Asha'man followers are also showing signs of the insanity that once devastated the world and brought the Age of Legends to an end.

And as Rand falters, the Shadow falls across a stricken land. In the city of Ebou Dar the Seanchan, blind to the folly of their cause, marshal their forces and continue their relentless assault. In Shayol Ghul the Forsaken join together to destroy the Dragon.

Rand's only chance is to hazard the impossible and remove the taint from the saidin. But to do so he must master a power from the Age of Legends that none have ever dared to risk - a power that can annihilate Creation and bring an end to Time itself.

Wheel of Time Series:
New Spring (Prequel Story but it's recommended to read after Crossroads of Twilight)
The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven
Lord of Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Winter's Heart
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams
The Gathering Storm
Towers of Midnight
A Memory of Light

Visit the Wheel of Time series website for more information

Review:
I'm really starting to run out of things to say about the Wheel of Time series. To be honest there are so many things about these books that irritate me that it's a miracle I'm still reading them but here I am nine books in and not only still reading but also thoroughly enjoying myself in spite of the issues I have. I think I've just invested so much time and effort into reading this massive series that I'm determined to stick it out to the bitter end and I just have to know how things turn out for all of the characters.

A big highlight of this book for me was Mat's reappearance, especially since Tylin wasn't around much (if you've read my previous reviews you'll already know exactly how much I HATE her!). I'm very curious to see where his storyline is going, especially now he's found his Daughter of the Nine Moons and she definitely wasn't who I was expecting! I love Perrin but I'm a little fed up with his complete inability to see what is going on around him, I know he was just a lowly blacksmith but surely he can't be stupid enough to not see through Berelain's actions? She's almost as high up on my characters I hate list as Tylin at this point and I'm sick to death of reading about manipulative women in this series. I'm not even going to get started on the Aes Sedai and now the Sea Folk, it seems to me that women who access the power all turn into crazed megalomaniacs who would swear the sky is green and the grass is blue just to get one up on each other. The power makes men insane but the women aren't much better really, they just think they are. At least we're starting to see glimpses of the old Nynaeve though, I've really missed her so it's about time she found her brain again.

I'm also glad Rand and his little harem have finally started to sort things out, mainly because I'm hoping that means the characters will stop moping around now and we can actually move on with the storyline. I have to admit that their weird four person relationship is one of the most awkward things I've ever had to read about, it makes absolutely no sense to me that all the women are the instigators and I just find the interactions between them all really uncomfortable to read about so I'm glad they're now off in different directions again and hope they stay parted for many more books to come.

There isn't a lot of action in this book, it's like the beginning of a game of chess where a lot of time is being spent getting all of the characters into the right positions so that they can hopefully all go into battle at the same time later on. I'm at the point where I'm struggling to keep all the side characters straight in my head and half the time I'm having to backtrack to try and figure out which side this current group of Aes Sedai are on and whether I'm supposed to trust them or not. There are just too many characters with similar names that only have minor roles and just crop up for a few pages here and there for me to remember them all but for some reason it just doesn't matter. Picking up one of these books is like meeting up with old friends and they always leave me wanting more so I'm off to dive into the next one.

Source: Purchased

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Paperback / Kindle:

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling & Jim Kay

Prepare to be spellbound by Jim Kay's dazzling full-colour illustrations in this stunning new edition of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Breathtaking scenes, dark themes and unforgettable characters - including Dobby and Gilderoy Lockhart - await inside this fully illustrated edition. With paint, pencil and pixels, award-winning illustrator Jim Kay conjures the wizarding world as we have never seen it before. Fizzing with magic and brimming with humour, this inspired reimagining will captivate fans and new readers alike, as Harry and his friends, now in their second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, seek out a legendary chamber and the deadly secret that lies at its heart.

Harry Potter Series:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Illustrated Edition (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (with John Tiffany & Jack Thorne)

Pottermore Presents:
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Short Story Collection)
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Short Story Collection)
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Short Story Collection)

Harry Potter Products:
Harry Potter: Winter at Hogwarts: A Magical Colouring Set (Colouring Book, Gift Tags & a build your own 3D Firebolt in a Keepsake Box)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: House-Elves (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: Buckbeak (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: Quidditch (Deluxe Book and Model Set)

Visit J.K. Rowling's website or the Pottermore website for more information

Review:
I absolutely adore these illustrated editions of the Harry Potter series, the first one was stunning and the Chamber of Secrets is just as beautiful so I can't wait to have the entire series on sitting on my shelves! I'm not going to talk about the story in this review (I've already done that HERE) so instead I'll focus on the quality of the book and the artwork.

Just like the Philosopher's Stone illustrated edition this is a beautiful book in every way possible, I'm sure everyone who is looking at this already owns the previous one and has a good idea what to expect but just in case you're considering buying both illustrated versions I'll give you the highlights. These books are large hardbacks with good quality glossy pages full of wonderful illustrations to go along with the familiar text of the story. I love the way the illustrations vary from tiny little images through to whole double page spreads because you just never know what you'll find when you turn over the page. These books are an experience and they beg to be read out loud with children or to have someone sit for hours just studying the pictures.

Jim Kay has really done such a fabulous job of bringing the stories to life in a different way, it would have been so easy to base these images on the movies that we're all so familiar with but he's created his own version of the world and the characters that are similar enough to be easily recognised but still completely his own versions.

I honestly could have included hundreds of pictures with this review but I've tried to narrow it down to just a few of my favourites.








Source: Purchased

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Hardback:

Monday, 24 October 2016

Review: See No Evil - Pippa DaCosta

“Wanted dead or alive sounds like a lot more fun when it’s not my head on the block.”

Word is out, the soul eater has gone rogue and not even the might of Osiris can stop him. Or so everyone believes. That would suit Ace just fine, but after he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt, he knows it’s just a matter of time before those around him end up in the crosshairs of the gods.

After 500 years on earth, it’s time for Ace to go home. Little does he know, the underworld is hungry for revenge, and what awaits him in the Halls of Judgment could be far worse than any fate on Earth.

The thrilling Amazon bestselling series is back with a whole load of action, bad-assery, and psychotic gods.

Soul Eater Series:
Hidden Blade
Witches' Bane
Chase the Dark (Short story in the Full Metal Magic anthology)
See No Evil

Visit Pippa DaCosta's website for more information

Review:
It's absolutely no surprise but Pippa DaCosta has done it again, this series is going from strength to strength and I am totally addicted! You just know that Pippa has it in for her main characters when she sends them on a holiday to the Hamptons, there is no way Ace, Shu and Cat are just going to be allowed to party at the beach for an entire book so it's no surprise that trouble follows fast on their heels leaving a trail of death and destruction behind it. A seaside holiday turns into something else entirely when Ace and Cat find themselves transported to Duat, the land of the dead that is Ace's homeland and somewhere he was exiled from 500 years ago.

What I love about this series (and all of Pippa's books) is the way she excels at world building, we've seen Ace in New York and we've had a short visit to Duat before but this is the first time we get to properly explore it and meet some of the creatures that Ace grew up surrounded by. The rules in Duat are very different to here on earth and unless they tread carefully Cat could end up losing her soul. Throw in a group of vengeful gods who want to make Ace pay (both for crimes he did commit and ones he didn't) and they're in for a bumpy ride.

See No Evil was definitely my favourite instalment of the series so far - the setting was fabulous, the action kept me on the edge of my seat and there was so much growth in the characters. Shu is totally badass with a gooey centre that only gets exposed in the exact right conditions, there's more to Cat than we originally suspected and Ace is still a loveable rogue with a scary bad side. Don't even get me started on the crazy Egyptian gods, they're all brilliant at twisting things to their own advantage and the games they play with each other just put Ace and the others in more and more danger. The stakes are definitely getting higher and I can't wait for the next instalment to see how Ace is going to deal with the latest revelations.

Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Kindle:

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Review: 2 Incryptid Short Stories Narrated by Alice Healy & Thomas Price - Seanan McGuire

If you're a fan of Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series you may or may not be aware that she has written a large number of short stories set in the world but written about various different characters. A lot of these short stories are available for free on her website HERE but a few of them can only be found in anthologies. I thought it would be nice to have one place to write quick reviews for the short stories but since there are so many of them I'm going to split them out by the characters and these reviews may be updated in the future if the author writes additional stories.

This review includes all the free stories that have been narrated by Alice Healy and Thomas Price, stories by other narrators will be reviewed separately.

Entire Incryptid Series:
14 Jonathan Healy & Frances Brown Short Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
2 Alice Healy & Thomas Price Short Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Discount Armageddon
Midnight Blue-Light Special
4 Antimony Price Short Stories (Read some for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
3 Istas and Ryan Short Stories (Read most for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Half-Off Ragnarok
1 Sarah Zellaby and Arthur Harrington Short Story (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
5 Verity Price & Dominic De Luca Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Pocket Apocalypse
Chaos Choreography
1 Elsie Harrington Short Story (Short Story in the Shadowed Souls anthology)
Magic for Nothing

Ghost Stories Series:
(Stories are set in the Incryptid World)
Sparrow Hill Road
Train Yard Blues (Short Story in the Coins of Chaos anthology)
The Ghosts of Bourbon Street (Crossover Short Story with Verity from the Incryptid series free on Seanan McGuire's website)

Short Stories narrated by Alice Healy and Thomas Price (circa 1954-):
(Unless otherwise stated all stories are available for free on the author's website)
The Way Home

Visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information

The Way Home

Alice Healy is sixteen years old and chafing at the yoke of her father's regard. His overprotective streak has blossomed in the absence of his wife, leaving his teenage daughter sneaking out at every opportunity, trying to find herself and her place in the world without any parental support. But she knows the woods, and she knows what she wants to do with her life; it's just a question of whether she can keep herself alive long enough to actually accomplish her planned future.

Thomas Price is a man still paying for his past. He's smart enough to understand that his assignment is essentially an exile, and has enough of a sense of self-preservation not to argue. Those who vex the Covenant of St. George rarely live long enough to explain themselves. At least in Buckley Township, he'll be far away from danger...unless you're counting Alice Healy.

Worlds will collide and a new story will begin as Thomas Price arrives in his new home, and Alice Healy does her best to stay alive long enough to say hello for the first time.

Review:
Thomas Price has been sent to Buckley by the Covenant of St. George to spy on the Healy family and report back to them. What they don't realise is that he's been questioning the Covenant's way of doing things for a long time now and he'd much rather join the Healys than spy on them. Thomas knows that the Healys aren't going to welcome a member of the Covenant with open arms but he's determined to find a way to prove that he's not a threat to them.

Alice Healy is sixteen and can't wait to get out into the world and explore it but her father is incredibly overprotective which makes life difficult. She just wanted to have an adventure when she sneaked off into the woods but she soon finds herself in over her head and starts to wonder if she's made a huge mistake. Luckily she's inherited her mother's skill with weapons and she won't go down without a fight.

This is currently the only story available about Thomas and Alice but they've been mentioned in the main books in the Incryptid series (they're Verity's grandparents) so I'm really hoping that Seanan McGuire is planning more stories about them, especially given the hints we've had about something major that happened to Thomas before Verity was even born. I'd absolutely love a little series of short stories about this couple just like we got about Fran and Jonathan, this story covers their first meeting but not much beyond that so there is definitely plenty more to tell.

It was nice to see Alice as a teenager, she definitely takes after her mother and is so full of life and ready for adventure. I thought it was really sad to see how miserable Jonathan still is though, it's understandable that he's overprotective but he really does take it too far and I felt quite sorry for Alice because of the way he treats her like a baby. I think Thomas is going to make a great addition to the family but I really do want to know more about him, this is only a very short intro to his character and as part of a mini-series it'll be wonderful but I don't think it works quite so well as a standalone.

I'm totally addicted to this series now though so I'm looking forward to getting to know some of the other short story narrators while I wait in hope for more about these two.

The Lay of the Land

Thomas Price has seen the world, has studied and fought unbelievable creatures on every continent, and knows more about cryptids than almost anyone else alive. But he's never seen anyplace like Buckley Township, Michigan, and he's certainly never met anyone like Alice Healy, who is far too young for him, far too much a Healy for him, and far too wild to disregard. This is going to be an interesting assignment.

Unable to understand why her ever-tolerant father wants her to write off a newcomer as dangerous solely because of his origins, Alice Healy has set herself on a collision course with Thomas Price--a man who needs companionship, answers, and someone to guide him through the tangled ecosystems of the local wood, where the unwary go in, but don't come out.

It's the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and a new chapter in the story of the Healy family. Assuming that Alice can get Thomas through the woods alive, and Mary can convince Alice not to get Thomas murdered by her father.

Review:
I'm so excited that Seanan McGuire decided to write another story about Alice and Thomas, I'm actually hoping that she'll write a whole series of shorts about their early years together just like we got for Fran and Jonathan. Then I'm hoping we get at least one full length book about Alice's search for him and their eventual reunion. Come on she's GOT to find him eventually right?

Anyway, this story is set not long after Thomas arrived in Buckley. Jonathan is still convinced that he's there to do them harm on behalf of the Covenant but Alice and Enid aren't so sure and Alice is far too curious to stay away no matter how many warnings Jonathan gives her. Besides, if she doesn't introduce  Thomas to the local Cryptids then he'll probably end up accidentally getting himself eaten by one of them.

I think it's really sad to see how much Jonathan has changed since he lost Fran, it's understandable that he feels extra protective but he is totally stifling Alice so it's no wonder she's rebelling against him. I just wish Jonathan and Fran's story had turned out differently but I do think his reaction to things is fairly realistic. Hopefully he'll lighten up a bit when he starts to get to know Thomas a bit but I don't think it'll be easy to win him around. As far as Alice and Thomas go I like seeing the two of them together, she's only sixteen (he's twenty-six) so there is nothing in the way of romance between them yet but I'm hoping we'll get the chance to see them develop feelings for each other.

Reviews: 14 Incryptid Short Stories Narrated by Jonathan Healy & Frances Brown - Seanan McGuire

If you're a fan of Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series you may or may not be aware that she has written a large number of short stories set in the world but written about various different characters. A lot of these short stories are available for free on her website HERE but a few of them can only be found in anthologies. I thought it would be nice to have one place to write quick reviews for the short stories but since there are so many of them I'm going to split them out by the characters and these reviews may be updated in the future if the author writes additional stories.

This review includes all the short stories that have been written about Antimony Price, stories by other narrators will be reviewed separately.

Entire Incryptid Series:
14 Jonathan Healy & Frances Brown Short Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
2 Alice Healy & Thomas Price Short Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Discount Armageddon
Midnight Blue-Light Special
4 Antimony Price Short Stories (Read some for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
3 Istas and Ryan Short Stories (Read most for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Half-Off Ragnarok
1 Sarah Zellaby and Arthur Harrington Short Story (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
5 Verity Price & Dominic De Luca Stories (Read for free on Seanan McGuire's website)
Pocket Apocalypse
Chaos Choreography
1 Elsie Harrington Short Story (Short Story in the Shadowed Souls anthology)
Magic for Nothing

Ghost Stories Series:
(Stories are set in the Incryptid World)
Sparrow Hill Road
Train Yard Blues (Short Story in the Coins of Chaos anthology)
The Ghosts of Bourbon Street (Crossover Short Story with Verity from the Incryptid series free on Seanan McGuire's website)

Short Stories about Jonathan Healy and Frances Brown (circa 1928-1945):
(Unless otherwise stated all stories are available for free on the author's website)
The Flower of Arizona (found in the Westward Weird anthology)
One Hell of a Ride
No Place Like Home
Stingers and Strangers (found in the Dead Man's Hand anthology)
Married in Green
Sweet Poison Wine
The First Fall
Loch and Key
We Both Go Down Together
Oh Pretty Bird
Bury Me In Satin
Snakes and Ladders
Broken Paper Hearts
The Star of New Mexico

Visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information

The Flower of Arizona

Something is killing people in Arizona...and whatever it is, it's not anything currently known to science. Left unchecked, this new predator could call down a Covenant strike team on the state, endangering the lives of uncounted innocent cryptids. Faced with this immediate threat to the cryptid community, the Healy family has no choice but to send a representative to check it out. And as the youngest Healy, Jonathan inevitably draws the short straw.

Naturally, things can't be as easy as "take the train to Arizona, find out what's killing people, make it stop, go home." There's the desert heat to contend with, along with over-friendly locals, a traveling circus that seems to follow the predator's path, and a golden-haired trick rider who may or may not know more than she's letting on. It's enough to drive a gentleman cryptozoologist to distraction—and that's before the mice get involved.

That's really not addressing the fact that anything with a taste for human flesh is likely to regard Jonathan himself as potential prey, and he is, after all, so very, very far from home...

"The Flower of Arizona" was originally published in the DAW anthology Westward Weird, released in February of 2012.

Review:
Although The Flower of Arizona is the first story about Jonathan and Frances it's actually the third one I've read since I downloaded a couple of the freebies from Seanan McGuire's website before deciding to purchase the Westward Weird anthology. This is the story where it all begins though and I'm really glad I decided to go back and read it.

Fran is a stunt rider and the main attraction at a circus in Arizona, she has spent her whole life performing and it's something that comes very naturally to her. Jonathan has travelled all the way from Michigan to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths that have started occurring everywhere the circus visits. He knows someone from the circus is involved and Fran is his main suspect. It quickly becomes clear that Fran isn't involved in the murders but when she realises what is going on she jumps headlong into danger to help Jonathan investigate and her life is turned completely upside down.

I really enjoyed this short, it was great to see how this couple first met and the Aeslin mice that are travelling with Jonathan never fail to make me smile. I'm looking forward to reading more of the short stories featuring these two!

One Hell of a Ride

After a rather...eventful...visit to Tempe, Arizona, Jonathan Healy wants nothing more than to return to his home in Buckley Township, Michigan, where at least the threats are generally familiar ones. With the last of the blood mopped up and the locals none the wiser, it seems he's just a train ride away from getting his wish.

Of course, there are a few small complications. Like the lovely and occasionally violent Miss Frances Brown, former star of the Campbell Family Circus, who seems to have become his new traveling companion. Or the Aeslin mice, who complicate travel at the best of times. And then there's the matter of the train having driven through a dimensional gateway into Hell...

Maybe Jonathan shouldn't be quite so worried about when he'll be making it back to Michigan. Maybe his time would be better spent in worrying about how to get off the train while he, Fran, and the mice are all still among the living.

Review:
I did feel like I was missing something with this story because I've not read the first short story with these characters (The Flower of Arizona can be found in the Westward Weird anthology) and it's a shame because I'd have loved to see how Jonathan and Frances first met. However this is still a fab short story and once I got into it I enjoyed every minute. This has a very American Wild West feel to it until the train they are travelling on accidentally slips through a dimensional gateway and ends up in Hell.

I don't want to say too much more about what happens so let me just tell you this is a fast paced, action packed short story and both Jonathan and Frances find themselves fighting for their lives. I can't wait to read more about these two!

No Place Like Home

Road trips are wonderful things, filled with adventure, excitement, and questionable lodgings, but there comes a time in every man's life where all he wants is the chance to sleep in his own bed, eat at his own table, and reunite his colony of talking pantheistic mice with their fellows, thus making sleep a little bit more likely. With Buckley Township in his sights, Jonathan Healy is finally going home.

The trouble is, home for him isn't home for Fran, who grew up in the desert, never lived under a fixed roof for more than a week at a time, and has no idea what to expect. To make matters worse, Jonathan's parents—Enid and Alexander Healy, late of the Covenant of St. George—are right on hand to make things more awkward for everyone.

With her future on the line, it's time for Frances Brown to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. Does she stay in Buckley Township and try to make a life with the Healys? Or does she saddle up her horse and ride back into the sunset?

Review:
After months of travelling Jonathan and Fran have finally reached their destination, something Jonathan is thrilled about but has Fran feeling less than certain. After battling all kinds of monsters throughout their journey meeting the potential future in laws should be a walk in the park but Fran is nervous and completely out of her comfort zone. Jonathan's parents aren't at all what she was expecting and she's beginning to wonder if this was such a brilliant idea after all.

I don't think this story works particularly well as a standalone because in a lot of ways very little actually happens but for people who have been following this couple's journey it was really good to see them get a moment's peace for a change. The Aeslin Mice are on hand to help Fran feel at home and I love the way they refer to her as the Priestess of Unexpected Violence. I'm really starting to feel invested in Fran and Jonathan's characters and I'm looking forward to reading more of their story.

Stingers and Strangers

Johnny and Fran are on assignment again, this time heading for Colorado to investigate reports of an unusually large Apraxis hive. Apraxis wasps are large, deadly, and worst of all, capable of consuming the memories of the people they kill, which makes them the sort of thing that no one really wants living nearby.

Upon arriving in Colorado, our intrepid pair naturally discover that things aren't as simple as they appear—and they didn't appear to be that simple to begin with. Johnny and Fran will have to contend with dragon princesses, suspicious locals, and threats that neither of them have ever dreamed could exist if they want to make it out of this one alive.

Survival has never been so difficult, or so important, because if they don't make it home, how can they warn the others?

"Stingers and Strangers" was originally published in the Titan Books anthology Dead Man's Hand, released in May of 2014.

Review:
Stingers and Strangers is Seanan McGuire's contribution to the Dead Man's Hand anthology. Fran and Jonathan have now been working together for 3 years (& I have to admit that the jump in the timeline was a little jarring since the previous three stories have followed on one immediately after the other) and their latest case has them travelling to Colorado to investigate the strange behaviour of the local Apraxis Hives.

Considering Apraxis wasps are the size of a man's shoe and as intelligent as the humans they feed on (in fact, they absorb the memories of the humans that they consume!) they're a pretty terrifying creature. So anything that has them running scared has got to be of nightmare proportions and that is the creature that Fran and Jonathan have been sent to deal with.

Although I enjoyed this short it seemed a little odd that the couple's relationship had changed so little in three whole years (this actually felt more like it was several months after the previous story) but I loved the progress they make here. The wasps were suitably creepy but I think the show down with the main monster fell just a little bit flat, I would have liked that section to have been just a few pages longer and more detailed. This wasn't my favourite story about this couple but it was well worth reading if you're a fan of the previous ones and I'm looking forward to spending more time with them both.

Married in Green

After a rocky start and a lot of dangerous adventures, the day everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: Jonathan Healy and Frances Brown are going to be married, and none too soon, since their first child is set to arrive at any moment. Alexander and Enid couldn't be happier about their son gaining a wife and a child, while giving them a daughter-in-law. The mice have been celebrating for weeks. If only Jonathan and Fran were so sure...

Marriage is a big step, and Fran is terrified of what her future will bring. Is this her happily ever after, or just one more short-term home in a long string of the same? Help comes in the form of her old circus friends...but that just raises more questions. Will she ever be happy holding still? And what does it mean to be married in green?

You are cordially invited to join the Healys and the members of the Campbell Family Carnival on the joyous event of the marriage of Jonathan Healy and Frances Brown. Assuming they go through with it.

Everything changes today.

Review:
It's been about 4 years since Jonathan and Fran met and he's finally going to make an honest woman of her - not a moment too soon considering she's about 8 months pregnant! It's taken him a long time to convince Fran she's ready to settle down and even now she's still feeling a little nervous about the idea but Jonathan has arranged a perfect surprise for her, one that will help her decide once and for all what it is that she really wants.

There are no monsters to fight in this short but it's was a really sweet read, these two are great together and it was great to see that their relationship is finally moving forward. The Aeslin mice are on top form as always and they're well and truly ready to celebrate. Another fun little freebie from Seanan McGuire.

Sweet Poison Wine

Jonathan and Frances Healy are beginning their new lives together with that most traditional of celebrations: the honeymoon. Leaving their infant son with Jonathan's parents, the Healys are leaving Buckley Township, Michigan for the cosmopolitan wonders of the city of Chicago, where they can properly celebrate the fact that they managed to have a wedding without anybody winding up dead.

Of course, these are the Healys we're talking about, and nothing in Chicago is exactly fitting the description provided by the Bureau of Tourism. From the gorgon-run hotel where they'll be staying to the swamp hags in the Chicago River, things are definitely business as usual, at least by the family definition of "usual."

Bootlegger Arturo Gucciard has only just been introduced to the Healy definition of "usual," but he's going to need to get awfully familiar with it if he wants to live long enough to have a honeymoon of his own. And Jonathan, well. Jonathan just wants to have a normal honeymoon.

Good luck with that.

Review:
It's been two months since Jonathan and Fran got married but thanks to the arrival of their son Daniel the couple never got a chance to take their honeymoon. Reluctant as they are to leave their son so soon they know he'll be safe with his grandparents they're also ready for a break so they set off to Chicago to spend some quality time together.

They actually managed to sneak off without any of the Aeslin mice so they're guaranteed privacy for the first time in their relationship but they have a knack for finding trouble anyway so it's not long before they're roped in to investigate the theft of a case of rather dangerous wine for the local gorgons.

I'm really enjoying these Fran and Jonathan short stories, it's nice to get some background into the Incryptid world and I love the huge variety of creatures that can be found. You can never be sure what Seanan McGuire will throw at you next and I'm looking forward to lots more adventures with this couple.

The First Fall

It has been three years since the marriage of Jonathan and Frances Healy; three years since the birth of their son, Daniel, who has been the light of their lives for that entire time. And now, due to circumstances beyond their control, the family has come together to do the one thing that none of them has ever wanted to do.

They have come together to bury Daniel.

Shattered by the death of their little boy, Jonathan and Frances set out to find the Campbell Family Carnival, where Fran's old friend Juniper's talent for talking to ghosts may allow her to believe that her child is truly at rest. Jonathan has no such hopes; he just wants to there's a chance his wife will survive the labyrinth of her grief.

This is not a happy story, and it does not chronicle a happy time in the annals of the Price family. But this is what happened, and when it happened, and it shaped so very much of what came after.

Rest well, Daniel Healy. You never had a chance.

Review:
** Please note that this review does contain a spoiler but since it's something that's mentioned in the blurb I feel like it's okay to talk about it. I'm actually glad I knew what was going to happen before I started reading though as it meant I was emotionally prepared for what happened, this isn't the easiest story to read and it will definitely be a trigger warning for some people. Having said that if you didn't read the blurb yet and you would prefer to go into this story completely blind then please don't read the rest of this review **

The First Fall has a very different tone to the previous short stories about these characters so rather than being full of humour and monster hunting adventures this is a sadder, darker story as Fran and Jonathan deal with the grief of losing their son Daniel. I have to admit I was shocked when I read the blurb and found out that Daniel had died, nobody ever wants to think about the death of a child and I'm glad I had the warning in advance because I needed to prepare myself before I started reading.

We never really spent any time with Daniel as a character so even though he was three years old when he died I didn't feel emotionally connected to him. I am extremely attached to his parents though and watching them fall apart in their grief was hard. This isn't the easiest story to read but it really does go to show what a brilliant job Seanan McGuire has done of making us connect to these characters in the space of a bunch of short stories. Her writing in this story was particularly powerful and I was moved to tears on more than one occasion.

Even the normally hilarious Aeslin mice didn't manage to lighten the tone here as they tried to deal with their own grief over the loss of a member of the Healy family. If this quote doesn't break your heart, even just a little, then there must be something wrong with you:

“The God of Early Arrivals and Earlier Departures was beloved to us. He will be forever part of the pantheon that watches over the colony from the place beyond the attic, where the cheese and cake are bountiful, and where we will all one day go.” The mouse spoke with absolute and utter conviction. There was a Heaven; Daniel was there; one day all the mice would go to join him.

This may not be an easy read but it's definitely a powerful one and I'm eager to continue reading about this couple to see how they cope with the aftermath of this life changing event.

Loch and Key

Daniel Healy has been dead for two years, and his parents are still in the process of healing both themselves and their relationship. When Alexander Healy suggests that it's finally time for his daughter-in-law to accompany them on their periodic fishing trip to White Otter Lake, it seems like the perfect opportunity for the four surviving members of the family to become reacquainted with one another. Fran is dubious at first, not really understanding what a fishing trip could do for them as a family.

That was before she knew about the monsters in White Otter Lake, of course. The monsters change everything.

Before long, the entire Healy clan is embroiled in a fight for the lives of the creatures that live in White Otter Lake, which may be the last of their kind in the world. If they want to save these majestic plesiosaurs, the family will need to find a way to come together in order to solve the mystery of what the guardian of White Otter Lake has disappeared to.

It's bullets versus brains as the Healys finally step up to do their jobs, and preserve the crytozoological world. No matter what it takes.

Review:
It's been two years since tragedy robbed Fran and Jonathan of their young son Daniel and the grief is still gripping them hard. Jonathan's parents are desperate to see the couple start to heal and hope that spending time as a family on their annual fishing trip will help them reconnect and feel ready to move forward with their lives.

The lake where they fish is home to a family of plesiosaurs and this is Jonathan's first chance to introduce Fran to the these beautiful water creatures (I think they might be distant relatives of the Loch Ness Monster!). Something strange is happening at White Otter Lake though, the creatures are usually protected by the Wilson family who own the land around the lake but Mr Wilson appears to be missing and the people claiming to be his niece and nephew-in-law are acting rather strangely. It's up to the Healy family to figure out what is going on and to protect the plesiosaurs from danger.

This story was much lighter in tone than the last one, the family are still deeply affected by the loss of Daniel but they are starting to work through their emotions and Fran and Jonathan are working out how to be a couple again. They are completely crazy about each other but there's a massive hole in their lives and it's hard to get past that and move forward. The change of scenery helps though and I loved seeing Fran and Jonathan reconnect with each other. Jonathan's parents, Alexander and Enid, offer a lot of support and encouragement to the couple and I just love the dynamics between the whole family. The story has more of the humour I expect from this series and it has plenty of action as the group work together to take down some monster hunters.

We Both Go Down Together

With their second child due to arrive any day, it would be reasonable for Jonathan and Frances Healy to stay safe at home. Unfortunately, the world has other ideas. A postcard from the mysterious coastal town of Gentling, Maine has Jonathan packing his bags and preparing for an adventure—and when did Fran ever pass up an adventure?

But the people of Gentling aren't just ordinary fishermen and sailors: they're the descendants of finfolk who fell in love with the humans who pulled them from the sea, and they have long since settled into a gentle rhythm of a life lived between the wet and the dry. Only now, someone or something is stealing their babies from the shore, endangering the next generation.

Old obligations and new obligations will collide, and the newest member of the Healy family will join the fight...or will she? Because it's not just the babies of the finfolk who are in danger, and unless they're careful, Johnny and Fran might find themselves losing their daughter...

Review:
Fran may be eight months pregnant with their second child but that doesn't mean she's going to let Jonathan go off on an adventure without her so when they get a request for help from a group of finfolk the couple leap into action (well, with as much energy as a pregnant lady can muster anyway!). When they arrive in Gentling they discover that someone has been stealing the finfolk babies, an issue that hits particularly close to home for Fran and Jonathan, especially when she goes into labour early and their newborn daughter Alice becomes another of the stolen children.

Seanan McGuire is always introducing us to new creatures and here we get to meet the finfolk who seem to be a hybrid somewhere between mermaids and selkies, they are born human but as they age they eventually get called back to the sea and lose their humanity to become water creatures once more. It's a tough life for them because they don't get to choose how long they stay on dry land and they have no option but to leave any human members of their family behind when they return to the water but they are a gentle folk who just want to be able to live in peace.

I'm having so much fun reading these short stories, both Fran and Jonathan are on fine form in this instalment and I loved seeing their reaction when they found out their daughter was missing. Fran is a fierce mama bear who will do anything to protect her cub and Jonathan is just as dangerous. They've lost one child already and there is nothing on earth that will keep them from their second one so woe betide anyone who crosses them. Add in some extra humour from our favourite Aeslin mice and this story was one of my favourites about this couple. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of mischief Alice is going to get up to now she's put in an appearance, I think she'll keep them on their toes from now onwards!

Oh Pretty Bird

It's been years since the death of their first child, Daniel, but Jonathan and Frances Healy have never been able to catch the person responsible...until now. When word comes that the Apraxis hives are moving strangely, and that a familiar woman with black hair and no history has appeared, it seems like things may finally come to fruition.

And it's not like they won't have backup: Enid and Alexander Healy have not forgiven the woman who cost them their first grandchild, and they're not about to let Johnny and Fran ride out alone. They don't know much about the situation that they're walking into. They know enough to be afraid, to be on their guards, and to stay together at all times.

Can they avenge their own without paying more than they can afford? Old questions are finally answered, and old debts are paid as the Healys walk into the most dangerous situation they have faced thus far. It's for Daniel. There's no question of whether they'll go. There's only a question of whether they'll come back.

Review:
It's been a long time coming (five years in terms of the storyline but several short stories for us readers LOL) but the Healy family have FINALLY tracked down the person responsible for baby Daniel's death. This is one hunt that will need the entire family to work together if they want a chance of success so young Alice is left with a babysitter while her parents and grandparents set out for revenge.

I don't want to say too much about who they're up against or what happens but things get more and more creepy the closer they get to their target. Fran, Jonathan, Enid and Alexander are facing the most dangerous cryptid they've ever come across and they've been able to find out very little information about what type of creature it is or what kind of abilities they might have. I was actually pretty worried that not everyone would survive the battle and I'm not going to put you out of your misery on that front either so you'll just have to read the story for yourself to find out which of the Healys make it home safely.

I'm so invested in this family and they definitely deserve a little happiness after everything they've been through but we've already had a few hints that everything isn't what it seems with Alice's babysitter so I'm really hoping nothing horrible has happened while they were away from home.

Bury Me In Satin

Things are starting to hit an easy sort of groove at the Healy house. Alice is growing up, a little spitfire of a girl who adores her father and idolizes her mother. Johnny and Fran have mostly put their ghosts behind them, and are focusing on the future, which has never seemed brighter, or more guaranteed.

Sadly, for some people, the future has already ended.

Mary Dunlavy has been Alice's babysitter almost since the girl was born. When her father stops showing up for work, it falls to Fran to go by the Dunlavy house and see what's going on. What she finds changes everything.

There is no right and there is no wrong in some situations: there's only the way things should have been, and the way things are.

Not everyone gets out alive.

Review:
We saw hints in the last short story that all was not as it seemed with the Healy's regular babysitter Mary and Bury Me in Satin gives us a chance to find out what is wrong with her. When Alexander hears that Mary's father hasn't been to work in a week he asks Fran to go over to their house to check up on the family. What she finds shocks her to the core and makes her realise that she never really knew the girl who has been left in charge of her daughter on a regular basis for the last few years.

Mary's story is a sad one and I think it's a little strange that the Healys didn't pick up on her situation sooner but I guess it's the last thing you expect of the teenage neighbour. It was nice that Fran and Enid did so much to help Mary now but it would have been even nicer if they'd been able to help her much sooner, something that Fran seems to regret when she realises that they haven't been quite the good neighbours that she always thought they were.

Snakes and Ladders

There's nothing that little girls love more on Halloween than going trick or treating with their mother, a sackful of talking pantheistic mice, and their dead babysitter. All right, maybe there are a lot of things that little girls love more, but for Alice Healy, a nice out with her beloved mama and her favorite ghost is just about perfect.

Right up until someone snatches her off of a porch, that is.

For Alice, this is the most terrifying thing that has ever happened. For Fran, this is the end of the world, and something she may not survive; if she doesn't get her little girl back, she may be joining Mary in the grave. And for the snake cult that grabbed Alice, this may be the chance that they've been waiting for...

It's tricks and treats on a Buckley Halloween, and this time, there are more than just the usual masked monsters roaming the streets.

Review:
When Fran takes six year old Alice trick or treating for Halloween she's hoping for some fun mother-daughter bonding time, what she isn't expecting is for her daughter to end up being abducted. Fran is armed and dangerous though and whoever took Alice isn't going to live long enough to regret it.

Snakes and Ladders is a perfect Halloween short story and I absolutely adored getting to spend time with young Alice, she's as precocious as you'd expect a child of Fran and Jonathan's to be and very smart when she's in a tough situation. It wasn't nice reading about her abduction but I loved the way she turned things to her advantage towards the end and I definitely loved seeing Fran's mama bear tendencies come to the front again. We also get a nice appearance from their ghostly babysitter Mary. The only thing that would have made it better would have been more of the rest of the family, we've not seen much of Jonathan for the last couple of stories now and Alexander and Enid were both completely missing from this story. That's a minor complaint really though, it's just because I love them all and want to see more of them together.

Broken Paper Hearts

Valentine's Day has come to Buckley Township. For Alice, that means cupcakes and paper hearts. For Jonathan, it means sleepless nights and fear, because Fran hasn't come home.

Everything ends eventually. No matter how much you hope that it won't.

Everything ends.

Review:
What the hell is Seanan McGuire trying to do to me? Yet again she's managed to make me cry in a 14 page short story!

I should have paid more attention to the title because Broken Paper Hearts was a very big clue to what was going to happen and yes it completely broke me. Such a heart wrenching read with events I truly wish had never happened.

The Healy family will never be the same again :o(

The Star of New Mexico


Almost twenty years ago, Jonathan Healy rode a train across the country to investigate reports that something was killing people in the wake of a small family circus. Almost twenty years ago, he brought home the woman who would be his wife, the mother of his children, and his partner in the endless quest to protect the cryptids of the world. The time has come for Fabulous Fran, the Flower of Arizona, the Star of New Mexico, to take the stage for the final time, and take her final bow.

Fran touched a lot of lives in her time in Buckley, and the people who loved her are coming to say goodbye. It's not going to be easy. The things that are most important so very rarely are.

They say she never missed a shot; she was the darling of the west. But now she's gone, and the ones she's left behind must figure out what this means for them.

Review:
This story was absolutely heart wrenching, I sobbed from beginning to end and I'm tearing up again just thinking about it. I can't believe how invested I became in these characters over the space of 14 short stories, we've probably spent less time with them than we do in most characters in a single book but I just fell in love with them both and watching Jonathan try to cope with Fran's death is heartbreaking.

This story focuses on Fran's funeral and it shows just how many lives Fran and Jonathan had a positive impact upon over the years. Her death has left a gaping hole in the Healy family and they're all left trying to hold the pieces together. I was slightly disappointed that we didn't get to see them hunt for the monster that killed her but I think it was far too soon for any of them to be worried about the future, they needed to focus on saying goodbye and this was a fitting tribute for Fran.

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