Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Highfire by Eoin Colfer
Publisher/Year: Harper Perennial, 01/28/2020
Format: ARC/Paperback
Pages: 373
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs–now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his La-Z-Boy recliner. Lying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather, Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie, who struck fear in hearts far and wide, is reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binge-watching Netflix in a fishing shack. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon, yet no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone–or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He finally decides to work for a shady smuggler, but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s also a despicable human being who wants Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as Vern’s go-between (a.k.a. familiar)–fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.–in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which dragons finally become extinct–or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is effortlessly clever and a relentless tour de force of comedy and action.

What I thought

Thank you to Harper Perennial for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I can honestly say that this was the most FUN I’ve had reading a book. And if Highfire is any indication of Eoin Colfer’s brilliant wit, I’m sorely upset that I didn’t read the Artemis Fowl books growing up.

Before I go any further, let me preface this review by warning you that if you find yourself easily offended by mounds of profanity, over-the-top gore and violence, vulgar sexual innuendo, and gross bodily functions–put this book down, it isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us heathens to enjoy (and cackle at).

Bizarre and wildly entertaining and so hilarious that I was actually laughing out loud while reading in public, Highfire also managed to be a touching read in the end. Full of characters I loved to love (and one in particular I loved to hate), I was legitimately sad to reach the end. The relationship between Vern and Squib was so strangely heartwarming that I find myself unable to let go of this story just yet.

If you are looking for a story to take you on a hell of a ride, buckle up, settle in, and prepare to get weird–this book is for you. Like Trailer Park Boys, but in the Louisiana bayou, with a dragon…I could not recommend this more. It’s early to say this, but this will be one of my favorite books of 2020, guaranteed.

29 Seconds by T. M. Logan

29 Seconds by T. M. Logan
Publisher/Year: St. Martin’s Press, 2019
Format: ARC
Pages: 360
Rating: ⭐⭐


What if a 29 second phone call could change the course of your life forever?

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by a charming and manipulative man. Alan Hawthorne is a renowned scholar and television host who preys on female colleagues behind closed doors. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Sarah rescues a young child in trouble, she expects nothing in return. But her act of bravery puts a powerful and dangerous man in her debt.

A man who believes all favors must be repaid.

What I thought

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, this book was not for me. This was one of those books that ended up being just an “okay” read for me, which genuinely surprises me because it got rave reviews. It was a quick read, even though it took me a while to get through. When I did feel like picking it up, the pages flew by quickly as the chapters were really short, which I do like in a thriller. So, the pace was on point, I just struggled with connecting to the story.

I knew from the get go that the plot was going to be far-fetched, and I can suspend my disbelief as much as anyone. But once the phone call went awry, I just couldn’t anymore. The story just went off the deep end. I thought the ending was awful–I didn’t buy it, and I’m honestly still not sure what even happened. Not to mention, I never felt remotely like the villain got what he deserved.

As far as Sarah goes, I simply couldn’t stand her as a protagonist. She was so wishy washy and whiny and felt 100% like a woman written by a man. There was a scene that so bothered me that I had to rant about it to my husband. Sarah eats lunch with a friend who orders fish and chips while she has a lowly ham salad sandwich. And she has this inner dialogue where she wonders how her friend can eat like that and still maintain her figure while she nibbled her sandwich and ultimately threw the whole thing away. That makes me cringe even typing it out. Heaven forbid that a woman eat some freakin’ fish and chips and not worry about the effect on her figure! And I think why it bothered me so much was that this was a book clearly written as part of the #MeToo movement where we see a professor who habitually sexually harasses (and borderline assaults) his colleagues and who ultimately “pays” for it. So that scene felt so contradictory and even hypocritical to me.

And now I’m just rambling, so suffice it to say that this wasn’t the book for me. Please don’t take just my word for it–plenty of people enjoyed it, and I do believe that there’s a book for everyone. This one just happened to not be for me, and that’s okay.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Publisher/Year: Atria Books, 2019
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 257
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She learns not only the identity of her parents but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood. The home, even in its dilapidated state, is worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. What she doesn’t know is that others have been waiting for this day as well–and although they’ve been in hiding, they are now heading her way.

Nearly twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old safe and sound in the upstairs bedroom. In the kitchen, three dead bodies, all dressed in black, were seemingly posed next to a hastily scrawled note. The four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) delivers a powerful and propulsive story of two families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

What I thought

The Family Upstairs was my introduction to the much-beloved author, Lisa Jewell, and I must say, I definitely want to read more from her now. This was a deeply unsettling, engrossing, slow-burn of a Gothic-style mystery, and I very much enjoyed my time reading it.

I’ve seen some mixed reviews, but I think what it comes down to is whether you enjoy multiple-perspective plot lines or not. Me? I love them, and I loved how Jewell used them to keep the momentum going. There’s nothing better than following multiple storylines, wondering how they are all going to come together, and knowing that when they do, it’s going to be jaw-dropping. Especially when you realize that one of your narrators is 1000% unreliable. And for me, that moment of realization was deliciously chilling.

The other thing that worked for me with this format was that I enjoyed each perspective equally, which kept the pace moving relentlessly forward. I’m trying to stay as vague as I can, but I will say that one character in particular was so freakin’ horrifying that all of my murderino senses were going off. Two of the things that scare me the most in this world were present here–cults and sociopaths. And that last sentence? Totally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

The Family Upstairs was a delightfully entertaining, completely absorbing read–you’ll want to set aside a block of time for this one because once you pick it up, it won’t let you go.

The Book of Life (All Souls Series #3) by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life (All Souls Series #3) by Deborah Harkness
Publisher/Year: Penguin Books, 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 561
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


What did the witches once discover? Why was the secret encoded in a mysterious book called Ashmole 782 and then chased through the centuries by daemons, vampires, and the witches themselves? How can spellbound witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont fulfill their love and their mission, on contested ground and with the weight of their very different histories pulling them apart?

Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present–facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches–with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.

What I thought

Well, friends, I certainly did not expect to feel this way after finishing this trilogy. I feel legitimately sad. The misgivings I had about the first two books seem so insignificant in looking back. I actually have the feeling that I had to have missed something–I’m tempted to go back and begin again…I’m THAT distraught to be leaving these characters behind. That character development that I was craving was here all along. And I almost have a sense of disorientation upon finishing these books and returning to the “real world.” For me, that’s a sure sign that I fell in love with a book. I even found myself tearing up during one of the final scenes. And despite the fact that Diana asked for a six-slice toaster for Christmas, I’m going to miss her toast-crazy self. I personally couldn’t be happier with how this trilogy wrapped up. Sure, there were a few things left open, but I felt like Matthew and Diana’s story had closure and as far as everything else, I’ll just be here hoping that Deborah comes up with a spinoff or two.