Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballentine and Tee Morris

Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #4
357 p.
Publisher: Ace
Published: 3/31/15
Source: TBR pile
For years, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has enjoyed the favor of Her Majesty the Queen. But even the oldest loyalties can turn in a moment… 
Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately. 
But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself...
My thoughts:
Another great addition to the series and it starts where the last one left off. This is a series I would suggest you start from the beginning. Not just because of a story arc running through the series but also with the characterization. You really get to know Agents Brawn and Books though the series and each book builds from the last. There is also enough steampunk gadgets for it to make it interesting but not too much tech that you get totally lost. It is a good balance of gadgets and mystery.

For me, this one was a bit more harrowing as the Ministry Seven (a group of street urchins Eliza "adopted") become part of the mystery and not in a good way. They also become more important within the ministry itself. The action is harrowing and while the book is complete and there is a huge twist in the end there is still more of the mystery we need to resolve. In fact, with the twist it feels as if it has almost become important to our duo to really figure out what is going on. It may be the key to Welly's mysterious background. Oh and Welly, will we ever see your full face on the cover of these books? LOL

I give this book 4 1/2 stars. It was a good addition to the series and I highly recommend it to those that enjoy steampunk and spy genre books. It has plenty of both within the pages.

Bloggy PS
Lookie what I got! :)
I won this on a promo tour for this book.
I know the kiwi came from NZ since they were just there. The ring is also quite comfy and cute in person! Steampunk rules! :D

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Series: Black Blade #1
368 p.
Published: 4/28/15
Publisher: K-Teen
Source: From author for review
There Be Monsters Here. . . 
It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power.

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick.

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her...
My thoughts:
If you have followed the blog for any time now, you will know I'm a Jennifer Estep fan. I love her work and always highly recommend it. I was sad to see her last YA end, but I was excited for this one. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. When I finally got time to read it I devoured it and didn't want to put it down. Fans of Jennifer Estep RUN to the bookstore to get this book. Those that haven't quite read all her work, I still think you'll really enjoy this book. For me it was a mix of her adult UF Elemental Assassin with her last YA Mythos Academy books and some of her superhero series as well. It mixed well. :)

Now excuse me while I gush. I loved the worldbuilding in this book. I can really see the worlds of her other books blended well here. It also reminded me a bit of a Romeo and Juliet take. Not the romance (although there are hints of that, but not with our main couple but with a past romance) but with the world where to main powerful families feud. There is also a renaissance faire feel to the tourist trap that feeds the pockets of the most powerful families. Of course there is also magic and a darker side often hidden from the visiting folk. I also loved the characters of the book. Lila was easy to like and I can't wait to see more of Oscar, her pixie, which I feel will hold most of the snark for me in the coming books.

I don't want to say more or I'll spoil it, but the book feels complete even though you know you have only scratched the surface of this world and the mystery that surrounds Lila. Yes, that means there is no cliffie but you will be wanting more. I give the book 5 stars and I'm impatiently awaiting the next book. :)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Audiobook Review: Tales from the Archives: Vol. 1

Series: The Official Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Anthology
Volume 1
Collection by Philippa Ballentine and Tee Morris
Free Podcast at iTunes
The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences has many forgotten stories in its Archives. Stories of madcap adventures in all corners of the Empire, dark doings in hidden places, and mysterious devices and artifacts that the everyday citizen should never become aware of for fear it would quite undo their minds. 
Archivist to the Ministry, Eliza D Braun (recently and unwillingly reassigned to the Archives) and Wellington Thornhill Books (recently and unwillingly assigned Eliza D. Braun) have selected some cases they feel the public is ready for. 
The Evil that Befell Sampson by Pip Ballantine- Eliza D Braun is a young field agent in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (South Pacific Branch) when she is asked by New Zealand’s preeminent suffragist to investigate some strange goings within the organisation. She cannot possibly imagination that this little case will alter her entire life and thrust her into a world barely prepared for her. 
Dust on the Davenport by O M Grey – Agent Simon R. Boswell, still considered the green agent of the Ministry, takes on his own a supposed haunting in Islington. Hauntings tend to be nothing too serious for agents specializing in the unexplained; but for Simon, this case supplies surprises of all kinds, around every corner… 
The Astonishing Amulet of Amenartas by Nathan Lowell- Agent Heathcliff Durham finds himself crisscrossing Africa, looking for an Amulet that could spell disaster for any who come near it. Battling blistering heat, starvation, wild animals, and despair, he is not comforted by the company of a rough and ready sort named Morrison. Soon Durham begins to suspect he may never return home—and to top it all off the tea has almost run out. 
A Ruby in Rain by Grant Stone – From the farthest edge of the Empire, New Zealand agents Lachlan King and Barry Ferguson are called to interview a recent arrival to Auckland’s prisons. An infamous gambler, according to the constable’s account, has turned himself into their custody, not for the safety of society but for his own. The Ministry steps in to uncover a man’s story of impressive luck, and more incredible vision.
This collection of stories are from the archives of the Peculiar Occurrences office on what the various spies have been doing and the mysterious reports Eliza and Wellington talk about. It is a fun collection and can be read as a standalone if you haven't read any of the books in the series. My favorite story was Eliza and Wellington's story but I also enjoyed the rest as well. Most of the books are done by various narrators and so there is a mix of good and okay storytellers just as there are stories in the various anthologies you get. I do love it when Eliza and Wellington introduce the stories and those are also the ones I tended to enjoy as well.

As with all anthologies I enjoyed some, loved some and found some were okay. None were horrible and overall I had fun. One thing I need to tell you is when you are listening to the stories, there will be some background noise pertinent to the story. A gunshot, a foot step, things of this nature are thrown in to make it more like the old stories when there was no tv. :) I wasn't prepared and jumped several times until I realized that is what is going on. LOL It was odd to turn when there were footsteps but no one behind me. :D Not to mention the gunshot. So be prepared. ;)

I give this collection 4 stars. It is fun and a great addition to the series. I will be listening to the rest in the other collection as time permits. It is free on iTunes as audio but you can also get it in ebook format. Those do have a price on it's head though. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Garden book review: The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Leo Ogren

256 p.
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Published: 2/17/15
Source: Blogging for Books for review
The Groundbreaking Guide to Health-Conscious Gardening

If you are one of the millions of people with allergies or asthma, this totally unique book shows you how to avoid plants that trigger allergies and to create a garden that will actually protect you by trapping pollen and cleaning the air around you. This revolutionary approach combines the best of horticulturist Thomas Ogren’s previous books—Allergy-Free Gardening and Safe Sex in the Garden—into a full-color guide, including hundreds of new and updated plant listings and photographs. 
Ogren’s innovative system for combating allergens is based on the crucial matter of plant sex. By replacing troublesome male plants in your yard with pollen-blocking female “pollen screens,” allergy sufferers can reduce or eliminate their symptoms. More than 3,000 plant listings are included, accompanied by an easy-to-use allergy ranking scale of 1 to 10. With many new pollen-free plants to choose from, as well as clearly marked “worst offenders” to avoid, this is the ultimate resource for home gardeners and professionals alike who want to build healthy, safe, and beautiful gardens that everyone can enjoy.
My thoughts:
Happy Earth day! I thought a great way to spend it is talking about the latest gardening book I acquired. This one interested me not about the pollen but about the plants that clear the air and help with mold as well. I loved the author's insight on why there are a growing number of people acquiring seasonal allergies. This is the person who developed a scale on which to judge plants by their allergy content.

The reason Thomas Ogren says we are having an epidemic of allergies is our increased exposure to pollen. He explains that our need for plant that do not "litter" seeds has decreased the number of female plants and increased the male plants... the ones responsible for the pollen. The numbers are not even as they are in nature so the female plants which "clean" the air of this pollen aren't around to do their job. With his plan we can reclaim the area in our space with more air cleaning plants and also presents a plan to contact schools and parks to do the same.

I give this book 5 stars. It is a great book with some insight as to why so many have allergies and what we can do about it. He also has a comprehensive list of plants and how they fall on the scale for allergens and cleaning the air. It is a great book for any gardener out there even if they don't have allergies or asthma.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Blog Tour: Orient by Christopher Bollen

624 p.
Publisher: Harper
Published: 5/5/15
Source: From TLC Book Tours for review
Purchase Links: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble
Author Links: websiteAdd to Goodreads badge
As summer draws to a close, a Small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out. 
Orient is an isolated hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island—a quiet, historic village that swells each summer with vacationers, Manhattan escapees, and wealthy young artists from the city with designs on local real estate. On the last day of summer, a teenage drifter named Mills Chevern arrives in town. Soon after, the village is rocked by a series of unsettling events: the local caretaker is found floating lifeless in the ocean; an elderly neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances; and a monstrous animal corpse is discovered on the beach not far from a research lab often suspected of harboring biological experiments. Before long, other more horrific events plunge the community into a spiral of paranoia. 
As the village struggles to make sense of the wave of violence, anxious eyes settle on the mysterious Mills, a troubled orphan with no family, a hazy history, and unknown intentions. But he finds one friend in Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, who is determined to unravel the mystery before the small town devours itself.
Suffused with tension, rich with character and a haunting sense of lives suspended against an uncertain future, Orient is both a galvanic thriller and a provocative portrait of the dark side of the American dream: an idyllic community where no one is safe. It marks the emergence of a novelist of enormous talent.
My thoughts:

I was in the mood for a good thriller/murder mystery when this one came up for review. Unfortunately it wasn't everything I wanted in a thriller but the mystery was pretty good.

The book mainly contains a lot of worldbuilding of a small town who are known to not like "outsiders" living in their pristine town. While I can appreciate the attention to detail, it felt as if the mystery got a bit lost for the bulk of the book and it slowed the story down so much I can't call it a thriller. However, I totally agree that the expectation of a thriller was of my own making. That may have colored my view of the book. In the last quarter of the book, the mystery really perked up and I honestly didn't know who the killer was until the very end. My guesses kept getting twisted but it made sense in the end. It does however have an open ending even though it is a standalone. Normally this would bother me but I saw an open ending coming because of the prologue. I had a feeling it wouldn't end like these books normally end. I think that knowing ahead of time helped me to not hate the ending.

I give this book 2 1/2 stars. The worldbuilding and multiple POVs seemed to really slow down the plot of the book. I do recommend this book on the mystery. The ending was good and I did enjoy the twists. I also think that others will appreciate the details given in the book. It does lend a leisurely pace to the bulk of the book which does counter the twisty end. It just wasn't what I personally wanted in a mystery.

About Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Christopher at his website.

Tuesday, April 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, April 8th: My Bookish Ways
Thursday, April 9th: Ace and Hoser Blook
Friday, April 10th: As I turn the pages
Monday, April 13th: BoundbyWords
Tuesday, April 14th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, April 15th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, April 16th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies
Monday, April 20th: The Discerning Reader
Tuesday, April 21st: Books and Things
Wednesday, April 22nd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, April 23rd: A Dream Within a Dream
Monday, April 27th: Open Book Society
Tuesday, April 28th: Kissin Blue Karen
Friday, May 1st: Wordsmithonia

Friday, April 17, 2015

Audiobook Review: Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill

Series: Chicagoland Vampires #2
Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
11 hrs. 44 min.
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Published: 1/7/11
Source: Hoopla/Library
Vampires in Chicago! 
You'd think headlines like that would have provoked the fine citizens of the Windy City to take up arms against us bloodsucking fiends. Instead, ten months later, we're enjoying a celebrity status reserved for the Hollywood elite—fending off paparazzi only slightly less dangerous than cross- and stake-wielding slayers. Don't get me wrong. Joe Public isn't exactly thrilled to be living side-by-side with the undead, but at least they haven't stormed the castle...yet. 
All that will change once they learn about the Raves—mass feeding parties where vampires round up humans like cattle and drink themselves silly. Most civilized vampires frown on this behavior—but that doesn't make good copy for a first-time reporter looking to impress his high-society family. 
So now my "master"—the centuries-old yet gorgeously well-preserved Ethan Sullivan—wants me to reconnect with my own upper-class family and act as liaison between humans and vampires...and keep the more unsavory aspects of our existence out of the media. But someone doesn't want people and vamps to play nicey-nice—someone with an ancient grudge.
My thoughts:

I enjoyed this one more than the first and it held my interest much better. I still enjoyed Merit, the heroine, in the story as well as the secondary characters. I have yet to get the warm fuzzies for Ethan but I will say that toward the end of the book I am now willing to admit I may give him a chance. There is still something mysterious with his involvement in Merit's turning (I'm guessing).

I didn't like how the situation was handled with Mallory, her bestie, but it also makes sense. Still, I do hope things aren't dropped and work out. I really like that girl. I'm also happy to say that there is somewhat of a resolution on the triangle and Morgan is not high on my list of likable vamps. Yea, I'm getting close to saying too much so I'll stop now.

I give this audio 4 stars. I'm enjoying Cynthia Holloway's narration and I recommend it on audio if you can get it. Ignore the covers, I'm not loving those and it doesn't look like anything Merit would wear.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Disobedience by Alvania Scarborough

Series: Harker's Hell #1
334 p.
Publisher: Silver Harbor Press
Published: 6/16/14
Source: Caffeinated Virtual Assistant Services for review.

Harker’s Hell. Early settlers thought they’d found a western re-creationist’s heaven. Instead, the new world is a hellish version of the Old West. Now the seeds of long-ago conflict are stirring to life.

Dissonance Walker believed she’d seen the worst life had to offer, only to find she’s dead wrong. Sold to a secret organization by her parents for the price of a new stove, her ability to disobey is ripped away by a brutal experiment. Determined to find the key to restore her freedom, she manages to escape her captors, only to end up in the worst place for a woman that can’t say no—on a saloon stage, ready to be sold to the highest bidder.

Bram Spencer is sure the heat has baked his brains. With his friend murdered and his ranch under attack, he needs to attend a little unfinished business. Buying some fool woman because she pokes at scabs he thought long healed, isn’t on the list. It’s bad enough he has to go through the fuss of rescuing her, now he discovers the only way to grant her freedom is to marry her. This is why he never plays the hero—no good deed goes unpunished.

Secrets have a long life. Sometimes decades. Now the sins of the past have returned, ready to collect their dues. Only trust can save Dissonance and Bram from a shocking evil… but trust is a hard commodity to come by on the frontier.
My thoughts:
This is a mash up of several genres. One is a western which is quite obvious. However, it is set on an alien planet, not earth. While this might sound confusing at first, it really isn't. In fact it reads more like an old western historical with alien parts thrown in for good measure. That made you pay more attention to the worldbuilding.

While I did like the interplay of genres, there was parts of a journal which started each chapter. It was about the founder and how the area became to be known as Harker's Hell. While I did like the added information, it really tended to confuse me. I didn't see how it played in the story until toward the end. Even then it has no conclusion and it appears to be the arc within the series. I think there will be more information as the series progresses. It does look like it continues on within the next book.

While that may have gave me pause, the story as a whole was fun to read. While I actually didn't like Bram at the beginning and even wanted his arse to be kicked throughout most of the novel, I actually melted when he realized he was causing Dissonance, the heroine, actual pain. When his understanding dawned and even though he had to go though one more arse kicking to "get it", when he did, he fully understood and became so kind and sweet to Dissonance. It was his kindness that really got to me. Yes, he had me as a fan in the end.

I give this book 4 stars. While I did find some of the worldbuilding a bit confusing I also felt it will have it's place as it builds within the series. What really shone in this book is the romance and how they truly came together. I recommend it to those that love a good fantasy romance.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Anthology review: The Doll Collection Edited by Ellen Datlow

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Authors: Stephen Gallagher, Miranda Siemienowicz, Mary Robinette Kowal, Richard Bowes, Genevieve Valentine, Richard Kadrey, Veronica Schanoes ,John Langan, Jeffrey Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, Gemma FilesPat Cadigan, Lucy Sussex, Tim Lebbon, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Stephen Graham Jones
352 p.
Publisher: Tor Books
Published: 3/10/15
Source: From publisher for review
The Doll Collection is exactly what it sounds like: a treasured toy box of all-original dark stories about dolls of all types, including everything from puppets and poppets to mannequins and baby dolls. Featuring everything from life-sized clockwork dolls to all-too-human Betsy Wetsy-type baby dolls, these stories play into the true creepiness of the doll trope, but avoid the clichés that often show up in stories of this type.Master anthologist Ellen Datlow has assembled a list of beautiful and terrifying stories from bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Joyce Carol Oates, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Pat Cadigan, Tim Lebbon, Richard Kadrey, Genevieve Valentine, and Jeffrey Ford. The collection is illustrated with photographs of dolls taken by Datlow and other devoted doll collectors from the science fiction and fantasy field. The result is a star-studded collection exploring one of the most primal fears of readers of dark fiction everywhere, and one that every reader will want to add to their own collection.
My thoughts:
As with almost all anthologies it has some great stories, some "eh" stories and a couple that confounded me. Still, I would have to say that as a whole, the collection stayed within the boundaries of horror and dolls. Two things I think go great together. For those that shy away from horror, it isn't too scary that you can't handle it (I'm an admitted wimp) but it is creepy. Not one is a happy go lucky, feel good story. That's a good thing for this collection. :)

I have to say that my favorite stories didn't surprise me. Seanan McGuire and Carrie Vaughn are worth the price of admission for the book. Other stories captured me and creeped me out but there were also a couple that just confused me to no end. I don't want to call out those specific stories since it could rightly be just me and I don't want to color your view of the story before you get to it.

I give this collection 3 stars and I highly recommend it to those that love horror and just being creeped out. :)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Audiobook Review: Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill

Narrator: Cynthia Holloway
11 hrs. 11 min.
Published: 12/21/10
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Source: Hoopla/Library
They killed me. They healed me. They changed me. Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was mine. I was doing fine until Chicago's vampires announced their existence to the world---and then a rogue vampire attacked me. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker...and this one decided that the best way to save my life was to make me the walking undead. Turns out my savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now I've traded sweating over my thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan "Lord o' the Manor" Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred-year-old vampire, he has centuries' worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects my gratitude---and servitude. Right. But my burgeoning powers (all of a sudden, I'm surprisingly handy with some serious weaponry), an inconvenient sunlight allergy, and Ethan's attitude are the least of my concerns. Someone's still out to get me. Is it the rogue vampire who bit me? A vamp from a rival House? An angry mob bearing torches? My initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war---and there will be blood.
My thoughts:
This is a series I've been wanting to get into for a while now. Many, many people have recommended this series and I finally decided since my library had several of these I would put them in the rotation. I was glad that I did.

We see the world through Merit a girl who did not have the best childhood, but thanks to her grandpa she was able to carve out some happiness and supplemented her family with good friends. Speaking of the new found family I have to say that I really loved all the secondary characters. They really made the world easy to embrace.

While I loved Merit and the secondary characters the plot seemed a bit uneven but not enough to pull me out of the story. I feel this has more to do with establishing the world. I also did not warm to any possible love interests for Merit, but then neither did she (even though she is frustratingly interested in one particular vampire...). I'm curious where the plot will take us next. This does not mean it had a cliffie, but it did leave a story arc open. One that will probably take us through a few books.

I give this book 4 stars. It is a good start to a UF series I know I will enjoy.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Audiobook Review: Flunked by Jen Calonita

Series: Fairy Tale Reform School #1
Narrator: Kristin Condon
5 hrs. 17 min.
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Published: 3/1/15
Source: Audiobook Jukebox for review
Would you send a villain to do a hero's job? An exciting new twisted fairy tale series from award-winning author Jen Calonita. 
Full of regret, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, Flora, has founded the Fairy Tale Reform School with the mission of turning the wicked and criminally mischievous into upstanding members of Enchantasia. 
Impish, sassy 12-year-old Gilly has a history of petty theft and she's not too sorry about it. When she lifts a hair clip, she gets tossed in reform school-for at least three months. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there's more to this school than its sweet mission. There's a battle brewing and she starts to wonder: can a villain really change?
My thoughts:
I was actually thinking this one was YA as I went into it even though the blurb does specify that Gillian is 12 years old. It didn't bother me in the least and I know already several kids I would recommend this MG audiobook.

The audiobook is just long enough to tell a story and short enough to keep the MG crowd interested. This would be a great story to take along on a car trip. It is also cute enough to keep the parents interested. Kristin Condon does an excellent job of narration. While her male voices aren't too masculine it works here since the characters haven't fully hit puberty. Kristin really keeps the story moving and interesting.

The story on the whole is a retelling where some of the fairy tale villains have reformed and are setting up a school where they are trying to catch delinquents of Enchantasia early and keep them off the villain list. This creates a cute world where everything we know is either "fact" or an exaggeration of the truth. I always find these things fun.

I give this audiobook 4 stars. I think fans of Ella Enchanted will find the same fun tongue in cheek retelling of their favorite fairytale worlds. It is also a great way to get kids into audiobooks or just a bit calmer during a long car trip. The main character is growing as, I assume, the series grows. I think it will be a fun ride.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dead Spots by Rhiannon Frater

 400 p.
Publisher: Tor Books
Published: 2/24/15
Source: From publisher for review
In the dead spots, dreams become reality, terror knows your name, and nightmares can kill you. 
The stillbirth of Mackenzie's son destroyed her marriage. Grieving, Mac reluctantly heads for her childhood home to seek refuge with her mother, who constantly reminds her of life's dangers. 
Driving across Texas, Mac swerves to avoid hitting a deer...and winds up in a dead spot, a frightening place that lies between the worlds of the living and the dead. If they can control their imaginations, people can literally bring their dreams to life—but most are beseiged by fears and nightmares which pursue them relentlessly.

Mackenzie's mother and husband haunt her, driving her to the brink of madness. Then she hears a child call for help and her maternal instincts kick into overdrive. Grant, Mac's ally in the dead spots, insists Johnny is a phantom, but the boy seems so real, so alive.... 
As the true horrors of the dead spots are slowly revealed, Mackenzie realizes that time is running out. But exits from the dead spots are nearly impossible to find, and defended by things almost beyond imagination.In the dead spots, dreams become reality, terror knows your name, and nightmares can kill you.
My thoughts:
This book felt like a twilight zone movie. You are thrust into an unknown realm full of rules you don't know and don't understand. It is dangerous to not know these rules and most things out there want to drain you and make you their prisoner. It isn't a jaunty tour of the backroad country.

We start with Mackenzie who is overwhelmed with several losses at once. Her life is in a total upheaval and her grief is threatening to consume her. She does what she can to move forward, but it seems like she is going in slow motion. She stumbles into a "dead spot" and that is where her adventure starts all at once twisting our sense of what is real and what is fantasy.

Although I did enjoy the twists in this story (one of them I was almost yelling at Mackenzie to "get it") what I really loved was her transformation. The grief and emotional and physical attacks could either tear a person down or build to a stronger person. She chose the latter and I really enjoyed the person she became at the end of the story.

My biggest complaint is a small one. I need an epilogue. I need to know that there is truly an HEA. What occurred to me is that there was no escape or that they stumbled onto another world. Actually there are too many possibilities to think about and I blame this book! :) It had so many twists I started inventing possibilities with the ending. Do note that despite my want of an epilogue the ending was complete.

I give this book 4 stars and I recommend it to those that enjoy a twisty tale with a strong contemporary woman.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Summer Queen by Amber Argyle

Series: Fairy Queens #2
Publisher: Starling Publishing
Published: 4/2/15
Source: From author for review
Nelay never wanted to be queen.

Poised to become the most powerful priestess in Idara, Nelay doesn’t have time to become a pretty bauble for the king. She’s too busy saving her people from the invading army sweeping across her kingdom. 
But in defeat after defeat, Nelay begins to realize a bigger power is at play than that wielded by mere mortals. Only she can stand between the cinders of her once-great nation and the vengeance of a goddess.

My thoughts:

First, let me comment about the cover. While I LOVE the cover, I wished Nelay would have been darker skinned as she is in the book. Otherwise I think the cover is stunning.

This is Nelay's story. Her country is besieged with the Winter Queen's territorial inhabitants. They are punishing the Summer Queen's populace with the idea for reparations to the atrocities a king, who is no longer in power. Of course this leads to hypocrisy and they are becoming the thing they hate. While all this strife is going on we find ourselves on a journey with Nelay, the girl we met in the novella, Fire and Ash. She is on a journey to find out what happened to her parents and hopefully rescue them. While on this journey she finds out more about herself and where her strengths lie. She is drawn into political intrigue both in the human realm as well as the fae realm. What she choses not just decides her fate but the fate of all citizens under the Summer Queen's rule.

As much as I liked the first book, I have to say that I enjoyed this one more. While there were spots that were a bit slow, it does not stay that way. It actually felt that sometimes there was almost too much action. Mostly because it felt like she needed a break and would have collapsed more than she did while on the adventure. Of course the reason she could go on so much was covered and was fully explained in the book. I just felt so sorry for how much she had to go through. It isn't really a criticism, but more like an empathetic response. :)

I give this book 4 stars. It is a great addition to the series. I would also consider this one either older YA, or NA/Adult. There is a lot of death and it just "feels" like a older book. There is no cliffie, but an open story arc so you know more adventure is coming. I look forward to the next addition.

Bloggy note:
The author is letting me give away the novella, Fire and Ash (Fairy Queen #1.5). This is the beginning of Nelay's adventure and you can read it without reading the first book. In fact you aren't lost reading this book without reading the first book. The links are below which takes you to a download area.

Her other series, Witch Song (YA genre) has the first book free at Amazon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Rachel's Deception by Karen Ann Hopkins

Growing up Amish is difficult…but leaving it behind is even harder.

Noah was Amish...Rose wasn't. Being together should have been impossible. But somehow they found a way to make it work. They are finally a family, but their happily-ever-after is still a long off. Will Rose and her friends be able to force real change?

Karen Ann Hopkins returns with a gripping new book in the YA Temptation series. The powerful family saga continues with Rachel's Deception, as events spiral out of control in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview. And Rachel Miller has her own secrets to hide. Noah’s younger sister has been living a double life. That is, until Justin Cameron, Rose's little brother, catches her in the act. Rachel is not the obedient Amish girl that her sister was, and her rebelliousness takes her to a very dangerous world. A world that only her true friends can help her escape from.

As Rachel questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment, Rose discovers what it really means to be shunned. And an evil shadow looms on the horizon, threatening not only Rose, but everyone she holds dear.

About Karen Ann Hopkins 
A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.

Links to the Temptation Series

The Temptation Series on Audible! Here are some exciting news for all those audiobook lovers out there: The Temptation Series will be available April 21st and you canPre-Oder your copy right now! Listen to a sample on audible. 

Karen's other Books Adult Mystery, Serenity’s Plain Secrets
  • LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER (book 1): Available e-book now and in print March 2015
  • WHISPERS FROM THE DEAD (book 2): Available e-book now and in print March 2015
  • SECRETS IN THE GRAVE (book 3) Available in paperback and e-book in December 2015
YA Paranormal, Wings of War
  • EMBERS (book 1): Available in e-book now and in print March 2015
  • GAIA (book 2): Available in paperback and e-book in November 2015
Giveaway Info:
Karen is generously offering up a $25 gift card (Amazon or B&N) as well as a copy of TEMPTATION (book 1) to one lucky winner! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form. Giveaway is a part of the cover reveal tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check out the tour page!