Book Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. ExleyMoseh's Staff by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #4
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on May 18, 2015
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 295
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
All things must come to an end…

London is in the frozen grip of an unnatural winter and Queen Victoria wants answers. Cara and Nate know who – the Curator. The queen's artifact hunters just don't know what is responsible. Cara is on the trail of an ancient and powerful artifact capable of freezing a city and stirring demons. First she must confront her past and her father's history. Only in learning why her father became a disciple of the Curator can she hope to learn what the old noble seeks and why he is so fascinated by her.

Then tragedy strikes and the bond forged by Nefertiti's Heart is severed. Nate without Cara succumbs to his darkness and he lashes out at those he holds responsible for her loss. Meanwhile, in the shadows, Inspector Fraser waits for his opportunity to pull down the man known as the villainous viscount.

With London entombed in ice and all hope lost, could this be the end…

moseh's staff blog tour

Publisher Curiosity Quills is having a month long review tour to celebrate their May releases. You can check out all the stops. I’m reviewing MOSEH’S STAFF, the last book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. I’ve reviewed all the books in the series: NEFERTITI’S HEART, HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR, and NERO’S FIDDLE.

Book Review:

MOSEH’S STAFF is the fourth book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. In the past, I’ve described the series as quirky and unique. A good blend of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, mythology, and steampunk. These descriptions hold true with MOSEH’S STAFF, which is sadly the last book in the series. I’m sad to see the end of Cara and Nate, but I do like how the author finished everything.

As Queen Victoria’s artifact hunters, Nate and Cara must figure out what artifact is causing endless winter and misery in London. It’s April, but the Thames is frozen. London is the only area affected, and Victoria’s not very happy about it. Cara and Nate have a good idea of who is behind events — the Curator — but how to stop him is a different question. How do you stop a man who bleeds water instead of blood?

The hunt becomes even more personal when the Curator reveals his intentions to take Cara as his own, severing the bond of Nefertiti’s Heart that connects her and Nate. I love Cara and Nate together, but it was great to see Nate on his own as well. The author showed more of Nate’s darker side, the no holds barred man he was before Cara’s presence in his life. Nate’s the guy I’d want on my side if someone took me, because he stops at nothing to rescue Cara.

There’s a lot of revelations in MOSEH’S STAFF, tying up loose ends from previous books in the series, such as explaining why Cara and Nate fit so perfectly together, or bringing back the dragon from HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR. Many of Cara and Nate’s friends show up in MOSEH’S STAFF (minus Loki, sadface), rallying around Nate to help find Cara. And Cara, kick butt woman that she is, isn’t content to sit back and be rescued. She confronts her own demons in MOSEH’S STAFF while trying to figure out which artifact powers the Curator.

All in all, MOSEH’S STAFF is a satisfying conclusion to the Artifact Hunters series, full of what I loved about the previous books: Cara and Nate, twists on mythology, humor in dark moments, and lots of action.

About the author:

author a.w. exley
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life.

She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne JohnsonRiver Road by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #2
Published by Tor on November 13, 2012
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 334
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Book Review:

The second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans, RIVER ROAD picks up a couple of years after ROYAL STREET. This is an urban fantasy series set in New Orleans with all manners of preternatural creatures from the historical undead to nymphs to mermen and beyond. This is a series that gets better with each book; I recently read number four, PIRATE’S ALLEY, and reading that sent me back into a reread of the whole series.

Drusilla “DJ” Jaco is the Sentinel of New Orleans, and it’s her job to take care of any magical crises. Thanks to Hurricane Katrina, the borders that kept preternaturals out of the city have fallen, and rather than put them back up, the wizards are keeping an eye on the situation and seeing what happens. Naturally, plenty happens in RIVER ROAD. DJ has to juggle territorial mers, murdered wizards, and a sudden increase of activity in her personal life.

I enjoyed the author’s take on mermen. They’re not the sexy fish you’d expect them to be — no, Suzanne Johnson’s given them her own spin. I had a good laugh at the “Mer Twin” license plates for Rene and Robert. I really liked Rene’s character: he’s a tough guy, and even though mers traditionally hate wizards, he’s willing to work with DJ to keep his clan from getting sick. And all the time DJ spends with the mers shows off Plaquemines Parish, which is just outside of New Orleans.

The murder mystery aspect of RIVER ROAD was interesting to me; you’ll probably never look at the culprit in the same way again. DJ’s efforts in solving the murders and cleaning up the poisoned water showcases the unique magic system in this series. DJ is a Green Congress wizard, meaning she uses potions and rituals and charms, along with plenty of research.

DJ’s dance card is a bit full in this installment, but romance isn’t the main focus of the series. So I didn’t mind DJ’s dates and diversions with the men in her life, and even better — those relationships often tied into the plot of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Suzanne Johnson:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne JohnsonPirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Published by Tor on April 21, 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.

pirate's alley blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for PIRATE’S ALLEY by Suzanne Johnson. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. I’ve reviewed two other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series: #1: ROYAL STREET and #3: ELYSIAN FIELDS. After my review of PIRATE’S ALLEY, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

You know how some urban fantasy series start to drag? Well, Sentinels of New Orleans is NOT one of those series. PIRATE’S ALLEY is the fourth book in the series, and I think the author is getting better and better with each installment. Last year, I would have said book three, ELYSIAN FIELDS, was my favorite, but now I think it’s PIRATE’S ALLEY.

PIRATE’S ALLEY picks up a couple of weeks after ELYSIAN FIELDS. There’s enough recap that I wasn’t totally lost, given it’s been a while since I was last in DJ’s world. But I would have preferred a little more, since PIRATE’S ALLEY is much more politically oriented than previous books, and it took me a bit to remember who was who, and why this or that alliance was important.

When I started this series, it irked me when DJ was too rash or continually charged into danger. I love character growth, and boy has DJ grown. In PIRATE’S ALLEY, she shows off that growth: she thinks a lot more than she used to before jumping into a potentially dangerous situation. She thinks about her romantic relationship with Alex, her bonding with Rand, her friendship with Jean Lafitte, and her friendship with Eugenie. All of these different relationships get page time, and they’re all important in their own way.

That’s good, because I think PIRATE’S ALLEY is setting the scene for some serious preternatural action. There’s a lot of political maneuvering in this book as the Interspecies Council tries to find its footing, which isn’t easy, considering practically every prete group is trying to stab another in the back. DJ needs to think first rather than act first, because it’s time for her to consider who deserves her loyalty. But don’t worry, she’s still the same snarky, devoted, talented DJ that she’s always been. And she still charges into danger sometimes.

Usually I can take or leave romance, but I so appreciated that DJ really thinks about her relationship with Alex, and realizes that they needed to talk, not just solve their problems with sex. Even if they didn’t get the chance because of one crisis after another, they still tried to talk. I also appreciated that DJ doesn’t forget about the normal humans just because she’s a wizard, and up to her knees in elves, fae, and the historical undead. Plus she talks with Jean Lafitte about their friendship and what it means. Jean Lafitte is in a lot of this book, which had me happy since he’s one of my favorite characters in the series.

If you’ve liked the other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, I’m pretty sure you’ll like PIRATE’S ALLEY. If you haven’t started this series yet, definitely check it out if you like cool magic systems and different takes on the usual supernatural creatures.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author suzanne johnsonSuzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Nero’s Fiddle (Artifact Hunters #3) by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Nero’s Fiddle (Artifact Hunters #3) by A.W. ExleyNero's Fiddle by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #3
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on October 9, 2014
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 254
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
One... death by spontaneous human combustion is a rare act of God

Two... is surely a freakish coincidence

Three... well, that’s starting to look deliberate.

Cara has a new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunter, she’s adapting to married life and living in a country manor that more closely resembles a mausoleum.

In London, Inspector Fraser investigates a series of strange deaths by divine fire - except he doesn't believe in coincidences. Despite himself, he enlists Cara's help to identify what artifact could cause such a hideous death while his desire to bring her husband to justice burns unabated.

Someone's intent on making sure a decades old secret stays hidden and Cara must figure out who is responsible before this case consumes her family and rocks the entire realm to its foundations.

nero's fiddle blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for NERO’S FIDDLE by A.W. Exley. This is the third book in her Artifact Hunters series, a series I’ve really enjoyed. So I’m excited to be on the tour. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

NERO’S FIDDLE is the third book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. In the past, I’ve described this series as quirky and unique, and that holds true with the newest installment. These books are a great blend of steampunk, action, romance, historical fiction, and mythology.

If you’re new to this series, I’d recommend you go back and start with book one, NEFERTITI’S HEART. Otherwise, you won’t know who the characters are and what they’ve gone through. NERO’S FIDDLE doesn’t give much recap of previous events. Since it’s been a while since I read the other books, I was a bit lost at the start, but after a couple of chapters I was good.

In their new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunters, Cara and Nate must track down an object suspected for several fiery deaths. NERO’S FIDDLE has a bit less action than previous books in the series, but there’s a lot of mystery and character development. I had absolutely no idea how this book would wrap up, and I always enjoy when an author can keep me guessing.

When I reviewed NEFERTITI’S HEART, I made note of Cara’s grandmother, Nan, and Nan’s friend, Nessy. They were freaking hilarious and stole every scene they were in, and in NERO’S FIDDLE, they play a big role. I was happy to learn more about them, as well as Cara’s grandfather. Gideon is only in flashbacks, but dang. What a guy!

I read NERO’S FIDDLE from start to finish, enjoyed every page, and now I’m looking forward to MOSEH’S STAFF, the fourth and last book in the Artifact Hunters series.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author a.w. exley
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life. She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

– leeanna

Book Review: Visions by Larkin Rose

Book Review: Visions by Larkin RoseVisions by Larkin Rose
Published by Bold Strokes Books on June 17, 2014
Genres: Adult, Erotica, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Paige Burton meets the love of her sexual life at a masked sex party when she’s too young to realize how special their connection is. After years of searching for similar sexual bliss, she has officially given up. Now she pours out her frustration via her online blog and by dancing away her frustrations in her club.

Billionaire architect Mayson Montgomery made her fortune building eco-friendly offshore wind turbines. She learned quickly that money stood in the way of finding a happy ever after. But she still remembers her masked angel years ago.

When they meet again, Paige doesn’t make the connection between her masked lover from the past and Galveston’s raunchy rich heart throb. Fortunately, Mayson is a little more aware and won’t give up until Paige has fallen head over heels for her.

Will Paige and Mayson grasp the love in front of them or will they let it slip away a second time?

Book Review:

VISIONS started off a bit rocky for me. The two main characters, Paige and Mayson, meet up at a masked sex party and jump into bed with each other within pages. Yes, I do know the summary promised that, but I didn’t expect it at the very start of the book!

But once I got further into VISIONS, the beginning made a lot of sense. Ever since Paige had that mindblowing sex at the masquerade, she’s been searching for more. But her search has been downright disappointing, and so she’s become a connoisseur of sex toys, even writing a review blog. Mayson has put her love life on the backburner, content to provide humanitarian relief for disaster stricken areas. When the two meet again — by coincidence and face to face — neither knows who the other is, and sparks fly. Paige can’t stand Mayson, but once Mayson figures out Paige is the one from the masquerade, she’s determined to win her over.

There’s a lot of steamy sex in VISIONS. It’s in the first chapter, and then throughout the book. There’s the Mayson/Paige friction/chemistry, which was fun to read, and also the Vinden/Paige adventures, wherein a masked mystery woman seduces Paige and gives her incredible orgasms. I hate to say it, but there was a bit too much sex for me in VISIONS. The different sex scenes were fun at first, but they got somewhat repetitive.

I thought VISIONS was pretty good. Perfect for the beach or an afternoon of escapism. Paige and Mayson were both strong women who knew what they wanted and were determined to get it. I did wonder why Paige was so focused on finding someone for great sex and great sex alone.

Socialize with the author:

Larkin Rose:
Website

– leeanna

Book Review: Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane #1) by Alexis Hall

Book Review: Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane #1) by Alexis HallIron & Velvet by Alexis Hall
Series: Kate Kane #1
Published by Riptide Publishing on December 16, 2013
Genres: Adult, LGBT, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client.

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Book Review:

I’m not really sure what took me so long to get into IRON & VELVET, but boy, do I regret waiting to read it. IRON & VELVET is one of those books I couldn’t stop reading — I felt as if it was written just for me. I adored everything about it, and there is one upside to not reading it when it was released — I don’t have to wait for book two, SHADOWS & DREAMS.

Kate Kane, paranormal investigator extraordinaire, doesn’t work for vampires. But with business being non-existent, and the Prince of Cups, one of the most powerful vampires in England, asking for her, she doesn’t have much choice but to take the case. Before long, she’s up to her eyeballs in vampires, werewolves, witches, tentacle monsters, and more. The whole gamut and then some. Kate herself has some supernatural blood; her mother is the Queen of the Wild Hunt, but that’s mostly an inconvenience.

I really liked the world the author created, as well as his twists on the different supernatural creatures, from vampires to demons to werewolves. Most of the creatures are true to legend, but upgraded for modern times. I also liked that three of the most powerful characters: Julian, vampire Prince of Cups, Tara, the alpha werewolf, and Nimue, queen of mages, are female.

Oh, yeah. IRON & VELVET is full of gay women, including Kate, Julian, and Nimue. This is an f/f paranormal book, possibly the f/f paranormal book I’ve been craving. There’s some pretty damn hot sex, and I couldn’t help but laugh every time Kate had to remind herself not to sleep with the client, or to keep her eyes on someone’s face when she was talking to them.

The author’s writing style pulled me into the book. If you like any combination of sarcasm, dry humor, and dark humor, you’ll probably enjoy Kate’s narration. “Here lies Kate Kane. Eaten by big bad werewolves. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed (Chapter 3).” Kate’s an alcoholic, has trust issues, is attracted to almost anything female that moves, but she does sincerely care about the victims. Kate usually tries to do the right thing, fucks up here and there, but keeps trying until things are right (or as right as they’re going to be). Yeah, in case you can’t tell, I kind of loved Kate.

Everything about IRON & VELVET kept me flicking the pages, from the murder mystery to Kate’s voice to Julian’s sexiness to well, everything!

Socialize with the author:

Alexis Hall:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth MaxwellHappily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
Published by Touchstone on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
In this witty, sexy tale, an erotic novelist meets the fictional hero of her most recent book in real life, and must decide whether she wants to get him back between the pages—or between her sheets.At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all.

Book Review:

HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a book that’s just fun to read. When I started it, I was waiting for an oil change, and thanks to this book, I didn’t realize that I waited over two hours for my car to be done. Yay for Sadie and her shenanigans!

A book about writing a book, HAPPILY EVER AFTER mashes several genres together, from contemporary romance to paranormal romance and women’s fiction. As a writer and book blogger, I appreciated the little details about Sadie’s career, including calculating word counts, character backstories, and advanced review copies.

While her neighborhood sleeps, Sadie, aka K. T. Briggs, writes erotic fiction. K. T. Briggs is glamorous, confident, a sex goddess. Sadie is a single parent, a bit overweight, and has panic attacks. Together, both personas make up the “real” Sadie. Sadie is a great main character. Several times I found myself thinking the same thing she thought, and I think a lot of readers will find something to identify with or to like about her.

Who hasn’t wondered what might happen if a book’s characters suddenly appeared in real life? That’s exactly what happens to Sadie, and after a quick freakout, she gets down to business. It’s not easy to figure out why Aidan, the sex-on-a-stick hero of her work in progress is at Target. In the baby aisle, of all places. But Sadie does her best to solve the mystery, bringing the reader along on the crazy adventure.

I originally wanted to read HAPPILY EVER AFTER because I liked the hook of Sadie writing erotic fiction, and then having to deal with her characters in real life. Once I got into the book, though, I enjoyed it for more reasons than just that. Sadie’s realistic voice, her devotion to her daughter, her desire to help her characters fulfill their dreams… it all added up to a touching book.

Socialize with the author:

Elizabeth Maxwell:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

Book Review: Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce BrownRed Rising by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #1
Published by Del Rey on January 28, 2014
Genres: Adult, Dystopian, Science Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The war begins...

Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars. Generations of Helldivers have spent their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that one day people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has left.

Until the day Darrow learns that it is all a lie. Mars is habitable - and indeed has been inhabited for generations by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. The Golds regard Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

With the help of a mysterious group of rebels, Darrow disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.

But the command school is a battlefield. And Darrow isn't the only student with an agenda...

Book Review:

I bloodydamn loved RED RISING. It was a “stay up until my eyes bleed and keep reading anyway” book. I just couldn’t get enough of Darrow and his dark, violent world, and as soon as I turned the last page, I wanted to read it over.

I hate making comparisons, but if you took The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, Ender’s Game, Game of Thrones, and maybe even Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, threw them all together and put them hundreds of years in the future, you have RED RISING. However, this book isn’t a copy of any of those, but you can definitely see elements or inspiration from all of those (and probably more that I missed). Also, mentioning all those is the easiest way I can think of to describe it, since I don’t want to spoil a second of this book.

So, that said, RED RISING is original and super creative. I cannot remember the last time an author has surprised me so much. It’s so packed with action, betrayals, and plot twists that I was never sure who to trust, or even who was good and who was bad. At its deepest, RED RISING is about power. Who has it, who doesn’t, and what to do with it.

RED RISING is the story of Darrow, a 16 year-old miner who lives beneath Mars’s surface. He is a Red, and his job, along with all other Reds, is to prepare Mars for the other Colors. In Pierce Brown’s world, there are castes of colors, with the most powerful, Golds, on top, and the least, Reds, on the bottom. And when I say Darrow’s Red, I mean it — his hair, eyes, and skin are red. Same with the other colors. Browns (servants) are Brown. Grays (police) are Gray. The colors lock everyone into their slot in society, into their specific role and job.

Although Darrow is 16, he reads much older, and so I think RED RISING is a great crossover book, with wide appeal for both teens and adults. Reds mature quickly; at 16, Darrow is already married. He loves his wife Eo more than anything else, and when she is killed for an act of rebellion, her death thrusts Darrow into a search for vengeance and power. The beginning of the book is a bit slow, but it really establishes Darrow’s world and the difficult lives he and the other Reds have, as the “pioneers” of Mars.

Recruited by the Sons of Ares, a rebel group, Darrow undergoes a painful and lengthy transformation into a Gold. I loved that the whole transformation was detailed, since too often that sort of thing is swept over in books. The process was also a good bridge between the “Red world” and the “Gold world,” showing the differences between both. Gold society is influenced by Ancient Greek culture, something else I really liked.

Once Darrow passes the tests for the Institute, that’s when the real story begins. From that point on, I kept trying to flip ahead, because I was so eager to know what would happen next.

RED RISING easily makes my list of favorites, and I cannot wait to read the rest of this trilogy. With such a powerful debut, I know it’s going to be fantastic.

Socialize with the author:

Pierce Brown:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Hatshepsut’s Collar (Artifact Hunters #2) by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Hatshepsut’s Collar (Artifact Hunters #2) by A.W. ExleyHatshepsut's Collar by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #2
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on November 13, 2013
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 280
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
"Loving you is easy, it's living with you that's killing me."

An ancient Egyptian artifact is driving Queen Victoria insane, and that's not top of Cara Devon's growing list of problems.

Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is a man of numerous secrets, but there is one in particular that threatens his fledgling relationship with Cara. Stunned by Nate's revelation, and before she can absorb the ramifications of his actions, he is arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in the grim Tower of London. He stole something the mad queen wants, and only has days to deliver, before his date with the executioner.

Although sorely tempted, Cara can't let him die on Tower Green, not when their connection means she would share his fate.

Only together can Cara and Nate figure out how to wrestle Hatshepsut's Collar from around the queen's neck, before she plunges Britain into a world war. The search for answers sends Cara to the opulent Winter Palace of St Petersburg and the frozen depths of Siberia, with every step shadowed by an enemy with his own dark plans.

Book Review:

Last year, NEFERTITI’S HEART was a book I enjoyed a lot. It’s a quirky, unique book, blending steampunk and Egyptian mythology along with romance and adventure. When I read it in April 2013, I wasn’t sure if it was the start of a series or a standalone, so I was quite pleased to see HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR come out this year. I couldn’t wait to join Cara and Nate on their next adventure.

And boy, HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR is one hell of a ride. The book starts about six weeks after the events of NEFERTITI’S HEART, and doesn’t waste too much time recapping the past. I don’t think you need to have read book one to be able to read this book, but you’ll have a better understanding of Cara and Nate’s relationship if you’ve already read NEFERTITI’S HEART.

That fledgling relationship is put to the test when Nate drops a gigantic bombshell on Cara (really, I wanted to take his head off myself). But before Cara react, Queen Victoria’s troops arrest Nate for high treason. Even though she’s tempted to let Nate rot in the Tower, Cara has to help rescue him, because if he dies, so does she, thanks to the bond they have through the Nefertiti’s Heart artifact. Another Egyptian artifact is influencing the queen, the Hatshepsut’s Collar of the book’s title, driving her towards worldwide conquest.

HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR takes Cara and Nate from England to Russia as they try to clear his name. I really enjoyed the glimpses of the author’s version of St. Petersburg, as well as two new characters, Nikolai and Natalie, acquaintances of Nate’s. They, as well as Loki the air pirate, provided amusement and seriousness, as needed. There’s a good dash of humor amongst the more dangerous moments. There’s nothing like laughing just before or even while characters are charging into danger. I mean, where else can you imagine a pirate blasting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as he attacks the Tower of London in an airship?

Cara spends a lot of the book wondering if she should stay with Nate, as she’s tired of him hiding things from her, including Very Big Secrets that impact her too. Even so, they don’t hold back on the physical side of their relationship; they have a lot of sex. I wish those scenes had been more consistent, because some were more explicit than others, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one or two pulled me out of the story. Until I got to the middle half, that is, where the action really picked up. Then there wasn’t as much time for shenanigans between the sheets, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I did like that Cara thought a lot about Nate and their relationship, and just didn’t forgive him off the bat.

HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR takes everything I enjoyed in NEFERTITI’S HEART, from the world to the action, to kick butt Cara to scene-stealing Loki, and builds upon it. The book is a fun romp through a steampunked London and St. Petersburg, and the ending promises more such adventures for Cara and Nate. Definitely recommended, especially if you want some romance along with your steampunk and mystery.

Socialize with the author:

A.W. Exley:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Chasing the Star Garden (Airship Racing Chronicles #1) by Melanie Karsak

Book Review: Chasing the Star Garden (Airship Racing Chronicles #1) by Melanie KarsakChasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak
Series: The Airship Racing Chronicles #1
Published by Clockpunk Press on December 4, 2013
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 325
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
An opium-addicted beauty.
An infamous poet living in self-imposed exile.
An ancient treasure about to fall into the wrong hands.

Melanie Karsak's Chasing the Star Garden takes readers on a thrilling adventure from the gritty opium dens of gaslamp London to the gem-colored waters of the ancient world. Lily Stargazer, a loveable but reckless airship racer with a famous lover and shattered past, reluctantly plunges into a centuries-old mystery in a romantic adventure best described as Dan Brown meets Mary Shelley.

It all begins on one of the worst days of Lily’s life. She just lost the London leg of the 1823 Airship Grand Prix. To top it off, a harlequin fleeing from constables shoved a kaleidoscope down her pants, told her to fly to Venice, then threw himself from her airship tower. What’s a girl to do? For Lily, the answer is easy: drink absinthe and smoke opium.

Lily’s lover, Lord Byron, encourages her to make the trip to Venice. Lily soon finds herself at the heart of an ancient mystery which has her running from her past and chasing true love and the stars along the way.

Today on the tour for CHASING THE STAR GARDEN by Melanie Karsak, I have a review. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit the whole schedule here. After my review, there is a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

“In true Lily fashion, I didn’t know I was in trouble until I was already in the middle of it.” (p. 110)

I could liken CHASING THE STAR GARDEN to the absinthe Lily drinks: it’s almost like chasing the green fairy as a fantastical tale unfolds. I had no idea what to expect from the author’s steampunk, airship-filled world, and that’s always something I like, when an author can keep me guessing.

Lily Stargazer races airships, dallies with Lord Byron, smokes opium like it’s going out of style, and all around does whatever she pleases. She captured me from the start of the book, especially when she and Byron got down and dirty after she loses a race. I’ll admit, the first few chapters of CHASING THE STAR GARDEN had me wondering just what I was reading, but once I got further into the book, I can’t imagine having met Lily any other way. She’s a mess of a character, deeply wounded by her past. So it made perfect sense she’d drown her airship race loss in an opium den, and then in Lord Byron.

But as the story in CHASING THE STAR GARDEN ramps up, Lily gradually takes charge of herself. She’s always closed herself off to love due to childhood abuse, preferring casual hook-ups to real relationships. So it’s almost laughable when it turns out she’s the only one who can rescue a famous statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Of course, along the way, Lily starts to open herself up to the possibility of having love in her life. I didn’t totally buy the eventual relationship between Lily and Sal, but I was happy for her to find love.

What I liked the most about CHASING THE STAR GARDEN was the complex adventure/mystery. Lily, Sal, and Celeste (a courtesan/priestess of Venus) set off on a journey guided by the stars and ancient myths to find the Aphrodite of Knidos. Celeste wants to keep the statute from falling into the hands of treasure hunters. Their only clues are a kaleidoscope and the stars.

I couldn’t get a full handle on the world, but what was there was quite interesting. There were lots of airship races, both of the racing sort and the run for your life sort. I would have like more information on the world itself, but that’s just because I want to know how airship racing became a sport!

All in all, I enjoyed the wild ride that is CHASING THE STAR GARDEN, and I’m eager to see what else the author has in store for Lily.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

melanie karsak author of chasing the star gardenMelanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there was an abysmal lack of entertainment, so she turned to reading and hiking. Apparently, rambling around the woods with a head full of fantasy worlds and characters will inspire you to become an author. Be warned. Melanie wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, the author now resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Melanie is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna