Book Review: The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

Book Review: The Dungeoneers by John David AndersonThe Dungeoneers by John David Anderson
Series: Dungeoneers #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on June 23, 2015
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Dungeoneers is an action-packed, funny, and heartbreaking middle grade fantasy-adventure from the author of the acclaimed Sidekicked and Minion, John David Anderson.

The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it.

In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin's Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.

Book Review:

THE DUNGEONEERS has a healthy helping of Dungeons and Dragons, a dash of Harry Potter, and a heaping spoonful of humor and fun. I ate this book up like candy — it was much better than the endless stew served at Thwodin’s Legion.

Colm Canderly has eight sisters who love to torment him (but they love him, too). But that’s not the worst of his problems. He’s from a poor family, and no matter how much cobbling work his father does, there’s never enough to go around. So one day, he decides to lift the purses of wealthy men … just to help the family, of course … but discovers he has a real talent for thievery. Naturally, his honest father isn’t happy, and insists Colm give the money back.

Enter Finn. A member of Thwodin’s Legion, a premiere dungeoning guild, Finn recognizes Colm’s talent, and offers him the opportunity of a lifetime. What twelve-year-old boy wouldn’t jump at the chance to make lots of gold, fight orcs, and get his name out there? At the guild hall, Colm is teamed up with his party, consisting of Lena the Barbarian (who faints at the sight of her own blood), Quinn the Mage (who stutters when he’s nervous, casting unpredictable spells), and Serene the Druid (who’s scared of animals with lots of teeth). They must learn to work together, balancing each others’ strengths and weaknesses, to survive in orc-infested, trap-laden dungeons.

THE DUNGEONEERS was a treat to read. A funny, well-written, fantastical middle grade book great for kids and adults. I do think it’s a tad long, as there are some chapters without a lot of action or story forwarding. But the characters are all developed — all unique, with their own personalities that expand beyond their party roles. I enjoyed watching their friendship grow, and watching them train together. I appreciated that the author put time into showing how a rogue might practice his skills.

THE DUNGEONEERS is the perfect book for when you can’t find someone to play D&D with, or when you want to escape into a dungeon and come out with storybook gold without dodging boring orc traps!

Socialize with the author:

John David Anderson:
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– leeanna

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: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

Book Review: The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay CummingsThe Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings
Series: The Balance Keepers #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on September 23, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile....

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson, The Unwanteds, and the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Book Review:

THE FIRES OF CALDERON is the first book in the Balance Keepers series. Middle grade fantasy, the publisher has compared the series to Percy Jackson, but it’s not a comparison I’d agree with. Albert and his friends are nowhere near as interesting or developed as Percy and crew.

It took me a couple of tries to start THE FIRES OF CALDERON, since the first chapter did not grab my attention. I wish I had followed my gut and put the book down, because while I did push through and finish, it wasn’t super original, memorable, or even enjoyable. I didn’t really care for the author’s writing style. Something about it felt oddly formal to me — not the kind of writing that pulls me into a book.

Admittedly, I’m way above the intended age group, but THE FIRES OF CALDERON didn’t have what I like to read in middle grade books. There’s not a lot of great worldbuilding, quirky characters, or immersive storytelling. I can’t count how many times I thought Albert and friends were really Harry, Ron, and Hermione. The plot itself? I can’t remember much of it, other than scoffing at Albert’s suddenly discovered power.

Socialize with the author:

Lindsay Cummings:
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– 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: The Last Wild by Piers Torday

Book Review: The Last Wild by Piers TordayThe Last Wild by Piers Torday
Series: The Last Wild #1
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
In a world where animals no longer exist, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes sometimes feels like he hardly exists either. Locked away in a home for troubled children, he's told there's something wrong with him. So when he meets a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach, Kester thinks he's finally gone crazy. But the animals have something to say. And they need him. The pigeons fly Kester to a wild place where the last creatures in the land have survived. A wise stag needs Kester's help, and together they must embark on a great journey, joined along the way by an overenthusiastic wolf cub, a military-trained cockroach, a mouse with a ritual for everything, and a stubborn girl named Polly. The animals saved Kester Jaynes. But can Kester save the animals?

Book Review:

THE LAST WILD is a whimsical tale, the story of a boy discovering his voice. It reminded me a little of THE LITTLE PRINCE,, maybe because of the cover and chapter heading illustrations, and because like that book, THE LAST WILD can be read on different levels. It’s one for both kids and adults.

Twelve-year-old Kester lives in a world where there are no animals. They were killed by the mysterious red-eye virus, all except cockroaches and the like. Kester hasn’t talked for six years, and he’s surprised as anyone when he hears a voice in his room one night. Only … the voice is in his head, and it’s coming from a cockroach.

Thus starts Kester’s journey to rescue the last animals left alive. Kester has a gift: the ability to talk and listen to animals. Carried by pigeons to The Last Wild, he reluctantly agrees to help the last remaining animals find a cure for red-eye. Along the way, he learns a lot about himself, friendship, humans, and animals.

THE LAST WILD is a magical book. The different animals accompanying Kester, from the stag to the wolf-cub to the pigeons to the cockroach all had their own personalities and stories. There’s lots of humor, but also lots of sadness. The author brought all of them to life for me. When I turned the last page of the book, I wished I could get my hands on the next one, because I have got to find out what happens next to Kester and everyone. The ending isn’t quite a cliffhanger, because much of the story is wrapped up, but there’s still some problems to face.

Socialize with the author:

Piers Torday:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher Healy

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (The League of Princes #2) by Christopher HealyThe Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
Series: The League of Princes #2
Published by Walden Pond Press on April 30, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 477
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don't you? They're the Princes Charming, who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses--Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose--to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.

But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening--even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination--it's all in a day's work for the League of Princes.

Book Review:

“You’re never too young to start being a hero. Practice dueling one-handed so you never need to drop your blankie.” — The Hero’s Guide to Being a Hero by Duncan

After devouring the first book in the League of Princes series, THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM, I could not wait to dive into the second. Sometimes middle books disappoint me, because they aren’t as good as the first, or are just a bridge to the third book.

Not so with THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE. I think I might have loved it more than the first book!

There’s a big cast of characters in the book, between the princes, their princesses, the bad guys, and everyone else. Yet every character has a distinct personality, and is well drawn in a sentence or two. I never forgot anyone because each person was unique. I have a special fondness for Mr. Troll, though. Can’t beat a troll who wants to be the good guy in a song, even if the bards always get everything wrong.

This book has the same creativity and humor as the first, lots of adventure, and plenty of character growth. Liam’s somewhat of a jerk, having lost what means most to him: his reputation as a hero. His fiancée, Briar Rose, is pretty insistent on their marriage, even chaining Liam to his chair. She also has a big evil plan to overtake every kingdom, and only that brings Liam out of his stupor. Sort of. He eventually shapes up, with plenty of help from his friends.

I was sad when I finished the book, because I didn’t want it to be over! This series is great. If I had a young person in my life, I think it’s a series I’d enjoy reading with them, as both kids and adults can enjoy it. It’s one of my new favorites, and it’s one I’ll enjoy rereading for years.

Socialize with the author:

Christopher Healy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy

Book Review: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes #1) by Christopher HealyThe Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Series: The League of Princes #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 1, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 436
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Goodreads
5 Stars
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Book Review:

I love fairy tale retellings, but the majority of them are written from the female perspective. I believe THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is the first I’ve read that’s from a guy’s. Even better — it’s actually the stories of each Prince Charming. The true stories, mind you. They’re nothing like you’ve heard before.

Frederic, Cinderella’s prince, is scared of just about everything, but he’s a snazzy dresser. Gustav, Rapunzel’s prince, is the youngest in a family of seventeen princes. Duncan, Sleeping Beauty’s prince, is a bit of an oddball and sadly has no friends. Liam, Briar Rose’s prince, is actually a hero, but he’s saddled with a real winner for a princess.

I loved this book. It’s hilarious and creative, and I just couldn’t get enough. I think it’s a great book for both younger and older readers; there’s a little something for everyone here. There’s lots of action and adventure, with the princes battling an evil witch; character growth, because the princes want to be known for who they are, not their princesses; sly humor; and illustrations that are picture perfect.

I’m having a difficult time reviewing it, because all that really comes to mind is that THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is just FUN! A seriously good time.

Socialize with the author:

Christopher Healy:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-HollandBracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Series: Viking Sagas #1
Published by Quercus Books on March 11, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. Her boat is washed up, but Solveig is undeterred. What awaits Solveig as she continues on her summer journey across the world? She finds passage with Viking traders, witnesses the immolation of a young slave girl and learns to fight. She sees the clashes between those who praise her Norse Gods and the new Christians. In this perilous and exciting world, a young girl alone could be quickly endangered or made a slave. Will Solveig live to see her father again, and if she survives, will she remain free? A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.

Book Review:

From the summary, BRACELET OF BONES sounds awesome. After being left behind by her father, fourteen-year-old Solveig travels from Norway to Miklagard (Constantinople) by herself. For a girl who has never gone to the local market by herself, the prospect of such a journey is overwhelming, but Solveig loves her father and wants to be with him.

The author takes something that should be super exciting — Solveig’s journey — and makes it super boring. BRACELET OF BONES is for grades 5 and up, but I can’t see younger readers sticking with this book because there’s just not a lot happening! My younger self might have finished it, but that’s only because I’ve always had a thing about finishing books.

This book is the start of a series, which wasn’t something I realized until I finished it and saw the preview for book two. So BRACELET OF BONES is the story of Solveig’s journey from Norway to Miklagard, and only that journey. It’s somewhat repetitive, and I just feel like nothing happened. Solveig took a boat ride. Solveig took another boat ride. Solveig took a third boat ride.

I think some of my apathy for the book was due to the writing style and Solveig herself. The writing is pretty simple, which is okay because it’s a middle grade book and aimed towards younger readers. But I lost count of the “Solveig thought this” or “Solveig thought that” type of sentences, or the times she exclaimed or whispered or cried … she never just said anything. Call me overly picky, but that sort of writing pulls me out of a story. And Solveig … I never connected with her. I felt like I was watching the events of the book rather than being with her on her journey.

I wanted to like BRACELET OF BONES. I mean, Vikings? A Viking girl going on a grand adventure? That should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me.

Socialize with the author:

Kevin Crossley-Holland:
Website

– 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
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– 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.

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– leeanna