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: Silent Harmony (Vivienne Taylor #1) by Michele Scott

Book Review: Silent Harmony (Vivienne Taylor #1) by Michele ScottSilent Harmony by Michele Scott
Series: Vivienne Taylor #1
Published by Amazon Children's Publishing, Skyscape on May 28, 2013
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 238
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Small town seventeen-year-old Vivienne Taylor is a talented equestrian with Olympic dreams and a little something extra going on she is also an equine empath, someone who has the ability to read horses minds and moods. When she receives a full scholarship to attend Fairmont Riding Academy, a prep school with a famous riding program, she struggles with homesickness, hazing by the school's snooty drama queen, intense competition in the sport of three-day-eventing, and the not-altogether-unwelcome interest of a hot guy. On top of all of that the horse given to Vivienne via the scholarship is an animal that she cannot read or understand. When Vivienne learns that her new horse Harmony belonged to the school's vet, who recently died in a freak accident, she senses that the horse's aloof behavior may be the result of her witnessing this accident. But as a connection begins to unfold between Vivienne and Harmony, Vivienne begins to believe that the vet's death was no accident at all but rather murder and she resolves, at considerable peril, to track down the killer.

My Review:

SILENT HARMONY is the first in a new young adult series combining horses, romance, and mystery.

Vivienne, the main character, is a girl I liked quite a bit. With dreams of being an Olympian in the sport of eventing, Vivienne has her life together – there’s no room for anything but school and horses. Vivienne’s talented and dedicated enough to win a scholarship to one of the most prestigious riding schools around, Fairmont Riding Academy, but of course, the school isn’t the horse-lover’s paradise Vivienne expected it to be.

SILENT HARMONY has a lot going on, and for the most part, the author tackles everything pretty well. To start off, Vivienne has a unique gift, one I’m sure many horse lovers would die to have: the ability to speak to horses. Really speak to them, mind to mind, in words or images, depending on the horse. It’s a skill that she’s used to help her mother (a vet) save horses’ lives, and at Fairmont, she employs it to try and learn why her new horse, Harmony, is so sad. It turns out that Harmony’s previous owner, Serena, died in a mysterious accident that might not really have been an accident.

Next, there’s a healthy dash of mean girls, romance, and mystery. Vivienne’s not interested in romance, but that doesn’t stop a couple of guys from trying to get into her pants. Literally. The boys of Fairmont have a bet for the scholarship student – whoever can get her first wins all the money. Now, I know some parents might not like sex mentioned in books. But you know what? Teens are going to do what they want, regardless of if it’s in books or not. Anyway, that’s a whole different argument, but I mention it here because I like how Vivienne handled the bet once she found out about it.

SILENT HARMONY is mostly written from Vivienne’s perspective, but there were a few chapters from Tristan and Riley, two boys who like her. I personally would have preferred the entire book to be in Vivienne’s voice, because her character was the strongest, and it was jarring to go between the different characters. Including chapters from their perspectives didn’t really add to the book for me, because Vivienne was often present in their chapters.

I didn’t really feel the romance between Vivienne or any of the boys, but I’m often picky on romantic relationships. I also didn’t care for the ending; the mystery was resolved without a real climax, which was disappointing. Lastly, for a book on horses and eventing, I wanted MORE about eventing. The second half of the book focuses mainly on friendships, romance, and the big mystery of Serena’s (Harmony’s previous owner) death. But those minuses weren’t enough to keep me from enjoying the book. SILENT HARMONY is a quick, easy read; I was halfway through it before I knew it, partly because I liked the start of it so much.

Overall, though, I think SILENT HARMONY is a book teen horse lovers will enjoy, and I’m curious to see what else is in store for Vivienne.

Socialize with the author:

Michele Scott:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Nothing But Blue by Lisa Jahn-Clough

Book Review: Nothing But Blue by Lisa Jahn-CloughNothing But Blue by Lisa Jahn-Clough
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, Houghton Mifflin on May 7, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
All dead. No one survived. All dead.

This morbid chant haunts seventeen-year-old Blue as she trudges through the countryside with just the clothes on her back, heading to her childhood home on the ocean. Something absolutely awful has happened, she knows it, but she doesn’t know what. She can’t even remember her name, so she calls herself Blue. This gripping survival story—peppered with flashbacks to bittersweet times with her boyfriend, Jake—strips life down to its bare bones. Blue learns, with the help of a seemingly magical stray dog and kind people along the road, that the important thing is to live.

My Review:
NOTHING BUT BLUE is an odd book to describe. Most of the story is about a girl, Blue, walking across the country to an unknown location for an unknown reason. Blue can’t remember much of her past, so both she and the reader are clueless as to who she is.

I just did not connect with this book or its characters. For me, it was one of those ones where I wondered why I was reading it, because the story didn’t hold my interest. NOTHING BUT BLUE is a pretty short book (224 pages in hardcover), but the first half was so slow and uneventful I wanted to put it down.

I can usually suspend my disbelief when reading, but this time, I just could not understand why a girl who could barely remember anything would walk across the country. At first I thought some sort of disaster had changed the entire world, but within a few flashbacks, it was quickly apparent what had actually happened. A disaster, yes, but one that only impacted Blue and her family. There are a lot of clues, so it was frustrating as a reader to see Blue not figure out the truth sooner.

The only character who did interest me was Shadow the dog. He’s supposedly magical, but I had unanswered questions. Was Shadow really supposed to be magical? Or was he some device for Blue, another link in the message that material things don’t matter and real connections between people (and animals) do?

I get what the author was trying to do, or I think I do. The journey across the country is Blue’s way of finding her self, her true self not defined by anyone else’s opinions. The execution was just off for me, and so I’ll end by saying NOTHING BUT BLUE wasn’t the book for me.

Socialize with the author:
Lisa Jahn-Clough:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Escape From Eden by Elisa Nader

Book Review: Escape From Eden by Elisa NaderEscape From Eden by Elisa Nader
Published by Merit Press on August 18, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 271
Format: eBook
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ESCAPE FROM EDEN by Elisa Nader. From the second I read the summary for the book, I wanted to read the whole thing. I really liked it, so read on for my review as well as a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here.

My Review:
The summary for ESCAPE FROM EDEN is originally what drew me to the book, and I’m happy to say that the book lives up to that compelling summary. Scratch that — the blurb barely covers the surface. ESCAPE FROM EDEN is a suspenseful, action-filled look into a religious cult. There’s twist after twist, and I was pleasantly surprised by many of those twists.

When a book starts off with poisoned cookies, there’s a lot of ways it can go. I want to keep from spoiling you, so all I’ll say is that the author takes ESCAPE FROM EDEN in some great directions, many of which made my stomach churn or had me saying, “WHAT?” There’s a lot of dark stuff in here, but I’m the type of reader that likes when Very Bad Stuff happens.

I don’t even know where to start talking about ESCAPE FROM EDEN. For me, it was one of those books I didn’t want to put down until I finished, and after I did read the last page, I just sat there for a bit and processed.

Edenton is a cult reminiscent of Jonestown, a religious community in the middle of a jungle. Most of the members have been brainwashed into following the Reverend’s every doctrine. But Mia, ESCAPE FROM EDEN‘s main character, isn’t a docile believer. She’s been in Edenton for six years, and at the beginning of the book, is starting to question spending the rest of her life there. With her quietly rebellious attitude, and desire to escape, it’s easy to root for her. She grows so much over the course of the book, and soon her rebellions grow too, until she’s the hope for the people of Edenton.

Gabriel, a newcomer to Edenton, is an interesting character. Almost as much as Mia. He’s a sort of bad boy, with a past including drugs and partying, and an even darker secret that brought him and his parents to the community. There’s an immediate spark between Gabriel and Mia, but their romance isn’t really the focus (which is my preference). Yeah, there’s some kissing and mutual attraction, but their focus is more on getting out of Edenton. But there IS romance there, for those of you that like it.

It’s hard for me to say what I didn’t like about the book, because to describe anything too deeply would give up a lot of spoilers. One was the ending, which was a bit too sudden after several gritty, difficult (in a good way) chapters. I just wanted … more. I was also left wanting to know more about Edenton and the Reverend. I wanted more details on how he “went bad,” for lack of a better description, and where Thaddeus, his left hand, came from.

Overall, ESCAPE FROM EDEN is a dark and thrilling book, one I am very happy I read. Definitely recommended, especially if you have any sort of interest in “utopian” communities or cults. The author does a good job of exploring the psychology in such places — you’ll be asking yourself why the Flock stays once you find out some of Edenton’s secrets.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
elisa naderHi. I’m Elisa. I like cheese and reading and TV show marathons. Writing is scary, but not as scary as, say, Civil War amputations. I’m an Aquarius. Uh… let’s see… I’m not very good at writing my own biography. Or autobiography. I guess this is reading more like a slightly incoherent personal ad.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest | Goodreads

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Powell’s | IndieBound

– leeanna

Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne Lindsey

Book Review: Deceived by Julie Anne LindseyDeceived by Julie Anne Lindsey
Published by Merit Press on September 18, 2013
Genres: Mythology, Romance, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad's demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went--until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn't her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father's desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost?

Hey, ya’ll. Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for DECEIVED by Julie Anne Lindsey. I’ve wanted to read something of hers since finding her blog a long time ago and learning she was a fellow Ohioan! Read on for my review and a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by YA Bound Book Tours and you can check out the rest of the stops here.

My Review:
“One handshake and they were friends for life, to hear Pixie tell it. The world was full of potential friends for her.

Personally, I called them all the opposite until proven otherwise. I’d had my share of treacherous friendships. As a general rule, people weren’t as nice as they should be.” (p. 14)

Elle has that one right! DECEIVED is a book where you’re never quite sure who to trust. A young adult thriller/mystery, the book is a good read.

DECEIVED starts off at the beginning of Elle’s senior year at a boarding school in Ohio. Usually shy, even paranoid, Elle is trying to turn over a new leaf this year, to get away from the nightmare that has haunted her for years. A nightmare she can barely remember, but one that has kept her from getting a good night’s sleep for longer than she can remember. The boarding school is also an opportunity for Elle to stay in one place for a while; she and her father have moved at least once a year since her mother’s death.

But the school year barely kicks off before mysterious things start happening to Elle. Paranoid because of the dream, where she’s always in danger of dying, simple things like finding a pile of cigarette butts outside of her door or hearing a faulty car every morning freak her out. And when Brian, the gorgeous guy she met before school, shows up and enrolls in all of her classes, all bets are off.

Brian is a real hot-cold kind of guy. He virtually ignores Elle at school, but then he does sweet things like cook her dinner and bring her coffee. I was bothered by Elle’s instant attraction to him. It was close to, if not outright, insta-love for me, and that’s never something I like. However, as the book went on, and I learned more of Brian’s secrets, I began rooting for their relationship.

The first half of DECEIVED is pretty slow. The action picks up after the first hundred or so pages, and after that, I read straight on until I finished the book. The beginning is full of developing Elle’s paranoia and fear, as well as the burgeoning relationship between Elle and Brian. Once I reached the end of DECEIVED, some of the odd things in the first half of the book made a lot more sense. No, I’m not going to spoil it, but I will say keep your eyes open as you read, and see what clues you find.

The mystery was my favorite part of DECEIVED. Near the start of the book, we learn about a serial killer, The Reaper, who brutally tortures and kills high school age girls. With almost two dozen victims to his name, he’s been on the run for a long, long time. When she reads about him online, Elle doesn’t think much about it, other than being grateful there’s no way he’d be interested in boring old her. Naturally, their stories tangle together, resulting in the question of who’s deceiving whom, and a great action scene. I can’t say much else than that without ruining the entire book, so go give DECEIVED a chance.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize package #1 (US only)
Signed hardcover of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
$10 iTunes gift card
Black satin makeup bag with: black blinged compact/mirror, blue sheen nail polish & 5 pack Frosted lip gloss & balms

Prize package #2 (US only)
Signed hardcover of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
Silver makeup bag with: silver sparkly compact/mirror, Pixie dust (in honor of my favorite YA roommate) & 4 pack Moshi Monsters flavored lip gloss tin

Prize package #3 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
4 pack Nerds flavored lip gloss tin

Prize package #4 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks
Satin Pucker Up makeup bag

Prize package #5 (US only)
Signed ARC of DECEIVED with signed swag/bookmarks

Prize package #6 (INT)
1-eARC PDF of DECEIVED

About the author:
julie anne lindseyJulie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. In 2013, Julie welcomes five new releases in three genres including her newest title, DECEIVED, a YA suspense from Merit Press, and her first cozy mystery, MURDER BY THE SEASIDE, book one in the Patience Price, Counselor at Large series from Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin).

Julie is a self-proclaimed word nerd who would rather read than almost anything else. She started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world. Most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book.
Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

Find her online:
Tweeting her crazy @JulieALindsey
Soothing her book obsession on GoodReads
Pinning the pretty on Pinterest
Tumbling lamely on Tumblr
Blogging about books and writing at Musings from the Slush Pile
Facebook
DECEIVED’S trailer

Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Book Review: All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie BerryAll the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
Published by Viking on September 26, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

My Review:
I’ve been waffling over my review for ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME for over a month. I had a difficult time figuring out what to say about the book, which is ironic because the main character can’t talk. Judith’s tongue was cut out by her captor before he sent her home.

ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME is written in a unique way which might not be for every reader. I recommend checking out an excerpt if you can. Instead of chapters, the book is a series of connected, short passages. Instead of the usual first or third person point of view, the book is from second person POV, with Judith talking to Lucas, the boy she’s always loved. Example: “How busy you are now. Harvest, and a wedding. A new room on the cabin to please your bride (p. 24).”

The “romance” between Judith and Lucas is, at first, one-sided. I didn’t mind it, because I figured Judith used Lucas as a mental escape and way to survive during her captivity. After she’s back, it makes sense for her to continue using him that way, because even though she’s free, life is far from peachy. ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME picks up about two years after Judith’s return home, and is about her trouble fitting in and picking up the pieces of her life. For example, because she can’t talk anymore, almost everyone in the village thinks she’s stupid or cursed, and they act like she doesn’t exist. And Judith’s mother? Not too thrilled about her ruined daughter.

It’s hard to place the world in this book, because there’s very little worldbuilding. That was a negative point for me, because I’m the type of reader that likes to know as much as possible about a book’s world. I’m guessing it’s set in a Puritan village, sometime in the late 1600s. The war with the homelanders that plays a big role in the book isn’t really explained, and I was confused about who the homelanders were, and why they would want to overrun Roswell Station.

The cover of ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME also gave me the impression it would be a contemporary book, set in 2013 or thereabouts. So between the summary that didn’t mention anything about the time period and the cover, I was surprised when I realized the book was set in the past.

What this review really comes down to — did I like this book? Sort of. At first I thought the unique writing style and the questions behind Judith’s captivity were interesting. Along with Judith’s kidnapping, there’s the mystery of what happened to her friend Lottie. I figured it out before the reveal, and thought the last two sections of the book were too drawn out. The further I got into ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME, I just wanted to get to the end and be done with it.

Review on Amazon.

Let’s talk about it:
If a book cover doesn’t match a book, does it bug you?

Socialize with the author:
Julie Berry:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Circle of Shadows (Crowther and Westerman #4) by Imogen Robertson

Book Review: Circle of Shadows (Crowther and Westerman #4) by Imogen RobertsonCircle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson
Series: Crowther and Westerman #4
Published by Pamela Dorman Books, Penguin on June 13, 2013
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
A grisly murder among the German aristocracy propels this tale of eighteenth century forensics and historical crime solving.

The forthright Mrs. Harriet Westerman and her reclusive companion, anatomist Gabriel Crowther, tackle their first case outside of England in the fourth installment of Imogen Robertson’s heralded historical suspense series.

As Germany’s elite are celebrating Shrove Tuesday of 1784 with a masked ball, the beautiful Lady Martesen is murdered. Daniel Clode, brother-in-law to Mrs. Westerman, is found near the body. All evidence points to him as the killer. As Daniel awaits execution, Westerman and Crowther arrive and quickly encounter a court full of opulence, intrigue, and deadly secrets—but no one who will talk.

With Anne Perry’s eye for period detail and Tess Gerritsen’s forensics knowledge, Robertson is emerging as a major author of highbrow suspense.

My Review:
CIRCLE OF SHADOWS is a rich meal of a book, full of historical details, unique characters, and an intriguing mystery.

I was initially attracted to the book because of the main character, Harriet Westerman. I was quite curious as to how a woman in the late 1700s could be a detective. But to my surprise, I liked every single character in the book, good and bad, even the minor ones. The author has a real talent for fleshing out characters. I cared about all of them in some way, from Harriet to the daughter of the ballet dancer. I wanted to know more about everyone, too, and I think the author did a good job of integrating interesting and relevant backstories into the plot. Harriet, though, was probably my favorite. I adored her dry humor and quick mind.

And the plot! I admit, I don’t usually read mysteries. They just aren’t my favorite. But I liked CIRCLE OF SHADOWS so much I want to read the rest of the Crowther and Westerman series. The author wove a compelling story, bringing in everything from forensics to lost family members to secret societies to court politics. I think there’s something for everyone here — there are even automatons, which I so did not expect to see. I had no idea how the murder mystery would tie up, and I admit to being quite surprised by the ending. It was a fantastical mystery for sure, but one that I believed because of the way the author wrote it.

I read CIRCLE OF SHADOWS over a few weeks. Usually I speed through books, but the writing style — heavy on detail and scene setting, and almost formal — made me slow down. This was a plus for me, because it was refreshing to spend longer than a day or two reading a book. I do advise taking an hour or so to get into the book when you begin it, so you can get a good footing with the characters and start of the big mystery.

Although CIRCLE OF SHADOWS is book four in a series, you don’t have to have read the other books to understand this one. That was one of the other big pluses for me, because who likes to try and recall details from books they read years ago? Not me! The author does a very nice job of filling you in on what you need to know, if you’re new to Harriet and Crowther and their world. But if you aren’t, you won’t be bogged down by information dumps. There’s a good balance.

I would have liked a dramatis personae to help me keep track of the large cast of characters. I sometimes had to flip back to remember who someone was, but that’s a small quibble.

I’d recommend this book if you like mysteries, because its superbly done. I really liked that the author didn’t “write down,” but expected the reader to solve things right along with Harriet and the rest of the characters. It’s always cool when you remember a detail you initially thought was insignificant, and then later see that it’s a big clue if you paid attention! I’d also recommend CIRCLE OF SHADOWS if you like historical fiction, because although Maulberg wasn’t a real duchy, the author drew inspiration and information from real German states during the appropriate time period.

Socialize with the author:
Imogen Robertson:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour Book Review: Roadkill by Alexandra Allred

Blog Tour Book Review: Roadkill by Alexandra AllredRoadkill by Alexandra Allred
Series: Allie Lindell #1
Published by The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House on August 15, 2013
Genres: Adult, LGBT, Mystery
Pages: 278
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
When dead prostitutes begin to appear along the rural roads of Ohio, Allie Lindell cannot stay away despite the odds—the odds being her badge-toting sister; her partner, who only wants Allie to stay home and out of harm’s way; and two little girls in full potty-training and tantrum-throwing modes. But when an old friend from The Columbus Dispatch calls with an intriguing job opportunity, Allie can’t turn her away, Allie breaks all kinds of promises to track the killer, heat up a cold case, and discover what happened to a fallen police officer. As she navigates the backstreets of Columbus, following pimps, prostitutes, sullen teenagers, and seedy gamblers, the only thing more complicated is remembering all her aliases.

Enlisting the help of her neighbor, and with the annoying voice of Snow White drumming through her head, Allie and her newfound sidekick will have you falling in love with this wonderful cast of modern heroines with day-to-day problems. Gay, straight, sleek and sexy, or rumpled and ragged—no matter how much they bicker, they’re a mighty force when they all come together. Heigh Ho!

Roadkill is the first in a series in which a former journalist and at-home mom discovers she has a knack for investigating murders. While she longs for the crazy deadlines and adult conversations, she also wants to stay home and care for her babies.

With Disney tunes, tantrums, and potty-training woes on her mind, Allie Lindell must learn to juggle the highs and lows of her family and a career she never knew she always wanted. This is the funny, sometimes aggravating, ultimately heartwarming story of a woman trying to give everything to her kids, keep the love of her partner, and not lose herself in the process.

Today I am the stop on the blog tour for ROADKILL by Alexandra Allred. The tour is hosted by the publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, and you can see the rest of the stops here. Read on for my review and a giveaway.

My Review:
“I never set out to become an obituary writer. Who does that? (p. 1)”

Allie Lindell never set out to do a lot of things. She didn’t plan on writing obituaries, but because there were no job ads for traipsing around New Guinea, she got good with obits, and even became emotionally invested in them. Never a romantic, she fell in love almost at first sight. And though she loved working at The Columbus Dispatch, she quit to become a stay at home mother.

But taking care of two babies all day — five hundred screenings of Snow White included — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Allie needs adult conversation, an escape, something beyond staying at home all day and losing part of herself. Yes, Allie loves her daughters, and her wife, but she needs something more.

ROADKILL is a story with a lot packed into it. There’s a couple of mysteries, including a serial killer who refrigerates bodies before dumping them, and a murdered cop who was once accused of molesting his niece. Allie gets tangled up in the investigations because she freelances for her old paper on the side, as part of her quest to not lose herself. But investigating the cases is about more than just that — because of her experience as an obituary writer, Allie wonders about the dead. Why they ended up as victims. What happened in their life.

There’s a theme in the book that I like, stemming from the title, ROADKILL. Allie muses that the unfortunate dead like the serial killer’s prostitutes are only important when they die, and even then, they’re only mentioned because they were murdered by someone making the news.

Aside from all that, there’s more to the book. Allie struggles to find the right balance between investigating and her personal life. She’s in the midst of some big problems with her wife, Rae Ann. They’re the sort of problems every couple goes through — drifting apart after having children, having trouble communicating, etc. I liked that the author didn’t make a big deal out of them being a same-sex couple. They’re a couple, period, same as any husband and wife, or husband and husband.

The author created some truly memorable characters. One of my favorites was Kipper, the canine partner of Allie’s sister, Michelle. I always have a soft spot for well-done animal characters. It was great to see Kipper as a big softie when playing with Allie’s daughters, and then a vicious attack dog when on the job. Allie herself was another favorite, and I think a lot of readers will identify with her struggle in juggling a partner, children, and home life without losing part of herself. Lastly, Jenny was a sweetheart. Allie and Rae Ann’s neighbor, she was always willing to watch the girls when Allie needed to run some “errands.” AKA investigate. I liked Jenny because she was a good example of someone sort of isolated — she has MS, and her family would rather coddle her than allow her to live her life.

I did have some difficulty believing that, when investigating, Allie was able to get so many people to spill their guts to her. She also knowingly put herself in danger — because she didn’t think — which is always a peeve of mine.

Overall, I enjoyed ROADKILL and I am very curious as to what the author has in mind for Allie, Rae Ann, and the rest of the bunch. Because I know Allie is not going to keep the bargain she made with her sister, to keep from “investigating” for a month!

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:
roadkill-aallredAlexandra Allred is a former national athlete and adventure writer turned humorist and fictional writer. She’s often been called the next Erma Bombeck with a grudge. Her annual Christmas letters, which have frequently made the news, could make the Grinch weep with joy.

Allred is an avid runner (though not a very good one), frequently testifies in Washington D.C. on environmental issues, is an advocate for Clean Air, and loathes people who illegally park in handicap places.

She currently lives in Texas with her husband, three children, and array of happy animals.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Immortal Eclipse by Sherry Soule

immortal eclipseInfo:
Title: Immortal Eclipse
Author: Sherry Soule
Release Date: May 15, 2013
Publisher: Disenchanted Publishing, Inc.
Source: Author for honest review
Series? No
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal Romance, Mystery
Page Count: 360
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

Mystery, Murder, Manolo Blahnik

A devoted fashionata and practical New Yorker, Skylar Blackwell doesn’t believe in the supernatural—until she inherits Summerwind Mansion. . . .

When her uncle is brutally murdered, and the cops seem uninterested in following up the case, Skylar journeys to California to seek answers. Her search for clues is soon overshadowed by haunting nightmares of a young woman also murdered in the house.

Now the inhabitants of Summerwind are mysteriously dying, leaving no evidence as to how or why, and Skylar finds herself in a deadly race against time to expose the killer—before they strike again.

Armed with only wit and Pradas, Skylar begins questioning the servants, but the growing list of suspects includes the sexy and brooding caretaker, Dorian, a man desperately trying to forget his tragic past. And a major distraction for Skylar.

Determined to play detective—instead of the fashion police—and unravel the dark history of the mansion, Skylar is plunged into an otherworldly mystery that not even she can explain away. As the boundaries between reality and dreams blur, Skylar’s greatest challenge is to stay alive long enough to learn the truth. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
IMMORTAL ECLIPSE is a new adult, paranormal romance with a fashionista heroine and a broody, gothic-inspired love interest. Set in a spooky, isolated mansion, the book really feels like a gothic romance for the modern age.

My favorite part of IMMORTAL ECLIPSE was the story. The author created an intriguing twist on a ghost story, and even though I was sometimes frustrated with Skylar or Dorian, I kept reading to find out how the book would end. Although I had some suspicions on how the story would tie up, I didn’t guess everything, which is always nice for me as a reader. And no, I’m not going to spoil the plot, but IMMORTAL ECLIPSE was like a murder mystery with lots of paranormal happenings.

Usually I’m a character-driven reader, but in this case, I didn’t really click with Skylar. I thought I would, because in the first chapter, she’s got a Glock for self-defense and a “you’re not gonna scare me” attitude even though something’s trying to break into her apartment. But once Skylar got to Summerwind, to investigate her uncle’s mysterious death, she was somewhat inconsistent for me. She alternated between being a tough New York chick, one who didn’t believe in ghost stories, to one who relied on the mysterious protective power of a magical amulet. I also wasn’t totally sold on the romance with hot and cold Dorian, but I could see why Skylar fell for him. Skylar likes romances, a lot, and so a guy like Dorian — a man damaged by past relationships in gorgeous, sculpted body — is very appealing to her. Dorian was basically the Byronic hero in a nutshell.

Other than the ghostly mystery, the next best part of IMMORTAL ECLIPSE for me was Summerwind. The mansion Skylar inherited from her uncle was almost like a character, playing a big part in the book, both in atmosphere and history. I thought the other did a good job with showing classic gothic characteristics, such as dark and stormy weather during climaxes, and using dreams as a way to show more of the characters’ backstories. Summerwind is the setting for everything, past and present, and I really felt its role in the book.

Let’s talk about it:
Do you read for character, story, or both?

Socialize with the author:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon

don't turn aroundInfo:
Title: Don’t Turn Around
Author: Michelle Gagnon
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? PERSEF0NE #1
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Page Count: 320
Rating: [3/5 stars]

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her hacking skills to stay anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in a warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa’s talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation threatens his life in no uncertain terms. But what Noa and Peter don’t realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who’d stop at nothing to silence her for good. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
DON’T TURN AROUND is a difficult book to describe, let alone review without giving away too many spoilers. It’s an action-packed thriller, with barely a minute to breathe as you’re reading. The title is apt, because everytime Noa turns around, there is someone there trying to recapture or kill her.

The book starts off with one heck of a hook: Noa waking up in a mysterious glass cube inside a warehouse. There’s a scar on her chest, as if she’s just had surgery. Her survival instincts kick in, and Noa flees, escaping what seems like an army of bad guys. An orphan used to fending for herself, Noa is also a gifted hacker, and she puts those skills to use in trying to figure out just what the hell happened to her.

Enter Peter. When Noa needs quick cash to survive for a few days until she can get access to her bank accounts, he hires her to do research into a mysterious company that broke into his house to steal his laptop. Peter is the creator of /ALLIANCE/, a do-good hacking group named after the Alliance from World of Warcraft.

Noa and Peter eventually end up working together, for the organization that kidnapped Noa is the same one that broke into Peter’s house. The action in DON’T TURN AROUND is non-stop, but even though Noa and Peter got into some bad situations, I never truly felt like they were in danger. The author also tried to interject some romance between the two, but I wished she had just left them as wary acquaintances, because the romance fell flat for me. Fortunately there isn’t a lot of it.

Noa is a difficult character to get a grasp on at first. She’s independent, secretive, and doesn’t talk about herself. All for a good reason, and she does grow throughout the book, learning that she can’t rely on just herself. I did like that she wasn’t a character who went to emotional bits every time something bad happened, but stayed calm and thought through a situation or conflict. Peter was the softer one, more in touch with his emotions and indulging in a freak out or two. A guy used to every girl liking him, Noa keeps him on his toes.

I appreciate the touches of geekiness throughout DON’T TURN AROUND, only fitting as both Noa and Peter are hackers. However, as a geek, a few things stood out to me as false or not quite right. But I don’t think the average, non-gamer, non-geek will pick up on them.

Ultimately, though there’s a lot of action, not a lot happens in DON’T TURN AROUND. It’s mostly set-up. There are a lot of loose ends, but that’s because it’s the first in a trilogy. While I didn’t love the book, I did like it quite a bit, and I will be picking up the next book, DON’T LOOK NOW, set to come out August 2013. I want to get answers to all my questions, and find out what happens next to Noa, Peter, and the evil organization they’re fighting against.

Socialize with the author:
Michelle Gagnon:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna