Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spotlight & Giveaway: ICED: A Resort to Murder Mystery by Avery Daniels

ICED: A Resort to Murder Mystery

Avery Daniels

June 20, 2017 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Iced by Avery Daniels
Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime.


She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who know what's best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn't understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice.

Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to her widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth
Published by: Blazing Sword Publishing, Ltd
Publication Date: May 31st 2017
Number of Pages: 296
ASIN: B071LFD6JV
Series: A Resort to Murder Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Kindle Unlimited  | Goodreads 

Read an excerpt:

Today everything in my life changed.

I’m the events coordinator and membership manager, in training that is, at a five star resort in Colorado. Some days, like today, it feels like I was sacrificed to some sadistic little idol somewhere. Coordination of conferences and meetings of all sizes in the resort’s convention center facility was part of my training. But this particular event, a Leadership Luncheon that brought together the town’s community leaders to network, was a challenge from the first minutes this morning.

"Julienne, this event must be executed with precision and perfection." Those are the favorite words of my boss, Chad. This particular event is a daylong exercise in patience.

Every job has its great parts and it’s not so great. Today encompassed one of the more unpleasant aspects of my job. Occasionally, okay usually, the hardest part of my job is the customer relations and today was particularly difficult. Some customers just can’t be satisfied and some events are riddled with issues.

We were only serving a modest seventy-five attendees, but I had already been assailed with special requests and numerous complaints. Picky doesn’t begin to cover it.

“How hard would it be to setup for a video presentation with a large screen and surround sound?”

“There are windows. It’s too distracting, people will be watching the hotel guests walking around.”

“Can we change the setup of room C from an L configuration to a U shape? But only for that one session, then move it back.”

“Can we get the Lobster for the buffet flown in that morning? Scallops are out….Can we have the scallops after all?”

“Music piped in during the breaks?”

“No music piped in at all.”

“Red tablecloths with white napkins.”

“Royal blue tablecloths with white napkins.”

“White tablecloths with yellow napkins.”

“Candles on mirrors for lunch centerpieces.”

“Fresh flowers for centerpieces.”

The changes continued even after the event started.

The Convention Center, with its classic European décor had a small lobby area with a few potted trees and plants on column stands. The rest extended down a hallway with two large areas on each side that could be divided into smaller rooms via partitions that extend from the walls as needed. The space could be up to eight small rooms, four on each side, or any combination from one to four rooms per side of the hallway.

The hallway was wide with several half-circle console tables including marble tops holding large dried floral arrangements and a few elegant chairs. The walls displayed large paintings of the Italian countryside and vineyards with carved gold gilt frames.

I was in a partitioned room overseeing the set up of the lunch buffet. The Italian Renaissance architecture was accentuated with interior details and décor that created a European elegance, all lit with the warm glow of a massive amber glass chandelier.

The room was a rectangle with the entrance from the hallway to one end and the door to the catering staging area at the opposite end. The buffet table was along the wall next to the staging door so wait staff could easy restock food items. The six-person round tables covered in rich golden linens were scattered strategically throughout the room to allow easy traffic flow. The thick carpet felt plush and cloud-like under foot.

I was surveying the buffet table with a critical eye. The five foot long ice sculpture of a swordfish occupied the center of the table and looked as though it was caught in mid leap, frolicking in a wave and ready to dive back into an unseen ocean. My stomach growled as the succulent smells of seafood teased my nose. The attendees would be returning to this room for their lunch and keynote speaker shortly.

"Brad, where are the crab leg metal crackers and little forks? Can you grab a few dozen and bring them right away?" Brad, slim and serious, had joined the team only two months ago and was picking up extra hours at every opportunity. He had asked to work this event as soon as I blocked out the time on the schedule. This would give him a good paycheck. He was lanky and took off with an easy loping stride to the staging area through the back door.

The door to the staging area had barely closed when I felt a hand grab hold of my derriere with an iron hard grip.

"This is more like it honey. I haven't had any fun today."

I whirled around and stumbled back. "Don’t touch the staff. That includes me Pastor Tom." I practically shouted. Pastor Tom Drake was well known around town, and getting national attention lately with his mega church. He was included in the luncheon due to his influence, but he was just Pastor Tom since he was a local guy who started his church and radio ministry from his garage.

I had contended with bad behavior before, but never this grabby. I think I was going to have a bruise left from his vicious hand.

"You’re not being very fri…friendly." I noticed his eyes were droopy and then I caught a whiff of the scotch he must have gotten at the Gilded Hornet pub next to the convention center building.
I decided to alert security we needed a person to monitor the rest of the event and turned to go. His iron hand grabbed hold of my arm and yanked me to him. Without a thought I took my knee to his groin and enjoyed watching his mouth form an "O" as his breath whooshed out. I broke free and backed away. I wasn’t turning my back on him again.

"I will see you fired for that you bitch." He whispered with a jagged voice.

He couldn’t do that, at least I was pretty sure he couldn’t. I guess I’d find out. I rubbed my still smarting arm where he grabbed it. Brad would be back or the event participants would start to wander in so he couldn’t do much more, but I didn’t want to stay and find out. I backed out the door to the hallway toward the lobby and took my cell phone from my pants pocket.

"Hey Ron, we have a person under the influence at the luncheon in Convention Center. Can you spare someone for the afternoon?"

"I’ll make sure somebody’s there immediately Julienne. How bad is this guy?"

"Well, I’ll probably have a black-and-blue handprint on my arm and …my backside." I took a deep breath.

"Son of a … I’ll be right there. You stay away from him." Like I would go near that Neanderthal again, pastor or not.

The other participants were starting to exit the smaller break out session rooms and meander to the banquet room and bathrooms. The noise level began to creep upward from multiple conversations competing to be heard.

There was a loud crash of metal from the banquet room and a participant jerked open the door and froze in place. "Oh sh…" The participant’s mouth gaped and his eyes were large circles.

I ran over to the open door and saw Pastor Tom impaled through the chest with the sharp end of the Swordfish ice sculpture, from his back right through to the front. His head was forward against his chest. Blood, running down the swordfish tip that jutted from his chest, dripping to the carpet. Drip, drip, drip in a macabre but surreal scene.

***
Excerpt from Iced by Avery Daniels. Copyright © 2017 by Avery Daniels. Reproduced with permission from Avery Daniels. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Avery Daniels Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table.

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !


Catch This Awesome Giveaway!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Avery Daniels. There will be 1 winner of a $15 Amazon.com GiftCard and 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Iced by Avery Daniels. The giveaway begins on June 18 and runs through June 26, 2017.
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review & Giveaway: Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub

Bone White (Mundy's Landing, Book #3)
by Wendy Corsi Staub
Release Date: March 28th 2017
2017 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062349774
ASIN: B01HXJT7N6
Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
The town of Mundy’s Landing was founded on a horrifying secret, but stark white bones of the dead never lie…

“We shall never tell.” Spurred by the cryptic phrase in a centuries-old letter, Emerson Mundy travels to her ancestral hometown to trace her past. In Mundy’s Landing, she connects with long lost relatives—and a closet full of skeletons going back centuries.

In the year since former NYPD Detective Sullivan Leary solved the historic Sleeping Beauty Murders, she—like the village itself—has made a fresh start. But someone has unearthed blood-drenched secrets in a disembodied skull, and is hacking away at the Mundy family tree, branch by branch…


My Thoughts
Bone White is the third book in the Mundy's Landing series, and although all of them connect in some way, and you would have a better sense of the characters involved, it could still be read as a stand alone simply because the author talks so much about the previous books in this one she almost gives away the what and wherefore of the previous mysteries.  Luckily she stops just short of doing so or I would have shut the book then and there as I am not a fan of such a technique.  Quite honestly, while I enjoyed the writing and the characters in this one, I was not overly crazy about the mystery, especially as it didn't occur until almost two-thirds into the book, and I felt like I was reading a contemporary women's novel rather than a mystery novel.

First of all, I do like this author's writing style; it's crisp, clear, and she knows how to make her characters interesting.  I have always like the witty dialogue, and especially looked forward to the rapport between Barnes and Sully in this one, although it was not quite there due to a change in their relationship.  If this novel was a contemporary women's fiction novel, the continuing development of the characters would have been great, but at some point, I was wondering where the mystery was going to actually pop up, and to my disappointment, it took quite a long time.  Yes, there was some mystery as to Emerson's background and what really happened to her father and her mother, but that was just the typical knowledge one lacks when getting to know a new character, not the mind-bending suspense of characters who need to sleep with one eye open at night because someone is stalking them, or they don't know what is happening to them, something the author did quite well in the previous books.  

I did really enjoy the way the novel was set up and by that I mean that there were historical letters interspersed with the actual chapters and these letters explained what the settlers in the original settlement went through during that horrible winter when most of them died, and the aftermath of that struggle.  While we were given glimpses during the first two books, it was finally good to find out what exactly happened 400 years ago and why, and to try to understand the struggles the people faced.   It was also good to find out how that horrible situation trickled down through the generations and impacted the current generation of Mundy's.  It also led to an interesting discussion on heterochromia in my household as I have a son who is interested in genetics and research, heterochromia being the inherited gene of having one eye colour different from the other.  

I am a huge fan of Ora Abrams as she was a delightful character, but I was really disappointed that more wasn't done with her character's illness. I know the onset of dimentia is really difficult to detect in people who are living alone, but when the author describes the conditions in which she was living, I just wish more was done with this story line than someone should have checked up on her more often.  Just a thought!

Verdict
Bone White definitely had its interesting moments in that you learned so much more about the early days of the settlement and what really happened, something I've been waiting for for a long time.  I do feel like the murder/suspense part of the novel was sacrificed for the explanation of the town's history and that was a shame really, as this author is known for her exciting and suspenseful novels, something that was definitely lacking in this one.  I do like the characters very much, and it felt like the author actually left the door open for another novel in this series, even though it's been earmarked as a trilogy, perhaps featuring Barnes?  I certainly hope so.  As for this one, I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but I would definitely recommend the first two in the trilogy, Blood Red and Blue Moon.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

July 20, 2016
Los Angeles, CA

We shall never tell.

Strange, the thoughts that go through your head when you’re standing at an open grave.

Not that Emerson Mundy knew anything about open graves before today. Her father’s funeral is the first she’s ever attended, and she’s the sole mourner.

Ah, at last, a perk to living a life without many—any—loved ones; you don’t spend much time grieving, unless you count the pervasive ache for the things you never had.

The minister, who came with the cemetery package and never even met Jerry Mundy, is rambling on about souls and salvation. Emerson hears only We shall never tell—the closing line in an old letter she found yesterday in the crawl space of her childhood home. It had been written in 1676 by a young woman named Priscilla Mundy, addressed to her brother, Jeremiah.

The Mundys were among the seventeenth-century English colonists who settled on the eastern bank of the Hudson River, about a hundred miles north of New York City. Their first winter was so harsh the river froze, stranding their supply ship and additional colonists in the New York harbor. When the ship arrived after the thaw, all but five settlers had starved to death.

Jeremiah; Priscilla; their sister, Charity; and their parents had eaten human flesh to stay alive. James and Elizabeth Mundy swore they’d only cannibalized those who’d already died, but the God-fearing, well-fed newcomers couldn’t fathom such wretched butchery. A Puritan justice committee tortured the couple until they confessed to murder, then swiftly tried, convicted, and hanged them.

“Do you think we’re related?” Emerson asked her father after learning about the Mundys back in elementary school.

“Nope.” Curt answers were typical when she brought up anything Jerry Mundy didn’t want to discuss. The past was high on the list.

“That’s it? Just nope?”

“What else do you want me to say?”

“How about yes?”

“That wouldn’t be the truth,” he said with a shrug.

“Sometimes the truth isn’t very interesting.”

She had no one else to ask about her family history. Dad was an only child, and his parents, Donald and Inez Mundy, had passed away before she was born. Their headstone is adjacent to the gaping rectangle about to swallow her father’s casket. Staring that the inscription, she notices her grandfather’s unusual middle initial.

Donald X. Mundy, Born 1900, Died 1972.

X marks the spot.

Thanks to her passion for history and Robert Louis Stevenson, Emerson’s bookworm childhood included a phase when she searched obsessively for buried treasure. Money was short in their household after two heart attacks left Jerry Mundy on permanent disability.

X marks the spot…

No gold doubloon treasure chest buried here. Just dusty old bones of people she never knew.

And now, her father.

The service concludes with a prayer as the coffin is lowered into the ground. The minister clasps her hand and tells her how sorry he is for her loss, then leaves her to sit on a bench and stare at the hillside as the undertakers finish the job.

The sun is beginning to burn through the thick marine layer that swaddles most June and July mornings. Having grown up in Southern California, she knows the sky will be bright blue by mid-afternoon. Tomorrow will be more of the same. By then, she’ll be on her way back up the coast, back to her life in Oakland, where the fog rolls in and stays for days, weeks at a time. Funny, but there she welcomes the gray, a soothing shield from real world glare and sharp edges.
Here the seasonal gloom has felt oppressive and depressing.

Emerson watches the undertakers finish the job and load their equipment into a van. After they drive off, she makes her way between neat rows of tombstones to inspect the raked dirt rectangle.
When something is over, you move on, her father told her when she left home nearly two decades ago. She attended Cal State Fullerton with scholarships and maximum financial aid, got her master’s at Berkeley, and landed a teaching job in the Bay Area.

But she didn’t necessarily move on.

Every holiday, many weekends, and for two whole months every summer, she makes the six-hour drive down to stay with her father. She cooks and cleans for him, and at night they sit together and watch Wheel of Fortune reruns.

It used to be because she craved a connection to the only family she had in the world. Lately, though, it was as much because Jerry Mundy needed her.

He pretended that he didn’t, that he was taking care of himself and the house, too proud to admit he was failing. He was a shadow of his former self when he died at seventy-six, leaving Emerson alone in the world.

Throughout her motherless childhood, Emerson was obsessed with novels about orphans. Treasure Island shared coveted space on her bookshelf with Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

She always wondered what would happen to her if her father died. Would she wind up in an orphanage? Would a kindly stranger take her in? Would she live on the streets?

Now that it’s happened he’s down there, in the dirt … moving on?

She’ll never again hear his voice. She’ll never see the face so like her own that she can’t imagine she inherited any physical characteristics from her mother, Didi—though she can’t be certain.
Years ago, she asked her father for a picture—preferably one that showed her mother holding her as a baby, or of her parents together. Maybe she wanted evidence that she and her father had been loved; that the woman who’d abandoned them had once been normal—a proud new mother, a happy bride.

Or was it the opposite? Was she hoping to glimpse a hint that Didi Mundy was never normal? Did she expect to confirm that people—normal people—don’t just wake up one morning and choose to walk out on a husband and child? That there was always something off about her mother: a telltale gleam in the eye, or a faraway expression—some warning sign her father had overlooked. A sign Emerson herself would be able to recognize, should she ever be tempted to marry.
But there were no images of Didi that she could slip into a frame, or deface with angry black ink, or simply commit to memory.

Exhibit A: Untrustworthy.

Sure, there had been plenty of photos, her father admitted unapologetically. He’d gotten rid of everything.

There were plenty of pictures of her and Dad, though.

Exhibit B: Trustworthy.

Dad holding her hand on her first day of kindergarten, Dad leading her in an awkward waltz at a father-daughter middle school dance, Dad posing with her at high school graduation.

“Two peas in a pod,” he liked to say. “If I weren’t me, I’d think you were.”

She has his thick, wavy hair, the same dimple on her right cheek, same angular nose and bristly slashes of brow. Even her wide-set, prominent, upturned eyes are the same as his, with one notable exception.

Jerry Mundy’s eyes were a piercing blue.

Only one of Emerson’s is that shade; the other, a chalky gray.
***
Excerpt from Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub. Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Corsi Staub. Reproduced with permission from William Morrow Mass Market. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Wendy Corsi StaubNew York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy novels. Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband and their two children.

Catch Up With Wendy Corsi Staub On Her Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !

 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Wendy Corsi Staub and William Morrow. There will be 3 winners of one (1) Print copy of Bone White by Wendy Corsi Staub. The giveaway begins on March 30th and runs through May 2nd, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Blast & Giveaway: Occult and Battery by Lena Gregory

We welcome Lena Gregory's OCCULT AND BATTERY Book Blast today! Lena will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card at the end of her tour. Leave a comment on this blog for extra points!


Title: OCCULT AND BATTERY
Author: Lena Gregory
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
A murder mystery weekend becomes a little too real in the latest Bay Island Psychic Mystery from the author of Death at First Sight—

Cass Donovan uses her skills as a former psychiatrist to get away with pretending to be psychic, but she’s not about to let anyone get away with murder...

The outlook is not so good for Cass’s psychic shop, Mystical Musings. With winter winds discouraging tourists from riding the ferry from Long Island to Bay Island, Cass hopes to draw in more customers by hosting a murder mystery weekend, complete with a séance, in a supposedly haunted mansion.

But Cass begins to lose her spirit when her ex-husband shows up, along with his fiancée—Cass’s ex-best friend. Then, after one of the guests is found dead, a blizzard blows in, trapping everyone inside with a murderer. Now Cass must divine who did the deed before her reputation and her livelihood fade away.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Review: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie


The Enemies of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy, Book #3)
by Sally Christie
Release Date: March 21st 2017
2017 Atria Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1501103025
ASIN: B076M3V6O
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

After decades suffering the King's endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.


My Thoughts
The Enemies of Versailles is the third book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, and to be honest, it is my least favourite of the three books.  I did enjoy it however, but having enjoyed the first two in the trilogy so much, I just felt like there was something lacking in this one, although I still can't quite put my finger on what exactly it is; the writing was still superb, the characters were interesting, and the lead-up to the Revolution was fascinating.  Yet, there was still something missing.

 In the first two books of the series, there was an edge to the writing that made the stories more intense; as lovers to the King, the women were constantly fighting to keep him interested as well as fighting the bevy of courtiers who were trying to convince him to send them away.  I found this constant fighting and the ensuing disruption of politics to be quite fascinating; the intrigues, the politics, the infighting, the betrayals, and the constantly changing loyalties kept things so interesting.  And the scandals, told from the perspective of the women, were very suspenseful. I have a lot of knowledge of this time-period, and couldn't help but be impressed with the author's meticulous research and descriptions that were included throughout the stories.  In the third installment, the research was there as were the amazing descriptions, but it was the story that I think faltered a bit. Du Barry was a kind woman who used her wiles and charm at court, but wasn't interested in politics in the slightest.  Her main enemies were the daughters of the King and Marie-Antoinette, influenced by the daughters.  For whatever reason, the dispute between them lacked the same tension that was in previous books and seemed more childish and selfish rather than seeped in politics and intrigue - and much more boring to read about.  

The story was told in two different points of view, du Barry's and the King's daughter Adelaide, a person I rather disliked which made reading the story a bit more difficult.  There is only so many times you can read about her being a King's Daughter and that she should be above everyone before it gets rather old. I get that she considers herself important and why, but her constant internal dialogue about her self-importance made her seem petulant and selfish, not appealing at all.  She did change quite a bit towards the end of the book as her world crumbled around her, and I do admire her fortitude in surviving as she did so I definitely liked her a lot more towards the end - wish I had seen more of her personality earlier on rather than her grumbling.  Du Barry's chapters were more fun to read, but really lacked intrigue and suspense, unlike those of the Pompadour and the Nesle sisters, which were full of tension and suspense.  There were definitely some interesting historical events that were great to read about from du Barry's perspective, for example, the King's illness and death, but I would have preferred the tension and the betrayals.  

I did find it interesting to read about Marie-Antoinette as a secondary character and how du Barry and the daughters fought constantly for her loyalty and her sympathy.  That she was used as a tool in many an intrigue and faction is no secret, and you can't help but feel sorry for her, especially knowing what was going to happen to her.  I liked how she matured from child to woman, and helped those when things really went sour for her and her family - she was a tough woman, and I thought the author portrayed her character quite well.  To be honest, I am really hoping this author will write about her as she has a way of making historical characters come alive.  

Verdict
The Enemies of Versailles as an okay book to read, but I really, really enjoyed the first two books in the series more than this one.  I thought it lacked the tension, intrigue, and suspense of her previous books, and I wasn't crazy about Adelaide or even about du Barry at times; I just didn't empathize with the characters as much in this one, and knowing most of them would die by the Guillotine, I should have been more sympathetic. But the author has a way of writing that makes you feel you are right there, and I could visualize myself at Versailles along with the characters.  Her descriptions of the time period are so vivid and I really enjoy them, something which shows the incredible amount of research she would have had to do for this trilogy.  I would love to see her tackle Marie-Antoinette's story next, or even Louis XIV, or Catherine de Medici.  But whatever she writes, I will read.  For anyone interested in this trilogy, although I would recommend starting with the first book, all three are stand-alones, so you could read this one first if you wished. 
Sunday, March 19, 2017

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Golden Son (Red Rising, Book #2)
by Pierce Brown
Release Date: January 6th 2015
2015 Del Rey
Kindle Edition; 430 Pages
ISBN: 978-0345539823
ASIN: B00I765ZEU
Genre: Fiction / Science-Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom from the overlords of a brutal elitist future built on lies. Now fully embedded among the Gold ruling class, Darrow continues his work to bring down Society from within.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed Golden Son even more than Red Rising for a variety of reasons: the writing was quite a bit stronger; the characters were more developed, especially the female ones; and the action was considerably higher, going from one thing to another, where I was actually looking forward to those peaceful moments so I could catch my own breath.  I liked the descriptions of the Gold's political system explained through the action and consequences of the events as it made it much more interesting, and I liked learning more about the different types of colours as I find the whole concept fascinating.

First of all, I have an impossible liking for Darrow, no matter what he does.  And he does plenty in this book.  What I especially like about him is that he is not perfect, he makes a lot of mistakes and pays for them quite dearly, something we learn pretty much in the first two chapters.  And yet, he is one of those characters that you know will eventually succeed at what he does next, it's just the anxiety that builds up waiting for what he is going to do next as the author is very skillful at hiding Darrow's actual thoughts and plans until they actually happen - it's definitely a great way to build tension and wonder what will happen next to your favourite characters.  And I always look forward to the moment when Darrow comes out on top as it's so cool, even if he just got his ass whooped a couple of pages previously.  In Red Rising, Darrow was much colder than the one we see in this book, and I definitely liked how his character developed from beginning to end as it made you empathize wholeheartedly with the situations he ended up in as well as some of the problems he had with some of his friends, and you couldn't help but root for him or want to shake him at times.  Otherwise he would seem like a cold-hearted beast rather than the Darrow who is fighting for equality and freedom for all.  I especially liked the moment he promoted a Blue to pilot and ordered a whole set of colours to defeat the Golds on the ship as it showed his humanity and what he was fighting for to those lower colours as well as to his friends.  It also showed his friends who exactly he was as a person.  Quite a moment!  However, all characters have their flaws, and I really, really, really wished that Darrow would listen to his friends a bit more and take their advice as he could so easily avoid some problems if he did.

The plot in this one is quite different than in the first book, but it really needed the set-up of Red Rising to work the way it did.  First of all, the action is so much more explosive right from the beginning.  I thought Darrow would be almost invincible, but the author set me right about that idea right from the beginning and I didn't know what to think after that.  Packed with interesting historical tidbits about the foundation of the current political situation, the book is full of action-packed sequences, politics, space warfare (reminds me of my old Atari games), and some ground warfare as well.  I won't pretend to understand all of the technological stuff that was used in here, but it was fun to read about irregardless. And the twists and turns, like the first book, are plenty, to the point where I didn't know who to trust anymore. Like I said before, because some of the action was so intense, it was nice to have those breaks once in a while in order to take a breath before being plunged right back into the action.  

And to be honest, I was planning on giving this book a four-star rating until the last chapter when I was blown away by a humdinger of an ending.  Considering the twists and turns that had been happening throughout the book, I should have seen something coming, but I didn't.  I've already read Morning Star, so I know what happens next, but the only reason I read the last book so quickly is because of the ending as I just had to know what happened.   And I was shocked to realize how much I liked a lot of the characters, something I understand when the big twist happened at the end, wondering exactly when these people broke through that barrier and made me empathize with their situations as well.  Betrayal at its best, folks!!

Verdict
Golden Son was on a whole other level than Red Rising and I had really enjoyed reading that one too. I felt the characters were much more developed in this one, especially the women who were strong, powerful, and mighty (and maybe a bit scary?) The plot was crazy, full of non-stop action, the type where you shake your head and wonder how that just happened crazy, but I loved all of it.  I have developed a huge fondness for Sevro and love the friendship that is developing between Darrow and Sevro, but I have also taken a huge liking to Ragnar as well. If you like science-fiction, great action, awesome twists and turns, and endings that will catch you off guard, then you will definitely enjoy this book, although I do recommend that you read from the beginning in order to understand Darrow's motivations. 



Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls
by Martha Hall Kelly
Release Date: April 5th 2016
2016 Ballantine Books
Kindle Edition; 487 Pages
ISBN: 978-1101883075
ASIN: B011G3HI9U
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.
 
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.


My Thoughts
Lilac Girls was a fantastic read, and I enjoyed it very much. I actually did not know a whole lot about the background to this novel until after I finished it, and I was surprised to discover it was inspired by real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday and her work in helping a group of women who survived Ravensbruck. I have definitely added Bethlehem, Connecticut, Caroline Ferriday's home, to my bucket list of things to see when I visit the United States again this summer.   

First of all, it was definitely Kasia's story that tore my heart.  Having watched many of her friends and family disappear when Hitler invades Poland, she becomes embroiled in the underground resistance movement, only to be caught, and sent away with her sister, mother, and friends.  The hardships these women experienced as they journeyed to Ravensbruck, and then at Ravensbruck itself was heartbreaking and emotionally nerve-wracking.  And yet, while the story is emotional and disturbing, which it should be considering where they were, it was the frienships and the loyalty that really stood out for me, the way the women helped each other and protected each other, especially when Kasia and her sister were selected as part of a medical experiment that brought nothing but horror and pain.  I have to say I liked the descriptions way better than Mischling where I felt too distanced from a lot of the events and the characters, while in this book, I felt really close to the characters, their pain, their suffering, their horror, although I would truly never be able to understand it. The actual events and descriptions are definitely disturbing and are still with me now even though it's been weeks since I've finished the novel.  

I like how the plot is told from different POV; being able to take a break from Kasia's story was definitely needed and I looked forward reading Caroline's story as you got a completely different perspective of the war, from a woman who is struggling to help in a country that seems to be somewhat indifferent to the plight of people in Europe.  Caroline was a remarkable lady, courageous, strong, confident, in a time when women were meant to marry and have babies.  My only disappointment with her story is that not enough of her work for the women of Ravensbruck was really mentioned, more just in passing and knowing that it was Caroline who pushed to enact some of the laws in parliament to help Holocaust survivors.  It doesn't discredit what she did, but I thought it was more important that her so-called romance, which I think would have been better left out of the book. 

As far as Herta goes, I didn't like her character right from the beginning.  Although a victim of sexual abuse, which I think was supposed to make you feel sorry for her, she was a cold woman, who didn't really empathize with the other characters in the novel, and because of this, I didn't empathize with her at all, or with her position.  There were moments when she questioned what she was doing, but her whole demeanor was all about proving that a woman could do what a man could, and that won out over ethics and morals.  I get that she was in a tough position, but some of the other doctors left because they couldn't deal with the situation, so why did she stay?  Being responsible for some of the ghastly medical experiments set up by her supervisor, Dr. Karl Gebhardt, I felt no empathy towards her whatsoever.  Putting nails, glass, sand, wood, dirt, etc...into open wounds to simulate combat wounds is just part of what she did. Horrible, horrible!!  And this doctor, Herta, is a real historical figure, the only female defendant in the Nuremberg Medical Trial.

Verdict
Lilac Girls is an amazing story of resiliency and courage, told from the perspective of three characters, which gives you an idea of how different things were depending on what side you were on, or on what side of the ocean you were on.  I liked the different POV because it gave you much needed relief from the more intense concentration camp scenes and what was happening with Kasia and Herta.  It is beautifully written, and the amount of research that went into this book is clearly evident.  While the author definitely portrays the horrors that people can do to one another, it also shows how people can be resilient, courageous, and loyal despite these horrors.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII or to anyone who just enjoys good, solid historical fiction.
Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

The Guests on South Battery (Tradd Street Book #5)
by Karen White
Release Date: January 10th 2017
2017 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451475237
ASIN: B01E4WAFW2
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
With her extended maternity leave at its end, Melanie Trenholm is less than thrilled to leave her new husband and beautiful twins to return to work, especially when she’s awoken by a phone call with no voice on the other end—and the uneasy feeling that the ghostly apparitions that have stayed silent for more than a year are about to invade her life once more.

But her return to the realty office goes better than she could have hoped, with a new client eager to sell the home she recently inherited on South Battery. Most would treasure living in one of the grandest old homes in the famous historic district of Charleston, but Jayne Smith would rather sell hers as soon as possible, guaranteeing Melanie a quick commission.

Despite her stroke of luck, Melanie can’t deny that spirits—both malevolent and benign—have started to show themselves to her again. One is shrouded from sight, but appears whenever Jayne is near. Another arrives when an old cistern is discovered in Melanie’s backyard on Tradd Street.

Melanie knows nothing good can come from unearthing the past. But some secrets refuse to stay buried....


My Thoughts
The Guests on South Battery continues Jack and Melanie's story as they continue to restore their house in the famous historic district of Charleston.  One of the things I do recommend however, is that you read the other books in the series, even if the mysteries themselves are stand alones, to understand the dynamic between Jack and Melanie and the other characters in the series.  

First of all, I love Melanie as a main character even if I want to hug her and then strangle her, all within the space of minutes.  Melanie can see spirits and communicate with them and the fact she has decided to keep the historic home she has inherited is a continuing surprise to her, especially after having encountered the ghosts in her home and having vanquished the more malevolent ones.  The continuing dialogue she has with her best friend, who is also restoring her home, is quite funny and I enjoy both the verbal and mental dialogue that goes with the explanations.  Melanie borders on severe OCD and I don't know how Jack can deal with her at times as I found myself rolling my eyes quite often as she was dealing with her twins.  Anyone who has children knows that children do not go to the bathroom on schedule, and will, in fact, be the cause of more than one delayed outing due to a messy diaper.  Been there more than once!  Watching Melanie relax throughout the novel because of the entry of a more relaxed nanny was a great pleasure.  And I loved how Melanie's friends dealt with her obsessiveness, not quite confronting it, but not ignoring it either and coming up other ways of dealing with the problem.  It created some quite funny scenes that any woman could relate to and appreciate.  However, that being said, these same friends could sometimes be a bit controlling and kind of ran roughshod over Melanie a few times; now that she is married and a mother she can no longer make her own decisions and control her own life?  While Melanie could be annoying at times, I did appreciate it as a way of taking back control over her own situation, although I would have liked to have seen the old, strong Melanie back again.  And what is it with the scenes with Jack just kissing her and she forgets anything she was discussing and just accepts things as they are?  Really?  Do we have to go down that road?  I'm sure there are other ways of showing how attracted Melanie is to Jack without showing that she has no brain cells left in her head?

What I especially liked in this novel was the focus on family and dealing with issues rather than on the paranormal.  Oh, the paranormal was there, but it played more of a secondary role and I kind of liked that as so many of the issues in this one were not paranormal based.  There was a mystery, but it was sad and easy to figure out if you paid attention.  I was much more interested in the relationships, and that was easy to figure out too, it just took me a little while to figure out how and why.  But everything connected.  And if none of this makes sense, read the book because I would be spoiling it if I mentioned everything that was going on.  I definitely liked how the author handled the ghost situation as it was a bit tragic and sad and opened up a just a little can on mental health issues.  The entire mystery was a bit predictable and not up to the usual standards, but I still liked it, even if I'm not sure of the reasons behind it.  

Verdict
The Guests on South Battery is a good entry into the series, but it is not my favourite one.  Although I love Melanie as a main character, I did find her to be somewhat annoying and obsessive in this one, not as strong as usual, controlled by those around her.  And even if I didn't quite agree with her decisions towards the end, I was glad to see her take control of her life again, to be the woman she was before she married and had kids.  I enjoyed the writing in this novel as always, but I did feel the mystery was a bit weak and predictable. I did love how the next book in this series was kind of interwoven into this book, and I am looking forward to the next entry.
Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review: A Ghostly Mortality by Tonya Kappes


A Ghostly Mortality (Ghostly Southern Mysteries Book #6)
by Tonya Kappes
Release Date: February 28th 2017
2017 Witness
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062466976
ASIN: B01GONIFFI
Genre: Fiction / Cozy / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
That ghost sure looks . . . familiar
 

Only a handful of people know that Emma Lee Raines, proprietor of a small-town Kentucky funeral home, is a “Betweener.” She helps ghosts stuck between here and the ever-after—murdered ghosts. Once Emma Lee gets them justice they can cross over to the great beyond.

But Emma Lee’s own sister refuses to believe in her special ability. In fact, the Raines sisters have barely gotten along since Charlotte Rae left the family business for the competition. After a doozy of an argument, Emma Lee is relieved to see Charlotte Rae back home to make nice. Until she realizes her usually snorting, sarcastic, family-ditching sister is a . . . ghost.

Charlotte Rae has no earthly idea who murdered her or why. With her heart in tatters, Emma Lee relies more than ever on her sexy beau, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross…because this time, catching a killer means the Raines sisters will have to make peace with each other first.


My Thoughts
A Ghostly Mortality is the sixth entry in the Ghostly Southern Mysteries series and unfortunately, it's not my favourite in the series.  That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it as all of the usual quirky characters and other things that make this series to interesting and fun were definitely there; headstrong main character, ghostly apparitions, unique settings, and the set-up for the next book are all elements that I have enjoyed in the previous novels.  It's too bad though, that I just couldn't overlook one of the main things in this story, and it's one I can't even talk about, except slightly, as I will give away the ending to the book.

Fist of all, other than the paranormal element, it was always the characters that drew me to this series.  I always loved the relationship between Granny and Emma Lee and even liked the sibling rivalry between Emma and Charlotte Rae as it provided some interesting elements into all of their characters as well as provided some entertainment.  To say that I am sad Charlotte is gone is an understatement as I liked their rivalry and the spark it gave to the story; I will be sad to see that story line laid to rest.  And normally I love Granny and her antics, but I wasn't overly impressed with her behaviour in this one as I felt it was so uncharacteristic of her to behave the way she did, even if I understood it.   And while I always admired Emma Lee's spunk and attitude, and she did display many moments of it in this one, I just felt like something was off, as if the author had a hard time going through with the concept herself and wasn't sure if she should.  I did like the moments between Emma Lee and Charlotte, even if those moments were so different from the ones we were used to, but it was nice to see them get along and share those final moments together so nicely, but they were definitely bittersweet.  For someone who has read all of the novels, it was kind of hard to wrap my head around this new Charlotte though.  For someone who has not read the previous novels, I think it would be a lot easier to swallow. 

I also think I am going to be in the minority here when I say I wasn't overly thrilled by the mystery aspect to this story.  Don't get me wrong though, the lead-up, the hunting for clues, Emma Lee getting caught where she doesn't belong, were all strong points to the mystery as usual, but I couldn't get past the actual solution and resolution because I couldn't buy it.  Unfortunately, medically wise, I know it doesn't work that way and I couldn't just shake it off as one of those things and leave it - it bothered me for quite a while so it definitely dropped the rating for me.  I can't mention too much more without giving it away, but I think other people involved in the medical profession would definitely notice the flaw.  I am not in the medical profession, but having studied science, including Anatomy, Cardiology, and Physiology, I did notice.  

Verdict
A Ghostly Mortality had all of the usual elements that I love in this series: ghosts, quirky characters, interesting settings, and witty dialogue.  I did think it was sad that Charlotte had to go as I didn't think the relationship was developed enough, and as usual there is the setup for the next mystery in this one, one aspect that I really liked - ghost kitty, something the author hasn't really done at this point.  I wasn't overly crazy about the mystery and I thought the resolution was way too quick and abrupt.  I liked the emotional twists to this one though, as it made you realize how important Charlotte was to everyone even if she was very annoying.  Even though there were some things with which I had problems, the core of the book, the characters, the setting, was strong, and I am looking forward to the next one in the series. 

Author Information 
For years, USA Today bestselling author Tonya Kappes has been self-publishing her numerous Tonyakappes.com
mystery and romance titles with unprecedented success. She is famous not only for her hilarious plotlines and quirky characters, but her tremendous marketing efforts that have earned her thousands of followers and a devoted street team of fans. Be sure to check out Tonya’s website for upcoming events and news and to sign up for her newsletter!





Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review & Giveaway: Pressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss


Pressed to Death (A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery #2)
by Kirsten Weiss
Release Date: March 8th 2017
2017 Midnight Ink
Kindle Edition; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-0738750316
ASIN: B01FOR0Z7G
Genre: Fiction / Cozy / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski thinks she has the perfect paranormal exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But before she can open the exhibit, she’s accused of stealing the antique press. And when her accuser is found murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie.

Solving the crime is the last thing on Maddie’s mind, but her mother insists she investigate. Does her mother have a secret agenda? And why has the local charity, Ladies Aid, seemingly gone gangster?

In this light, cozy mystery, haunted houses, runaway wine barrels, and murder combine in a perfect storm of chaos. Facing down danger and her own over-active imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum.


My Thoughts
Pressed to Death is the second book in the A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery series and while I don't think it quite lived up to the first book, it was still fun and interesting to read, with a host of quirky characters, and some situations that I thought were rather funny and delightful.  I did think the start of this book was somewhat slow, and even when the 'mystery' did occur, I found myself having difficulty getting invested into it. And once certain characters made an appearance, it was pretty easy to figure out who did what.
  
The paranormal museum scenes are always my favourite parts of the book, and this one was no different.  I have a particular fondness for GD and wish he was more utilized in the scenes; I actually can't wait for the day when he pounces on Laurel and, sorry for the pun, a real cat fight ensues. It will be bliss!! I do think however, the really subtle hints of paranormal activity work very well for this series as the reader is left continuously guessing as to whether it is haunted or not, without the author giving away too much detail. And in this case, we have the addition of a supposedly haunted grape press which is scaring people and causing them to faint, setting Maddie up for some interesting research into its background and what actually happened.  These scenes are definitely interesting and I enjoyed them quite a bit.

And while I did find the characters to be interesting and just as quirky, I thought the author didn't really spend any time developing them or making them even more interesting.  Which meant the actual mystery also took a back seat to Maddie's day-to-day problems, something I wasn't overly happy over.  Why can't a character just find someone and be happy and content?  I was quite happy with Maddie's relationship as it was different than so many of the cozy mysteries, and Mason was so intriguing on his own, all dark and mysterious, but as Maddie's hand touched someone else's hand, zap went the electricity, so it wasn't too hard to figure out where that would be heading at some point, and this is why I'm disappointed, because it's the cliched relationship of so many other cozy mystery series.  Does every heroine have to fall for a police officer?  I thought the whole relationship issue was a bit much and it seemed totally out of character for Mason and for Maddie.  

The mystery itself was actually okay, but I never felt like there was a big process to her investigations as she just talked to a couple of people, and some of them wouldn't even talk to her because of some silly bet half the town was involved in, and suddenly she knew who it was.  I'm not really crazy about how the police are portrayed in this book though, as they are made to seem stupid and incompetent, especially Laurel, and some of the stuff she does is just downright silly.  

Verdict
Pressed to Death was, despite everything, a fun read, and I did enjoy it.  There was a lot going on, and while that didn't bother me too much, it just felt like the author was coming up with ways to change ideas and concepts throughout the book, hoping the reader wouldn't notice the change in direction and the confusion, and that does make things frustrating as readers will only accept coincidences and put-offs for so long.  I was definitely not a fan of Laurel and would happily see her gone in the next book, and I thought Maddie's mother's secretive behaviour was rather silly.  I loved the cat and the other subtle paranormal aspects, so I wish the grape press had a more central role and that Maddie had done more of the research herself, and would love to see GD and other characters play more of a central role in the next book.  And the Ouija boards, so cool, any of those for sale? And an interesting prospect for the next book?

Author Information

Kirsten Weiss grew up in San Mateo, California. After getting her MBA, she joined the Peace Corps,
starting an international career that took her around the fringes of the defunct USSR and into the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

She writes paranormal mystery and suspense, blending her experiences and imagination to create vivid worlds of magic and mayhem.


Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn't like, and her guilty pleasures are watching ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking good wine.


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