May 31, 2017

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

* * * * *

Oh my goodness.  This book is incredible!  It's based on a Russian fairytale and Ms. Arden did a wonderful job of bringing it to life.  

It's rare when I run across a book nowadays that totally sweeps me away.  There were even times when I was even shivering from the cold of the winter in Rus and the temps here have been in the 70s.   There were other times when the tale brought me to tears.

Ms. Arden has a deft touch with her characters.  They all were so detailed and three dimensional that they became real to me.  I fell in love with Vasilisa and her strength.  She had a touch of the Sight and refused to be put in the box that women typically resided in.  The only thing that really reined her in was her love for her family and her people.  

I enjoy fairy tales but this is the first time that I have had the chance to read one that absolutely took me away from my every day life.  I highly recommend it to any of my readers who enjoy fantasy or fairy tales.  You won't be disappointed.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.
May 24, 2017

Book Review: The Cutaway

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

* * * * *

Usually when you run across a book about untangling a murder,  it is written from the viewpoint of a private investigator or a police officer.  THE CUTAWAY is rather unusual in that it is written from the perspective of a reporter.  That difference flavors the entire book and make it unique.  

I really loved the character of Virginia Knightly who will do whatever it takes to get her story and to protect her sources even if that means facing her own fears.  She draws strong men to her because of her own strength of will.  I also really enjoyed seeing the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes of a big story.  

I am actually crossing my fingers that this book was only the start of a series as I don't want to tell Virginia goodby.  I highly recommend THE CUTAWAY to any of my readers who enjoy a good mystery or suspense.  The pacing is spot on, the characters have a lot of depth and the dialogue is witty.

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

May 22, 2017

Book Review: Firestorm


Dimitri lives to protect the secret of the Dragon Kings from the human race. Bound by a bond stronger than blood to the Kings, Dimitri uses his strength and prowess to defend a thousand-year-old secret. But when an oh-so-sexy, slightly absent-minded archaeologist wanders into his midst, Dimitri will have to give up his rules, and give in to desire...

When Dr. Faith Reynold stumbles upon an ancient skeleton that appears it comes from a dragon, she’s completely taken aback. A woman of science, there’s no way in her mind that this mythological creature can exist. But when a devilishly handsome man named Dimitri intercepts her path to uncovering the truth, Faith’s curiosity turns into all-consuming passion. She’s never felt this way about any man before. But when Dimitri reveals his biggest secret, can she learn to love the man—as well as the dragon within.

* * * * *

Wow!  It's been a while since I have stumbled across a paranormal romance with a story arc that spans several books.  Especially one that I so enjoyed that I have to go track down the back list for this series.

What really made this series for me is that I really liked the characters.  Even the villain is likeable, he just happens to have a different view on how humans should be treated.  I just loved Faith who was very much a woman of science but is willing to believe her own eyes even if it happens go against what science currently feels to be true.  

I would recommend FIRESTORM to any of my readers who enjoy dragons and paranormal romances.  Actually I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series but FIRESTORM does a wonderful job of standing on its own.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

Book Review: Falling Darkness

At the mercy of a treacherous sea...

Claire Britten's training never prepared her for this--the forensic psychology curriculum didn't cover plane crashes. Or how to help fellow survivors cope, seven frightened people huddled in two small rafts awaiting a rescue that may never come. Especially when three of them are your ex-husband, your young daughter--and the man you love, Nick Markwood, whose pursuit by a criminal mastermind forced you all to run in the first place.

When the bedraggled crew finally reaches dry land, they are still far from safe. Nick tries to secure transport to their witness-protection placement, urging everyone to stick to the identities laid out for them. They don't need any complications. But when danger follows them to their supposed safe haven, Claire and Nick no longer know who is helping or harming them. Racked by doubt and mistrust, still hunted, they must band together--or fall.

* * * * *

FALLING DARKNESS is the third book in the South Shores series but I have to admit that I was rather impressed by how well it stands on its own.   I had the opportunity to read the first book but somehow skipped over the second.  Even so, I didn't feel lost and immediately became engrossed in the book.

Ms. Harper has done a wonderful job with the characters.  They are all ones I found easy to emphasize with enough that I was holding my breath during some of the tense scenes.  I am especially impressed by Claire who is such a strong woman even with all of her rather unique medical issues.  I also feel bad for Jace, Claire's ex-husband, because what could be worse then being stuck with your ex-wife who you are still in love with and her new husband?

The plot also flows at a nice pace and will keep you turning the pages just to find out who did what.  The dialogue is witty and amusing in places. I also found the ending to be rather satisfying.  

I do recommend this book to my readers who enjoy romantic suspense.  I do want to issue a warning though  that there is some violent scenes in this book so perhaps not appropriate  for younger readers.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

May 13, 2017

Book Review: Watching You

A serial killer texts his victims first. A detective vows revenge. He comes after her.

In the chill of an October night, Detective Kerri Blasco is called to a bizarre murder scene. Leda Winfield, a young volunteer for the homeless, has been shot. Her cell phone displays the frightening text, WATCHING YOU, and into her back, hideously pushed with a hat pin, is a note with the same awful message. Leda's socialite family and friends insist that no one would have wanted to harm her, but Detective Kerri isn't convinced.

Until another random young woman is killed in exactly the same way. Kerri and her team profile a monstrous killer who enjoys terrifying his victims before stalking and killing them. But how does he get their phone numbers?

Kerri soon finds that the killer is after her, too, and that the key to finding him may just be in the homeless shelter. When the body count rises, she vows to stop the madman - even if it means battling her own personal trauma, risking her job, her love relationship with her boss Alex Brand, and her life.

* * * * *

I admit it.  Detective Kerri Blasci is one of my favorite heroines.  She's a homicide cop that has learned to pay attention to her instincts or her 'hunches'.  They might not play out to be completely accurate all of the time but they are often enough to save lives.

WATCHING YOU is actually the third book in this series following Detective Blasco. I was lucky enough to stumble across HER LAST BREATH and was immediately hooked.  This is one series that is definitely on my radar and should be on yours.

Ms. Schneider does a wonderful job of blending terror and suspense caused by this murders with the warmth and caring of Kerri, her boyfriend Alex and the people that she meets at the homeless shelter.  It's the perfect mix that will keep you glued to the screen, or pages as the case may be.  

I highly recommend WATCHING YOU to any of my readers who enjoy thrillers with kick ass heroines and surprising conclusions.  I do want to offer a gentle warning that there is some descriptions of graphic violence and there is an attempted rape,  There are no sex scenes however for the folks that worry about that.  

*** I received this book at no charge from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

May 12, 2017

Book Review: Diadem of Death

Nefertari “Terry” Hughes is looking forward to spending the school break with her boyfriend, but when her archaeologist father announces he’s working on a project that will take him to Egypt, all hopes of having a romantic summer are buried.

Terry accompanies her father to Alexandria where she’s reunited with her first crush, Awad—all grown up and an expert in translating hieroglyphics. He confides that the team is in a race to find Cleopatra’s lost tomb before a secret band of rebels steals Egypt’s last Pharaoh and her diadem.

But sabotage and a deadly accident put everyone on high alert, and Terry isn’t sure whom to trust. As the line between ally and enemy begins to blur, Terry has to keep her wits about her and figure out who wants the diadem badly enough to kill.

* * * * *

I have fallen in love with Terry and her friends!  Terry might have increased speed and agility because of her asp but she hasn't forgotten that for her to improve herself, she needs to empower her friends.  Quite the lesson to learn while still a teenager.  I remember that when I was that age, it was all about me.  

I do have to say that my favorite character is one of the secondary ones.  Maude is smart and always has an upbeat attitude. She knows almost instinctively that they are stronger as a group then alone.  Her boyfriend Frasier is also a kick.  Zach didn't make as much of an appearance in this book as I would have liked though. I am hoping that he will have a stronger presence in the next one.  

DIADEM OF DEATH is fast paced, young adult thriller that will keep people of any age glued to the page.  It's set in Egypt so you have exotic locations but this book is more about friendship and trusting in your friends.

I do think that anyone who enjoys the young adult genre will love this book.  It is the second in the series so be sure to check out ASP of Ascension which is the start of this enjoyable series.   

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

May 10, 2017

Book Review: ASP of Ascension

Nefertari “Terry” Hughes has three rules for surviving high school:
#1 Don’t attract attention.
#2 Don’t get involved.
#3 Don’t make trouble.

A year after the accident that left her crippled and took her mother’s life, sixteen-year-old Terry just wants to keep her head down and survive her new high school. When she catches the eye of cute basketball star Zach—who happens to be the boyfriend of mean girl Allison—all hopes of flying under the radar are gone.

She is thrust even further in the spotlight when Fraser, the editor of the school newspaper, learns Mr. Hughes is the renowned archaeologist overseeing the new Egyptian display at the museum, which is rumoured to include Cleopatra’s sarcophagus. Fraser’s research leads to the fifty-year-old mystery of a girl who vanished while on a school trip to to the museum along with an artefact that may be Cleopatra’s asp.

When Mr. Hughes falls into a coma and his co-worker claims it’s the curse of Cleopatra, the stakes become too high for Terry to ignore. Terry must work with Fraser and her new candy loving friend Maude to find out what happened fifty years ago in hopes of saving her father before time runs out.

Rated T - Teen 13 and up: May contain violence, crude humour, suggestive themes and/or strong language.

* * * * * 

I am an adult who happens to enjoy the Young Adult genre.  It's refreshing to read a book that isn't overloaded with sex so instead it has to rely on a good plot.

The ASP OF ASCENSION reminds me in a way of my time in high school.  I wasn't dealing with disappearances and all that but I did change schools often and my rules were quite similar to Terry's. I enjoyed watching as Terry starts to work her way through the grief at the loss of her mother and begins to make friends.

The secondary characters are well portrayed and add much to the story from Maude's optimism to Fraser's cluelessness.   Some of their circumstances were worth a chuckle, other's made me rather annoyed at the cruelty of people.  

I would recommend  ASP OF ASCENSION to any reader who enjoys young adult and mysteries.  And it is rated T for a reason.  There are violent scenes along with some risque dialogue.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

May 9, 2017

Book Review: Kiss Marry Kill

He's been chasing a memory . . .
It was just supposed to be a regular Thursday afternoon…and then he saw her. Sitting in seat L214, one seat over from his at the baseball game, right next to her douche of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. An impromptu kiss for the kiss cam, and Jax knew his life would never be the same. Five years and a tour in Afghanistan later, Jax is back stateside running his own private security firm, Iron-Clad, with his best friend. He isn't the man he used to be... but Megan isn't the sexy and sweet, though sheltered, twenty-two-year-old he left behind, either. And she's in trouble.

...but now they're on the run.
Megan Cruz has made something of herself. She’s turned her dreams of pop stardom into a reality. But when a deadly stalker breaks into her home claiming to be her number-one fan, the only person she can turn to is the boy who got away. But Jax isn’t the same carefree charmer who stole her heart, then broke it when he joined the military. This man is seductive, hard, guarded. And he'll do anything to protect what's his.

                                                                   * * * * * 

I think that what really grabbed my attention was the title of this book.  KISS MARRY KILL definitely sounds like it would be on a sociopath's check list for romance.  So of course, I had to read the book.

This is definitely a character driven romantic suspense complete with characters so detailed that they almost step off of the pages.  Megan seems to be the most well balanced of the bunch even though she is being stalked and she is a lead singer for a popular pop group.  Jax is the man that opened her eyes to possibilities years ago but the war messed him up.

I really enjoyed this book.  All the characters are ones that I would enjoy getting to know even better.  The plot was fast paced and kept me glued to the page.  The dialogue was quick, witty and down right amusing at times.

KISS MARRY KILL is a great book to introduce a new series Iron Clad Security.  I do recommend my readers who enjoy romantic suspense to pick up a copy and get to know these wonderful characters.

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.
May 8, 2017

Book Review: Gauntlet

Kali Ling isn’t afraid of dying. She’s been killed hundreds of times in hundreds of different ways. And she knows there are things much more terrifying than death…

There’s a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament between the world’s most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there’s a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.

As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors, and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions.

If Kali’s Team Defiance is to survive, they’ll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters…

* * * * * 

I enjoy reading the occasional science fiction as long as it concentrates more on the people then the science itself.   And GAUNTLET does just that and wonderfully.

Kali really shook up the gaming industry when she brought out fact that industry feels that the gamers themselves are expendable.  Because of her revelations,  a new type of VR pod has been designed which is supposed to be safer for the gamer.  And there is a tournament to welcome the new pod.

GAUNTLET focuses on Kali but we also get the chance to really know her team as they work through the challenges thrown their way.  They all have hidden strengths and fears that are brought into the limelight during the tournament.

I really think that any of my readers who enjoy character driven sci-fi would love this book and in fact, this series.  There is a lot of violence within the game so be forewarned.

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.

May 7, 2017

Review: For the love of Tea!

Now as everyone probably already knows, I am a tea addict.  I always have either a mug of hot tea or a tumbler of iced tea  at hand.  In fact, right now I am drinking a delightful Milk Oolong from Adagio Teas.

Recently I was asked to review some tea from Adagio Teas and I jumped at the chance since I have had a long on and off relationship with them.  They were actually the first online tea company that I found and boy was I in heaven then.  You see, previous to that my experience with tea consisted of Lipton and bagged English Breakfast teas.  Boy have we both come a long way since then.

Now warmer days are coming (I hope) and I had begun my quest for some tasty teas to keep iced.  Adagio Teas just happens to have a really nice variety of iced teas all the way from herbal to black to chai blends.  After pondering and reading about the different options I had, I decided to try a black and a chai blend.  Can't survive without the caffeine.

My first choice was a the black Mango Iced Tea.  And an excellent choice it was!  I tend to add a bit of sugar to my iced teas and this sweetness combined with the flavors of the mango made for a refreshing beverage.  The flavor of the tea leaves also comes shines through with a hint of a bit and a lingering dryness.

The tea bag itself is a thing of beauty.  Large enough to give the tea room to breathe and fine enough that I can see the tea and the mango slices.  No skimping there.

I have to say that I love this tea!  And I have the proof.  I have already refreshed my supply.  I was also generous enough to share this delightful tea with friends and everyone has really loved it.

Now I adore chai tea but I hadn't tried an iced version that didn't require milk and come as a syrup so this was my chance.  I ordered the Masala Chai Iced Tea pouches.

Again an excellent choice.  The warming spices of cinnamon and cardamon come through strongly and are surprisingly refreshing iced.  The bite of the ginger lingers pleasantly on the tongue after each sip.  Delightful!

I also picked up the delicious Milk Oolong that I mentioned earlier but it was gone before I took a picture of it.  This makes up a wonderful mug of hot tea.  The flavor is delicate, slightly floral and  very creamy.  It has a smooth, almost buttery, mouth feel with a lingering sweet aftertaste.  This tea also had staying power.  I was able to resteep it three times before the flavor started to give out.

I really think that my affair with Adagio Teas back on again.  The quality of their teas have definitely improved since the last time we flirted so it might turn into a long term relationship.  I really want to check out  their Masters Teas and try out the Yunnan Golden Curls tea.

Seriously folks I would check out Adagio Teas.  They also offer some gorgeous teawares, samplers, gift packs and even let you design your own blends of tea.

In order to be transparent, I do want to disclose that Adagio Teas did send me a gift certificate to order some teas to sample.  This fact didn't influence my opinion in any way however.  I flat out enjoyed these teas and have already ordered more. 
May 5, 2017

Book Review: The Highland Duke

She'll put her life on the line for him . . .
When Akira Ayres finds the brawny Scot with a musket ball in his thigh, the healer has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to save his life. Even if it means fleeing with him across the Highlands to tend to his wounds while English redcoats are closing in. Though Akira is as fierce and brave as any of her clansmen, even she's intimidated by the fearsome, brutally handsome Highlander who refuses to reveal his name. 

Yet she can never learn his true identity.
Geordie knows if Akira ever discovers he's the Duke of Gordon, both her life and his will be forfeit in a heartbeat. The only way to keep the lass safe is to ensure she's by his side day and night. But the longer he's with her, the harder it becomes to think of letting her go. Despite all their differences, despite the danger-he will face death itself to make her his . . .

* * * * *
When you are in the mood for historical romance, nothing scratches that itch quite like a Highlander in a kilt. And Geordie is definitely that.  Now if only I didn't have to read his thoughts on how gorgeous Akira is.  It's almost like he is stuck in a grove.  I mean there are so many times that I can read about the color of her eyes without wanting to throw the book across the room.
Akira is almost as bad but I did enjoy her character more. She's from tinker stock which means that almost everyone checks their belongings after she is invited in to save a life.   It has hardened her but being a healer, she cares a lot about others.  

The setting is gorgeous!  And Ms. Jarecki has a way of painting the scenery with her words.  I just wish that the pacing had moved along at a faster clip.  I did find it difficult to finish because my mind kept wandering away from the story.

THE HIGHLANDER DUKE was an okay read but not one that I would recommend to my readers.  It's too wordy and the pacing needed a shot of adrenaline.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.
May 3, 2017

Book Review: Break Me

Just a few weeks ago, computer prodigy China Mack’s typical night in involved Endor Star Wars pajamas and a sensible bedtime. Now she’s dating gorgeous tech guru Jackson Cooper—one of Forbes’s Top Ten Eligible Billionaires—much to the Twitterverse’s delight.

Turns out, going from socially inept hermit to poster girl for geek chic has its challenges. China’s relationship gets even more complicated because her role heading the top-secret Vigilance program—where she’s partnered with Superman clone Clark Slattery—makes her a target. And when ruthless businessman Simon Lu plans to co-opt Vigilance software to blackmail government and military employees, he’ll need China’s cooperation—willing or otherwise.

But not every enemy is so easily identified. Some hide in plain sight, in very high places, and mistaking foe for friend could be the last mistake China ever makes…

* * * * *

I really like China Mack.  Her intelligence is off the scales but she has NO social skills.  Thank goodness that she has a good heart and is loyal to her friends, her boyfriend and her country.  

Her boyfriend Jackson is just as smart as she is but he has learned to play the game and has social skills.  I really enjoyed watching China frustrate him when he tries to take their relationship forward based on feelings while she didn't feel that they hadn't logically been dating long enough.  

There is a lot of action, some politics along with some comedy caused by China's not understanding social cues.  I do recommend BREAK ME to any of my readers who enjoy romantic suspense  with a touch of the quirky.  

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.
May 1, 2017

Book Review: No Darker Place

Detective Bobbie Gentry has one objective: to stop the serial killer who robbed her of her husband, her child and her life. Nick Shade understands Bobbie's painand her desire for vengeance. He's on a mission of his own, and the murderer known as the Storyteller is next on his list. Nick knows that the best way to find his target is to stick close to Bobbie. But as she becomes more and more reckless in her attempts to lure the Storyteller out of hiding, he has to make a choice. Will he protect her from herself even if it means passing up the chance to take out one more monster? As for Bobbie, she's forced to decide just how much she can trust this stranger who knows so much about her. And both of them are about to learn whether or not two broken people can save each other.

* * * * *

I am very much on the fence about this book.  I ended up absolutely loving it but the first two chapters I was totally lost.  If I hadn't been reading it for a review, I would have given up at that point since one doesn't expect to be lost when you start reading the first book in a series.  I discovered at the end of the book that there was a prequel but I don't feel that those should be required reading before you start a series.

Once you get past the first two chapters, you are given a chance to really get to know and care about the characters. At that point, NO DARKER PLACE turned into a really good thriller.  Nick Shade fascinated me and I will definitely pick up more of the series. 

So when it comes down to it, I would recommend NO DARKER PLACE but be prepared for the first couple chapters to be a waste of time. It really does get better after that. 

*** I received this book at no charge from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions expressed within are my own.