Friday, November 27, 2015

Giveaway & Excerpt: Dragon Storm by Katie MacAlister

Dragon Storm
by Katie MacAlister
Release Date: November 24th 2015
Paperback; 336 Pages
2015 Forever 
ISBN: 978-1455559237

According to some (including himself), Constantine is one of the greatest heroes of dragonkin who ever lived. Too bad he's now lonelier than ever and his biggest adventure involves a blow-up sheep-until he has an opportunity to save his kind once again. All Constantine has to do is break into a demon's dungeon, steal an ancient artifact, and reverse a deadly curse. The plan certainly does not involve rescuing a woman . . .

Bee isn't sure whether to be infuriated or relieved when Constantine pops up in her prison. The broody, brawny shifter lights her fire in a way no one ever has before, yet how far can she really trust him? Their chemistry may be off the charts, but when push comes to shove, Constantine will have to make a crucial choice: to save the dragons or the woman he's grown to love with fierce intensity.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Depraved Heart (Kay Scarpetta, Book #23)
by Patricia Cornwell
Release Date: October 27th 2015
2015 William Morrow
Softcover (ARC) Edition; 480 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062325402
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone. A video link lands in her text messages and seems to be from her computer genius niece Lucy. But how can it be? It’s clearly a surveillance film of Lucy taken almost twenty years ago.

As Scarpetta watches she begins to learn frightening secrets about her niece, whom she has loved and raised like a daughter. That film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her confused, worried, and not knowing where to turn. She doesn’t know whom she can tell – not her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

My Thoughts
Depraved Heart is the latest novel in the long-running Scarpetta series and most of the action pretty much occurs in a one-day period.  And while I enjoyed quite a bit of this story, I really do feel that this story line has been going on for much too long and it is time to end it, and give readers a new mystery and a new entanglement to solve, one that hopefully doesn't go on for the next five books.  

One of the concepts which fascinated me in this novel was "data fiction"; the idea that we are so dependent on technology that we are no longer capable of judging for ourselves what's true, what's accurate and what isn't.  It's a scary concept and the more I thought about it, the more disturbed I was.  All you have to do is think about how videos are edited and changed in order to manipulate us into believing what others want us to believe, and when you see the actual footage of the incident, you're shocked at what truly happened. Now imagine that everything around us was like this and people were being manipulated into believing something was true, how do you know when the software was lying or was deliberately misleading you? Nothing would be admissible in court anymore.  

The book takes place in a very short amount of time, and most of it is Kay dealing with a suspicious death, a series of video links landing in her text messages seeming to be from her niece Lucy, flashbacks to her incident two months ago, and then a missing police officer.  While I found it interesting to see how everything finally linked up together, and I liked how Ms. Cornwell led Kay around by the nose, having her mistrust everyone around her, I still thought the plot was a bit cumbersome and Kay's reminiscences eventually got on my nerves.  I just wanted to get on with the story.  

While I usually tend to enjoy the characterization in these novels, the last few have left me feeling a bit disappointed and this one was really no different.  Unfortunately, there was little focus on the development on the characters, although it was different to see Kay being a bit nicer towards Marino, and frankly, Lucy was a bit annoying.  I do think the author missed a really great opportunity to devote some time to PTSD, and explore Kay's day-to-day challenges as she copes with the incident and strives forward in her life.  And I'm also getting tired of the dishonesty in Kay and Benton's relationship; the author mentions over and over again about legal ramifications of this and that, but in reality, these two people don't seem to have a really solid relationship amidst the lies and the secrecy. 

Depraved Heart is part of a series that I keep coming back to over and over again, and to be honest, I am not sure why.  At the beginning, the stories were interesting and well-developed, but now they seem to have meandered off track and seem to be focused on repetitive ideas and plots that are becoming less and less interesting.  I am not a big fan of the way the main characters relate to each other within their relationships although I can imagine the jobs they do are very difficult when so many secrets abound.  But lately, the relationships seem to be more destructive than communicative and I am leery about reading about mistrust, secrets, and lies, over and over again.  There was definitely a lot to like in this novel, and some of the ideas were quite interesting, including the way Kay discovers clues available in everything that exists around her (I definitely liked the forensics part of this novel), but I am tired of reading about the same thing over and over again.  And unfortunately, folks, the way the novel ended, we have not seen the last of Carrie yet.  I, for one, am ready to read about someone new, someone that doesn't involve Lucy, and move on. 
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway: They All Fall Down by A.K. Mason

02_They All Fall Down
Publication Date: September 12, 2015  
Paperback; 433 Pages
Genre: Contemporary/Women's Fiction

For her entire life, Alexandra Kramer has been checking a series of boxes. Trapped by the expectations of everyone else around her, she’s made good grades, married the right guy, and secured a place at the prestigious Harvard Business School. But in the chaos of the 2008 financial crisis, Alex suddenly finds herself running into the fire, instead of seeking a safe haven from the flames. Ditching her Ivy League plans, she becomes dedicated to showing she has what it takes in the high-stakes, fast-paced boys’ club of Wall Street trading, as she forges her own path for the first time in her life. As these volatile changes drive her husband Jamie into his own crisis, Alex is forced to examine the choices she’s made—as she’s torn between her traditional role as wife, and the exciting, Wild West appeal of the trading floor. When her two worlds suddenly collide, it becomes clear the institutions she once believed in so strongly are more flawed than she ever imagined—and when everything comes crumbling down, it’s up to Alex to decide for herself what’s worthy of putting back together.


*Kindle eBook on Sale for $.99, now through November 9th!

About the Author

03_A.K. Mason
A. K. Mason is a graduate of Harvard College, who deferred her acceptance to Harvard Business School on three different occasions in favor of working on Wall Street. As a bond trader from 2007 to 2013, she experienced the financial crisis first-hand, and was on the trading desk as Lehman Brothers underwent bankruptcy. In 2013, Mason earned her MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and left Wall Street to build a fitness technology and media business. She currently resides in Washington, DC, with her family.



To win a $50 Amazon Gift Card please enter using the GLEAM form below.

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open internationally. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.


04_They All Fall Down_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL
Monday, November 9, 2015

Cowboys and Christmas Blog Tour: Shanna Hatfield


Welcome to the 2nd annual

Cowboys and Christmas

Blog Tour!

Raising funds and awareness for the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund

Ring in the Holidays with a Helping Hand

JCCF logoNovember 1 through Dec. 24, 10 percent of the net proceeds from all Shanna Hatfield book sales will be donated to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who’ve sustained catastrophic injuries and are unable to work for an extended period. Every book purchased during this promotional period adds to the donation total. Don't forget to add books to your Christmas lists!

USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

Animals as Characters

     Animals are so fun to incorporate into stories. They have such unique personalities, and they can get away with a lot of shenanigans.
     That’s why I get such a kick out of adding animals into my sweet romances.
     In my new release, The Christmas Vow (Hardman Holidays, Book 4), Adam Guthry returns home to bury his best friend and his past, never expecting to fall in love with Tia Devereux, the woman who destroyed his heart.
Tia and her four-year-old son Toby come to Hardman for her grandmother’s funeral and stay. She’s a widow trying to create a new life for her son, so she moves into her grandmother’s empty house.
A white cat named Crabby keeps watch over them. Although he likes children, he’s not fond of adults, until Adam comes along.
However, Crabby keeps Adam in line when it comes to Tia.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: 84 Ribbons by Paddy Eger

84 Ribbons (Ballet Trilogy #1)
by Paddy Eger
Release Date: March 15, 2014
2014 Tendril Press
Softcover Edition; 360 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-9858933-2-3
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from author

3.5 / 5 Stars

Seventeen year old Marta Selbryth realizes her dream of becoming a professional dancer when the Intermountain Ballet Company in Billings, Montana invites her to join their 1957 season. As Marta's new life unfolds, she must learn to face not only the successes of dancing in the corps de ballet, but the challenges and setbacks that might crush the dream she's had for so long.

Marta spends her free time practicing when she's not spending time with her new friends Lynne and Bartley, her fellow corps dancers. Their time together becomes an important lifeline through their first year.

Shortly after Christmas, everything changes for Marta, Bartley and Steve. Significant events permanently influence their lives. Each must deal with exhilaration and heartbreak as well as frustration and changes that test their ability to cope.

My Thoughts
84 Ribbons is one of those books that had great and enjoyable moments in it, but it also had moments in it that I thought kind of plodded along and didn't necessarily endear me to the main character.

If you like dance, or anything to do with ballet, you will definitely enjoy the descriptions of Marta's dance classes and her performances.  Marta came to Intermountain Ballet Company with a huge goal: once she earned 84 ribbons, she would be ready to earn solos in the company.  Unfortunately for Marta, being inexperienced and somewhat immature, she got off on the wrong foot with Madame right from the beginning and had to work extremely hard to make up for her actions.  Personally, I thought she deserved what she got.  Despite her age, and she would have turned eighteen very soon, she should have known better than to do what she did; and whining about her treatment afterwards didn't really endear me to Marta as it just made her seem that much more immature, treating the incident as if it was Madame's fault.  Personally, it drives me crazy when people don't take ownership for their actions.  Yes, she eventually tried to fix the situation, but really, as a professional dancer, it shouldn't have happened in the first place - professionalism.

I liked how the author described the difficulty of the training, and how much responsibility was put on the dancers during this time period right down to purchasing their shoes and their stockings, all on a pittance of a salary.  It was definitely a difficult world if one wished to pursue this career and while I love going to the ballet, I don't envy the girls this life.  

Personally, I found Lynne to be the more interesting of the characters in this novel and wished the story had been about her as I found Marta to be a bit boring.  To be honest, she was kind of annoying and immature; throwing in all those issues about food certainly didn't help endear me to her, as all I wanted to do was shake her while with Bartley, I was much more sympathetic. I also found some of the dialogue to be a bit stilted, making me feel like I was at a scheduled practice than reading a novel.  It didn't happen all the time, but enough that it began to bother me a little bit.  I really have no explanation for this except for the way the characters were written and perceived.  

One of the things I had a problem with right from the beginning was the historical setting.  I knew that it was set in the 1950s, yet there was little in the book that really featured this decade and set it apart from today.  I really wished more time period information had been build into the story to make it seem more authentic as I was jolted time and again by little reminders that I was not in the 2000s.  This very rarely happens so I do attribute this to the writing and descriptive style used in this book. 

84 Ribbons had some great moments in it: the ballet descriptions, the practices, the performances, the ballet world itself and the author genuinely knew her way around this world.  I would have liked to have read more about the ballet world though, as halfway through the book, Marta breaks her foot and the rest of the story is about how Marta deals with the injury; and this is where I began to somewhat lose interest as it was more about her lack of eating, how many diet pills she she take today, and so on. And while I understand her conflicting feelings toward Steve, I am really confused as to why he hung around so long as she didn't really treat him all that well in the beginning.  Plucky guy, I guess.  I definitely enjoyed the ideas in this book, liked most of the characters, would have liked Marta a bit better if she was less whiny and more mature,  and thought the descriptions about the ballet world were fascinating.  I would recommend this to anyone who likes ballet, and perhaps you may have a different perspective that I did on the characterization and setting.   I am however, looking forward to Letters to Follow, Lynne's story when she travels to Paris on a dancer's exchange.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House
by Kate Morton
Release Date: October 20, 2015
2015 Atria Books
Ebook Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-1451649321
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from HFVBT

4 / 5 Stars

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

My Thoughts
The Lake House is one of those books that had almost everything in it that I enjoy in certain mystery novels: the abandoned house, the missing child, secrets, tragedy, guilt, mistakes, and of course, the big mystery that hadn't been solved for seventy years.   While I'm not sure if I enjoyed it as much as some of her other books, the story was still intriguing, if a bit too pat, and the twists and turns actually made me second-guess myself a couple of times as to what actually happened to Theo.

I didn't mind the alternating viewpoints, jumping back and forth between the 1930s and 2003.  While most of the chapters were written from Sadie and Alice's POV, it was nice once in a while to hear from Eleanor, Peter, and Anthony.  In fact, I would have liked a bit more information on Anthony as I teach history and am fascinated by the accounts of PTSD from WWI, although it was called Shell Shock during this time period, and would have liked to learn more about his thoughts and feelings.  I am also surprised that Eleanor was able to keep his medical condition a secret from his family as Alice was pretty sharp and seemed to know a lot about what was happening around her; it doesn't seem to fit her character that she wouldn't have known a bit about it, curious person that she was, and I didn't quite buy it.  Alice was one of my favourite characters in this novel; I just loved her sarcasm and her personality.  She grew up feeling quite guilty, thinking she knew what had happened to Theo and it's always hard when you discover you are wrong all along; having your illusions shattered is never an easy thing, for anyone.  

While the story is quite interesting, with quite a few twists and turns, it still has that familiar ring to it as if you had already read it before.  There was nothing really revelatory in this novel, and to be honest, most of it was quite easy to pick out what happened; there was only one event that I misread completely and I was completely happy to do so as I love being misdirected by an author.  Although the novel did have that comforting feel of having been done before, I still enjoyed it quite a bit and thought the characters were quite interesting.  Because the POVs do jump around quite a bit, you don't get a real sense of a character's development, but I liked how everything intertwined and connected.  That being said however, while I liked the ending, I did think it was a bit too easily concluded and too pat.  I think I would have liked something a bit more dramatic, not necessarily tragic, but something a bit less coincidental?  

The Lake House is an enjoyable mystery with characters I really liked.  The psychological aspect to the story surprised me a bit and I wish a bit more time had been spent on those issues in here as they were quite interesting; the guilt, the remorse, the feelings of being trapped in something by yourself and by others, the impact of secrets on people's psyches, the strength of family bonds, the role of sight and memory, and the trauma (PTSD). As always, I loved the setting of the old house and the secrets that it held; it's always a good way to get my attention.  Even though I felt the ending was too coincidental and rushed, and Sadie's own investigation was too easily solved, I do feel like this is the beginning of a new series, something to do with Sadie and private investigations?  If so, I'm totally on board with that and can't wait to see what comes next.
Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Devious Dr. Jekyll by Viola Carr

Title: The Devious Dr. Jekyll
Author: Viola Carr
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy/Steampunk
Format: Ebook/Paperback/Audible

Dr. Eliza Jekyll, heroine of the electrifying The Diabolical Miss Hyde—an edgy steampunk retelling of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—investigates a bizarre murder case in an alternate Victorian London while battling her treacherous secret half: Lizzie Hyde.

Solving the infamous Chopper case has helped crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll establish her fledgling career in the chauvinistic world of Victorian law enforcement. But the scrutiny that comes with her newfound fame is unwelcome for a woman with a diabolical secret. And there is the mercurial Royal Society agent and wolf man Remy Lafayette. Does he want to marry her, eat her, or burn her at the stake? Though Eliza is uncertain about Remy, her dark and jealous shadow self, Lizzie, wants to steal the magnetic and persistent agent, and usurp Eliza’s life.

It’s impossible to push Remy away when he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a bizarre crime. The search for a bloodthirsty ritual torturer dubbed the Pentacle Killer draws them into a terrifying world of spies, art thieves, and evil alchemy, where the price of immortality is madness—or damnation—and only Lizzie’s dark ingenuity can help Eliza survive.

As Eliza and Remy race to thwart a foul conspiracy involving the sorcerous French, they must also overcome a sinister enemy who is all too close: the vengeful Lizzie, determined to dispose of Eliza for good.

Author Information

Viola Carr was born in Australia, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. She loves history, and pops down to London’s many historical sites whenever she gets the chance.  She likes steampunk, and thought it would be cool to investigate wacky crimes with crazy gadgets…just so long as her heroine was the creator of said wacky gadgets: a tinkerer, edgy, with a dash of mad scientist. Readers can follow her on twitter at @viola_carr  and online at

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Falling into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

In the first in a dazzling new series, New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath introduces the Hellions of Havisham-three charismatic rogues destined to lose their hearts…

After six unsuccessful Seasons, Miss Minerva Dodger chooses spinsterhood over fortune-hungry suitors. But thanks to the Nightingale Club, she can at least enjoy one night of pleasure. At that notorious establishment, ladies don masks before choosing a lover. The sinfully handsome Duke of Ashebury is more than willing to satisfy the secretive lady’s desires-and draws Minerva into an exquisite, increasingly intimate affair.

A man of remarkable talents, Ashe soon deduces that his bedmate is the unconventional Miss Dodger. Intrigued by her wit and daring, he sets out to woo her in earnest. Yet Minerva refuses to trust him. How to court a woman he has already thoroughly seduced? And how to prove that the passion unleashed in darkness is only the beginning of a lifetime’s pleasure…?

LORRAINE HEATH always dreamed of being a writer. After graduating from the University of Texas, she wrote training manuals and computer code, but something was always missing. After reading a romance novel, she not only became hooked on the genre, but quickly realized what her writing lacked: rebels, scoundrels, and rogues. She’s been writing about them ever since. Her work has been recognized with numerous industry awards, including RWA’s RITA® and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. Her novels have appeared on the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists.

“Heath’s first Hellions of Havisham Victorian romance is wonderfully entertaining….Heath adeptly juggles numerous new and familiar characters as she sweeps fans of her Regency novels into the Victorian era.”—Publishers Weekly

“With her usual flair for richly nuanced characters and elegant writing, RITA® Award-winning Heath launches her new Hellions of Havisham historical series with a tale that simply sizzles with sensuality.”—Booklist

“She dazzles with fascinating characters and a naughty plotline, but most of all she mesmerizes with the depth of emotion in this highly sensual story.”—RT Book Reviews, **4.5 Stars, Top Pick!**

“Falling into Bed with a Duke is a great start to Lorraine Heath’s new series, and book two can’t appear fast enough.” –All About Romance, Desert Island Keeper Review

“FALLING INTO BED WITH A DUKE is a passionate Victorian romance that leaves the reader sighing in happiness…” –Fresh Fiction


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