Monday, June 20, 2016

Firewalker (The Worldwalker Trilogy #2) by Josephine Angelini


Worlds divide, magic slays, and love lies in the second book of Josephine Angelini’s The Worldwalker Trilogy.

"You think I’m a monster, but my choices, as ruthless as they seem, are justified."

Lily is back in her own universe, and she's ready to start a new life with Rowan by her side. True, she almost died in the Pyre that fueled their escape from New Salem, and must hide her magic for the safety of everyone she cares about, but compared to fighting the Woven, the monstrous creatures inhabiting the alternate Salem, life is looking pretty good.

Unfortunately, Lillian, ruthless ruler of the 13 Cities, is not willing to let Lily go that easily. If she can’t persuade Lily to return to her world, she will force her to come back by doing away with the ones she loves.

Picking up right where Trial By Fire left off, Firewalker is another sexy, fast-paced, heartbreaking thrill ride from internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini! 



Firewalker picks up immediately after Trial by Fire ends. If you have not read Trial by Fire there is no way I can avoid some spoilers for that book in this review but I will try my best to keep them smallish. The first half of this book takes place in our world so even though it had it's strifes and complications arise it was not nearly as action packed as the second half of the book. 

But since the book does get rather intense I did enjoy the fun banter and silliness of Rowan trying to argue with Lily about Star Wars and such for as long as that lasted. It was rather charming but made me hate him a little more later on when...whoa! I am getting way ahead of myself so let me rein myself in a little. Anyhow so after sometime in this world Lillian proves to Lily that she needs to come back to her world. At first I didn't believe that there could be any excuse for the things that Lillian had done but as time progressed I couldn't believe the things that she showed Lily. Those "things" were rather gruesome by the way and pretty horrific if you ask me, so tread carefully if considering this book for younger readers or those who are sensitive to gore and vivid descriptions. 

Anyhow once they are back in Lillian's world things really pick up and I just could not stop reading until I knew everything I could about what was going to happen. I was very surprised by a particular persons reaction to a certain situation and even more shocked by their actions. I am hoping that there was more to that than what we were shown and hope somehow it can save my original perception of this person. I feel like I am close to just blabbering here trying so hard to avoid major spoilers while also trying to describe my reactions to Firewalker.

 I mean I was glued to the pages and couldn't find out quick enough what was going on... What's with the Woven? What about Lily and Rowan? What about Lily and Tristan? Then when I though that I was finally getting some answers I was also getting more questions. Then BAM!!! my heart was wrenched from my chest and the ending hit me like a ton of bricks. How the author manages to rip me into shreds emotionally while also leaving me with hope for this new discovery is a true talent. I am both sad and anxious and I really need the next book like yesterday!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. April

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

From the author of the internationally bestselling 'A Man Called Ove', a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother's fairy tales. Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.


  I am a big fan of the lovable curmudgeon character—the crankier the better.  So, it was no surprise to me that I loved the grandmother in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  Grandma is a best friend to her seven-year-old granddaughter, Elsa.  In fact, she is Elsa’s only friend.  An odd little girl obsessed with her Harry Potter scarf, Elsa is frequently bullied at school and the stories her grandma tells her are the perfect distraction.
         Elsa and her grandmother have their own language and their own imaginary land—Miamas.  Grandma tells Elsa about the fantastic creatures and magical happenings in Miamas, and Elsa quite enjoys the special bond she has with her grandma.  While Grandma is always getting in trouble in real life (she breaks into a zoo), in Miamas, Grandma is a master storyteller.
         After Grandma dies early in the book, she leaves behind a series of letters, apologizing to those she has wronged.  It is a sort of apologetic treasure hunt, if you will.  Elsa follows this trail to find the people who were important to her Grandmother and finds the connections between Miamas and the real word are not as tenuous as they seem.
         This book is a mess.  First, Elsa does not behave at all like a seven year old.  She is allowed to go out alone for extended periods of time.  She is bullied much in the way an older child would be harassed.  Her thoughts are quit advanced.  This is not merely something I observed as a reader—it was something that rankled me. 
         In addition, the stories about Miamas were quite nonsensical.  It felt as though I was reading about someone’s dream.  You know how things make perfect sense in a dream, but when you try to tell someone about the series of events, it makes little sense?  That is Miamas.  (Prime example?  A dog is called a “wurse” throughout the entire story and IS NEVER CALLED A DOG.)  Through much convoluted storytelling, I finally realized that every character in Miamas is a person who lives in the building where Elsa lives. 
         About ¾ of the way through the book, it turned into sort of an action story with a mystery of sorts and a stabbing.  I found it jarring.  This was not that type of book at all, and it made me want to stop reading entirely.
         It took me forever to read this confusing mess, and I almost regret the time I gave to it.  Word has it that AMan Called Ove is better than this one, and I sincerely hope it is since that one is taking up space on my shelf.
         Skip it.  Read something better.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dying to Be Beautiful by M. Glenda Rosen Book Blast & Giveaway!



BOOK ONE: WITHOUT A HEAD

Saturday Morning, 6:00am

The head in the sink stared up at her. Darcy Monroe, the owner of a popular, chic hair salon was used to this. Only this time, the head was there without a body.

Chapter One: The Murder

As a Private Investigator, Jenna Preston had been hired to help solve murders, insurance fraud, cheating spouses and more. This was a new one for her.

She received what could only be described as a hysterical call from Darcy Monroe, owner of a popular, upscale hair salon in The Hamptons. A head without its body was rolling around in one of her shampoo basins.

Almost five-feet, five-inches tall, always looking taller in her two- or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, blue eyes and was often seen driving around the East End in a white jeep, and in recent years, with her Irish setter sitting next to her.



Excerpt


Chapter 1
The Murder


Saturday, 6:10 A.M.

As a Private Investigator, Jenna Preston had been hired to help solve murders, insurance fraud, cheating spouses and more. This was a new one for her.

She received what could only be described as a hysterical call from Darcy Monroe, owner of a popular, upscale hair salon in The Hamptons.

A head without its body was rolling around in one of her shampoo basins.

Almost five-feet, five-inches tall, always looking taller in her two or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, blue eyes and was often seen driving around the East End in a white jeep, and in recent years, with her Irish Setter sitting next to her.

As a well-respected private investigator in the area, she told the salon owner, “I’ll be right there, and don’t touch anything until the police arrive.”

Jenna knew they needed to secure the business as a crime scene and Coroner Doc Bishop and Head of Forensics Lara Stern had to be brought in as well.

“Troy, someone left a head, without the body, in a shampoo bowl at Darcy’s Salon. I’ll be there in about ten minutes.”

”Damn it, Jenna, I nearly spilled my coffee listening to this bizarre message. I’ll be there within the half hour. Meantime, I’ll ask Lara to get over there to check the crime scene for prints and other possible evidence and for Doc to arrange to bring the head to the morgue. We’ll want to look at it there, after he’s had a chance to determine how it was cut off and anything else he might find.”

Detective Johnson hung up.

He and Jenna had worked together and known each other for a long time. They clearly trusted each other. He knew she would follow police protocol at the crime scene.

Saturday, as always was an exceptionally busy day, “in season” at Darcy’s Salon, which is why she had gotten there so early. She always wanted the salon looking perfect, ready for stylists and clients, who this day had appointments beginning at 7 am.

Located off the main avenue of this posh resort at the East End of Long Island, less than ninety miles from Manhattan, the salon was known for catering to the rich and famous, as well as some of wanna-be customers, primping for weekend parties and fundraising events.

The salon was truly beautiful with warm color tones and soft matching leather client chairs facing gold (well, fake gold), trimmed mirrors. There was a reception area with the latest issues of fashion magazines from Paris and Rome, and a few of the more popular Hampton rags, like Dan’s Papers were spread out on a marble table, next to it a coffee machine offering gourmet flavored coffee and teas.

Most of the women who came to Darcy’s Salon had plenty of money, some from their own success, although others were arm candy for much older, wealthy men. Sometimes one of them would joke (maybe not) that they were “Dying To Be Beautiful” like some of the famous models and celebrities, many of who summered in the Hamptons.

“Jenna, you’ve seen how difficult and fussy they can be, and their egos—they’re constantly seeking confirmation of how beautiful they look. They want to come to a high-end salon, expecting to be treated like royalty. And believe me, we do.”

Darcy Monroe was only too glad to charge megabucks for her services since it included a whole lot of catering to their whims and demands. Beauty could indeed be expensive in The Hamptons. The chatter amongst the clients, the eight hair stylists, three manicurists and several assistants meant gossip was a basic ingredient of conversation. The story about the body without a head, and the head found in the salon, was sure to explode through The Hamptons. It certainly had all the elements of a soap opera.

“My god, Jenna, the gossip about this mess is going to be like a volcano spilling over this town.”


***

Dying to Be Beautiful: Without a Head can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

99¢ EBOOK SALE!

runs June 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 140
Release: February 1, 2016
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 9781483445304
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

***

BOOK TWO: FASHION QUEEN

Monday, 6:45am

Kevin Larson swam in his pool nearly every morning. Going on sixty-five, he prided himself on being in good shape.

Walking toward the small pool house, off to the left of the pool, he noticed a light was on. He was certain he turned it off the night before. Strange, he thought.

Even stranger, lying in a different sort of pool—blood—was his long time friend and lover, fashion designer Andre Yellen. Yellen was stuffed into one of the gowns he had designed and a wearing a blond wig.

The gown had been auctioned off the night before at a huge Hamptons fundraiser.

People in the Hamptons were certainly dying to be beautiful.



Excerpt


Chapter 1
THE GOWN


Monday, 7:30 a.m.

Detective Troy Johnson was at Larson’s house when Jenna arrived. He had covered the victim with a large beach towel until the coroner and forensics arrived. [deleted “He and”] Sergeant Stan Miller, who had taken the call, accompanied him and was presently attempting to hold back the media. They had heard about Yellen’s death on the police scanner, and in no time, the active crime scene was quite a wild sight.

It was 6:30 A.M. when she had received the call from Johnson that he was on his way to Kevin Larson’s house: “Jenna, there’s been a murder. Designer Andre Yellen, the Fashion Queen, was found dead this morning at the home of movie mogul Kevin Larson. He gave her the address and exactly where it was located, “past the windmill at the edge of Southampton.”

“More like the situation was at the edge of reason,” Jenna thought.

“Jenna, they’re acting like a bunch of hungry vultures. Help! These are your people. Well, they’re reporters like you used to be. The homeowner is either in shock or just completely uncooperative except for telling me where and when he found Yellen’s body.”

Jenna sighed, “Sure, I can’t say no to such a lovely invitation.”

The death of Andre Yellen was big news.

Andre Yellen was squeezed—really, truly squeezed—into a beautiful ocean blue, sleeveless, silk gown he had designed and donated for a fundraiser the evening before. The size-8 dress was torn at all the seams. Yellen, in his early fifties, 5’9” and clearly out of shape, was more like a size-18-plus, and stuffed into a dress way, way too small for him.

As a designer for major celebrities for nearly twenty-five years, Yellen was a man about town who loved both the ladies and the men, or so it had been gossiped around the East End of Long Island, also known as The Hamptons.

After all, this is THE HAMPTONS, and all sorts of lifestyles are accepted, where choices are supposedly not judged, and relationships are not restricted by conventional boundaries. Unfortunately, there are always those determined to exercise their own brand of severe judgment.

However, there was no evidence this murder had anything to do with narrow minds. Not yet, anyhow. In fact, it wasn’t clear at all what this murder was about—or who had committed it.

Private Investigator Jenna Preston was familiar with many celebrities who lived or vacationed on the East End. Before becoming an investigative reporter, she was entertainment and social events reporter for the local daily paper and had interviewed quite a few of the “anointed” as she had once called them. Gossip columnists covered the rest.

Jenna was regularly hired by law firms, insurance companies and businesses for corporate fraud issues. She also had an arrangement and relationship with the local police—especially when it came to murder investigations. Some of the people she had once written about also tried to hire her for personal investigations and for, what she considered, ridiculous reasons. Such complaints included some new fence being too high or people walking on the beach in front of someone’s home.

Most of these cases she didn’t accept.

“For me, it’s about justice. We all have reasons, even life experiences motivating our passions. I have mine for what I do,” Jenna told a local reporter whose paper was doing a story on crime in The Hamptons.

Jenna had a solid reputation for being smart, resourceful and most definitely charming—without an attitude—which was different from many of the people who summered in The Hamptons.

She did love nice clothes, including the red shoes or red boots she almost always wore.

“Hey,” she laughed once when Troy made fun of her red shoes, “you wear a cowboy hat most of the time, so don’t make fun of me, Tex.”

Jenna and Troy worked together professionally almost as soon as she had become a licensed private detective. It was a small police force, often stretched thin during the summer season. Because they actually had few experienced investigators, he had requested and been given approval by his captain to use a discretionary fund to hire Jenna on an as-needed basis. She was often a member of his investigative team, usually for murders.

Lately, there didn’t seem to be any shortage of them.

Slender and almost 5’5,” yet always looking taller in her two- or three-inch heels, Jenna had long red hair, sometimes pulled back in a ponytail when she was working. She also had deep blue eyes. With more than a hint of spunk and mischief about her, she was definitely considered attractive.

Jenna’s new romance, Dave, thought so!


***

Dying to Be Beautiful: Fashion Queen can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
iTunes

99¢ EBOOK SALE!  

runs June 1-30, 2016 

Prices/Formats: $2.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 132
Release: June 1, 2016
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 9781483449159
Click to add to your Goodreads list.

***

About the Author

M. Glenda Rosen is the author of The Woman’s Business Therapist: Eliminate the MindBlocks and RoadBlocks to Success, and award-winning My Memoir Workbook. For over fifteen years, she helped numerous authors develop and market their books, and presented writing programs in New York, The Hamptons, New Mexico and Carmel, California, on “Encouraging and Supporting the Writer Within You!” She's the founder and owner of a successful marketing and public relations agency for twenty-five years.

Links to connect with M. Glenda:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnès Martin-Lugand


Diane seems to have the perfect life. She is a wife, a mother, and the owner of Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, a cozy literary cafe in Paris. But when she suddenly loses her beloved husband and daughter in a tragic car accident, the world as she knows it instantly vanishes. Trapped and haunted by her memories, Diane retreats from friends and family, unable and unwilling to move forward. 

But one year later, Diane shocks her loved ones and makes the surprising decision to move to a small town on the Irish coast, finally determined to heal and rebuild her life alone—until she meets Edward, the attractive yet taciturn Irish photographer who lives next door. At first abrasive and unwelcoming, Edward initially resents Diane’s intrusion into his life of solitude . . . until he can no longer keep her at arm’s length, and they fall into a surprising and tumultuous romance. But will it last when Diane leaves Ireland, and Edward, for the home she once ran away from in Paris? At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Diane’s story is deeply felt, reminding us that love remembered is love enduring. 




Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand begins like many books that could be labeled “women’s fiction”.  Middle aged and happily married, Diane spends her days running a literary café in Paris.  Happy People Read and Drink Coffee (the name of the café) is where she catches up on the exploits of her best friend, Felix.  When her life is destroyed by a tragic accident that kills her husband and daughter, Diane completely falls apart. Diane’s grief is all consuming and she cannot bear to do much of anything.  She nearly skips the funerals due to her grief.  

Diane regrets not taking a trip to Ireland when her husband wanted her to vacation there, so she decides to travel to Mulranny, a small coastal town—alone.  Though her family and friends think that this is a step forward for Diane, she goes to wallow in more grief without her family’s interference.

In Ireland, she interacts with the friendly locals and enjoys visits with a local dog, Postman Pat.  Unfortunately, the dog belongs to Edward, a relative of her landlord.  He is beyond irascible.  He is unexplainably cruel to Diane.  I hated him after his first scene, and though his “grumpy” façade is later explained, I could not get over what a horrible jerk he was.  Unfortunately, his cruelty is never fully explained and I got the impression that this was a problem with the translation of this book from French to English.  His behavior was over-the-top horrible, and when the inevitable romance developed between Diane and him, I was not at all convinced that it was good for either one of them.

The ending was unbelievable, and I found it to be unsatisfying.  As an examination of grief, this book could be called mildly poignant.  As an example of women’s fiction, it was a disappointment.  Even at its short 200 pages, I found it tedious and flat.


*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trial by Fire (The Worldwalker Trilogy #1) by Josephine Angelini


Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?




Trial by Fire is utterly unique and one of the most original books that I have read to date. The story is exciting and the world-building superb! I loved how the story starts out very mundane and ordinary, other than Lily's unexplained "allergies", and progresses into this amazingly complex and dangerous alternate world. 

I just knew there was something witchy behind Lily's affliction and couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. I was awed at how the author expertly wove in the scientific aspects into this world of witchcraft and just couldn't get enough. The darkness of this place that Lily finds herself compared to our world can't be overlooked but I loved how there were also some things that were more pure than we could find them here.

 I also really liked how well developed the characters were, even the secondary characters felt relatable and like there was more about them that I would love to know. The romantic obstacles were interesting to say the least and there just seemed to be this amazing spark between Lily and Rowan. The complex relationship and feelings between them because of Lily's mirror image in this world, just makes it even more intense.

 The whole book is quite enthralling and if you are a fan of books about witches and would like to find one set within a very unique world then I think this is the book for you. 


*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. April

Friday, April 29, 2016

Antidote to Venom: A British Crime Classic (Inspector French #17) by Freeman Wills Crofts


George Surridge, director of the Birmington Zoo, is a man with many worries: his marriage is collapsing; his finances are insecure; and an outbreak of disease threatens the animals in his care.
As Surridge’s debts mount and the pressure on him increases, he begins to dream of miracle solutions. But is he cunning enough to turn his dreams into reality – and could he commit the most devious murder in pursuit of his goals?



This ingenious crime novel, with its unusual ‘inverted’ structure and sympathetic portrait of a man on the edge, is one of the greatest works by



this highly respected author. The elaborate means of murder devised by Crofts’s characters is perhaps unsurpassed in English crime fiction for its ostentatious intricacy.



This new edition is the first in several decades and includes an introduction by the award-winning novelist and crime fiction expert Martin Edwards.




This book was originally published in 1938.  Why is this important?  This was over seventy-five years ago!  In that span of time, so much has changed in the writing world!  Much has changed in the mystery world!  This book is an incredible example of writing that can truly stand the test of time.  It's every bit as enjoyable today as it was when it was first published.

As with most mystery/crime novels of the time, I was completely stumped.  Most mysteries today are so easy to figure out!  There are exceptions, but they're few and far between.  Even though we know who the murderer is, and we have all of the information that the police seek, I was still baffled.  The manner in which the crime was committed is absolutely brilliant.  I had no idea how it was done, even having all the necessary information, until it was all said and done.  Thankfully, the inspectors solved it for me!  

What's most fascinating about this book is the advanced character study going on.  Each character is so thoroughly crafted that you feel as if you're reading non-fiction.  It's hard to believe that Crofts created each of these characters.  The hours alone it must have taken him just in character creation!  Surridge, our main character, is sublimely fascinating.  Even though he's supposed to be the 'bad guy', you can't help but root for him.  He's not really a bad man.  He's no saint, but he's not really bad.  We're given all of his motivations and we sit right there with him while he questions himself and his own morals.  Instead of this book being just about the crime portion of the story, it's also about George Surridge.

With strong characters, brilliant crime, and a superbly-worded story, this is one of the best mysteries I've read in awhile.  I only wish I'd been introduced to Crofts work before now.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn

Monday, April 25, 2016

Capital Crimes: London Mysteries: A British Library Crime Classic by Martin Edwards

With its fascinating mix of people rich and poor, British and foreign, worthy and suspicious London is a city where anything can happen. The possibilities for criminals and for the crime writer are endless. London has been home to many of fiction s finest detectives, and the setting for mystery novels and short stories of the highest quality. Capital Crimes is an eclectic collection of London-based crime stories, blending the familiar with the unexpected in a way that reflects the personality of the city. Alongside classics by Margery Allingham, Anthony Berkeley and Thomas Burke are excellent and unusual stories by authors who are far less well known. The stories give a flavor of how writers have tackled crime in London over the span of more than half a century. Their contributions range from an early serial-killer thriller set on the London Underground and horrific vignettes to cerebral whodunits. What they have in common is an atmospheric London setting, and enduring value as entertainment. Each story is introduced by the editor, Martin Edwards, who sheds light on the authors lives and the background to their writing." 


This book is a collection of London-based crime stories through a span of over fifty years.

Normally, I'm not a short story person, but I really enjoyed most of these.  Writing has changed so much in the past one hundred years that most of the mysteries and crime stories you read today are nothing compared with what was written in the past.  

These stories don't take long to read individually, but they aren't light reading. You'll have to set aside a little time to invest in reading.  Each word is important.  Skimming just won't work here.  Now, the best part is that they're beautifully written.  You'll want to savor every word.  It isn't just about the storytelling, but the writing as well.  These are crafted stories.

My biggest peeve about mysteries and crime stories is that they're too easy to figure out.  That didn't happen here.  Not once.  I was able to immerse myself and stop trying to solve them.  After I read halfway through the stories, I knew I wasn't going to figure them out so I just enjoyed the ride.  Most of them have a darkness to them that pulls you into other worlds.  They're foggy and gritty and you just need to sink your teeth into them.

The only issue I found is that at least one of the stories was shortened for space.  Though the pertinent information was still given, I really wished that I had been given the full story instead of just the highlights.  Being told how a story ends just isn't the same as experiencing it for yourself.

This is a great short story collection.  If you enjoy short stories and good crime, this is something you'll want for your book shelf.  These stories aren't sensationalized.  They're just great old-fashioned crime stories. 

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Shawn