Friday, August 29, 2014

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin


In The Fortune Hunter, Daisy Goodwin’s new historical novel, the reader is swept away to a little known historical setting that promises grand adventure and romance.  Unfortunately, The Fortune Hunter fell flat for me, even if I did learn a bit of history while reading.
 
            Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, is on a tour of England in 1875.  Married as a teenager to an emperor devoted to his work, Elizabeth yearned for more excitement than just that of a royal wife.  Elizabeth (Sisi) considered the “Princess Diana” of her time, wanted to focus on her interests, which include riding horses and fox hunting.


            On a trip to England, Sisi is assigned a pilot named Bay Middleton.  Captain Middleton, a veteran of military service, is to guide Sisi through her rides.  Though Captain Middleton is romantically involved with Charlotte Baird, an heiress, he is charmed by Sisi’s royal demeanor and riding prowess.


            Charlotte, a photographer, is no royal beauty.  She is forced to stay under the thumb of her brother and his overbearing fiancĂ©e because she is not entitled to her fortune without her brother’s say-so.  Even her romance with Bay Middleton is discouraged, as he has the reputation of being a fortune hunter.  But Charlotte feels certain of Bay and his feelings—even as she watches him fall further and further under the royal spell that Sisi weaves.


            My chief complaint about The Fortune Hunter is that I did not believe the romance between Bay and Charlotte.  There was nothing that made me believe that this mousy little heiress would win the heart of the “great” Bay Middleton.  Their connection always seemed tenuous at best, and I was not fully invested in either character.


            Also difficult to enjoy was the muddled character development.  I still have no idea who this book is mainly about.  Is it about Charlotte and her steadfast devotion to Bay Middleton?  Is it about Sisi and her tour of Europe?  Is it about a lonely heiress who is trying to discern whether she is about to be taken by a fortune hunter?  I finished the book and I still cannot answer this question.


            In addition, Bay Middleton was no prize and mostly unlikable.  He had an affair with a married woman and impregnated her.  (He later ditched her.)  He had an affair with the married Empress, all while romantically involved with Charlotte.  His only objection was the idea that he would be considered a royal “stud”—available to the self-obsessed Empress whenever she beckoned him.


            Yes, the history behind the book is fascinating, but I am not sure that it warranted an entire book about it.  Sometimes, there is just not enough to make a novel, and the stretching of the source material is just too thin to sustain a cohesive story.  Unfortunately, this is the fate that befalls The Fortune Hunter.  Poor character development and a slogging plot made this one a chore.


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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski

Six billion identical clones make up the entire population of Earth, and William 790-6 (57th Iteration) is exactly like everybody else. In his one year of life he will toil in suburban mediocrity and spend as much cash as possible in order to please his corporate masters. When 790’s first birthday (and scheduled execution) finally rolls around, a freak accident spares his life.

Living past his expiration date changes 790 profoundly. Unlike other clones he becomes capable of questioning the futility of his own existence. Seeking answers in the wilderness, he discovers a windmill with some very strange occupants, including a freakish, dinosaur-like monstrosity. Which is especially strange since every animal on earth is supposed to be extinct…

Dark, haunting, and blisteringly satirical, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS is the story of one “man’s” attempt to finally become an individual in a world of copies.



>In the world of William 790-6, clones live their life full of purpose for an entire year.  They do their assigned job and make sure they fulfill their duty as a consumer.  Then, on their first and only birthday, they step into the slurry machine to be replaced with the next iteration of their model.
 
When an accident keeps our William from being slurried, he becomes the first clone to ever lives past a year. As he begins to notice oddities surrounding him, he goes on a quest to figure out his purpose and the purpose of the world around him.  His journey leads him to a windmill between towns, where he finds a rebel character who shows him the path to the enlightenment he so seeks.  But,will William be able to make the transition into freedom?  Or will he choose the safe path he's always trod?  The other possibility, and the most likely, is that William will do what he was designed to do....step into the slurry machine and end his existence like a good little clone.
 
This is the third book by Stephen and I have to tell you, the second I was asked to review it, it wasn't even a question of when I would get to it, but how soon I could get my little eyes at those precious words.  Everything that he's written has been amazing to me.  He has a natural talent for storytelling, but it goes so much further than that.  Every idea he's put into print has been unique and a treasure.  And while you're reading, you can't help but wonder why someone hasn't done it before. Then, you realize you're just glad that someone finally did!
 
Billy and the Cloneasaurus follows in the great path that I've noticed Stephen beating down since the beginning of his writing career.  It's a fresh idea that will take you by surprise.  The light and dark in the book are equally balanced and you never seem to know whether you're going to find yourself in the dungeon in the middle of the night, or the middle of a poppy field at noon.  Every idea is easy to follow, but the ride is definitely full of twists and turns.  This is one of the few books that I was genuinely surprised when the ending came.  I was not only caught off guard, but I found myself saying 'NO! NO! NO!'  repeatedly for several minutes.  And that, dear readers, is the best reaction a writer can get from me.  When you can surprise me and shock me, you've done an amazing job. 


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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Branded by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki‏


Fifty years ago The Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. 

To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.

Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home. 

Constant darkness. 

Brutal and savage violence. 

Excruciating pain. 

Every day is a fight for survival. 

But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole. 

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.




From the moment I opened page one, I was completely captivated by this story.  It's unique and dark and at the same time has an epicness to it.  

The reality of what the Hole is will stun you as a reader.  It was really hard for me to even wrap my mind around the atrocities there, let alone being an innocent and forced to live in those conditions.  This is a world where anything can happen, and often does.  The guards are untouchable and the other sinners have given up all hope.  They have nothing to lose so it doesn't matter what they do or who they do it to.  In this world, the tattoo on your neck defines who you are and that's all anyone sees when they look at you.  It doesn't matter what the story is behind your tattoo.  Once you've been branded, that's who you become.  Not only to everyone else, but eventually in your own sight as well.

This was a really fast-paced read and I couldn't put it down.  The story telling is compelling but it's so much more than that.  We have all these intricate mysteries that we're trying to figure out while at the same time being put in the middle of horrific nonstop action events.  Your mind is so busy that you can't help but devour more and while you're reading more, your mind is working on that as well as trying to process everything you've just read.

If the description piqued your interest, this book will not let you down.  It's as fascinating and satisfying as it sounds.


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

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar


Hannah Riley and her musician husband, Will, hope that a move to the Suffolk countryside will promise a fresh start. 


Hannah, a human rights worker, is desperate for a child and she hopes that this new life will realise her dream. 



Yet when the snow comes, Will is working in London and Hannah is cut off in their remote village. Life in Tornley turns out to be far from idyllic, who are the threatening figures who lurk near their property at night? And why is her neighbour so keen to see them leave? Plus Will's, behaviour is severely testing the bonds of her trust. 



Hannah has spent her professional life doing the right thing for other people. But as she starts to unbury a terrible crime, she realises she can no longer do that without putting everything she's ever wanted at risk. 



But if she does nothing, the next victim could be her...



  When I got this book in the mail to provide a review for I was already eager to start reading it just because of the title. The Hidden Girl is a great book and the story really had me on the edge of my seat; I couldn’t wait to read the next page just to see what would happen next. The first chapter was a little boring, but once I got through it then it seemed like the story moved a little quicker through the rest of the book. Once I started chapter two I was able to continue reading this story until I was on chapter five!  

     I immediately felt connected to “Hannah” the main female character in this book. I could understand her feelings and the longing she had for a baby; I felt the same feelings she did when she started cleaning, repairing, and fixing up their old house in the countryside in anticipation of having a child live there one day. I loved how this book was a suspenseful yet fictitious novel. Had I never read this type of genre before I would think it was an actual even in someone’s life. 

      I kept thinking I knew why “Hannah” was so paranoid and who was causing all the “intruder” issues, but I was wrong at every assumption I had. I was really surprised to learn who was causing all of the issues and paranoia in “Hannah’s” life. Although “Will” was the husband of the main character I didn't feel like he played a very big part in the story; although he was mentioned quite a bit throughout the story I felt like he could have had more of an impact on the plot than he did.  

     I loved how Ms. Millar wrote this story, I have enjoyed reading this novel by her more than I did her previous novel “Accidents Happen.” I can’t wait until her next novel comes out to see if it can live up to this one. I give Ms. Millar an “A” and “The Hidden Girl” an “A-.” 


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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CLEAR YOUR SHELF GIVEAWAY HOP



Welcome to the Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer and Bookhounds! This hop runs from August 2oth - 27th and all blogs on the hop have a book related giveaway!






I'm giving away an ARC of Dark Eden by Chris Beckett!

*USA only
*Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter
*Happy Hopping!

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran


When Olivia Berrington gets the call to tell her that her best friend from university has been killed in a car crash in New York, her life is turned upside down. Her relationship with Sally was an exhilarating roller coaster, until a shocking betrayal drove them apart. But if Sally had really turned her back, why is her little girl named Olivia?

As questions mount about the fatal accident, Olivia is forced to go back and unravel her untangled history. But as Sally's secrets start to spill out, Olivia's left asking herself if the past is best kept buried.



  I read the chapter summary on the back cover to get a brief idea about what this story would be about. After reading the summary I was really excited to start reading this book. After reading the first two chapters however I realized that I was a little confused about what was already happening in the story. I ended up having to reread the second chapter one more time in order to remember what I had just read. I already was a little bored with the story and I was ready to put the book down.  

      After reading the second section of the second chapter I really started getting into the characters and their backstory and I couldn’t wait to get to the next page. Although I was able to enjoy certain parts of the story I still found it to be a confusing and somewhat long story that could have been a little shorter than it was. I really liked the differences between “Sally” and “Olivia”; I was able to see why they had become friends in the first place. I think the author could have made the story a few pages shorter than she did.  

     I think Ms. Moran did a wonderful job getting the reader to feel the same emotions as her main characters did. One thing I didn’t like was how confusing the chapters were; where I thought another chapter would start it turned out to be a memory and “Sally” or “Olivia” would think what had happened at the moment. Most of the “memories” if not all of them were things that “Olivia” was remembering. I liked the idea of some of the chapters being dates, but then I would get to the page where it would say Chapter three and then be a little frustrated because I thought the previous section was the chapter.  

I didn’t really care for this book, but I think it will depend on the person as to if they will like this book or not; I personally did not like this story. I give the book a “C” and the author a “B.”


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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire


A fantasy set in Tsarist Russia.

Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar’s army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg — a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. When the two girls’ lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and — in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured — Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs.



The last Maguire book I read was the ending of the Wicked series, and I'll admit, I was a little disappointed.  The vulgarity that seemed to continue cropping up didn't match the Maguire I've come to know and love.  Egg and Spoon completely redeemed him.

Though considered a children's book, this is not your average flimsy picture book with sparse words. This is a 475 page book. Though most children with an imagination and love for reading will enjoy this,it's definitely just as much of an adult book.

Though Maguire is known best for his Wicked series, I truly think this is his best work yet. He has mastered the belief that when writing fantasy,there are no limits.  If you can imagine it, you can write it.  No rules and no boundaries.  This is the Maguire that I've come to love and respect.  His imagination builds a world similar to ours, but it's a world where magic and myth exist.  You'll meet famous characters and see childhood stories from a different perspective.

The characters are built with love and care and each one truly has a life of their own.  I was so immersed in this book that it was a one-sitting read.  There's just a hint of romance, but most of the book is a cruel misadventure.  Two girls have switched places and find themselves lost in their new worlds and not sure how to cope.  In a world where anyone would be lost and confused, these girls find themselves in an even more peculiar situation.  The worlds surrounding each character are vibrant and messy.  

This is a great fantasy adventure that you can either sit back and enjoy at face value, or expend a little thought into.  There are some valuable life lessons and morals contained inside, as well as a lot of fun.

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


Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Shade of Blood (A Shade of Vampire #2) by Bella Forrest


In A Shade Of Blood, Bella Forrest transports you deeper into a unique, enthralling and beautifully sensitive story. Prepare to be lost in its pages…


When Sofia Claremont was kidnapped to a sunless island, uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet, she believed she’d forever be a captive of its dark ruler, Derek Novak.



Now, after months of surviving an endless night, the morning sun may soon rise again for Sofia. Something has possessed Derek’s heart and he offers her a gift no human slave has ever been given in the history of his cursed island: escape. 



High school, prom and a chance to move on with her life now await her. 



But will she be able to forget the horrors that steal her sleep away at night? … and the feelings that haunt her for that tormented prince of darkness?



This is the second in the series from Bella Forrest.  I loved the first book, A Shade of Vampire, so I was really excited to read this one.  It's not your average vampire books and I think they are geared more toward the teen set, but I love them anyway.

In this installment, Derek lets Ben and Sophia go.  Shocking in itself as most human slaves never leave the island.  And for the majority of the book, Derek tries to forget Sophia and his dark tendencies begin to take over any remaining human ones.  Also, since he was asleep for over four hundred years, he figures now is as good a time as any to show everyone that his word is law.  He begins making everyone (the vampires) train for battle and begins punishing those who defy him.


Meanwhile, Sophie can't get Derek out of her mind, even though she and Ben decide to start a relationship.  They try not to talk about their time in The Shade, but it haunts both of them.  Ben finally shares what really happened when he was Claudia's human slave, and urges Sophia to join the Hunters with him.  He seeks revenge and knows that is probably the best way to get it.  


But then Sophia gets a visit from someone on the island and she has to make a choice.  Return to Derek, on an island where the sun never shines, or try to move on with her life, even though she can't get Derek out of her mind.


Suffice to say, A Shade of Blood ends with a cliffhanger and I just eagerly ordered the next in the series.  It's so addicting, and the twists and turns, along with the beautiful writing have enamored me with the series.  If you are looking for a new series to read with a twist of paranormal, a dash of romance, get this series. It's spectactular!



I purchased this book.  All opinions are my own.  Wendy