Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Blood Guard (The Blood Guard #1) by Carter Roy

When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive. Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice: Trust no one. That's a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan's not ordinary at all. 

 The Blood Guard is a fast-paced middle grade action adventure novel that I think would highly appeal to those both young and old alike. I would compare it to the reading level of The Hunger Games series ( which I also really enjoyed ). 

I think it's especially good for those who crave less romance and more fun clean adventure with some humor and likable characters. There are lots of action scenes with chases, fights, and even stolen cars. Throw in some magical aspects and bam instant page-turner! Be warned though that there is quite a bit of violence. The plot was definitely unique though, with talk of the Blood Guard and the Pures, but it was never hard to understand their world or what was going on which I thought was a plus.

 There was one major plot twist that I saw coming from a mile away but to me that was okay because the way it was executed still made it very exciting. Overall I would say that this was a very fun read and a great change up from all of the romances I tend to read. I would feel just as comfortable recommending it to my 13 year old niece as I would her mother as well, so I think that's always pretty neat when a book can have such a wide range of appeal. 

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Unwrapped (Hunk for the Holidays #3) by Katie Lane

Jacqueline Maguire has a problem tying the knot. After fleeing the altar (again), the runaway bride drives off with no particular destination in mind. Which is how Jac finds herself stranded in a snowstorm with a hot, hard-bodied stranger who treats her to the naughtiest night of her life... but come morning, he's long gone.

Contractor Patrick McPherson is deeply committed to his bachelor lifestyle. No strings, no rings. As the Christmas season approaches, however, Patrick still can't quite forget his curvalicious one-night stand. Then Jac shows up unexpectedly, and all holiday hell breaks loose. Because this year, Patrick is getting the biggest Christmas surprise of his life...

Having read the previous two books in this series ( can all be read as standalone if you wish ) and seriously loving them, I felt like I was visiting my old friends the McPherson's for the holidays.
Unwrapped is Patrick McPherson's book ( look at that yummy cover ) and with him being a more serious character at times, I thoroughly enjoyed the silliness of Jac. She had her shallow moments but her naivety and wild imagination also make her fun and likable despite her snobby attitude at times. I also liked that her snobbery came from a place of vulnerability from her upbringing with her mother.
 I loved the opposites attract plot line and these two main characters butting heads and of course making up. It made for a really fun story with lots of chemistry. Not to mention the overall sense of Family and friendship with the McPherson clan. I especially love the crazy meddling match making Aunt. She's a hoot!
I  thoroughly enjoyed this book and can see it becoming a holiday reread favorite. I would love for there to be more books in this series and am also hoping to explore some of Katie Lane's other works as well. If you love fun Christmas stories with love, friendship, family, humor, and maybe even a guy in a kilt, then you won't want to miss this one. It can be read as a standalone but I always enjoy reading the full series to get the full enjoyment of all the characters.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. April

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Throne of Darkness (Something Red #3) by Douglas Nicholas

Throne of Darkness, the third book of a medieval/fantasy series by Douglas Nicholas, sticks to the basic outline of previous books, while deviating enough from the formula to make an interesting addition to the series.
         Once again, our guides are the four travelling musicians who also possess great skills and strengths:  Maeve, the Irish queen who casts spells; Nemain, her niece and protégé; Jack, the man with a ruined voice but super strength; and Hob, the young man who has grown into being a warrior.  In 1215 in Northern England, the troupe travels from place to place, performing and meeting friends.  On one such trip, they encounter a man who purports to be in the service of Pope Innocent.  
While a Pope could never ask assistance from one such as Maeve, he sends a representative to do just that—since his foe is not an entirely human one.  King John, seeking to diminish the power of the Norman lords that oppose him, has sought the help of a supernatural force of shape shifters to advance his cause.  Since the church has heard of Maeve’s previous successes fighting the otherworldly, they seek her assistance in ridding the country of this evil.  With the threat of being burned as a witch over her head and with promises of other rewards, Maeve agrees to help.
         Having read the previous books in the series, it was quite easy to keep the world and characters straight.  In many ways, this book is a road-trip sort of story—the troupe goes from place to place and with each stop the plot advances.  This would be fine if it has not been the exact same structure used in the first two books.  It is a bit too predictable.  Also predictable is the way that rescue arrives.  All three books, despite containing different malevolent forces, have rescues that play out in the same ways.  It made for a less exciting climax than I would have expected.
         Finally, though the focus on the novels is on Hob, I find him to be the least interesting of the four main characters.  More background into Maeve and her history would be a welcome addition to the series.
         I think this book works better if you read the other books in the series, but I would discourage reading them back-to-back.  I hope if there is a fourth book in the series, Nicholas changes it up a bit.

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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Ex by Alifair Burke

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it. Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why? For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him? 

Jack Harris' wife was murdered several years ago and although he says he has moved on in his life, mainly because of his teenage daughter, Buckley, he clearly has not.  His file cabinets are full of case files relating to the man who he feels was responsible.  When that man is shot dead, along with two others, during Jack's attempt to meet a woman he met online, he is their prime suspect.

Olivia Randall used to date Jack back in the day.  They were together several years until Olivia did something that has left a tarnish of guilt on her life ever since.  When she sees that Jack has been arrested, she decides to represent him as his lawyer.  She knows Jack is innocent.  But the man she used to know, or thought she knew, may not be the same.

Filled with twists and turns, The Ex flashes back to Jack and Olivia's past to help authenticate their current relationship and provide contrast to the differences of how they have changed and grown over the years.  While this is important to the story, it doesn't deflect from the current events of Olivia delving into the investigation to prove that Jack is innocent.

While I wasn't surprised by the ending, I was surprised with the repercussions of some character decisions on the facts of the case. Or in this case, the lack of...in some instances.  I didn't connect with any characters, which really bothered me because I really didn't care who did it.  But I had to know why, so I continued my journey with The Ex.

If you're looking for a standard murder mystery, then The Ex is worth a go.  But if you're looking for the darker side of a thriller, you won't find that thrill here. 

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

David Jaher's extraordinary debut culminates in the showdown between Houdini, a relentless unmasker of charlatans, and Margery, the nation's most credible spirit medium. The Witch of Lime Street, the first book to capture their electric public rivalry and the competition that brought them into each other’s orbit, returns us to an oft-mythologized era to deepen our understanding of its history, all while igniting our imagination and engaging with the timeless question: Is there life after death?

This is a very well researched book that includes minutia detail of the main participants lives and the over-all gestalt of the times. The Witch of Lime Street tells the real life story of the battle that was fought through personal letters and newspapers by Houdini and Mina Crandon.

 The Scientific American magazine offered a large reward for “conclusive psychic manifestations” and Houdini, believing Mina was a fraudulent medium, set out to prove it. He went as far as traveling the states and printing out pamphlets detailing her trickery. From Houdini’s friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) who wanted to communicate with his dead brother and son to the actual séances held at the house in Lime Street, the author does a great job of telling a very thorough account of what transpired between all the principal characters.

 Although the author used many resources for such detailed descriptions, he lists the resources at the end instead of interspersed throughout the book making for a better flowing story that is easily read. Lastly, I discovered by accident that the book’s green colored cover art glows in the dark. A nice cool touch to an overall well thought out book.

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


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Fishbowl: A Novel by Bradley Somer

By turns poignant, funny, and heartbreaking, Fishbowl by Bradley Somer is a book that I will not soon forget.  On the surface, Fishbowl is about…well, a fish.  Ian, the goldfish, leaves his secure little bowl and begins a plummet from the 27th floor.  On the way down, Ian gets a glimpse into the lives of the residents of The Seville on Roxy the building where he lives.
         Each chapter is a vignette about a resident.  Connor, Ian’s owner, is dating a sweet girl named Katie.  When Katie comes to visit, Connor is forced to ask his latest liaison, Faye to leave by the stairs.  Other residents include Claire, who is agoraphobic but prolific in the naughty talk that her job requires.  She has an encounter with the autistic and home schooled Herman, as well as the very pregnant Petunia Delilah.  Also in residence is Jimenez, the under-appreciated maintenance man of the building.  His fiddling with the broken elevator in the building leads to disaster for one of the residents.  Finally, a very lonely construction worker, Garth, receives a mysterious package that just might provide him some much-needed joy.
         The residents of the Seville on Roxy live solitary lives and have difficulty connecting to one another.  Fishbowl is about how each character tries, to various degrees of success, to become less lonely.  It is about how, even steady and calm lives, can change in an instant.  It is about the power each of the characters can choose to be brave, to be different, and to break out of their patterns.   I found myself thinking about how people live at the same time, separately, until they interact with each other and are changed by the meeting.  I loved how each character was a fully realized person, and though they were all flawed, I enjoyed reading about each one.
         Fishbowl is an inventive, touching story—one that is hard to categorize.  But I found myself cheering for the bravery of the ordinary people in this story who make changes—whether big or small.  And I found myself rooting for a goldfish falling from the 27th floor.
         Highly, highly recommended.  I will be thinking about this one for while.  Supremely entertaining!
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán

 Libby Miller is having a completely crappy day, and even her usual upbeat attitude is not going to help her much.  After receiving a devastating diagnosis, she goes home to tell her husband only to receive more bad news.  It is all too much for her and she decides to leave her stressful job and head for the beaches of Puerto Rico to die.
         These beaches of Vieques hold special meaning for her since her mother (who died from cancer years before) also visited there.  So, while Libby is running from the possibility of chemotherapy and painful treatments, she is trying to reframe the small amount of time she has left on this side of eternity.  Unfortunately, this trip involves distancing herself from her twin brother, her ex-husband, her best friend, and everyone else from her old life.   Instead, she leans on her friendly Puerto Rican landlady and the attractive pilot who brought her to the island.  But deciding to live for the moment cannot keep reality at bay forever, and soon, Libby will have to learn some hard lessons in bravery, honesty, and love.
         While cancer is the entire focus of Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, it is not a depressing book.  It had many snippets of humor, some profound thoughts on life, and a sweet romance.  I found it to be very entertaining—if not unrealistic—in some places.  Though Libby was the patient and so should get to determine the course of her life, some of her decisions are hasty and unkind—which is not at all unrealistic, I am sure, for someone who is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.  Some plot developments, such as the romance with Libby and Shiloh, the pilot, seem a bit implausible and rushed, but they did a great job in lightening the narrative and providing hopeful moments.
         There is not an entirely happy ending here, but Life and Other Near-Death Experiences did provide some great messages and heartwarming moments.  It was a quite enjoyable book and I will be looking for more from Camille Pagan.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina