Monday, August 8, 2016

Gathering Storm (The Halcyon Saga Book 1) by Toni House

If there’s one thing Maddie knows well, it’s a life of excess. Doted on by her wealthy father and grandfather, there’s nothing she’s ever wanted for in life. 

But her beloved grandpa’s health is failing, and that means everything she knows and loves is about to be thrown off course. In the midst of fighting her growing feelings for a boy who works there, she uncovers a dark secret about her stepmother…one that threatens to unravel the entire family. 

Gathering Storm by Toni House was not what this reader expected.  Written in a very simple, straight-forward style, “Gathering Storm is the first installment in the Halcyon Saga, which is about the travails of an elite family at a crossroads:   

 The aging patriarch has taken ill just as his spirited grand-daughter is graduating from high school and poised to head off into her future -- while a mysterious entity is making moves to take over the family firm.  “Gathering Storm” reads largely like a set up for one of the primetime soap operas from the 1980s. 

Leading the Halcyon soap cast is the grandfather who built the family business from the ground up – turning it into a multi-billion dollar empire.  But he is old and sick, and none of the board has faith in JT, the son-in-law who has assumed the reigns and is attempting to move the company into new ways of doing business. 

Becca is JTs 2nd wife -- the impossibly evil, money-grubber whose sole occupation is conniving and getting her hair and nails done. 

And then there is Maddy – the apple of her grandpa’s eye.  She is the spoiled little rich girl with the prerequisite erratic flashes of good character and wisdom.   

Let’s not forget the hunky and noble hired help to challenge Maddy’s spoiled-rotteness and serve as the overall foil to the various shallow, pretentious and entitled young men within her social circle. 

Like any mystery, Gathering Storm” has a somewhat of a cliff-hanger ending that takes the story from annoying to downright sinister in its last few pages -- as Maddy is forced into a dangerous situation  with serious consequences (rape is implied).  

The surprising ending serves to catapult what had been a formulaic predictable tale into something that could actually be a more serious story dealing with America’s rape culture.  Perhaps this is fleshed out in the later installments, but the almost soap-opera aspect of most of the book serves to detract from its potential.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker begins with a rape.  Jenny Kramer, who had attended a party, ends up in the woods behind the house and violently attacked.  In addition to enduring a horrific rape, Jenny is marked by her attacker.  When she is found and taken to the hospital, her parents are given the option of a new treatment.  This drug will erase Jenny’s memory of the events after the party and give her a chance to return to a sense of normalcy.  Unfortunately, this drug and its effect on Jenny will impede efforts to bring the attacker to justice.  How can the attacker be arrested if Jenny remembers nothing?
            Dr. Forrester, Jenny’s doctor, helps her begin to uncover memories, and he deals with Jenny’s parents as well.  Basically, Dr. Forrester appeals to Jenny’s senses to remember the events of the horrible night she was attacked.  It is a therapy that he is also exploring with another patient, Sean, who has forgotten some of his warime memories in Iraq. 
            Jenny’s father is obsessed with tracking down the man who violated his little girl.  He badgers the detectives about a car seen in the area, about a remembered sweatshirt, and potential links to drugs.  When the clues begin to lead to Dr. Forrester’s son (among other suspects), he has to decide how far he will go to find the truth—and if he can handle it when the truth comes out.
            The premise behind this book was a promising one, and it drew me in right from the start.  I really wanted to know who committed this vile act and the connection to the science of memory was compelling.  Sean’s introduction and his connection with Jenny provided a great way of expanding the narrative and throwing in some red herrings.
            I did have a few problems with the book.  First, the narrator is unknown for the first part of the book.  It just did not work.  It was off-putting rather than intriguing, and his comments and point of view mired the novel rather than providing any truly compelling input. 
            I also did not like the overly dramatic endings to every chapter.  It seemed as though each one ended on a “cliffhanger” or with some overbearing portent of what was to come.  In a book with chapters that are not that long, it gets old rather quickly. 
            When the bad guy was revealed, I was not invested.  I am not sure why.  The book got bogged down in the marital issues between Jenny’s parents, her mother’s infidelity, and Sean’s recovered memory.  I think there was just too much going on.  It started to feel like a different book—rather than a fast-paced thriller.  The big reveal was completely unsatisfying.
            I wish All is Not Forgotten had lived up to the promise of its first few chapters.  I think some editing and paring down the various storylines would have made it a much better book.  

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Return to the Isle of the Lost (Descendants #2) by Melissa de la Cruz

There’s no place like home. Especially if home is the infamous Isle of the Lost. Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay haven’t exactly turned their villainous noses up at the comforts of Auradon after spending their childhoods banished on the Isle. After all, meeting princes and starring on the Tourney team aren’t nearly as terrible as Mal and her friends once thought they would be.

But when they receive a mysterious invitation to return to the Isle, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay can’t help feeling comfortable in their old hood—and their old ways. Not everything is how they left it, though, and when they discover a dark mystery at the Ise’s core, they’ll have to combine all of their talents in order to save the kingdom.

For those of you who may not know, The Isle of the Lost is the first book in the Descendants series and serves as a prequel to the Disney movie Descendants. Return to the Isle of the Lost picks up where the movie left off but is only the second book. Which I thought was pretty cool to have a movie tell the story of what happens in between the two books. That's definitely not something I have seen done before.

 The first page of Return to the Isle of the Lost sort of summarizes what happened in the movie with the villian kids moving to Auradon and defeating Maleficent. I love that it just gives this quick overview and then charges straight into the story. Now that the villian kids are no longer on The Isle of the Lost and have decided to be good things get very interesting. There is more camaraderie which I love and some major quests. The group is still learning how to choose good over evil and are really put to the test as the work together to set things right. I think it really makes the characters interesting that they are not perfect and didn't come from the perfect homes but are trying hard to do what is right and learning to be friends. I don't want to post any spoilers but I absolutely loved the anti-heroes speech. Yay anti-heroes! Another cool thing is that we get to journey to several places in this one not just Auradon or the Isle of the Lost. There was also mention of Camelot, Charmington Cove, Neverland, and the Catacombs. 

All in all it was a fun adventure and I think everyone can enjoy this one, whether young or just young at heart. Despite the cliffhanger the book felt pretty complete and leaves just enough room and intrigue for me to feel satisfied yet still anticipating what will happen next.   

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Matchmaker's Playbook (Wingmen Inc. #1) by Rachel Van Dyken

Wingman rule number one: don’t fall for a client.

After a career-ending accident, former NFL recruit Ian Hunter is back on campus—and he’s ready to get his new game on. As one of the masterminds behind Wingmen, Inc., a successful and secretive word-of-mouth dating service, he’s putting his extensive skills with women to work for the lovelorn. But when Blake Olson requests the services of Wingmen, Inc., Ian may have landed his most hopeless client yet.

From her frumpy athletic gear to her unfortunate choice of footwear, Blake is going to need a miracle if she wants to land her crush. At least with a professional matchmaker by her side she has a fighting chance. Ian knows that his advice and a makeover can turn Blake into another successful match. But as Blake begins the transformation from hot mess to smokin’ hot, Ian realizes he’s in danger of breaking his cardinal rule.… 

What happens when a “player” meets his match?  Ian Hunter finds out in the light-hearted romance, The Matchmaker’s Playbook by Rachel Van Dyken.
         Ian is a former football player—but a current stud.  After a good deed derails his football career, Ian parlays his experience with women into an entrepreneurial deal with his friend.  Their venture, Wingmen Inc., is in the business of teaching women how to attract men. To do this, they study the woman’s habits, her prospective date, her social skills, and her ability to interact with the potential suitor.  Wingmen even calculates the probability that the relationship will last.  Ian, who is not at all uncomfortable being the guinea pig for anyone, throws himself into teaching socially awkward girls how to get their man.
         When Blake shows up, Ian has his work cut out for him.  She is a tomboy who is much more comfortable in sweats than in a little black dress.  She lives for her Adidas sandals and would not be caught dead in Manolo Blahniks.  And her attitude?  She takes annoying to a whole new level.
         Despite these factors, Ian finds himself drawn to Blake—even as he is supposed to be helping her attract another man.  As he tries to get her to be more comfortable with men, he finds himself the one who is chasing her.
         I wanted to like this book much more than I did.  I found Ian’s attitude to be a bit over the top.  The snark and sarcasm that he displayed throughout the book was sometimes annoying and a bit hard to follow.  In scenes where he talked to his business partner, it was noticeably worse.  It was as if he considered himself the smartest person in the room (which he did).  It is not that the character had that attitude that was the problem.  It is that it was written in such a way to make Ian more unlikable than alpha-ly arrogant (Alpha-ly should be a word).  So, I decided early on that he did not deserve the girl.  None of his future behavior changed my mind.  And it was a bit sexist that all of the girls needed to change themselves to get their man.
         The story is written from Ian’s point of view.  It is unusual for a romance to be written from a male perspective, and I am not sure that it completely worked.  I found Ian’s thoughts to be quite vapid and shallow, and it would have been better if the chapters alternated his point of view with Blake’s.
         The Matchmaker’s Playbook dragged a bit in the middle and I found myself ready for it to end long before the actual ending.  For a vacation read, it was fast and non-heavy.  But for a compelling romance book, it fell flat.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Casey Duncan once killed a man and got away with it. Since then she’s become a talented police detective, tethered only to her job, her best friend, Diana, and the occasional evening with her sexy, no-strings-attached ex-con lover, Kurt. But then Diana's abusive ex finds her again, despite all Casey has done to help her disappear. And Casey’s own dark past begins to catch up with her. The two women need to run—and Diana’s heard of a place where they won’t be found, a town especially for people like them… 

I've read most of Armstrong's works and I've seldom been disappointed. City of the Lost is a fabulous start to a new series. I not only enjoyed the world-building of Rockton and how it worked but the characters were very diverse and complex.

 Also, the backstory of Casey and Diane really helped add depth and clarity to their present predicament. I'm not sure about anyone else, but there have been several times in my life where I have just wanted to run away from the world and this is exactly what Casey and Diane do; only their are rules. Not to mention that someone has been murdered in Rockton.

 Thankfully Casey is a good detective but she may unearth more secrets than she was bargaining for. Fantastic and I can't wait to read the next in the series! I was totally immersed in this world and I cannot wait to revisit it and the characters. Loved it!

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Pirates Cycle Series Book Blast & Giveaway!

We are happy to be hosting Chris Gerrib's The Pirates Cycle Series Book Blast today! Leave a comment and you could win a complete set of his books!


About the Series:

Title: The Pirates Cycle Series
Author: Chris Gerrib
Publisher: Cincinnatus Press
Genre: Science Fiction

When eighteen-year-old Janet Pilgrim’s boyfriend was killed in a training accident at the space academy, she thought she was going to be thrown out. Instead, she soon found herself shipping out as a junior astronaut on the forty-year old spacecraft Windy City bound for Mars.

But freighters and passenger ships aren’t the only craft plying the spaceways. When the Windy City is attacked by pirates on the way to Mars, Janet finds herself in more danger than she could ever have imagined.

The Pirates Cycle series is available at Amazon.

Book Excerpt:

A very solid clunk on the outer bulkhead awoke me from my after-watch nap.  This was immediately followed by the general alarm.  The ship’s Voice was reporting all sorts of problems, and as I rolled out of my rack the lights flickered off, and a second later about half of them came on again.  As I listened to the Voice, I heard three alarms, any one of which was serious.  First I heard a “loss of communication” alarm, then a “ reactor coolant leak #2 radiator” and finally a loss of pressure alarm for the #3 greenhouse.
The reactor coolant leak scared me the most.   Our reactor was a pebble-bed unit, so it couldn’t melt.  But if it got too hot, it would automatically shut down.  No reactor meant no propulsion which meant we’d sail past Mars and out of the Solar System.  Some uncounted tens of thousands of years later some unknown alien would find our bones.  Maybe.
I jumped into a pair of coveralls and raced to the greenhouse.  Everything seemed to be in slow motion, but it was really only a few seconds before I was at the pressure door to the greenhouse.  As I looked in through the observation port, still struggling though sleep and shock, I couldn’t understand at first what I was seeing.  Maybe I didn’t want to understand.
Practically all the plants had been sucked out of the compartment, and what few remained had been sucked clean of leaves.  A couple of the water sprays were running, and the water coming out was boiling and freezing at the same time.  I looked shipdown towards the outer hull.  Something had cut a gouge almost the entire length of the compartment, slicing through the twin hulls like a hot knife through butter.  There were scorch marks along the edges of the gash, which must have immediately vented the compartment to space.
A flash of red caught my eye.  I blinked and saw Kate, drifting lifelessly against the far bulkhead.  I stared at her in disbelief.  There was a red streak of blood down her face from her nose, and her hair was matted with blood, whether from her ears or a skull wound I couldn’t tell.  There was nothing I could do.  I only hoped that she had passed out quickly from the loss of pressure.  I pounded on the hatch for a minute, out of frustration more then anything else. 
“Kate, where are you?”  Alex said, his voice booming out of the announcing system.
I picked up the nearest ship’s phone and dialed the pilothouse.  Ken answered.  “Kate was trapped in #3 greenhouse.  The aft bulkhead and hatch holding.”  It took me a minute to notice that there was no answer.  “Ken, status?”
“You’d better get up to the pilothouse fast, Janet.”

About the Author
Chris Gerrib admits to being a bit obsessed with Mars, but in a healthy way.  Chris still has a day job as the IT director at a Chicago-area bank, and holds degrees in history and business from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University.  He also served in the US Navy during the First Gulf War, and can proudly report that not one Iraqi MiG bombed Jacksonville, Florida while he was in the service.  In his copious free time, Chris is a past President of and currently active in his local Rotary club.  His three-novel series set on Mars, The Pirate Cycle, is being reissued by Cincinnatus Press.

You can visit Chris Gerrib’s website at


Chris Gerrib is giving away one complete paperback set of The Pirates Cycle (3 books) and two complete ebook sets!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one paperback set and two winners will be chosen to receive one of two ebook sets.
  • This giveaway begins July 5 and ends on July 29.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on July 30.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Consequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair

Consequence is the story of Eric Fair, a kid who grew up in the shadows of crumbling Bethlehem Steel plants nurturing a strong faith and a belief that he was called to serve his country. It is a story of a man who chases his own demons from Egypt, where he served as an Army translator, to a detention center in Iraq, to seminary at Princeton, and eventually, to a heart transplant ward at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2004, after several months as an interrogator with a private contractor in Iraq, Eric Fair's nightmares take new forms: first, there had been the shrinking dreams; now the liquid dreams begin. By the time he leaves Iraq after that first deployment (he will return), Fair will have participated in or witnessed a variety of aggressive interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, diet manipulation, exposure, and isolation. Years later, his health and marriage crumbling, haunted by the role he played in what we now know as "enhanced interrogation," it is Fair's desire to speak out that becomes a key to his survival. Spare and haunting, Eric Fair's memoir is both a brave, unrelenting confession and a book that questions the very depths of who he, and we as a country, have become. 

This is a frill free memoir recounting the journey one man takes from rural Pennsylvania USA, where he grew up in a religious community to Iraq, where he participated in the interrogation and torture of Iraqi detainees. This is the perfect book for anyone who ever wondered how human beings were able to commit such cruel and brutal acts to other fellow beings in the Abu Ghraib scandal. 
Fair takes his time telling his story, slowly drawing the reader into his world where you can almost understand how he ends up doing what he did as an interrogator. As he is describing his journey, you don’t realize until later all the small incidents which were all building to a perfect example of ‘death by a thousand cuts’. 
The staccato style, which can feel jarring in the beginning when Fair is talking about his early life ends up fitting perfectly to the story being told by the time he gets to Iraq. All in all, it was an easy read considering the content.

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