Sunday, February 14, 2016

Spotlight: Predetermined Series by Heather Van Fleet


Resisting Fate



RF 

Seventeen-year-old Emmy O’Connell is the epitome of a hot mess. 

Her boyfriend’s been shipped out of town to some boarding school four states away. Her step-douche is constantly drunk and badgering her. And then there’s her good-ole-mom… The lady is nothing more than a miserable shell of a woman. She’s turned off all of her feelings and her ability to be a good mother as well, leaving poor Emmy and her four year old brother Jamie to suffer. Life couldn’t get much worse, right? 

Enter the elusive, cocky, and oh-so-broody Jack Hartman… The jerk cousin of her boyfriend becomes Emmy’s worst nightmare…times ten. He’s cruel. He’s insensitive. But he also has this strange little ability over her – he makes her weak in the knees with the single touch. No matter how miserable or amazing Jack makes her feel, Emmy can’t seem to deny him, especially when he takes on the role of her protector –her pseudo-knight in a black leather coat. A knight who also happens to ride in on his black Harley, instead of a white horse… 

And to make a bad situation worse… 

Werewolves and teens shouldn’t mix! But what can Emmy do when she finds herself thrown head first into the center of it all. Can she handle the supernatural mess her life rapidly becomes or will she fight against the inevitable fate her heart desires?


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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tease Me Thursday

TMTDark Menace MC - Stone - Tory Richards

Dark Menace by Tory Richards

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Wrecked by Sherilee Gray

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Forever Dusk by Jocelyn Adams

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Everything I Need by Stacey Mosteller

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Our Second Chance by C.D. Taylor

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

The Good Liar
by Nicholas Searle
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
2016 HarperCollins
ARC Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-240749-8
ASIN: B013PL4UH4
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Roy is a conman living in a small English town, about to pull off his final con. He is going to meet and woo a beautiful woman and slip away with her life savings. But who is the man behind the con?

What has he had to do to survive a life of lies?

And who has had to pay the price?


My Thoughts
The Good Liar is a fairly interesting story about an old man conning an older woman, and making off with her savings.  But as always, appearances can be deceiving. I liked how the story was told, going backwards in time rather than forwards, and although it was fairly predictable, and easy to figure out what happened, it was still interesting to read the glimpses of Roy's life we were able to get.

First of all, while I thought the plot was fairly predictable, it was pretty interesting.  I was curious as to how Roy became the man that he did, and although I didn't like him very much, I did feel sorry for him to a certain extent.  Not enough to be completely sympathetic to what happened to him though, as I found him to be somewhat despicable in his disregard for others and the devastation he left behind him.  And while I enjoyed the plot, and there were definite moments when I was completely absorbed and the tension would build up nicely, only to be let down by those moments that did tend to drag on a bit and slow down the story.  I definitely looked forward to the sections about the past as I found them the most fascinating and wished there had been more story to tell.  I don't think I will ever tire when reading about World War II and the impact it had on people's lives.  So devastating!!

I thought the author is a very clever writer however, and really enjoyed his writing style.  Reading between the lines is definitely my thing and the author insinuates and creates innuendos very well, making you rethink your ideas.  Many of the concepts were revealed slowly and carefully, but if you paid attention to the innuendos, it really wasn't hard to figure out what was going on and why Betty was involved in Roy's life.  This author has huge potential to create some really suspenseful novels in the future and I really look forward to that.  However, in this one, I thought the conclusion was a bit too pat; it also seemed to be a bit of a letdown from the buildup.  While it wasn't a horrible ending by any means, I just expected a little bit more.  But then again, it is life, and life doesn't always end the way we want it to, does it?

I also wasn't too sure of Betty although I did like her as a character.  However, I wondered if I liked her because Roy just wasn't nice which made her seem more likable.  Since most of the story was from Roy's viewpoint, I didn't really feel like I got to know Betty, until maybe the end, which was a bit too late for me.  I sympathized with her story and her plight as a child, but I didn't really connect with her as an adult.  

Verdict
The Good Liar had a great concept, but I did feel it lacked a little something that would have made it even more interesting.  The author's writing style is very appealing however, and I did enjoy the progress through time as it was a bit different than the usual.  The last third of the novel was probably the most enjoyable and it showcased the author's talent the best and what this novel really could have been, except for perhaps the ending which was anticlimactic.  A very promising debut.





Review and Giveaway: Daughter of Destiny by Nicole Evelina

Daughter of Destiny (Guinevere's Tale, Book #1)
by Nicole Evelina
Release Date: January 1st 2016
2016 Lawson Gartner Publishing
Ebook Edition; 327 Pages
ISBN: 978-0996763103
ASIN: B01651N77A
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from HFVBT

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

This book has been short-listed for the 2015 Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction.


My Thoughts
Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a planned trilogy, was a very pleasant surprise, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm very leery when reading books about King Arthur and Guinevere and to be honest, haven't really liked a lot of them; either they were too mythological and fanciful for my taste, or everything about the characters were off.  And don't get me started on the movies.  What I've always wanted was a gritty story, one that really understood the times, was not overly fanciful and mystical, but still had that whimsy behind the tale of King Arthur.  This one met most of those expectations.

We first met Guinevere on her way to Avalon as an eleven-year-old girl. To me, she was a typical girl used to being waited on hand and foot, and her attempts to fit in with the other girls did not go too well in the beginning.  It also didn't help that her gift was quite complicated and required extra attention in order to get under control, making the other girls jealous. I liked the author's portrayal of Guinevere's early years as it made her much more sympathetic and real to me; I think if she had been perfect, one who developed allies and allegiances at that age, it would have turned me right off.  She's a girl!!  And one with no idea of the destiny in her future, planning only to wed a lord and run a manor house like her mother did.  Her conflict with Morgan seemed only natural as both were competitive and fierce, so why wouldn't they fight over the top spots whenever they could. And since Guinevere is human, it would be natural for her to be jealous over Morgan's accomplishments as well as anger over her tricks. The author certainly sets up the rivalry between Morgan and Guinevere quite well. Who wouldn't?

While I would have loved to learn more about Avalon, I'm glad the author chose to keep the descriptions to the background as there was the danger of them taking over the story line.  Avalon was essentially just part of the story, and nothing more, except as a way to plot the eventual story line between Morgan and Guinevere.  It becomes very easy for the setting to take over the character development and plot line which can effectively ruin a story, and there was a fine balance to walk in this book; the author wanted to develop the mystery of Avalon so her readers understood its significance, but also wanted to develop the characters and eventual story lines that will appear in later books.  

Guinevere's relationship with Aggrivane was a childhood obsession; he was her first love and we all know how intense first loves can be.  Being isolated on Avalon, her dealings with men were few and far between, so it's really no wonder this man caught her attention after spending many hours with him.  I really didn't think a lot about their relationship other than to wonder how it would end as we all know who she eventually married.  

I did find the portrayal of the religious conflicts to be quite interesting; they actually played quite a large role in some of the events in this story.  While the author doesn't call herself a historian, she certainly shows a lot of knowledge about the subject, and I found it fascinating how it was incorporated into the novel.  Slight touches, here and there, but with deep nuances of meaning.  

Verdict
Daughter of Destiny was a delightful retelling of Guinevere's early years and I enjoyed it tremendously. I thought the characters were interesting and enjoyed seeing them in a new light; Isolde quickly became a favourite of mine so I hope to see her again in future novels.  I think if I had any issue with this book is that it wasn't quite gritty enough for me; the time period was one of great upheaval and war so I would have liked that incorporated a bit more. But this was a book about Guinevere's childhood so I do get why more of that wasn't in this one.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the trilogy, Camelot's Queen, to be released April 12th, as Guinevere and Arthur begin their married life together.



  Daughter of Destiny
Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Remembrance (The Mediator, Book #7)
by Meg Cabot
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
2016 William Morrow
ARC Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-237902-3
ASIN: B00XHRR3EE
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
You can take the boy out of the darkness.

But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child, to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night.

Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?

If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.


My Thoughts
Remembrance is the first adult version of the Mediator series and I was thrilled to discover that Suze and Jesse's story would be continuing; it was one of those series I thought about over the years and often wondered what it would be like for these two when they are adults.  

As adults, our mediators are now dealing with post-graduate work (Jesse is a medical resident and Suze is completing her post-secondary studies to become a counselor). They are also dealing with the usual complications that arise as adults: work, loans, money, wedding issues.  And to top it all off, Suze gets attacked by a child ghost during a routine guidance session.  Since the mediator stuff was something I really enjoyed in the original series, I was glad to know that a lot of the book would have Suze facing off against vengeful little spirits, although the result wasn't quite what I expected.  It was refreshing, and familiar, to know that Suze hadn't changed a whole lot when dealing with the spirits / ghosts; she was her usual brash and feisty self I remembered from the original series.  I would have been extremely disappointed otherwise.  

It was definitely nice to revisit characters and to see what they were all doing as adults, although I could have done without Paul Slater.  He was still as despicable as ever, but I did have to laugh over some of his antics as a grown up, albeit a much more powerful one now that he has all that money and sway in town.  I liked seeing what Suze's brothers were up to and was a bit disappointed that they didn't have more of a role to play in this one; they are much more interesting as grown-ups and I would love to learn more about them.  The author did hint a bit about their abilities so it would be interesting to see exactly what they could do, especially working together with Suze and Jesse.  And while I love Jesse, and always will, he was a bit annoying at times in this one.  While I get that he had been dead for over a century and a half, his over-protectiveness got cloying and I could have done with a bit less macho behaviour.  Other than that, he was perfect, the same sweet, kind, and considerate person, and the scene with Paul Slater (sorry, spoiler) was great.  

I thought the plot was interesting, but it was one of the weaker points in the this novel.  While I truly enjoyed Becca's plight and the situation with the little ghost, Lucia, I did think the novel was more about Jesse and Suze's relationship issues, and lack of sex, at least on Suze's part, than about the ghost issues.  And while that was fine, it did have a tendency to drag on a bit and I just wanted to get on with the story and find out what was going on with our friendly / unfriendly little ghost.  While I also understood the author's 'need' perhaps to find closure with Paul, I did find the whole situation, the dinner and 'dessert', to be a bit over the top. Really? I'm sure there could have been another way to solve the problem with Suze's house rather than introducing the whole blackmailing plot point.  While it may not bother other people, it didn't set well with me.  

Verdict
Remembrance is a good addition to the Mediator series; it was great to see all of my favourite characters return as adults and to learn about them as adults.  That being said, while I would definitely recommend the earlier novels to my thirteen-year-old daughter, I would not recommend this one to her due to the many, many sexual innuendos that are in here; this is about a grown up Suze and her wants and needs as a woman who is definitely not a teenager anymore.   I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am quite glad that Ms. Cabot is continuing the series as it was one of my favourites (I can't believe it's been almost sixteen years since I've read the first one.)  There is so much potential with these characters, and so many interesting things going on, that I truly hope the author will continue Suze and Jesse's story. 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex
by Alafair Burke
Release Date: January 26th 2016
2016 Harper
Softcover ARC Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062390486
ASIN: B00X3N8S96
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancĂ©, 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?


My Thoughts 
The Ex was a pretty decent legal thriller in terms of plot; the lawyer defends a man she was involved with twenty years ago after he was arrested for a triple homicide.  While I don't have anything again legal thrillers, they're not usually a genre I tend to read extensively, although I do love the thriller / suspense genre itself.  That being the case, I had prepared myself for some long courtroom drama scenes, but was surprised at how little of that there was in this one; some may argue that it was not a strength, but for me, I gave a little sigh of relief as I thought the legal stuff was quite interesting and just enough to make it informative without going over the top.  

First of all, the legal information blended quite well into the story.  I have found that sometimes, the courtroom dramas can consume a novel which I think is why I have stayed away from them or have been a bit skeptical over reading them lately.  There was a lot of wrangling between Olivia, her office, and the DA's office over different rights and laws and who had the right to what information; I do find this kind of thing fascinating as there is so much misinformation out there that it is nice to learn a bit more.  I also found little discussions about previous cases quite informative as well and enjoyed that aspect, almost enough to make me rethink the whole legal thriller genre (except for Anne Perry's William Monk series which I do read).  Unfortunately for the author however, I did find the actual story to be quite predictable and mundane; it's a been there, seen that, read about it already kind of story so it was really easy to figure out the mystery, which did leave me feeling a bit unsatisfied.  

I did really like Olivia Randall though; I though she was independent, strong, and powerful.  The only thing that bothered me was her denial about Jack's possible guilt; a hot-shot defense lawyer like Olivia should be able to put away her feelings and look at all sides of an issue, and her constant defense of him for no other reason than she knew him twenty years ago drove me crazy.  And it was repeated throughout the novel ad-nauseam. I also took a liking to Scott Temple and wished we could have learned more about him.  I thought the dialogue between Olivia and Scott was quite witty and interesting so I looked forward to their scenes together.  I do wish the other characters had had more depth to them though.  Just when things were getting interesting, the author sort of sidled away from some interesting possibilities and settled on some more mundane ones and I was very disappointed.  it definitely doesn't hurt to take a risk as I think Ms. Burke's readers have been waiting for those risks to appear in her novels.  

I also really liked the author's take on social media and how the public is ruled by it.  I thought she did quite a credible job at showing how people really rely on technology and not everyone over 40 is a technology idiot, capable of using computers quite well and using other advanced gadgets with ease. I also liked how she showed how easy it was to mess up too when you think you know it all about technology; someone is always faster and better than you.

Verdict
The Ex is one of those novels that I liked because of the author's writing style and because she made her characters somewhat unlikable. I know this sounds odd, but I do like my characters to be somewhat flawed as they seem more realistic and empathetic, and many of these characters were vain and condescending.  And while I enjoyed the author's writing style, I thought the actual murder was predictable and easy to figure out.  That being said, I did enjoy Olivia's personal ruminations about her past and the impact it has had on her present life.  If you are looking for a standard thriller, than this is for you; if you are looking for something darker and more twisted, something more complicated, then I would forego this one. 



Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including the standalone thrillers Long Gone and If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a NightNever Tell212Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the coauthor of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan.
Find out more about Alafair at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: Dead Lucky by Matt Brolly

Dead Lucky (DCI Michael Lambert, Book #2)
by Matt Brolly
Release Date: January 11th 2016
2016 Carina
Kindle Edition
ASIN: B0150UOADM
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Summary

When a woman is murdered, the twisted killer forcing her husband to watch her slow and painful death, DCI Michael Lambert knows that his next case might be his toughest yet.

And when a second set of killings are discovered, with exactly the same MO, the race is on the find the lethal sociopath before he strikes again.

But Lambert never expected to receive an anonymous call from the killer. This time, it’s personal: if Lambert doesn’t find the murderer soon, his own loved ones will be next…

My Thoughts
Dead Lucky is one of those books I just started reading because I was looking for another mystery story, knew almost nothing about it, and absolutely loved it.  The style of writing reminds me a lot of Mark Billingham, and since he's one of my favourite authors, it's not surprising I was quickly wrapped up into the goings-on of DCI Lambert and company.

First of all, I really enjoy police procedural novels; I like the tedious work that is described, the door-to-door scenes, the interviews, and everything that goes along with detective work as the murder is resolved piece by piece and clues are revealed bit by bit.  I'm not a huge fan of those novels where you know who the murderer is right from the beginning; this is definitely more my kind of thing.  And I also love the rebellious streak that Lambert has, similar to Tom Thorne, Inspector Banks, and Armand Gamache, not quite breaking all the rules, but certainly bending them when he has to in order to get what he wants.

What I really liked about this book is that character development did not get lost in the story or vice versa; both were equally important and an equal focus.  I enjoyed Lambert quite a bit, loved his rebellious streak, but was also really intrigued by his 'illness', something that was not very developed in this story.  I am very curious as to exactly when this illness will land him in a lot of trouble, as I am sure it will.  I also liked that Lambert's personal issues didn't muck up the story but added to it; he's got a wife who had an affair with a lawyer and they had a child together, causing intense emotional pain for Lambert as he deals with his own daughter's death three years ago. Quite interesting to say the least, and provides some interesting dynamics.

I'm still on the fence about DS Mathilda Kennedy as the killer told Michael, in very precise terms, to look up facts on Kennedy's father to see what he discovered.  I'm not convinced it's a diversionary tactic and am wondering exactly what this will lead towards in the future.  And Tillman?  Like him, but when do we ever trust the boss?  Quite a bit of secondary story lines happening in this book, many of which appear to continue on to future novels, leaving me quite in suspense.  While this tactic doesn't always work in novels as it leaves the reader feeling unsatisfied, it definitely works in this one.  I never felt the characters and their story lines detracted from the main arc of the novel, which was about the killer.

Verdict
Dead Lucky was definitely my kind of novel; for those who was squeamish about these things, there are some disturbing moments though.  The author has a way of writing that just draws you into the story, and I admit to having a difficult time putting it down.  With many twists and turns, and a few red herrings, I admit to being a bit surprised as to the murderer, and as it's not often I don't figure it out, I definitely like this book for that alone.  I was a bit shocked at the ending, partly because I was not expecting it at all, and partly because there were so many unanswered questions that will have to wait until book three is released.  Without question, I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys police procedural.