Friday, September 4, 2015

Run You Down: Dramatically Intense Sequel to Invisible City @juliadahl

I reviewed the debut mystery Invisible City by Julia Dahl on this blog.  It took place in the hasidic community of New York who call themselves haredi. I said in my review of the first book that I wasn't that impressed with the journalist protagonist Rebekah Roberts, and that I wished that I was reading the story of Aviva Kagan, Rebekah's mother.  Well, I got that wish.  The sequel, Run You Down, alternates between the perspectives of Rebekah and Aviva.

This book is full of tragedy, but you could almost call the murder that Rebekah is investigating a poignant footnote to the heart-rending story of Rebekah's uncle, Samuel Kagan.  Sam is the dramatic center of the book.  I was very sorry for Sam.   I understood that he was largely shaped by PTSD, and that his trauma motivated his behavior.  Yet at the same time, it was hard to view him as a sympathetic character because some of his actions were so shockingly unthinkable.

Aviva was an important character, but largely secondary within the plot.  Her self-punishing guilt kept her away from the people she cared about most.  Yet Aviva was really a victim of her upbringing.    As much as she tried to combat it, being a member of the haredi community was too much a part of her. 

Dov Lowenstein, a disaffected ex-haredi who appears briefly in Run You Down, calls the haredi a cult.  This would explain why Aviva and others found it so difficult to leave.  What is the definition of a cult?  Neopagan author Isaac Bonewits developed a Cult Danger Evaluation Frame originally published in his book, Real Magic.  Its original purpose was to allow Neopagans to determine whether any particular religious group that they might come across was a dangerous cult.  If a group's  practices involves a high number of the characteristics that Bonewits listed, it's best to stay far away from it.  It is possible to conclude from what is written about the haredi in Julia Dahl's books that they are a cult.  Others might maintain that they preserve traditions, and are a source of social cohesion for their community.

I thought that Rebekah improved in this book, but she may be too vulnerable to be a successful journalist.  The ugliness of the crimes that she has investigated disturbs her very deeply.  At one point in this novel she reminds herself that being a reporter is what she aspired to do, but then comments "Maybe one day living my dream won't make me feel sick."

Run You Down is a powerful piece of fiction.  It also completes the Rebekah and Aviva character arc.  So if Julia Dahl continues with the series, she will need to find a new direction for Rebekah.  Perhaps additional professional training would be advisable for this character.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Automaton by C.L. Davies

AutomatonMajor points for uniqueness on this novel. I've never read anything like this before. In a nutshell, it's the future and think Dungeons and Dragons taken to a whole 'nother level. Gamers get a character and tell it what to do and sometimes paths cross and shit happens. this case, the gamers get to watch their characters live their lives and do the things they're told. Because it's real. It's a little island full of manipulated and brainwashed humans and robots. Imagine realizing you're just a game human form and someone elsewhere is controlling what you do, all your major life events, and if you break the get terminated.

We follow a couple of gamers and see how obsessed they are with the game and their characters. We follow the gamers' characters (Dean and Lily and Ross) too and see how they struggle with what their gamers tell them to do and what they really want to do. And the fear they live with...

There's a love story between two characters. There's infidelity, murder, secrets. I didn't like Lily much, mostly because she stayed with Dean, but on the other hand Dean was only a loser because his gamer told him to be. This raised a lot of emotional conflicts with me. I felt like a pendulum, leaning this way and that in what I felt for the characters. That's a compliment to the writer. They obviously became real to me.

The writing is okay. It could be better. It's a tad simple. But I like that it got to the point. There's a moral about playing god and also about the way many people like to watch others suffer.

Some things bothered me though, things that didn't make sense in the storyline. 1. Madison's wife couldn't have a child. Instead, he created GameWorld and in it, he puts real live babies. He gives his wife her own character, who replaces the daughter she never had, yet the character is always on TV, not in his wife's actual life. Why did he not give his wife one of the babies to have in her real life? 2. *************Slight spoiler************** Why didn't they wipe Dean's memory when they did Lily's to avoid problems?

I'd read more by this author.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Virgin Damsel and Manwhore Romance? Not Anymore! @LaceyWolfe Breaks the Mold with Virgin Cowboy

Virgin Cowboy (Carver Ranch Series, #3)Full disclosure: Yes, I'm friends with the author. Yes, she posts regularly on this blog. Yes, she provided this book for my enjoyment--no strings attached. No, I'm not writing a fake-ass review.

One of the things that puts me off the romance industry, especially the older titles, is the virgin woman and man-whore hero. He's always super experienced and she's this delicate flower waiting for her cherry to get popped. It's annoying. I've said more than once that we need to turn the tables, but most authors balk because that's not the norm or they're afraid of making their heroine a ho. So huge thumbs up to Lacey Wolfe for giving us a slightly experienced heroine and a virgin male eager to please his lady.

I love that this is not an alpha male. I love this hero. If all heroes were like this guy I'd read more romance. Braden is the sensitive type who takes people's feelings to hear and wears his own on his sleeve. He's not cocky, but quite the opposite. The heroine is a single mom who doesn't stand down from adversity and in this case she gets it in spades--from Braden's mother. That's something else I appreciate in this story--family tensions. Family drama/disapproval in one's love choices is very common but rarely brought up in romance stories--I'm not talking those regencies when daddy frowns because the suitor is not from the right family or doesn't make enough money. I'm talking real life NOW type stuff. So this isn't just a sweet romance; it's got real-life issues thrown in. How many women have been ostracized by a lover's family because they already kids?

I also enjoyed the sex. There's a lot of nice build-up to the major event. And the daughter steals the show more than once, making me smile with her attitude and antics.

My only complaint is how very fast the heroine went from, "No, I don't want to date you" to "I'm madly in love with you and I want your bod." I'd have like the psychology delved into a bit more, or more conversation/flirtation/dating between them before they're suddenly think of marrying each other. But that's a difficult line to walk in romance. Too much and readers be like, "Just do it already!"

I felt the connection between the characters though.

Thank you for sharing this one with me, Lacey. I can't wait to see how you break the mold next.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Insanity of Murder (Dr Dody McCleland #4) by @felicityyoungco

The Insanity of Murder (Dr Dody McCleland, #4)Dr. Dody is back, and better than ever. While this novel doesn't explore too deeply the prejudice she faces in her line of work (she's a death doctor in Victorian England for those just now hearing about this series), it does explore a different kind of prejudice toward women during those times. There's an epidemic sweeping the country. Women are being declared insane and thrown into institutions where horrific surgeries are performed on them.

Dody's sister Florence plays a huge role in this novel as circumstances lead to her being incarcerated on the inside. Behind the scenes is Dody with her breaking and entering, Pike ready to acquire search warrants, suffragists running in front of the king's horse (real event included in the story), and doctors will ill intentions.

And that's not all. More drama ensues with the maid's beau, tensions rise at police headquarters, and Violet, Pike's daughter, shows a headstrong side. Dody and Pike continue their romance nevertheless, but it appears their secret is no longer a secret and women did not take lovers and maintain careers both back then. So there's a lot of tension in this story. And did I mention female genital mutilation? Talk about frightening.

I really enjoyed it, but feel the really intriguing stuff, such as Florence going "undercover" and the midnight breaking and entering, came a little too late. Everything really got exciting in the last half, making the first half feel a tad slow. Florence also irritated me in the first  half with her refusal to take responsibility for her actions and I was displeased with Dody too for going along and not doing the right thing. But it also made me wonder, "What if it was my sister?" I appreciate the story line for making one think.

I look forward to the next installment in this series. Please keep them coming. Lots of strong women, tension, "what would you do?" scenarios, and history. (Women being incarcerated simply for husbands' and fathers' conveniences was a real problem.)

Thank you to Netgalley for a digital copy of this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Spotlight on Honor Among Thieves

04_Honor Among Thieves_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Honor Among Thieves (Hope & Steel: Book I)
by J.M. Aucoin

Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Sword & Cape
eBook & Paperback; Pages: 330

Series: Hope & Steel (Book One)
Genre: Historical Adventure/Swashbuckler

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02_Honot Among Thieves_Cover
France, March 1609. The French Wars of Religion are over, but forces still conspire against the crown…

Darion Delerue, former soldier turned highwayman, has only two things of value—the hope in his heart and the steel at his side. After a heist on a royal ambassador goes wrong, Darion is thrown into a political plot to undermine the crown, pitting his old life as an honorable soldier against his new life as a thief and bandit. His actions could send France back into civil war.

Honor Among Thieves is a gripping tale of daring sword-play and political intrigue, with superb historical detail of 17th Century France that will have readers wanting to draw their swords and fight for glory!



03_Justin Aucoin
Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. J.M. AUCOIN is the product of when a five-year-old boy who fell in love with reruns of Guy William’s Zorro grows into a mostly functional adult. He now spends his time writing swashbucklers and historical adventure stories, and has an (un)healthy obsession with The Three Musketeers.

When not writing, he practices historical fencing, crafts historical outfits, and covers the Boston Bruins for the award-winning blog Days of Y’Orr. He lives in Heraldwolf’s Stone with his fiancĂ©e Kate, and their dire-beagle, Rex.

For more information visit J.M. Aucoin's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.


Monday, August 24
Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Guest Post at Carpe Librum

Tuesday, August 25
Review at Genre Queen
Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, August 26
Spotlight at Book Babe
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, August 27
Review at Book Nerd
Excerpt at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, August 28
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Saturday, August 29
Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Sunday, August 30
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, August 31
Review at Back Porchervations
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sustained by @EmmaChse

Emma Chase is a new to me author. Sustained was a fun book. The entire book is told in a male point of view. Jake starts off as one of those guys, the ones who want to screw every woman. However, he gets a surprise and has to stop sewing his seed for a little while. Then comes Chelsea and her six kids she's raising after her brother and his wife died.

Jake is instantly attracted to her and from there, he does anything and everything for Chelsea and the 6 kids. He's an attorney, so of course the kids get into lots of trouble that he has to step in and play the lawyer.

As far as the story of this book, I liked it. I enjoyed reading Jake and Chelsea's story. I liked the two of them together and I really liked Jake's protective nature. When the book started, I mentioned earlier that Jake was one of those guys...the ones who swear they will never settle down. For me, Jake did a 180 too fast in the story. He went from a man who just wanted to have sex with women to family man over night. It seemed a little out of character to me, but I didn't let it pull me from the story.

Because, I did in fact, enjoy the story. I found myself picking it up during my busy day, wanting to know how the story would unfold. I would read the author again, for sure.

Lacey's Rating:

About the book

A knight in tarnished armor is still a knight.

When you’re a defense attorney in Washington, DC, you see firsthand how hard life can be, and that sometimes the only way to survive is to be harder. I, Jake Becker, have a reputation for being cold, callous, and intimidating—and that suits me just fine. In fact, it’s necessary when I’m breaking down a witness on the stand.

Complications don’t work for me—I’m a “need-to-know” type of man. If you’re my client, tell me the basic facts. If you’re my date, stick to what will turn you on. I’m not a therapist or Prince Charming—and I don’t pretend to be.

Then Chelsea McQuaid and her six orphaned nieces and nephews came along and complicated the ever-loving hell out of my life. Now I’m going to Mommy and Me classes, One Direction concerts, the emergency room, and arguing cases in the principal’s office.

Chelsea’s too sweet, too innocent, and too gorgeous for her own good. She tries to be tough, but she’s not. She needs someone to help her, defend her…and the kids.

And that—that, I know how to do.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lethal In Love 3 by @msomerswriter - Book 3 in a thriller serial

And the series continues. I'm now on episode 3 of 6. Check out my review for book 1 and book 2.

The story really began to heat up in book 3. At this point, there are so many mysteries, my head is buzzing and trying to figure out how it all ties together. Who is The Night Terror? What does Jayda's father have to do with it? As well as all the people who live around Jayda in her apartment building? And of course, why is The Night Terror targeting her?

There is still an underlying romance plot between the reporter Seth and detective Jayda. Though, in this book I just wasn't feeling the connection between them. Jayda was very cold toward Seth, so for me it would be amazing if he in fact is still at all interested. I'm hoping in the next book, she will begin to be nicer to him. Maybe...

And this book ends with the worst cliffhanger so far. Wow, I couldn't believe it ended when it did. Needless to say, I am still hooked on this series and anxiously awaiting book 4.

Lacey's Rating:

About the book

Lethal in Love is a steamy romantic suspense about an instinct-driven detective and a sexy, scoop-hungry reporter, both on the hunt for a sadistic killer.

Jayda Thomasz is a sassy homicide detective who never lets her emotions get in the way of a case. So when a serial killer re-emerges after 25 years, the last thing she expects is to catch herself fantasising over the hot, smooth-talking stranger who crosses the path of her investigation.

Seth Friedin is a reporter chasing the story that'll make his career. When he enters the world of swinging for research, he never imagines he'll be distracted by a hard-talking female detective whose kiss plagues his mind long after she's gone.

Past experience has shown Jayda that reporters are ruthless and unscrupulous. But when the murders get personal, will she make a deal with the devil to catch the killer? How far will she and Seth have to go? And do you ever really know who you can trust?

PS - Book 1 is free on Amazon. :)