Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great WarAs I read this, I was reminded of Downton Abbey, most probably because I recently caught season one. But this heroine, Lily, so reminds me of Sybil. Now, remember, I've only watched season one, but I see in this book and in that season of DA, the tiniest little crack between aristocracy and "the working class".

During this time period, the Great War, that crack came to be. Aristocrats such as Lily wanted to make a difference, realized how trivial and silly and spoiled their lives were. Some wanted to work. Lily is expected to marry well and as the Dowager on DA would say, "You cannot have opinions until you are married. Once you are married, your husband will tell you what your opinions are!" Or something like that. That's the kind of family Lily comes from and she rebels and she joins the WAACs and becomes an ambulance driver in France.

Not many young ladies would leave a life of kept luxury and wealth to drive a lorry or ambulance in a muddy war zone. I really liked and admired Lily as I read. I enjoyed reading every bit of her experience as she steps over that crack, ditches her title, lives on pennies, works for a bus line, interviews with the WAACs, helps train her comrades, goes to France. I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed watching her realize all she'd taken for granted, the way she'd appreciate a hot bath, a cup of tea.

And yes, she has a romance with her brother's best friend, a doctor. This was...okay. I liked him at times; didn't like him at others. I became a tad uncomfortable when they hooked up in the room her missing brother paid for. It felt to me a highly inappropriate time for that. It did not feel as though they were coming together in grief. I certainly think a telegram would have sufficed.

I even liked their letters to and from each other. I thought it quite cute when even though they were stationed at the same place, he wanted a letter from her, as they weren't allowed to speak. This was a sweet romance.

I have to say, however, there was an odd disconnect of sorts with the war itself. I kept thinking of what all an ambulance driver during that time would see, the soldiers she may accidentally bond with, the pain she may feel upon their passing, and yet, there were no side stories involving these men. We didn't meet or get to know any wounded, which is odd as this is a hospital.

I'd have appreciated some stories involving the patients and soldiers. Her brother was a character, but we learned so little of what he was facing. Just brief snippets.

But all in all, I feel this was a fine piece of historical fiction. It drew me into the time period, made me think, and honors the women who served as ambulance drivers during this "Great" War. It's a also a wonderfully strong heroine who knows what she wants and obtains it and believes in duty.

I received an ARC of this via Edelweiss.








Monday, December 30, 2013

Sink or Swim by Stacy Juba

First of all, I must say, this cover is somewhat misleading. It makes me think of pirates, ships, adventure. It made me feel that more of the novel would be dedicated to the reality show itself than actually was. Truth is, the show ends on the first page practically. The book itself is just a story about a woman being stalked and trying to figure out who is ruining her life. What starts as gifts becomes crazy notes and invasion of her life. Oh--the murders of two of her fellow contestants.


But it's fast paced, entertaining, and it kind of has a theme/moral. Don't think you can be famous, don't expect to be on TVs around the world every week, and not accept the repercussions, such as having your privacy invaded or in this case, picking up a stalker or two.

She'd bought fame for a price. She couldn't expect the world to have her money and esteem, yet have her privacy level remain the same.

I liked this. It was an entertaining read and only took a day, though it was a day off work. Every now and then it's nice to pick up something that doesn't take four days of your time. But I am disappointed there wasn't more of the reality show. I like reality TV in books, just don't watch them. Yes, I know, that's weird. LOL

However, I must say I really like the heroine though sometimes she's a bit dumb and acts too rashly, without thinking. She hated to be seen as a coward. When the press said she "ran away", she fought to prove them wrong. She faced her fears and the bad guy. She gets a gun and learns how to use it.

This is a strong n sexy heroine. She also doesn't need a man, though there is two men skirting around her, potential love interests, if she decides she wants them. She doesn't hesitate to push them away when she feels it's necessary or even draw a gun on one.

I also appreciated the moral about not getting sidetracked from your dreams/goals by insta-money/fame. That's an important thing to remember.

But I'm disappointed somewhat in whodunnit. I like some hints. I like to make a list of suspects as I read and there were no clues at all pointing to the real culprit. It just came out of nowhere. While I hate being able to figure it all out by page five, I like to at least be somewhere in the vicinity and with this, that wasn't possible.

I bought this on Amazon.




Sunday, December 29, 2013

Starter House by Sonja Condit

Quick summary: Lacey and Eric are expecting a baby and when she is drawn to a particular house, he makes it happen.

They should have kept looking.

Seems bad things happen in this house. People fall down the stairs and die. Kids drown in the tub. Women lose their feet. Moms kill their babies. Husbands go insane. And there's this bratty little boy who appears to keep Lacey company while Eric works all day...but there's something really sinister about him. Is the house haunted? If so, what can she do about him and will the ghost kill her baby?

This book was just plain weird. The characters were weird. The happenings were weird--not scary for a long time, just weird. And at times, the writing was a tad weird. I'd be left feeling confused, as though I'd missed something. What happened to who was not always clear. At one point, I was like, "Wait a minute. She just said she stopped you both from falling down the stairs, so why is that dude going to the hospital in an ambulance? What??"

And the conclusion: also weird. I give it points for not being what I expected, but it's so far-fetched and not explained. I mean, I can understand and fathom ghosts; I can't quite get what it turns out to be.

And since I'm already complaining, let me also add the characterizations are poor. There's a serious lack of emotion and their personalities are inconsistent. It's as though the author could not make up her mind if she wanted this person to do this or that. Or perhaps the characters were intended to come off as confused. If so, that was successful.

BUT despite all that, I found myself intrigued. I read to the very end. I wanted to know what happened. I can't say any of the people grew on me; can't say I cared about any of them--not even the heroine, but I wanted to KNOW what happened, good or bad.

And towards the end, I finally felt some nail-biting fear. "EEEK. What are you gonna do?? OMG. He's gonna get you..."

But it took a long time to get to that point and it's a very slow-moving book. It's not what one expects from a horror.

I'm torn between a two and a three, because while I didn't care for it and was glad when it was over, it IS suspenseful. It kept me guessing, kept me on the edge of my seat. But the characters...I really hated all them. Eric is an arse with no personality. When he does have personality, he's a snot. Lacey is...well, surprisingly slow for a teacher. It takes forever for the lightbulb to come on with her and she does dumb things that would NOT be my first choice in those situations. Harry is a jerk. Ella Dane..is so weird, it's hard to fathom, but out of all of them, I liked her the "best". And Lex...and his wife...just...WTF? Do people like this exist?

So...even though I actually read the whole thing, which is rare for a book I dislike...

I received this via Edelweiss.





Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Reading Radar 12/28/2013

Let's see what I either acquired or added to my wishlist this week...

Barbarian BrideYou all know I love my lady gladiators, so this one made the list. Much thanks to Netgalley. Barbarian Bride by Eva Scott. I read her book The Last Amazon this year and enjoyed it.


On the bloody ground of the Colosseum, she fights to save her life. In the treacherous boxes above, he fights to save their love.

Though Klara didn't love the man who was to be her husband, she didn't want him murdered, and she vows to track down the man who committed the crime. Sickened that she'd been attracted to the mysterious Roman, Klara tracks Lucius Aurelius to the fringes of the Roman Empire, only to find that they've both been trapped in a clever plot to overthrow Klara's father, the Chief of the Huns.

Klara is separated from Lucius, captured by slavers and sold to a gladiator school. She is the only one who can save herself, by fighting for her freedom. Lucius can ensure her battle is easier, but only by sacrificing himself. How much is he willing to give up for the fiery woman he's come to love.

***

Another Netgalley find and possible strong 'n sexy heroine: The Deadliest Lie by June Trop.

The Deadliest LieShe's a brilliant alchemist-with a talent for solving mysteries. 

Miriam bat Isaac is a budding scholar in first-century CE Alexandria, though her dreams seem doomed. Who in her household or among her father's Shabbat guests stole the scrolls containing the Alchemical League's valuable formulas? Perhaps the thief was even her frantic father, on the cusp of financial ruin, eager for Miriam to end her dalliance with a handsome jeweler and marry into an honorable and wealthy family. Or her rebellious brother, intent on raising money to travel to Capua so he can enroll in the Roman Empire's most renowned gladiator school. Or her faint-hearted fiance, who begrudges her preoccupation with alchemy and yearns for their forthcoming marriage? 

And how did the thief manage to steal them? Miriam is not only faced with a baffling puzzle, but, to recover the scrolls, she must stalk the culprit through the sinister alleys of Alexandria's claustrophobic underbelly. The Romans who keep a harsh watch over her Jewish community are trouble enough. 

Miriam is based on the true personage of Maria Hebrea, the legendary founder of Western alchemy, who developed the concepts and apparatus alchemists and chemists would use for 1500 years. 

***

Spotted on Amazon Vine: Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement.
Prayers for the Stolen
Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.

While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions.

An illuminating and affecting portrait of women in rural Mexico, and a stunning exploration of the hidden consequences of an unjust war, PRAYERS FOR THE STOLEN is an unforgettable story of friendship, family, and determination.


***

The Golden Lynx (Legends of the Five Directions, #1)Spotted on my favorite blog, Unusual Historicals, this one is now on my wishlist. The Golden Lynx by C.P. Lesley

Russia, 1534. Elite clans battle for control of the toddler who will become their first tsar, Ivan the Terrible. Amid the chaos and upheaval, a masked man mysteriously appears night after night to aid the desperate people.

Or is he a man?

Sixteen-year-old Nasan Kolychev is trapped in a loveless marriage. To escape her misery, she dons boys' clothes and slips away under cover of night to help those in need. She never intends to do more than assist a few souls and give her life purpose. But before long, Nasan finds herself caught up in events that will decide the future of Russia.

And so, a girl who has become the greatest hero of her time must decide whether to save a baby destined to become the greatest villain of his.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Historical Perspective in Fantasy, A Guest Post from Tonya Cannariato

First, I want to thank Tara for the opportunity to stop by her blog and chime in on two of the themes we’re apparently both fascinated by: Strong female characters and historical settings.

My Red Slaves series was inspired by the six years I spent living with my family behind the Iron Curtain, first in Moscow, and then in East Berlin from 1978 to 1984. My father was a diplomat, so our regular supper conversations were sprinkled with the meaning of representing American values in countries that had different views on personal liberty and possibilities than the idealized American vision of those. So culture clash and what you could grow up to become were never far from my thoughts as a little girl.

My mom, in particular, always reminded me of my five-year-old response to the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up: I had said “a nurse.” When she asked why not a doctor, I had said “because only little boys can be doctors.” I’m not sure what inspired that very young view, but my mom and dad made sure I understood those limitations were not in their world view, and they hoped I would aspire higher than they could imagine.

For some reason, this translated into a female protagonist who grabbed on to that aspiration and hardened herself against anything she perceived might hold her back from her ambition. My protagonist was also imbued with my love of books and reading, so she became a researcher—not exactly a power profession, though it does come with its own kind of cut-throat competition. Her inner demons meant she fought against her emotions, focused on a scientific approach, and was rather an abrasive character who had a lot of growing to do.

While Anne’s strengths are non-traditional, they are also rooted in the time from which she springs. Born in the 60s, at the height of flower-power, she tries, still, to embody the 80s power woman, setting aside emotions and pretending like she can be a man. Her path is not easy, yet she plows forward with determination and loyalty.

The other half of the story’s drive comes from what Katherine Kurtz dubbed crypto-history. I love the concept that if we had a slightly more magical perspective, there would be hidden explanations for the reason behind certain historical events. The clash between magic and science, then, is one of my major themes. Could it be that there was an arcane reason Communists were able to maintain their repressive holds on their people? If that was the reason, what would happen to those magical beings when the Communist leash was broken?

With those two questions, my imagination has taken flight. The world you’ll see in Red Slaves is not that far distant in time, and should be recognizable to people born even in the early 80s who have some memory of the bipolar world the US and the Soviet Union had constructed. The immediate post-Soviet economic difficulties and cultural realities were as true-to-life as I could make them based on my own memories and research. The pure fantasy about dragons, was, I’m sure, sparked by my life-long love of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Mash those up, and you find something I haven’t seen anywhere else, and has been a lot of fun for me to imagine and write.

Your turn: How do you identify strength in abrasive characters? How much of what you lived as a child could you replay in a historical fiction setting?

***

A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She's lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she's gotten old enough to make those choices for herself. She's currently based in Milwaukee with her three loves: her husband and two Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.


Dust to Blood:

Sparks are flying between researcher Anne Crosby and no less than nine men--but it's not what you think. Whenever these nine amnesiacs touch anyone, electrical mayhem results. More surprising: all of them have dust instead of blood in their veins, even though they're quite alive. It's Anne's job to track down who and what these men are, even though she takes a dim view of the supernatural.

Her research takes Anne to Russia and the discovery of the devastating magical source behind the former Soviet Union's power--a source the resurrected KGB wants back. Anne must stop them, and they'll do anything to stop her.

Blood to Fire:


Researcher Anne Crosby came to Russia to solve the mystery of amnesiac Ivan Krempenski. Instead, she became part of the mystery. Never a believer in the paranormal, Anne discovers Ivan's true dragon form-and her own.

The old Soviet Union once held Russian dragons captive, siphoning off their magic to cement their power. The resurgent KGB believes enslaving them again will return the Communists to their former might.

New mates Anne and Ivan must learn to control their bewildering new abilities, stay one step ahead of the KGB, and restore their kind before dragons slip into myth...or slavery.




Thursday, December 26, 2013

Strong is Sexy Heroine of the Week: Kiera McBroom

Title: Skin Deep (Eternal Forces #1)
Author: Megan D. Martin
Heroine: Kiera McBroom

Kiera is a woman who has faced a lifetime of being over-weight, as a child she was teased mercilessly by the other kids, and when she became an adult, her abusive boyfriend took their place. When she finally escaped the people who put her down, she finds herself faced with an opportunity to be skinny—for the first time in her life. She used to be the person who let people walk all over her, but with the magical opportunity of getting a new body, Kiera is confronted with the reality that the way she has been living her life, hiding out, has been toxic for her all along. She has to learn that there is nothing wrong with being herself, and fighting for the people she loves…and most of all—herself. Loving herself is the biggest wall that holds her back from the future she has always wanted. Kiera learns that there is more to life than having a hot bod and that being strong, and being herself can be the sexiest thing about a woman.


Skin Deep (Eternal Forces #1)Blurb:
What would you do to have the body of your dreams?

Kiera hates being overweight and hides behind thick layers of clothing. One night, her friends present an opportunity that seems impossible to believe. With a single spell, she can have the thin physique she's always coveted.

But all magic comes with a price: no sex or she'll revert back to her old body. Kiera accepts the cost. It's not like she has men lined up at her door. Obeying this one tiny rule isn't difficult at all—until the night she meets Cain, a were-tiger and a soldier with the Eternal Forces.

When a slew of unexplained murders forces Kiera and Cain together, they'll have to face the horrors of their pasts. Will Kiera realize she is worth more than her outward appearance? Or will she make the wrong the choice and lose everything—including her life?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

Reading this novel was like studying a piece of art. It makes the reader feel a gamut of emotions and like a connect-the-dots, you try to figure out how it all comes together. And though it doesn't tie itself up in a tidy bow in the end--this is about real life, after all, you're somehow left feeling satisfied.

You walk away from it with your life more enriched than before the book appeared in your hands.

In a nutshell: an African-American woman is trying to make it as a lawyer with the NAACP, working for Thurgood himself. She has a lot to prove. In her case, it's not so much white people standing in her way, but men in general. Even her own co-worker scoffs at a woman lawyer. So when she goes down to Mississippi aka the Jim Crow South to investigate a tragic case, she must succeed.

'Sides, something about that soldier in the picture is speaking to her.

That soldier was a decorated WWII Veteran coming home from Italy. That soldier was asked to give up his seat on the bus to a Nazi POW. Why? Because his skin was dark.

That soldier refused and he was beaten to death. And that's the case. Welcome to Mississippi, eh?

What a hateful time that was. Enter a bigoted, wealthy woman who claims she's doing all she can but really won't go against the white folks'. I did not like Ms. Calhoun and the only reason I'm taking away a star is I feel I missed something with her. I couldn't figure out why Regina warmed to her. The lady was a racist who wouldn't even address Regina appropriately with a miss. I felt like the woman was confused about what she believed and perhaps that was the intended effect. The lady didn't really do anything for anyone; just tried not to make waves when waves needed to be made. Darned placed needed a typhoon.

Enter the time of segregation, separate drinking fountains, and a world in which if you're rich and white, you can do as well please, including commit murder and walk away.

We meet a variety of characters, but my favorite was def Regina. What a strong, amazing woman, a woman who doesn't get scared and run away, but keeps on facing things down as she tries to get justice for a man she never knew. All around her, nobody gives a straight answer to anything. The mystery is riddles, vague references, insinuations.

What was important to Regina was that she'd gone into that courthouse. She'd gone up those stairs all by herself and she'd asked for what she wanted. Openly, in plain view of anybody standing there watching, she--Regina Mary Robichard--had defied that Confederate flag.

I can't say I always understood the references to the old published book either. But I enjoyed this story tremendously. We must never forget this stuff really happened, that white men pulled black men off buses and beat 'em to death, that hatred ruled an entire group of people, that others stood up for themselves and sought justice, that there was hope in a time where there didn't appear to be any reason for it.

I gotta add this story also--as inappropriate as this will seem, it is a frustrating and enraging and sad tale--made me laugh. Those Southerners and their Raginas. LOL

I'm not going to summarize anything more. There's action, history, laughter, tears, and at times, you'll scream with rage and want to throw the book against a wall, but it's an important piece of history and I think this author found a fantastic way of sharing it with us. Oh--and DO read the author's note at the end. It's fascinating, as she talks about her grandfather fighting for equal pay in Missouri, the real-life and very sad case about the soldier, and Constance Baker Motley, the lady lawyer for the NAACP who inspired Regina's character. Constance was a real trailblazer and I guarantee that after reading this story, you'll want to find out more about her.

I won this on LibraryThing.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Confessions of a Hostie: True Stories of an International Flight Attendant by Danielle Hugh

Confessions of a Hostie: True Stories of an International Flight AttendantI liked some of this and didn't like some of it. It's about 50/50. The first half made me laugh or chuckle and was told in a witty manner. I appreciated some of the irritating passenger stories and learning a flight attendant's schedule and how easy it is to get sick and all that, but really, I'm disappointed to say, not much of it really takes place on the plane/s.

She goes on and on about shopping. I got so sick and tired of hearing about her shopping. To be honest, she came across as a snot, especially when she said stuff like this, "I've been to so many lavish and properly organised weddings that had a 50-50 meal choice and missed out on my choice. Yet, these people, with a ticket that costs less than what I paid for my last pair of shoes (Lady, just WTF kind of shoes are you buying? I can pay up to 600 bucks or more when I fly. Middle-class people don't find that cheap.), feel they have been personally victimized if we cannot offer them the beef choice."

I'd like to say that without those "cheap" passengers, you wouldn't have a job or a paycheck. 

She began to come across as rude, stuck-up, and patronizing, as though she looks down on those of us who cannot afford Manolo Blanicks, or whatever they are.

Then it was sex with a pilot and how horrible a dresser he is and how cheap, yet she calls him anyway?

I'd have preferred she stuck to airplane mishaps, passenger incidents, and kept her shopping and sex life to herself. And her clothes--it was like she constantly wanted to rub in what brands of clothing she was wearing. On and on about boots and D&G... I guess you could say this memoir came across as bragging.

I question some of this though. Having worked in the commercial airline industry, I'm familiar with the pay scale. Ten years ago, a brand-new pilot was fortunate to make 15 to 20k a year. Flight attendants can't do much better. Yet she acts as though they are rolling in dough. Um.... I'm confused.

Then she begins to go on and on about a married flight attendant she has a crush on. It felt like chapters were dedicated to this guy when all I wanted to do was get back to the in-flight dramatics. I almost abandoned ship at this point. But then it went to the flight to Hawaii and got interesting again. I had to laugh out loud at some of the things Damien said to passengers.

S0 some of it was good; some of it not so good. I don't consider it a total waste of time. I really enjoyed some parts, but really disliked others. I don't think I'll read book two because of this. 

I think Heather Poole's Cruising Attitude was a better telling of a flight attendant's life. It stuck more to the point.

My favorite part and LOL moment is about "crop dusting".

'You know, when you are out in the cabin and need to fart. Not by choice, but out of necessity. Well, if you let it all out in one go, that could be a problem. So what you do is crop-dusting, you know, just little quiet ones sprayed over a big area. That way even if they smell, the passengers don't know where it has come from and you are long gone by the time they can blame you for it.'

I received this via Netgalley.




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mistress of the Wind by Michelle Diener

Mistress of the WindI rarely read fantasy. The problem for me is, I must find it believable, must be able to picture things as I go, and normally, trolls, elves, dragons, talking animals...are not things I can believe. Rather than suck me into a story, it usually makes me laugh.

Ms. Diener did not make me laugh. With her writing I was able to picture all four different winds, their faint cloudy outlines, the sand they raised, feel the cold they brought. 

She saw West half disappear in shock, then he drew himself up to double his size, his dry air sucking up East's humidity.

The descriptions are superb, told in a way that is unique, fantastical, and yet, as crazy as this will sound, believable.

In a nutshell, Diener once again delivers a strong heroine to her readers, a heroine who can love and yet not totally lose herself. Though this is a fairytale retold, we don't have a damsel in distress. Instead, the heroine has to save HIM. FABULOUS! 

There's a curse. He's been made into a bear and she cannot know the details. For one year she must be cooped up in his palace and not view his human form. There are trolls, creatures that look like trees, wind that aids her, and at the heart of it all a woman determined to battle earth, wind, fire, and water, to save the love of her life.

She was not chattel. And she was not powerless. And she would most certainly not sit in the wood while he went off to battle, especially with the power of the wind at her disposal.

I'm not sure what the moral of this fairytale was, but I enjoyed it regardless. Love the heroine, loved the hero/bear. Love the powerful tree friend, loved the winds and the drama surrounding them. I truly have never read a book like this before. It was pure entertainment. I think, however, what I enjoyed the most was reading about a woman who faces countless trials--earth, fire, water, and comes out stronger because of them. I also liked the theme that love can drive us to do great things. Yet, as I said above, she never loses herself. You can love someone passionately without losing who you are in the process.

I received this via netgalley.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reading Radar 12/21/2013

What popped up this week...

The UntoldThe Untold by Courtney Collins. Spotted on Netgalley and on my wishlist. How can I resist this? It screams tough woman and reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken.

With shades of Water for Elephants and True Grit, a stunning debut novel set in the Australian outback about a female horse thief, her bid for freedom, and the two men trying to capture her.

It is 1921. In a mountain-locked valley, Jessie is on the run.
Born wild and brave, by twenty-six she has already lived life as a circus rider, horse and cattle rustler, and convict. But on this fateful night she is just a woman wanting to survive though there is barely any life left in her.
Two men crash through the bushland, desperate to claim the reward on her head: one her lover, the other the law.


But as it has always been for Jessie, it is death, not a man, who is her closest pursuer and companion. And while all odds are stacked against her, there is one who will never give up on her—her own child, who awaits her.



***

City of JasmineA woman in aviation book coming soon from Deanna Rayburn. Def need to read this one. Thanks to Netgalley/Harlequin for a digital copy. City of Jasmine.

Set against the lush, exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn delivers the captivating tale of one woman who embarks upon a journey to see the world—and ends up finding intrigue, danger and a love beyond all reason.

Famed aviatrix Evangeline Starke never expected to see her husband, adventurer Gabriel Starke, ever again. They had been a golden couple, enjoying a whirlwind courtship amid the backdrop of a glittering social set in prewar London until his sudden death with the sinking of the Lusitania. Five years later, beginning to embrace life again, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world, collecting fame and admirers along the way. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious—and recent—photograph of Gabriel, which brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt.

With her eccentric aunt Dove in tow, Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient City of Jasmine, Damascus. There she discovers that nothing is as it seems. Danger lurks at every turn, and at stake is a priceless relic, an artifact once lost to time and so valuable that criminals will stop at nothing to acquire it—even murder. Leaving the jewelled city behind, Evie sets off across the punishing sands of the desert to unearth the truth of Gabriel's disappearance and retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history.

Along the way, Evie must come to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel and the passion that will change her destiny forever...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Giveaway & Tasty Blurb Tour: The Migraine Mafia by Maia Sepp


The Migraine MafiaOn paper, Viive McBroome lives the perfect life—a key player in a fast-paced, technical field, one promotion away from real success—but that’s only if you ignore one little problem.

Sandwiched between one migraine and the next, Viive’s life is like those choose-your-own-adventure books you read as a kid, only less fun and with a lot more drugs. And lately, as her bosses politely march her toward a vacation that might never end, even the good days seem like a struggle for survival.

Faced with frustration from her loved ones and the dark machinations of a new coworker, Viive feels herself getting pulled under by guilt, apologies, and workplace shenanigans. But then she meets the Migraine Mafia, a quirky, vibrant support group, and her fragile camouflage begins to crumble. She discovers that a room full of strangers just might be able to change the way she views her illness—and realizes that if she doesn’t learn to ask for help, her health isn’t the only thing she stands to lose.

Sometimes painful, frequently hilarious, never dull, The Migraine Mafia is the story of one woman’s life-altering decision to thrive in the face of chronic illness.


***


Author Info
Maia left the tech sector to write about sock thievery, migraines, and...the tech sector. She lives on the Danforth in Toronto with her better half, John.
The Sock Wars is her debut novel. The first chapter of The Sock Wars was published as a short story/novel excerpt titled Irish Drinking Socks, and became a Kobo bestselling short story. The Sock Wars has been a top-100 digital bestseller on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the iBookstore, as well as a genre and Writing Life bestseller on Kobo.
Maia's next novel will be released in December 2013: The Migraine Mafia, a story about a nerdy thirtysomething's quest to come to terms with a chronic illness.

Author Links
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807321.Maia_Sepp




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Giveaway & Tasty Tour: Emotionally Compromised By: A. Rosa


"A smile will get you far, but a smile and a gun will get you farther" -Al Capone.

Federal Agent Alex Turner deals better with guns than boyfriends, and prefers it that way. Her emotional range is bleak, but her aim is damn near perfect.

Thinking saving the world is a far easier task than dating, Agent Turner springs at the opportunity to prevent young scientist Marcus Gibbs from selling his biological weapon to the highest bidder. With her goal in sight, and Marcus eating out of the palm of her hand, an obstacle she doesn't see coming interferes. Meet Jeremy Hunt -- the distractingly handsome CEO of Sunscape Biotechnologies, and Marcus's boss and best friend.

A man who is accustomed to getting what he wants, Jeremy's never been one to take no for an answer, which has Agent Turner realizing for the first time that her wit might get her farther than her weapon. With no protocol or training to reference when it comes to matters of the heart, she worries that this might be her hardest assignment yet.







The car pulls away, and I am alone with Jeremy, who is now standing right next to me.
I stare into the distance, not wanting to make eye contact even though I know he's staring at me. I bob back and forth on my heels, waiting for a cab, wishing for this moment to be over. He scoffs next to me, and I still don't budge.
As if he can't take it, he says, "Really?"
The statement almost offends me. I turn to look at him, and it is a blatant mistake. He stands with hands in his pockets in a nonchalant sort of pose. My mouth starts watering. Focus.
"Excuse me?" I ask.
"You're kidding right now, right? That stunt you just pulled with Marcus. Is this all because I grabbed your ass?" He is coming dangerously close to being crude, and I decide to get right to the point.
"Is this because I offered him my number, and not you?"
His mouth forms a hard line, and he is all tough CEO, but I am no mouse and I stare right back. After a moment, he is trying to hold back his smile.
"Maybe it is." He pouts.
When Jeremy pouts, it's a remarkable sight. I gulp over my last thought.
"Well, I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not," I say.
As if dumbfounded, he continues, "Why Marcus? Why him? He's been a drunk slob all night!"
Is he really putting down his friend? I wonder if talking about his friends this way is a habit.
I turn to look away because I can't think of a logical response. He knows I am attracted to him, and I will not let him take advantage of that fact. I can tell he thinks it's funny that I am giving him the silent treatment, and it annoys me. He riles me up!
He leans in somewhat close, and in a mocking tone, he says, "Is it these blue eyes? Are they too much for you?"
Before I can stop it, a laugh erupts from my mouth, and I look at him and roll my eyes.
"Mr. Hunt, you are definitely not used to not getting what you want, and it almost pleases me that I can affect you so."
He bites his lip, nodding his head as he looks away.
"You're toying with me."
Maybe I am.




A. Rosa lives in San Diego, California. When she isn’t scouring city parks or cafe’s to write she is more than likely trying to convince her friends to join her on her next adventure. A sufferer of wanderlust, she is always looking for a new mountain to climb, a canyon to hike, or a plane to board. Her resume consists of coroner, to working at a zoo, and most recently as an executive assistant, but finds her home amongst words, whether it be in books, or in film. Her obsessions are on the brink of bizarre, but that’s just the way she likes it. 

Author Links
https://www.goodreads.com/pink_dandelion

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Strong is Sexy Heroine of the Week: Laney Calhoun

Book: What Once Was Perfect
Author: Zoey York
Heroine: Lacy Calhoun

Laney Calhoun had two goals across high school and college: kiss Kyle Nixon, and get into medical school. The kiss happened, and a whole lot more, but when her journey to become a doctor took her away from their small town, it also meant saying goodbye to her first (and only) love. Twelve years later, Laney comes home for the holidays and they have a second chance. But Laney's career is 400 miles away, and she knows better than to hope for anything more than a vacation fling.

In What Once Was Perfect, Laney's been burned, and she's reluctant to open her heart again, but she's starting to realize that there's a difference between strong and brittle. With the support of her sister and her mother, she figures out what she can be flexible about, and finds the strength to be honest--with herself, and with Kyle. How Laney embraces her new-found emotional freedom is both sweet and sexy.

She'd just had the best sex of her life, with an ex-boyfriend she'd spent the last decade pretending didn't exist, in his adorable half-finished, renovating-by-himself one room schoolhouse. Unsettled wouldn't even begin to describe how Laney should be feeling, and it didn't matter, because how she actually felt was pretty damn good.

But vacations come to an end, and saying goodbye a second time is hard.
“There’s more for you here than just dessert.” This time the suggestion was clear and deliberate, and that funny feeling crystalized into bittersweet pain. Kyle flicked off the light and tugged her into the crook of his arm. “I don’t want to freak you out, or push you, at all. I like you, a lot, and I don’t see why this—” he waved his hand over their bodies “—needs to be a one-time thing.”

Laney swallowed hard around the lump in her throat, and she willed herself not to cry. If she cried, she would run away, and much to her surprise, she didn’t want to do that this time. She wanted to tough out this conversation and get to the other side. “Oh, Kyle,” she said with a heavy breath. “I don’t see how it can be anything but. My life is in Chicago, and that’s not going to change.”

“You don’t see yourself ever moving back home?” Kyle asked the big question without judgment or expectation, and a tiny fissure split the surface of her heart. Every step of her career had taken her further from Wardham, from Kyle, and now she was realizing too late that she didn’t leave an emergency hatch in the master plan. Even if they explored a long-distance relationship, her life had no room for compromise. No room for her to be the true partner that Kyle deserved. She couldn’t lead him on. She took a deep breath, and swallowed past the growing knot.

What Once Was PerfectBlurb:
Heading home always stirs up mixed emotions for Laney Calhoun. Twelve years ago she left for graduate school, broken-hearted. She’s found professional success, but positive personal relationships have proved elusive. Running into her ex-boyfriend fans flames she thought long extinguished, and causes a renewed interest in love. Not with Kyle, of course. Never again. But as sparks fly and items of clothing disappear, she scrambles to keep her emotions in check.

Kyle Nixon let Laney slip away once. Their chemistry together is undeniable, but steamy sex is not enough to convince her to let him back into her heart. Even if she did trust him again, her medical career is five hundred kilometers away from the hometown that he loves, and the life that he once chose over her.

What Once Was Perfect is a short and sexy contemporary romance novel set in Wardham, Ontario, a fictitious small farming community on the shores of Lake Erie.



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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

The Wedding GiftI'm not sure what to think of this one, really. I found it poorly written, but there were some great ideas here.

In a nutshell: You have a cruel plantation owner who fathers a daughter with a slave woman he pretty much demands sleep with him every night. He also has a daughter with his white wife. So the daughters grow up together, one the master, one the slave, one with fine dresses and one a pauper. You get the picture; it's been done before.

The story unfolds. One wants escape. One is forced to marry. The man abuses his wife, well, everyone, actually. We see a life of servitude on both sides: the slaves' lives are horrible, but most of them are too afraid to leave due to slave catchers and harsh punishments. Who they bed, what they wear, where they go is all dictated by someone else. The women on the other side, though wealthy and in fine dresses, are slaves to their husbands. If their husbands want to bed other women, they're supposed to turn the other cheek. Their children are sent to boarding school if their husband wishes. Really, they aren't left with a ton of choices either. It was the world of the white man back then.

The story is TOLD from two POVs, the plantation owner's wife and his mulatto daughter. Notice I all-capped TOLD. That is the problem with this novel. It is all TOLD. It's literally... I did this and then he said blah blah and I went here. I mean, if my husband strangled my daughter in front of me, I think I'd feel something. I think I would be angry. Maybe I'd gasp or cry out. As for telling a story, at least mention her face changing color, her eyes bulging, SOMETHING. There was no scene setting, description hardly at all.

Besides all being told, there was also a complete lack of emotion and personality in both narrators. The shocking ending was a surprise, but it was hard to feel anything because frankly, it was so contrived, I couldn't even fathom it happening. This was partly because nobody in the story had any personality. We were not able to get to KNOW anyone, so the fact that person A got pregnant by person B, well, I don't see it happening, because I can't figure out how person A and person B hooked up in the first place or why 'cause I know nothing about them or their feelings or what made them do this or that.

In the end, it made so sense, and though I was surprised, it didn't have the effect it could have had.

I like the basic story though and the mulatto girl, Sarah. She has guts and takes live into her own hands. Can't say the same for the other three women in the story--spineless and submissive, all of them. Clarissa, Emmaline, Theodora. Bleh.

Also, the prose was so stiff and formal, it made a difficult read at times. And at times, the story went on and on about things that ended up being rather irrelevant--the will and some of the side characters/stories. Some of the stories just went nowhere.

Regarding the ending: I'm a tad confused by it all. I'm left with some questions, so this story feels inconcluded to me. It should be noted however that the version I read was self-published. This same book was later picked up by a publisher and re-released. I'm just going to assume there MAY have been revisions.

I bought this on Amazon Kindle.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Bird with the Heart of a Mountain by Barbara Mariconda

A Bird with the Heart of a Mountain
I’ve read many a novel about the Spanish Civil War and more often than not, flamenco is tied into the story in some manner. Compared to these two titles--The Return by Victoria Hislop and Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexandra, I found this one somewhat lacking and less inspiring as well as informative, but it should be noted those are aimed at adult readers and this one is aimed at the younger crowd. I do think, however, it could have been more clear about the war, the cause, the divisions, and what exactly was going on. Had I not read the previous two mentioned books, I would have had a lot of questions.

In a nutshell: the heroine is half Gypsy and half Spanish. When her mother meets tragic circumstances, she just “happens to” run into her father’s family, whom she’s never known of till now. They are dancers. With just a little training, she becomes a wonderful dancer too. Interspersed in the story is the war; an angry priest, a secret hideout, raids, prison, bombs, though the war itself isn’t explained in great depth.

I appreciated the obstacles the heroine faces: what world is she a part of? Should she settle for being half this or that? Half of herself? Choose a man—and she has many interested. The dancing…are the rules and instruction hurting her passion? What should she do and for what reasons? She has many choices to make and also you could say learns to forgive along the way. Things are not perfect with her father asap.

Also loved the subtle lesson about being in love. Are you in love or do you just love that he loves you?

I loved the setting, the descriptions, the writing style. I loved the ending for the most part, except for two things: 1. The “thing” with the Capitan was left unfinished. It left me feeling as though there is trouble to come and I wondered how she would overcome her “debt” to him. 2. The baby sister issue was left unresolved.

I received this via Amazon Vine.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Too Much Thinking & Withering Wombs with Margaret Kaine

Please welcome Choc Lit author Margaret Kaine as she promotes her new release and reveals what she discovered whilst researching the novel, things about women's plight before WWI.

My research when writing this novel was a revelation. I’ve always loved the fashions and glamour of the ‘Golden Years’ before WW1, and it was fascinating to discover some of the facts behind the lives of even wealthy young women during the Edwardian era. The social inhibitions and conventions of the Victorian age were still lingering in the early part of the century.

At the beginning of the novel, Helena is young, romantic, and because of her sheltered upbringing rather naive. But on being forced to cope not only with the travesty of her wedding night, but also the challenge of becoming the mistress of a large country house, both she and the reader discover her hidden strength. Above all, despite her continuing unease, she refuses to be dominated by Oliver.



One fact I hadn’t known before my research was that at this time many men believed that ‘too much thinking caused a woman’s womb to wither’. Can you believe that? Or is it cynical to wonder whether this was merely an excuse to deprive our sex of education and so keep their own sense of superiority? Even if a ‘bluestocking’, the despised term for an intelligent woman who wanted to use her brain, managed to attend a university, she could attend classes and sit examinations but to my astonishment - she would not be granted a degree. There were exceptions to classes too. If she had an interest in natural sciences, it was felt at the time that certain biology and anatomy lectures would upset women’s ‘delicate’ sensibilities. Yet we are the ones who experience childbirth, and during this time, it would probably have been an annual ordeal. Women really were what today we would call ‘second-class citizens’.

In Dangerous Decisions, I have tried to capture this background but at heart it is a deeply romantic novel, and one that a reader has described as a ‘psychological’ one. I certainly enjoyed writing it and writing organically, I found the journey totally absorbing.

Blurb:

Have you ever ignored a sense of unease? 

Helena Standish knows that a good marriage would enhance her father’s social status but she’s wise enough not to accept any handsome fool. The wealthy and enigmatic Oliver Faraday is considered an ideal match, so why does Helena have faint misgivings?

Nicholas Carstairs has little patience with frivolous pleasure-seekers or an upper class that closes ranks against outsiders. Why then is he entranced by the lovely ‘girl in the window’ – a debutante who would appear to be both of those things?

A champagne celebration at Broadway Manor marks the start of a happy future for Helena, but no one can predict the perilous consequences of her decision or the appalling danger it will bring.

***

Born and educated in the Potteries in Staffordshire, Margaret Kaine now lives in Leicester. Her short stories have been published widely in women's magazines in the UK, and also in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Ireland. Ring of Clay, her debut novel, won both the RNA's New Writer's Award in 2002 and the Society of Authors' Sagittarius Prize in 2003. She has written several romantic sagas about life in the Potteries between the 50's and 70's,and translations include German and French. Song for a Butterfly, her latest novel is currently available both in paperback,Large Print and as an ebook.

A new romantic suspense novel, Dangerous Decisions, is set in the Edwardian era against a different background and has been described as similar to Downton Abbey, with a twist! Due to be published by Choc Lit on 7 December 2013, advance orders are available on Amazon.

All details of her books can be found on her website - www.margaretkaine.com


Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Fall, Series One

Where to start? First of all, I see some similarities in this heroine and Prime Suspect's. Both are kick-rear women who see what they want and obtain it, being men or serial killers.

Both are leading detectives or in this case, DCIs, and like PS, we don't get to know the heroine all that well. This leads me to an issue I had with this series. The heroine has no personality at all. What makes her mad? What makes her sad? What drives her? We literally learn nothing about this woman at all in five hours. Which is sad, as I'm a fan of Gillian Anderson and I must say, this is such a drastic change from her character in X-Files...she's def a good actress. If she was told to play a bad-butt woman with no personality, she aced it.

In a nutshell: Gillian plays a lady DCI trying to track down a serial strangler of women. He targets brunettes, successful women, single. He poses them, takes mementos, shows no remorse for his acts...except in one instance. And this is not a whodunit. You know whodunit from the get-go. It's a family guy, a man with a daughter!! It's disturbing and it makes one think of how just about anybody can be a sociopath and we don't know it. He's even a psychiatrist, albeit I don't think a very good one.

The heroine...again, all I can say about her is she's tough, which is a good thing though I still wish I'd learned more about her personally. She surprised me. She told a reporter to...blank off. LOL. She approached a random cop she thought was good looking and just rattled off her room number and hotel name for  a "sweet" night. Ballsy.

But that brings to another complaint. Why is it TV portrays every single strong or tough woman as promiscuous?

Though I must applaud her for her comment about how when a man f*cks woman, man subject, f*cks verb, woman object, that's ok, but when it's woman subject, man object, it's not ok. That was a total WOW moment for me and probably my favorite my part.

Anyway, in five hours, we see 3 women murdered and one put in a coma. We get to know the killer, his double life, his family, his children. I know more about the killer than the detective herself. We see little slip-ups and clues...

I was on the edge of my seat...but then...the season ended...with..no conclusion. She's on to him and yet he's driving away...and that's it. UGH. I was hoping when I agreed to review this that this particular case would be resolved and a new season would bring in a new case...I guess I should stick to Law & Order, eh? Every case resolved in one hour.

Hum.

Anyway, I liked it, but hated the lack of personality, didn't care for the inconclusion, and question why confidence in a woman must always mean having sex with men she doesn't know.

OH--and I loved the motorcycle-riding pathologist lady. Hope to see more of her.

I received this via Amazon Vine.