Friday, August 31, 2018

Amid Wind & Stone by Nicole Luiken ~ Review

Title: Amid Wind & Stone (Otherselves #2)
Author: Nicole Luiken
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 410 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release: March 7, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Behind the mirror lies your otherself...

There is one True World, and then there are the four Mirror Worlds: Fire, Water, Air, and Stone.

Audrey and Dorotea are “ otherselves”—twin copies of each other who live on different Mirror Worlds.

On Air, Audrey has the ability to communicate with wind spirits. As war looms, she’s torn between loyalty to her country and her feelings for a roguish phantom who may be a dangerous spy.

Blackouts and earthquakes threaten the few remaining humans on Stone, who have been forced to live underground. To save her injured sister, Dorotea breaks taboo and releases an imprisoned gargoyle. Brooding, sensitive Jasper makes her wonder if gargoyles are truly traitors, as she’s always been told.

Unbeknownst to them, they both face the same enemy—an evil sorceress bent on shattering all the Mirror Worlds.



**********
I really enjoyed learning more about the Air and Stone worlds. Each has their own particular weaknesses and strengths. And each Otherself is the same in so many ways, but also shaped by their unique environment into a unique person. The battle to save the Mirror Worlds is heating up, with Qeturah trying to sabotage the worlds for her own gain.

Air and Stone world really stood out to me. The fun steam-punk feeling of air with their dirigibles and technology, with the very almost sci-fi/fantasy feel of Stone with gargoyles and a more dystopian culture. As each Otherself meets their mate - in unexpected forms - I began to see the pattern. A pattern that was familiar without being repetitive.

I would have liked to see a little more from Fire and Water, but they just didn't have as large a part in this one. I'm curious to see how the game Qeturah is playing ends up. The powers of the Mirror Worlds are beginning to align against her.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Mistress Spy by Pamela Mingle ~ Excerpt and Giveaway


Title: Mistress Spy
Author: Pamela Mingle
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 380 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Release Date: August 27,2018

A determined sister . . .
Madeleine Vernon’s dreams should be filled with elegant gowns and marriageable men. Instead, she dreams of avenging her brother’s death. But when she’s captured by the queen’s men, she’s forced to become a spy by her mysterious yet undeniably attractive captor.

A rakish spy . . .
After years of working for his father in Queen Elizabeth’s service, Nicholas Ryder is close to going his own way. But now he’s got a feisty beauty he must protect or risk her execution as a traitor to the crown. She’s a distraction he can’t afford, but he also can’t stop thinking about her.

A dangerous lie . . .
It is Nicholas’s job to foil plots against Elizabeth, and he sends Maddy into a household of suspected traitors to garner what information she can. As the line between captor and prisoner blurs, deceit, betrayal, and desire become a perilous mix. Ultimately, Nicholas must decide whether duty to the queen is more important than winning Maddy’s heart.


**********
Excerpt:
Maddy was musing on the purpose of this meeting when she heard muted hoof beats on the water-soaked ground. Stepping out to greet horse and rider, she was welcomed by a nicker from Raven, Ryder’s mount.

Ryder swiftly dismounted. “Next time be certain who you are greeting before you show yourself,” he said rather sternly.

“Had I not been expecting you, I would have.” He grasped her elbow, leading her back inside. Three walls were intact and helped block the wind. Maddy lowered the hood on her mantle and waited for him to speak.

His expression was grim. “I wished you to have this information at once. I have learned Thomas Vine’s true identity.”

Her heart jumped. “Oh?” she said, attempting to gather her wits. Maddy had remained undecided about exactly how much to confess when the time was right. If Ryder already knew Musgrave’s identity, conceivably he knew all.

He did not notice her unease, but went on speaking. “His name is John Musgrave. He’s a notorious border reiver, a brutal criminal and most likely a killer. I am considering removing you from Lanercost for your safety.”

And return me to Carlisle Castle? “Oh, pray do not! This is my only chance to save myself.” And to redeem herself. What would happen to her if Ryder carried out this plan? If his father had any say in the matter, which he most assuredly would, she would soon be sleeping on straw again. “Nicholas, I beg you!” Before thinking the better of it, Maddy grabbed hold of his doublet and yanked.

Ryder said nothing, only kept a probing gaze on her. How had she dared to lay her hands on him? Reaching out, he captured them with his own, his sage green eyes searching her face. “Do you still fear I could not protect you? I would keep you from harm, Maddy. You have become very important to me.”

And then he bent his head and kissed her. A gentle, exploring kiss. With a soft moan, she leaned into him. His arms came around her, gathering her close, kissing her more urgently. The tantalizing pressure of his tongue seeking hers made Maddy forget everything but the here and now. Nicholas smelled as clean and fresh as morning dew. The soft rustle of Raven’s grazing, the wind soughing, the rain drip-dropping off the wall, yes, she was aware of all those sounds. But nothing mattered except the warmth of his embrace and the sensual press of his lips. A fever possessed her, and when he stepped away, she wanted to lure him back. He tasted like twilight: deep, sensual, and a little mysterious.

They laughed, both of them breathless. He continued to hold her arms. “I would very much like to kiss you the night through, but I must tell you the rest.”

She nodded. “Go ahead.” Maddy hoped she could comprehend it; her senses were still attuned to other things.

All seriousness now, he said, “Musgrave is an outlaw, drafted into service by Cecil as a double agent. In the past year, he was hauled before the Council of the North because of his raiding. He got off with a warning, since they had no proof, as is often the case with these men. Their steel helms cover their faces, and of course they ride mainly at night.”

Maddy pulled away from Nicholas. “Which is why he could not be present when Sussex came to Lanercost. He would have recognized Musgrave and exposed him.”

“Precisely.”

“What is his purpose there?”

“He’s been sent to gauge the loyalty of the Protestant Dacres.”

“But that is what I am doing. Why must there be two of us?” How she wished Musgrave might be removed.

“It seems Lady Jane Dacre and her son may have differing loyalties. They want Musgrave primarily to keep an eye, jaded as it is, on Dacre.”

“Has my mission changed?”

Nicholas shook his head. “Nay. ’Tis unclear to me why Cecil needs two spies at Lanercost, but your duty will remain unchanged. Watch and observe Lady Dacre and take note of questionable behavior on the part of anybody else.”

Questionable behavior. Did her suspicions of Musgrave in Cath’s disappearance count? When Maddy thought about Cath, she was convinced his ruthlessness knew no bounds. “I found out today that the young serving girl who spurned him is missing. I’m frightened for her, Nicholas, and quite certain it’s Musgrave’s doing.” She explained what little she knew. “Can you do anything to help find her?”

“I’ll put some men on it, have them be on the lookout for her—or her body.” Nicholas gripped her shoulders. “In the meantime, you must stay away from him as much as possible.”

Trembling, she broke away from Nicholas. Now was the time to tell him, yet still she hesitated. What would he think of her? But if there was to be trust between them, there must first be truth. It was up to Maddy to convey it. She drew in a deep breath and said, “Musgrave was no stranger to me.”

A questioning brow arched. “I do not understand.”

It would be easier said if she were not facing him straight on, so she began to pace. “I was introduced to him in Carlisle, during a Midsummer celebration. It will seem difficult to believe, but back then he cut a dashing figure.” She paused and glanced at Nicholas, whose face had frozen. “He was tall, handsome, and seduced me with flattery. I was an innocent girl of nineteen years, completely taken in by it.”

“He seduced you? Did he—?”

“Bed me?” Maddy looked at him over her shoulder, wondering if her expression reflected the shame and regret she felt. “Aye.”

“God’s wounds, Madeleine! It is beyond belief that you lay with that man.” Even when he’d questioned her, she did not recall him raising his voice. Not like this.

**********
About Pamela Mingle:
Pamela Mingle is a former teacher and librarian who was fortunate enough to choose writing as a third career. Or maybe it chose her. :) She loves to create romantic tales that play out against historical events and always includes some humor in her books.

Pam and her husband enjoy walking in the UK--even though she's done her share of whining on those fifteen-mile days. The walking trips have been an ideal way to discover new settings for her books.


Pam loves to hear from readers. Go to her website, http://www.pammingle.com/ to sign up for her newsletter. Subscribers learn first about giveaways and exclusive-to-subscriber content. You can also contact her via her website.



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman ~ Review

Title: The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic #1)
Author: Alice Hoffman
Genre: Adult, Paranormal
Length: 369 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Find your magic

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start, Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City, each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.



**********
I loved the movie Practical Magic. If you haven't seen this gem starring Sandra Bullock, then you need to go do it right now. The Rules of Magic takes you to the generations before the movie where we can see how the curse began, almost ended, and set the stage for the current members of the Owens family. 

The focus of the story is on Franny, Jet, and Vincent. A generation raised to hide from their magical heritage - after all, if you ignore it, then it must not exist. But the children can't resist giving in to the magic inside them. Traveling to their Aunt's house, they begin to learn about their family history - it's quite fascinating, and I really enjoyed the looks back in time.

As the children grow older, then struggle to avoid falling in the love and triggering the family curse. Here is where we see the ultimate struggle. How can someone not love? The siblings struggle as they grow up and do that very thing - fall in love. But the curse is triggered, and things quickly go downhill.

But this isn't just a story about a curse and the death of love. Jet was my favorite of the three, and her reactions to the events of life really stood out to me. She was the flicker of hope and possible salvation that carries the story into the movie. Don't look at this as just a prequel. It a beautiful story on its own that is so very much worth reading.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Maybe for You by Nicole McLaughlin ~ Review

Title: Maybe for You (Whiskey and Weddings #3)
Author: Nicole McLaughlin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: August 28, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

She’s never had a no-strings fling. He’s never had anything else. But maybe this time will be an exception?

After a year of mourning her fiancé, Alexis Parker has worked hard to rediscover what she wants out of life. Fresh out of the military and back stateside, her brother offers her a marketing job at the Stag Distillery. Ready for a new challenge, Alexis agrees to accompany her new co-worker Jake Cooperon a Stag cross-country promotional tour. He may have an infamous playboy reputation, but Alexis is surprised to find out that there is more to him than meets the eye. And she likes what she sees. . .

Jake promised Alexis’s brother that he’d be an absolute gentleman. Of course, that was before he and Alexis hit the road, and they both agree that what Alexis’s big brother doesn’t know won’t hurt him. The plan: to keep their fling confined to the RV, and everything will go back to normal once they head home. Things progress in ways neither of them could have imagined, and Jake realizes that he and Alexis make a perfect mix. Can he convince her that he’s ready to shake things up and give true love a shot?
 



**********
One of the first things that stood out to me in Maybe for You was that the ex-military wasn't the guy. It was the girl. And while this wouldn't fall into the category of military romance, her military past and the loss of her fiance while in the military were key parts of Alex's life and personality. When she returns after her last tour, she is ready to start over and move on, but it's hard. I thought her way of coping and confronting the loss of her fiance was amazing. She didn't lash out or hide but fought to understand what her feelings were and what they were rooted in. She also took control of them the best she could.

Jake had become close to Alex long-distance, and he was the shoulder she would virtually lean on through the hard times and long days and nights as she struggled through her feelings. But when Alex returned, things were a bit awkward at first. When they go on a promotional tour for the Stag, they both realize that the connection they build long-distance had grown into something more.

Their journey through romance and into love was incredibly sweet, but it still remained very real and very difficult for both of them to work through their pasts and reach for their future together. For followers of the series, you will see some wonderful moments from the past characters and couples. 

*I voluntarily read a review copy of this book*

Monday, August 27, 2018

Through Fire & Sea by Nicole Luiken ~ Review

Title: Through Fire & Sea (Otherselves #1)
Author: Nicole Luiken
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Length: 354 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

Mirror mirror, hear my call…

In the Fire world, seventeen-year-old Leah is the illegitimate daughter of one of the realm's most powerful lords. She's hot-blooded—able to communicate with the tempestuous volcano gods that either bless a civilization or destroy it. But then Leah discovers she's a Caller, gifted with the unique—and dangerous—ability to “call” her Otherselves in mirror worlds. And her father will do anything to use her powers for his own purposes.

In the Water world, Holly nearly drowns when she sees—and interacts with—Leah, a mirror image of herself. She’s rescued by Ryan, a boy from school with a secret he’d die to protect. Little do they know, his Otherself is the son of a powerful volcano god at war in the Fire world…and he’s about to fall.

As Leah and Holly's lives intersect, the Fire and Water worlds descend into darkness. The only way to protect the mirror worlds is to break every rule they've ever known. If they don’t, the evil seeping through the mirrors will destroy everything—and everyone—they love…



**********
This is the start of a binge-worthy series. There isn't just one world, there are several. And the reflections in the mirror, ice, and water connect them all. Within each world, there are a few people able to pass through the reflection to the others. Leah is one of these people, and her ability to connect with her Otherselves in the mirror worlds makes her a powerful force.

I loved how the mirror worlds interacted with each other, with small overlaps and similarities, but also huge differences. I got to really experience Fire and Water, and catch glimpses of Air and Stone, and they all seem fascinating. 

But, of course, the worlds are in danger as someone is out to destroy them all, throw off the balance, and I'm not sure what happens after that. I can't wait to find out though. With rich characters, several incredibly detailed worlds, and a plot line that is super crazy awesome, this seems to be a binge-read-worthy series. I can't wait to see what is going to happen next.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*


Thursday, August 23, 2018

When They Come for You by James W. Hall ~ Review

Title: When They Come for You (Harper McDaniel #1)
Author: James W. Hall
Genre: Adult, Thriller
Length: 290 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: September 1, 2017
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn


After her journalist husband and infant son are brutally executed in a fire in their Florida home, photographer Harper McDaniel has nothing left to live for—except settling the score. When the local police fail to take the arson seriously, Harper takes the reins and discovers her husband was investigating some mysterious deaths at a cacao plantation on the Ivory Coast. Now she’s convinced he was targeted in a corporate conspiracy to silence him.
Aided by her former mafioso grandfather and well-connected financier brother, Harper embarks on a global manhunt, flying first to Africa, then Zurich to expose a high-level cover-up inside a powerful chocolate conglomerate.
But Harper has a few secrets of her own—starting with her lethal martial arts skills—and she’s not afraid to take on any hired guns or guerrillas standing in her way. In trying to cover their tracks, the conspirators made one fatal miscalculation: they didn’t count on Harper McDaniel coming for them.
**********
I was so confused. So much of this story just didn't really line up for me. Harper Collins loses everything to an assassin and she's determined to find out why. OK. I'm on board so far. But when things get a little odd when she mysteriously has all these connections, including an ex-mobster father.

Putting aside the crazy characters, the mystery is a bit odd. Tracking down the people behind a chocolate corporate conspiracy takes Harper all over the world. Meanwhile, the assassin is on her tail, but only because he's become obsessed with her. Odd. A lot of this is explained - eventually - but it all just played out funny to me.

The ending seemed overly contrived as well. Their solution was so simple and yet overly complicated at the same time. Again, too many cases of "well, I just happen to know so-and-so from my past life."

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter ~ Review

Title: The Good Daughter (The Good Daughter #1)
Author: Karin Slaughter
Genre: Adult, Thriller
Length: 656 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: August 8, 2017
Source: Amazon Vine
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

The stunning new novel from the international #1 bestselling author — a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn's happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville's notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father's footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it's a case that unleashes the terrible memories she's spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won't stay buried forever…

Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.



**********
Holy cow. Karin Slaughter writes an amazing story that pulled me in from the beginning and never once let go. A new favorite author of mine. Tying two horrific events together - once current, one past - the Quinn family becomes the spotlight yet again. Charlie Quinn is following in her father's footsteps and defending those that no one else will touch. When a girl is arrested as the obvious shooter at a school that left a young girl dead, Charlie thinks there may be more to it.

But this rabbit hole runs deeper than anyone knows. The truth will eventually come to light, but not before many lives are torn apart, old wounds re-opened, and past wrongs are forgiven. The story is full of revelations, most of which I didn't completely see coming. 

Superbly in-depth characters and a plot full of suspense and tension, I hope to see more in this new series soon.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Honeymoon Trap by Christina Hovland ~ Excerpt and Giveaway


Title: The Honeymoon Trap
Author: Christina Hovland
Genre: Adult, Romantic Comedy
Length: 319 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Release Date: August 20, 2018

How to Survive Your Next Relationship Disaster 101 

Step 1: Get pumped. Your new house, in your new town, comes with a sexy and shirtless man next door. Score!
 
Step 2: Don’t let your freak-out show when Mr. OMG Shirtless turns around—and it’s your old crush. 
 
Step 3: Hold your head high when you run into him again on the first day of your new job—literally—and spill coffee all over yourself.
 
Step 4: Stay calm when he introduces himself as your new boss…and then announces that your first assignment is to go on a fake honeymoon together.
 
Step 5: Keep your $h*t locked tight when the new boss/old crush and you are forced to sleep in the same room…with one bed.
 
Step 6: Try to ignore just how freaking hot he is, and how much you want to touch him…





**********
Excerpt:
More pounding. “Saw you. Know you’re in there, Lucy.”

She drew the curtain back again.

He pointed to the handle and mouthed, “Open.”

She shook her head and planted her hand on her hip.

He rattled the door handle.

Fine.

Safety chain in place, she opened the door a crack. When he pressed to enter, the chain caught.

“Lucy, I need to talk to you,” he said through the thin opening.

“It’s too early for conversation.” She ran a hand over her obnoxious morning hair.

“I need your help.”

“You said I’m not supposed to help you.” She tried to close the door, but he stopped it before the latch caught.

“Bridgett’s in the hospital.”

A knot formed in Lucy’s belly. She released the safety chain and opened the door. “What happened?”

“We’re supposed to leave for Twin Lakes today, but she ate something with peaches, and apparently she’s allergic. I just came from the hospital. She’s all puffed up.”

Peaches? That sounded awful. “Will she be okay?”

“They say she’ll be fine, but she needs monitoring. You have to be my wife.”

The knot in her belly tightened, and she stepped backward into the living room. “It is way too early to discuss marriage.”

He followed her inside. His gaze traveled over her, and the edges of his lips ticked up. “Please, Lucy. I need a favor. And you look like you need caffeine. Where do you keep the coffee?”

She crossed her arms across her chest. “At Starbucks.”

He tossed her an annoyed look and brushed past her to the kitchen.

Ugh. “Fine. To the coffee. Not the marriage.” She followed him into her kitchen where he snagged the tin of blonde roast off the counter.

“Coffee liners?” he asked.

“Use your sock,” she replied sweetly. She didn’t do controlling. Not with men. Not in life.

He dug through her cupboards. “You always this grumpy in the morning?”

She grumbled under her breath.

“I’ll tell you what. You go do whatever you do to wake up.” He turned and stepped toward her to trace his fingers intimately along her arms, leaving a trail of goose bumps behind.

Unable to move, she stared at his warm hands against her bare flesh.

He leaned into her, all sexy stubble and man. “I’ll make coffee.” His gaze rested on her mouth, which at some point had parted against her will. She promptly shut it.

“Then we can talk about our trip to Twin Lakes.” He gave a squeeze and released her.

Full-bodied with an extra shot of persistence was apparently on her menu this morning. “I have to work, I’ve got a cat, and there are three thousand other reasons I’m not going with you.”

“Let’s talk after you resurrect Happy Lucy. Shower, meditate, whatever you usually do…then coffee.” He returned to rummaging through her cupboards.

She stared at him, scruffy, delicious, and in her kitchen. The universe had a messed up sense of humor.

“You getting that shower going or are you waiting for me to take one with you?” he asked without turning around.

She scowled at his ridiculously attractive back for a beat. It wasn’t fair that even his back was sexy. Her gaze traveled lower to his shorts. Over his ass. His legs. His calves.
He cleared his throat. She glanced up quickly to meet his…dimples.

“I’ll come, too, then?” His lips formed the husky words, mesmerizing her.

He took a step forward, the tin of coffee still in his grip.

She froze, certain the look on her face must’ve mirrored an early-morning deer meeting the headlights of a Ferrari. Like, if she was gonna get hit by a car, might as well be a good one.

Oh boy, was she about to get run over.

She licked at her lips.

His gaze fell to them, mouth parted, eyes flared.

Next, please.

She noped right out of there. Turned and bolted for the bathroom, ensuring the lock on the door clicked behind her.

Head in her hands, she slumped against the thin wood panel on the wall beside the cracked tub.


She was officially hiding from William in her bathroom. Not because he recommended she shower. Nope, she needed to wake up. Her hair needed shampoo. And she had lusty irritation to rinse down the drain.


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Friday, August 17, 2018

The Daemoniac by Kat Ross ~ Review

Title: The Daemoniac (Dominion Mysteries #1)
Author: Kat Ross
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Length: 334 pages
Publisher: Acorn
Release Date: October 12, 2016
Source: Review Request
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

It's August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim's throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.

But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.

From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York's richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?



**********
The Daemoniac moved a little slow for me, even though there was a lot going on. I felt like the mystery was overly convoluted. There was so much running around that it seemed fairly aimless at times, with nothing to show for their trouble. When the mystery is finally solved, it was somewhat anticlimactic. I expected something massive and huge, and it just seemed to fizzle in my opinion.

The characters were a lot of fun though. Harry, the younger sister of a famous detective, takes on a case, enlisting the help of her friend, John Weston. The banter between these two characters is great. I looked forward to their conversations, both about the case and not. 

I don't think I'll be continuing the series. However, the book is very well written with excellent characters. If you enjoy a more drawn out mystery, this may be one for you.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Only Dead on the Inside by James Breakwell ~ Review

Title: Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
Author: James Breakwell
Genre: Nonfiction, Comedy
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Benbella Books
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

It's not easy being a parent these days. There are bills to pay. Kids to feed. And hordes of undead monsters to keep at bay.

There are plenty of guides out there about how to survive the zombie apocalypse. All of them assume readers are young, fit, and unencumbered by children. In that scenario, the only living humans left will be smug, outdoorsy Millennials. That's hell on earth, even without the zombies.

Only Dead on the Inside is the answer for the rest of us.

Written by professional comedy writer and amateur father-of-four James Breakwell (@XplodingUnicorn), Only Dead on the Inside blends traditional parenting advice with zombie survival tips, bringing together two totally unrelated genres in a book no one asked for but everyone needs.

This step-by-step manual teaches you how to raise happy, healthy children in a world overrun by the undead. Motivated moms and dads want it all, and that won't change at the end of the world. There's no reason you can't be a zombie killing machine AND parent of the year, but you have to work for it.

If you want to make sure your family is apocalypse-ready, Only Dead on the Inside is your best--and only--chance at survival. No pressure, but if you don't read this book, your children will die.



**********
I first discovered the comedy of James Breakwell in Twitter when a friend re-tweeted a post from @XplodingUnicorn. His tweets quickly became a welcome comedic break from the day. I couldn't pass up his first book - a look at parenting in the zombie apocalypse.

First off, I forgive the two really bad typos. They made me giggle this time instead of annoying me. Second, while I really really wanted to read this straight through, I highly recommend taking a break between chapters. You'll want to make it last as long as you can. Each chapter takes a unique zombie-apocalypse-style look at parenting and how to make sure you (and maybe your kids) survive. On the surface, this may sound a bit ridiculous, but if you pay really close attention, you'll find crazy words of wisdom you never expected. Plus, you will be far more prepared should the zombie apocalypse actually happen.

Filled with useful graphs, cartoons, and strategies, Only Dead on the Inside is a book I recommend to just about everyone I meet now. I even read some of it to my fifteen-year-old, who promptly rolled her eyes and left the room, which is high praise indeed.

Breakwell's dry humor was quite refreshing and I still look forward to his tweets, now his newsletter, and I hear he has more on the way with a variety of projects.



Monday, August 13, 2018

A Second Chance at Love by L.K. Shaw ~ Review

Title: A Second Chance at Love
Author: L.K. Shaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Length: 90 pages
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: October 20, 2017
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

An abusive ex-boyfriend had broken Callie Foster down, but she’d rebuilt herself. When she started a flirtation during the beginning of her three-week vacation, she felt a connection she hadn’t felt in five long years. She knew her feelings were reciprocated, but he had pushed her away. Imagine her surprise when, over a week later in Myrtle Beach, she runs into him again.

Kyle Harper, a Veteran amputee, has lost everyone he’s ever cared about. When he began to feel something for Callie, he pushed her away before she could leave him like everyone else in his life had. When he heads to Myrtle Beach for a yearly get together with his military buddies, he stumbles upon Callie. 

Can Callie show him that she’s not the kind of woman to leave her man behind? Can Kyle open his heart to her, leaving himself vulnerable?



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A Second Chance at Love is a really quick novella, I think I read in one night. So, being a novella, I didn't expect tons of depth because there just aren't enough pages. But somehow, L.K. Shaw managed to cram some wonderful character development into about 90 pages or so (per Amazon). 

The first part of the story left me a little confused. When Kyle and Callie first meet it just seemed a little weird, but the meeting was necessary (if a bit awkward) to set up their second chance in Myrtle Beach. This was really where the story seemed to start for me. As they mostly danced around their attraction - each wanting to avoid it for different reasons at first - they ended up coming closer together. They built up a trust and got to know each other a bit before jumping in the sheets.

I wish there could have been more - a comment I often make with novellas - but only because I loved the characters so much that I wanted to see them more. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The New Dark by Lorraine Thomson ~ Review

Title: The New Dark (The Dark Times Trilogy #1)
Author: Lorraine Thomson
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Length: 221 pages
Publisher: Bastei Entertainment
Release Date: November 1, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

"She thought she knew who she was and where she came from. Then her home was destroyed. Her brother lost amongst the ashes. And the boy she loves vanished. She owed her own survival to a mutant — the very forces behind the destruction. Now Sorrel will never be the same again."

There is no "Before", there is only "Now". Because now there’s no internet, no TV, no power grid. Food is scarce, and the world’s a hostile place. But Sorrel lives a quiet life in the tiny settlement of Amat. It’s all she’s ever known ...

Until a gang of marauding mutants destroys the village, snatching her brother Eli, and David, her boyfriend. Sorrel sets out after them, embarking on a journey fraught with danger. Can she survive? The only thing that keeps her going is Eli and David. They are out there somewhere. They must be alive. And if she has her way, she will find them.



**********
The New Dark introduces an interesting, if confusing, world. A world where there is no technology and humans live in small villages working to survive. When a group of mutants attack Sorrel's village and kidnap those they don't kill, Sorrel follows them trying to rescue her little brother and David. This is a physical journey as well as a symbolic one. Sorrel will have to leave behind not just her innocent life in the village, but her prejudices and fears as well. When she arrives at the largest city she's ever seen, she will discover that not all humans are good and not all mutants are bad. The trick is trying to tell which is which.

This story was a bit of a mixed bag for me. At times very exciting and I couldn't get enough, others it began to drag and I feel like the pacing could have been spaced more effectively. While I enjoyed Sorrel's journeys, I feel as if she never actually accomplished anything in the first book. Every step forward, every ally made, meant one step back and an ally lost. I didn't have a sense of hope at the end of the first book to make me look forward to the second.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A Snowbound Scandal by Jessica Lemmon ~ Review

Title: A Snowbound Scandal
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, Holiday
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Desire
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Source: NetGalley
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

As the snow falls, her touch sets him aflame... "I don't want you to leave." Texas billionaire Chase Ferguson has one regret: leaving Miriam Andrix to protect her from his public life. When a snowstorm strands her in his mountain mansion, their passion reignites, and it's too hot to resist! But reality--and scandal--arrives with the thaw. Chase turned his back on happiness once. Will he fight for what he truly wants this time?


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A Snowbound Scandal is a second-chance (we think we're) opposites attract story. Mimi Andrix is an environmentalist that loves the outdoors and teaching kids about what they can do to protect the environment. On the other hand, Chase Ferguson is the son of an oil family and is now deep into politics - but he's one of the good ones.

With a little bit of holiday spirit and a little bit of "I'm going to give you a piece of my mind," Mimi heads to Chase's vacation mansion with a Thanksgiving dinner so he won't be alone eating frozen food for the holiday. Stranded at his house by a snowstorm, Mimi and Chase decide to make the best of the circumstances and, well, this is a romance - so one thing leads to another - but eventually they part ways again. At least for a little while

There were only a few points of the story that I had a hard time with - possibly because I did not read the rest of the series and one of the side stories seemed to carry over from another book. Outside of this one small thing, the story does very well as a standalone holiday romance. I loved Mimi, her desire to do the right thing, and her ability to not really care what anyone else thought. Chase was a bit of a stick in the mud, but in the end I enjoyed seeing a more spontaneous and softer side.

I love that A Snowbound Scandal is more of a winter-theme than a true Christmas theme.  While the holidays (mostly Thanksgiving) are mentioned, it's more about the snowstorm and being snowed in with the one that got away.

*I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of this book*

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Designer by Marius Gabriel ~ Review

Title: The Designer
Author: Marius Gabriel
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Length: 338 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: October 1, 2017
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

In 1944, newly married Copper Reilly arrives in Paris soon after the liberation. While the city celebrates its freedom, she’s stuck in the prison of an unhappy marriage. When her husband commits one betrayal too many, Copper demands a separation.
Alone in Paris, she finds an unlikely new friend: an obscure, middle-aged designer from the back rooms of a decaying fashion house whose timid nature and reluctance for fame clash with the bold brilliance of his designs. His name is Christian Dior.
Realising his genius, Copper urges Dior to strike out on his own, helping to pull him away from his insecurities and towards stardom. With just a camera and a typewriter, she takes her own advice and ventures into the wild and colourful world of fashion journalism.
Soon Copper finds herself torn between two very different suitors, questioning who she is and what she truly wants. As the city rebuilds and opulence returns, can Copper make a new, love-filled life for herself?
**********
The Designer shows a side of the Paris fashion world that isn't often seen - a side of Paris after the liberation that isn't often seen. American Copper Reilly remains in Paris after separating from her husband and finds herself collecting a rather odd group of friends, beginning with an obscure fashion designer named Christian Dior.

We may all know the name of Christian Dior now, but when the story begins he's just another designer at a fashion house. Copper and Christian's stories of finding their way run somewhat parallel as they both give independence a try with varying degrees of success. Copper's life is filled with eccentric people, and she soon learns that everyone has a secret.

While this book isn't a wild and crazy adventure or a romance for the ages, it drew me in and held me there. I wanted to walk alongside with Copper as she explored the city around her, made friends, learned life lessons, and experienced real love.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Secrets of Betrayal by L.K. Shaw ~ Review

Title: Secrets of Betrayal (Secrets #4)
Author: L.K. Shaw
Genre: Adult, Romantic Suspense
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: October 11, 2017
Source: Purchased
Reviewed by: Jasmyn

*this book contains dark elements that may be difficult for some readers*

Betray (verb): to deliver to an enemy by treachery

Sold to a sex trafficker by her drug-dealing boyfriend, Phebe Lawson possessed first-hand knowledge of the secrets of betrayal. She’d given up all hope. Her life no longer held any meaning. She would have wished for death to come and take her away, except, she knew wishes were wasted on people like her. Until the day he entered her life. He was a beacon of light in the bleakness she called existence. His arrival sparked a longing inside her that, maybe, hope wasn’t a useless emotion after all. 


Heal (verb): to make sound or whole

Donovan Jeffries was the charming one. The flirty, social Dom of the local BDSM club, Eden. He thought he’d found the perfect submissive. Until she betrayed him with another. He closed himself off, vowing to never give his heart to another woman. Until the day she entered his life. Her despair touched a part of his soul he’d thought forever lost, and he would move heaven and earth to piece all her broken parts back together.



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Holy cow. L.K. Shaw takes her Secrets series to a new level in Secrets of Betrayal. When Phebe is rescued from sex traffickers, it isn't the beginning of everything being OK. It's the beginning of an incredibly difficult journey back to something that might eventually resemble normal. She's withdrawn and doesn't really think much of life anymore. Even though she is free, she keeps herself locked away in her mind, in a house, in a garden.

Donovan wants to see Phebe shine again, to see her come out of her withdrawal and rejoin the living. He doesn't expect her to work her way into her heart and soul. As the two of them connect and begin to heal we see something really special happening. A relationship. This book is so character-driven it gave me tingles. I really became a part of their lives and wanted to anything to help them figure out that they needed to be together.

This book does contain some dark parts, but I hope you don't let that stop you from reading this amazing series.