Monday, 29 June 2015

Queen of Tomorrow, by Sherry Ficklin - Review

Queen of Tomorrow, by Sherry Ficklin
Stolen Empire #2
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date:  July 14, 2015
Genre:  Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pages: 280 paperback, 166 Adobe Digital Editions
Source:  Xpresso Book Tours, NetGalley

Sophie—now Catherine, Grand Duchess of Russia—had a tough first year at Imperial Court. Married at sixteen to Grand Duke Peter, heir to the throne, and settled in their own palace, things are finally looking up. As a new day dawns she thinks only of securing her future and the future of their country during one of the greatest political upheavals of her time. Fighting desperately against forces trying to depose the Empress Elizabeth and put the young Prince Ivan on her throne, Sophie soon finds herself in the middle of a war brewing between her beloved Prussia, and her new empire. But even as she navigates the fragile political landscape, she quickly realizes that she has only begun to discover the tangled web of deceit and infidelity woven over the lavish court of Oranienbaum Palace.

When a strange and delicate alliance forms between the young couple, she glimpses a future of happiness, only to see it lost in a moment at the hands of those who still seek to end her life—and prevent her reign. Out of favor with the empress and running out of options, Sophie will have to sacrifice her own innocence on the altar of Russia if she is to save the nation, and herself. To survive, she will have to do the unthinkable, betray those closest to her and become something greater and more dangerous than she ever imagined she could be… a queen.
Reign fans, and readers interested in the story of Sophia who becomes Catherine the Great of Russia, will love this book!

Young Sophia (also called Sophie), managed by her stage mom, Princess Johanna of Holstein-Gottorp, is married off to Grand Duke Peter (eventually Peter III), heir  presumptive and nephew to Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Peter was actually Sophia’s second cousin in real life.

It’s August 1745 and Russia, as ever, is vast and struggling.

Truly a YA novel as Sophia is just 16 when she is married to Peter (17), Queen of Tomorrow is book #2 in the Stolen Empire series, about Sophia’s rise to power. This is not so much a romance, as a personal telling of  Catherine’s (Sophia is re-christened) struggles though it is a fictional account.

So, we have a story focused on the political machinations of royal life and what Catherine must do to manage her way through the dictums of Empress Elizabeth, the daily issues with her mentally quixotic husband, and her own desire to prove of service to her new nation. Of utter importance is that an heir is produced for the succession of the crown.

I like that we see the old adage, look not to your husband but your husband’s mother, to understand who you’re married to, come into play.  I also think the author strikes an interesting balance showing Catherine wanting her marriage to Peter to work out while becoming clever enough to navigate her way through his mental eccentricities and the political complexities of the time to ensure her own survival.

Peter is sometimes portrayed in film as something of a lunatic. Apparently Catherine in her memoirs calls him ‘an idiot’ and ‘good for nothing,” etc.  Being of German birth, Peter didn’t want to learn Russian and his sentiments fell with his country of origin, which caused him a lot of problems at home in Russia. Was he mad or just a man in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Queen of Tomorrow is well written, and the author gives Catherine a strong, determined, think-for-herself attitude which of course would have been a necessity in her position if she hoped for any success.

I really enjoyed this read and would highly recommend it, especially for those looking for strong heroines in their books. I’m really looking forward to book 3!

Find author, Sherry Ficklin on the Internet here:

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Designed, by Kate Tailor - Excerpt

The Designed, by Kate Tailor
The Designed series, #1
Published by, Book Baby, January 26, 2015
Genre:  New Adult, Science Fiction
Excerpt Source:  Author, Xpresso Book Tours

Welcome to my blog for The Designed, Excerpt !  Kate Tailor's novel has a fascinating premise so I hope you enjoy a taste of her story, just below the synopsis. For the inner scientist in all of us.

What if the next new drug was you? Raleigh’s body produces a drug that could define the future of medicine if the dangerous world surrounding it doesn’t kill her first.

Eighteen-year old Raleigh Groves can sense disease in others and is suffering from her own unexplained illness as well. After years and dozens of doctor visits, she has given up hope of ever finding a cure, let alone a diagnosis. Then she meets a man who explains that her talent and curse are linked. Her body produces a drug, Lucidin, which allows her to sense others. She’s rare, and the drug she makes is coveted.

Rho has spent the last few years on the run. The Lucidin that is racing through his system makes him a target. Surrounded by addicts and dealers on one side and scientists and doctors on the other, he has to rely on his wits and his team to stay one step ahead. So far he has stayed afloat, but some of his brothers haven’t been as lucky.

As Rho and Raleigh collide they must face the perilous world of Lucidin together. Nothing is black-and-white and Raleigh must decide where her alliances lie. Sometimes the hardest heart to sense is your own.

Rho took a long breath and sighed with relief. Unlike most prisons, his had no bars or locked gates. The drugs and fatigue were enough to trap him in his own body—but not for much longer. He would make his escape today. His captors were unlikely to lower the extraction and sedative dose any more than they just had, so he had to make his move. He would do it tonight, when the second team came to check on him.

Today was the first day in a long time that he was aware of each and every moment. He darted his eyes across the room. A small seagull was preening itself on the windowsill. One of the guards had once asked why there weren’t bars on the window. The answer was that the drop would likely kill Rho, and even if he survived the current would pull him under. Occasionally he’d heard people speaking in French, and he figured that he must be somewhere along the French coast.

Knowing that he could die while making his escape, he savored the hours. Part of him wanted to reflect on his life, but he pushed those thoughts out of his mind as soon as they arose. Those thoughts too closely resembled grieving, and he wasn’t about to grieve the life that he was fighting to save….

The sunset was particularly beautiful. Mauve and azure hues playfully painted his room, as though Mother Nature wasn’t aware of the suffering he endured. Maybe she was aware of his suffering—and glad to see it. After all, he was an affront to her.

Rho heard voices as the evening pair opened the door to his room. Of all the teams, Rho was most familiar with this one. These two talked the most, and the young man had once taken a phone call in the room, but he was swiftly reprimanded by the old man. The young, unsure little attendant asked a lot of questions, and although the old man seemed to be aggravated by his companion’s inquires, he always answered.

“The morning crew said he was doing poorly,” the old man said in a sure, deep voice.

“They turned down the machine again. He’s not giving us as much Lucid,” noted the young man as he retrieved the vials.

“From the look of his vitals, he’ll only last a few more days.”

“He’s going to die, isn’t he?” asked the young man. Despite his current job, he wasn’t the heartless kind.

“The world will be better off. He’s dangerous. They’re monsters…all of them. Don’t let his angelic looks fool you. He’s the devil.”

Rho wasn’t sure if the last part was true, but the part about him being dangerous certainly was.
Kate Tailor has a background in molecular biology, and pharmacology. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.  You will find Kate on the web at these links:
Kate's Website

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Odin's Child, by Bruce MacBain - Review

Odin’s Child, by Bruce MacBain
Book One of the Odd Tangle-Hair Saga
Published by:  Blank Slate Press, May 26, 2015
Genre: Historical
Pages: 452 Adobe Digital Editions reader
Source:  NetGalley

An old grudge erupts into violence as Odd Tangle-Hair refuses to back down from the men he believes shamed his father and betrayed their heritage by turning away from the old gods in favor of the White Christ. But when the violence escalates and Odd's family bears the brunt of it, he must leave his beloved Iceland behind and find his own way in the world.

The golden age of Viking conquest is fading when he takes to the seas, but this journey is full of adventures, and he meets priests and politicians as well as many unscrupulous men all too eager to take advantage of a young man abroad for the first time. Beautifully written, impeccably researched, and deeply rooted within the oral tradition of storytelling, Bruce MacBain has woven an evocative saga that will sweep readers into the past and plant them firmly in Odd's rapidly changing world.
I really savoured reading Odin’s Child, and there is much to savour as it is a long book, rich with Icelandic and Norse cultural and historical details.

Odin’s Child is the story of Odd Thorvald, a 16 year old Icelandic boy, in AD 1029. From the outset, the coming of the White Christ (Christianity) into Iceland is contentious, causing deep divisions within families, and provoking existing feuds. A good portion of the book is with young Odd and his family at home, their lives, and the social structure of the time, and dealing with this change.

A revenge killing that becomes politically complicated sends young Odd (aka Tangle-Hair) into exile across the northern landscape from Iceland, eventually to the shores of Russia. With some help, Odd brazenly steals the ship of an enemy to escape, and becomes a Viking adventurer.

The tale is told through Odd and his companions’ sailing travels, detailing the people and customs of those they come across in their travels. These are fascinating, if not always happy events.

MacBain cleverly weaves in the history of the times into Odd’s experiences, from being in battle with King Olaf of Norway to his strange incarceration with the Finns where he is beset with characters from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Odd is always clever and brave and scrapes through many a trial. When Odd reaches Russia, I was sad to see his story end as I’m very interested in Russian history and wanted to see what adventures he had there.

Odin’s Child is easy and clear reading, filled with cultural nuances that envelope the reader in Odd’s adventures and experiences. The sheer brutality of the times even seems naturally done, though it’s horrific to think that the way to revenge is through splitting your enemy’s skull in two with a hefty axe.

Because of the great attention to cultural and historical detail, I think this would make a great addition to any university’s Icelandic or Norse literature program.

To anyone interested in historical fiction centred on Icelandic and Norse traditions, this is not to be missed.

My thanks to the author and Blank Slate Press via NetGalley for a reading copy for the purposes of an unbiased review. Please visit Bruce MacBain at the following internet locations:

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Hot New Romance Releases June 12 !

Handpicked hot new romance releases for June 12
for the weekend!
Sherrilyn Kenyon readers get book 7 in The League series.
Donna Grant has published an exclusive four-part e-serial, Soul Scorched.
And Chrissy Peebles is a YA author with several titles in the Crush Saga.

Soul Scorched, (Part 1, Dark Kings)
By Donna Grant
Published June 9, 2015, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 80 pages

Part 1 in an exclusive four-part e-serial by NY Times best-selling author, Donna Grant.

Darcy was floating on a cloud of pure passion. Everywhere he touched, Warrick was leaving a mark on her, forever changing her.

Born on the Isle of Skye, Darcy is a beautiful woman of many gifts. Fortune-telling is her forte, and she remains the only Druid who could unlock the secrets and desires of a Dragon King. His name is Warrick. And now that Darcy's seen into his dragon heart, nothing will ever be the same...

Born of Defiance (The League: Nemesis Rising, Book 7)
By Sherrilyn Kenyon
Published May 12, 2015 by St. Martin’s Press, 527 pages paperback

Born an Outcast, Talyn Batur has spent the whole of his life fighting against the prejudice of his people. An Andarion without a father is not something anyone wants to be.

But when his companion's brother draws him into a plot against the Andarion crown, he finds himself torn between the loyalty to their planetary government that his mother has beaten into him and his own beliefs of justice and right.

Now, he must decide for himself to remain a pawn of their government or to defy everything and everyone he's ever known to stand up to tyranny. It's a gamble that will either save his life or end it. And when old enemies align with new ones, it's more than just his own life at risk. And more than just his home world that will end should he fail, in Born of Defiance, the next League novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon.

Conflicted (Book 6, The Crush Saga)
By Chrissy Peebles
Published June 9, 2015 by Dark Shadows Publishing,244 pages

Taylor deals with the aftermath of the millennium ceremony. As she fights to survive, her friends and family stay loyally at her side. Taylor is conflicted about her new condition and nobody knows how to help her. Is there hope for her? Can she survive? Or will her life spiral out of control? Especially when she is deemed Queen of the Immortals.

Book 1 is currently free!
Happy Reading!

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Heiress of Linn Hagh, by Karen Charlton - Review

The Heiress of Linn Hagh, by Karen Charlton
The Detective Lavender Mysteries, Book #1
Published by:  AmazonPublishing (Thomas & Mercer Imprint), June 9, 2015
Genre: Historical Mystery
Pages: 290 Kindle, Print 270
Source:  NetGalley

Northumberland, November 1809: A menacing figure stalks women through Hareshaw Woods and a beautiful young heiress disappears from her locked bedchamber at Linn Hagh. The townsfolk cry 'witchcraft' and the local constabulary are baffled.

Fearing for her safety, Helen Carnaby's worried uncle sends out for help from Bow Street magistrates' court in London. Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods now face their toughest and most dangerous case. The servants and the local gypsies won't speak to them. Helen's siblings are sly and uncooperative, and the sullen local farmers are about to take the law into their own hands.

Isolated in this beautiful but remote community, Lavender and Woods find themselves trapped in the middle of a simmering feud and are alarmed to discover a sinister world of madness and violence lurking behind the heavy oak door of the ancient pele tower of Linn Hagh. Helen Carnaby's disappearance is to prove one of the most perplexing mysteries of Lavender's career..

Why did Helen flee on that wintry October night? How did she get out of her locked bedchamber? And where is she now?

First published as "The Missing Heiress" by Knox Robinson Publishing, 2012.

I found The Heiress of Linn Hagh to be a very enjoyable period mystery novel.

The action begins somewhat sordidly in London, 1809, but soon we see Detective Lavender and Constable Woods traveling to Northumberland to solve the case of the mysteriously missing Helen Carnaby of Linn Hagh. Their long coach trip is plagued with attack by thieves but fortunately Lavender is quite astute and fellow traveler, beautiful Senora Morales, turns out to be a good hand with a pistol.

At Linn Hagh, Lavender and his side kick are confronted with the inexplicable disappearance of Helen Carnaby from behind her own locked and barred room door. As the detective and constable start their investigation, the reader starts to learn about the despicable Carnaby family, and various characters in the neighbourhood under suspicion. It’s interesting that the author owns up to being inspired to write the story on account of some of her own family’s ancestral legal documents.

Lavender and Woods make a very good team, and Lavender makes sure to leave Woods leeway in doing his work. They are both quite clever in how they gain the trust of the simple local people useful in figuring out the case. Woods is a wonderful character, and in fact has a greater warmth and expansiveness than Lavender’s reserved thoughtfulness. We could learn more about Lavender but I figure that will be coming out in future books.

Karen Charlton really brings us into the homes and lives of the people of 1809 Northumberland, with just the right touch of the speech of the times without overwhelming the reader, and various glimpses into society folk, church going, farmers, and gypsies or faws that are camped around the town. I felt like I had a really good look at what it must have been like in a small town in 1809. I was also interested to learn about the Pele Tower of Linn Hagh.

This is the first book in a promising series. If you like mysteries with an element of atmospheric moodiness, you will be delighted with this very enjoyable read. In the end, even the Spanish Senora gets a reward of her own!

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and has published numerous short stories, articles, and reviews. She lives in the north of England and is writing the next Detective Lavender mystery for Thomas & Mercer. 

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Choices, by J.L. McFadden - Review

Choices, by J.L. McFadden
The Guardian series, #3
Published by: J.L. McFadden on CreateSpace Independent, January 20, 2015
Pages:  110 pages PDF, 200 paperback
Genre: Paranormal, Romance
Source:  Xpresso Book Tours

After so much more loss, Adela finds herself in the middle of a love triangle and in a fight for control of the vampire covens.

Adela and John both have their fair share of choices to make. Adela must think of her coven, but at the same time she feels a burning desire for her great, great niece’s (Gala) Guardian, John. She is torn because though fate has blessed Gala with a Guardian that is connected to her by mother earth to protect her, Gala rejects him. John is torn between the woman he is fated to protect, and Adela.

The search for the secret Guardian Journal leads both vampires and vampire hunter on an incredible chase, with a tumultuous ending.
Choices is a surprising read; however, there is a language issue I address after all the good stuff first.

At the opening scene, we find Adela, a powerful ancestral vampire, in a castle picking her way through the remnants of a tremendous battle that was waged at the end of book two, Adela.

And we are introduced to a world where vampires are protected by werewolf Guardians against first-born (or ancient) vampires. Included in this fascinating ancient lore are Druids, the first-born vampires that hark back to before Babylonian times, amulets, forbidden knowledge, and hidden libraries that all give this book fabulous atmosphere.

The story continues to Adela’s upcoming battle to keep the vampire covens under control from destroying humanity, and organizing Gala (family) and John (Gala’s guardian) to help her with this task.

There are some very interesting relationships here. For one, Adela, a vampire, is on good terms with a vampire hunter (Priest is a member of the Order of Hunters), and they have great respect for each other on account of past events.

Priest is a fabulous character and I thought he really matched Adele in all ways. I haven’t read the other books in the series, but from what I can see, there isn’t a book on Priest and his story alone. I hope JL McFadden will write his story! Priest is mortal, and a vampire hunter with astonishing powers whose entire order has just been wiped out and he is the last of his kind. Yet he teams up with a vampire (his life’s enemy) to search for the Guardian Journal in a hidden library using all his extraordinary skills.

I really liked the emotional quality of Choices, and how many of the characters care for each other. And there is a really delicious sense of some facets of being a vampire. There is lots of kick-ass action, and even an exquisitely hideous torture scene to round out the ending.

I felt that some elements of the book need a bit better fleshing out. I wanted to see more about how Adela controls the vampire covens as we see her visit only one of them. Gala and John visit another, but the overall issue doesn’t have a clear sense of being dealt with. And while Hannah and Priest make it into a hidden library, I didn’t get a good finish on whether what they found in the library would help either the vampires or hunters.

I think this is a wonderful book but I’ve rated it 3 stars because to me it seems that the author’s mother tongue is possibly not English, or there is some other complication. So, we have words misspelled with incorrect forms (“soul” when correct form I believe intended is “sole”, etc.), and irregular and confusing sentence structure that makes story events sometimes difficult to work out. I read the entire book, but it took me some effort to sort things out at times. I would suggest a reworking with an English mother tongue editor/writer who will also really hone in on the wonderful European flavour as this is an interesting, emotional story.  Please see below for author links:

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hot New Romance Releases from Amazon June 4

I’m introducing a new feature today, Hot New Romance Releases from Amazon. I wanted to get a better overview of new books that are just fresh off the press across several of the romance categories and hope you will join me for these random blog posts.

When Darkness Ends (Guardians of Eternity #12)
By Alexandra Ivy
(Abridged) Cyn, the vampire clan chief of Ireland, is furious when he is transported from the magical land of the pure-blooded feys to his desolate, private lair – only to have his very existence thrown into a chaos that even he cannot charm his way out of…

Fallon, a sharp-witted fairy princess, is less than beguiled by the silver-tongued vampire. She has no times for his games – especially when they learn that someone is trying to close the veil that separates the dimensions. Seduction may prove the most powerful force of all as attraction ignites between the unlikely pair even as worlds are colliding around them.

The Beast of Bath: A wicked Regency Fairytale (a novella)
By Chasity Bowlin
                         (Abridged) Lord Victor Mayhew, Viscount Norcross, lives in the shadows, hiding his scarred face from those who would fear him… or worse, pity him. While traversing the city in the dark of night, he encounters a beautiful woman who is running for her life.

While Lord Norcross carefully keeps his face concealed from Lady Thessaly Shade, he cannot hide the fact that he is a man of honour. With no way to repay him for his kindness and courage, she bargains with the only thing of value she possesses… herself. Can she convince him to trust her, and to believe that she can see beyond the scars he bears to the man he is?

The Beautiful Sacrifice (The Maddox Brothers #3)
By Jamie McGuire
Falyn Fairchild can walk away from anything. Having already left her car, her education, and even her parents, the daughter of the next governor of Colorado is back in her hometown, broke and waiting tables for the Bucksaw Café. After every shift, Falyn adds to her shoebox of cash, hoping to one day save enough to buy a plane ticket to the only place she can find forgiveness: Eakins, Illinois.

The moment Taylor Maddox is seated in Falyn’s section at the Bucksaw, she knows he’s trouble. Taylor is charming, breaks promises, and is gorgeous even when covered in filth – making him everything that Falyn believes a hotshot firefighter to be. But Falyn isn’t interested in becoming another statistic and for a Maddox boy, a disinterested girl is the ultimate challenge.

In the end, Maddox’s persistence is met with Falyn’s talent for leaving and for the first time, Taylor may be the one to get burned.
Happy Reading!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Descent, by Tara Fuller - Review

Descent, by Tara Fuller
Kissed by Death #3
Published by: Entangled: Teen, June 2, 2015
Pages:  Adobe Digital Editions 272 pages, Paperback 320 pages
Genre: Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Entangled Publishing, NetGalley

Easton doesn’t believe in love. He believes in Death. Darkness. Sin. As a reaper for Hell, it’s all he’s known for over 400 years. When he gets slapped with training the boss’ daughter, an angel who knows nothing but joy, he knows he’s in for a world of trouble.

When the dangers of Hell threaten Gwen, Easton will do whatever it takes to save her. But as the darkness closes in on them both, will he be able to save himself?
I love this unusual scenario of Angel of Joy and Reaper for Hell! The pairing is very unlikely but Tara Fuller writes it in a believable way. It helps that angel Gwen has an unquenchable need to ‘fix’ Easton. I want to give this a 3.75 but there are some really sweet moments between Gwen and Easton so it has to be a 4.0.

Gwen is kind of an odd angel in that she wants to experience more than just her angelic joy. When one of her human charges accidentally gets taken to Hell, she’s determined to get him out. She’s foolishly, but outstandingly, brave in descending into the pits of Hell, but at least she picks the right guy to bring her there – Easton!

Easton is a cool guy/reaper and doesn’t take guff from anyone, though he’s a bit moody.  He even has a conscience about having to bring Gwen down into Hell, but he pretty much has no choice when Balthazar, Gwen’s father and Easton’s boss, commands him. I also think he punishes himself unnecessarily for his own past but then maybe it’s Gwen’s role to bring him out of it.

It's interesting that when they touch, part of their elemental natures (misery versus joy) seep into each other, starting to create a better balance.

The author rotates the POV between both Gwen and Easton, and I liked seeing what they’re both thinking. The growing attachment between them is well timed and sweet. Amazingly Easton is willing to endure hellish pain for Gwen, and she for him, showing their growing feelings for each other.

Their journey into Hell is well done with torturous misery at every turn, and various unsavoury characters.

Overall, I was still looking for a little more depth, but Descent is very entertaining and I think Easton will be the next book boyfriend hottie! Unexpected ending.

My favourite quote on Page 125:
“Your jokes are terrible,” he finally said.
I shrugged, resting my chin on my knees. “I like them.”
“So do I,” he said. “But then again, I’m kind of wired to enjoy terrible things.”

Tara Fuller writes novels of teen angst, and kissing. You will find her on the web here:

Thank you to Entangled Publishing for a NetGalley reading copy for the purposes of a review.