Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Tea Rose Book Review

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

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East London, 1888 - a city apart. A place of shadow and light where thieves, whores, and dreamers mingle, where children play in the cobbled streets by day and a killer stalks at night, where bright hopes meet the darkest truths.

Here, by the whispering waters of the Thames, a bright and defiant young woman dares to dream of a life beyond tumbledown wharves, gaslit alleys, and the grim and crumbling dwellings of the poor.

Fiona Finnegan, a worker in a tea factory, hopes to own a shop one day, together with her lifelong love, Joe Bristow, a costermonger's son. With nothing but their faith in each other to spur them on, Fiona and Joe struggle, save, and sacrifice to achieve their dreams.

But Fiona's dreams are shattered when the actions of a dark and brutal man take from her nearly everything - and everyone - she holds dear. Fearing her own death at the dark man's hands, she is forced to flee London for New York. There, her indomitable spirit - and the ghosts of her past - propel her rise from a modest west side shopfront to the top of Manhattan's tea trade.

Fiona's old ghosts do not rest quietly, however, and to silence them, she must venture back to the London of her childhood, where a deadly confrontation with her past becomes the key to her future.

Review by Brittany:

Donnelly is an author that I've never read before, but she will easily become a new favorite of mine. This book was beautifully done. I loved how the author stuck to the accents each character had, adjusting her writing to illustrate those. This is an author who writes delicious sentences and descriptions, and this book is one I enjoyed falling into.

I also loved the story, although it was often so heartbreaking that I couldn't help but feel sorry for Fiona. She lived a tough life. Growing up poor and eventually left to her own devices because of tragedy after tragedy, Fiona still manages to make something of herself and to reach her dreams. The author used Jack the Ripper as a way to move the plot forward and took creative liberties to tie him into her story. I loved this part of the book. Jack intrigues me, and as a villain he is most definitely a scary one. While the story was high on drama, I never felt like any of it was too wildly unbelievable. Each tragedy and success that Fiona experienced seemed plausible, although I often wished for a little more happiness for her. In the end, the story does work out, although there are many hardships on the way.

The characters in this novel were all well done. My favorite was probably Nick, a man Fiona encounters on her way to New York who becomes a rock for her throughout the beginning of her new life there. Nick is often funny and cares about Fiona to a degree that almost no one else in the book does. He supports her in all endeavors that she undertakes, and who doesn't want a best friend like that? Michael, Fiona's uncle, was an interesting character, often funny because of his developing paternal feelings toward Fiona. Although many of Fiona's family is lost early in the book, those characters are also given a certain livelihood that sets them apart, a testament to the skills of development on Donnelly's part.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. It's sizable but quite worth it. There's enough story to keep the reader interested, and it's so beautifully done that it's a world readers won't want to leave.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Twisted Webs Book Review

Twisted Webs by Darlene Quinn


The stunningly beautiful and elegant Ashleigh Taylor gives birth to twin daughters while she's in Long Beach visiting her father figure, Charles Stuart, the founder of Bentley's Royale. Hours later, a parent's worst nightmare occurs: Cassie is kidnapped. Twisted Webs unravels the mystery of the abduction of Callie's identical twin. With the same drama, tension, and high style that hooked readers of Webs of Power, the author invites loyal fans and readers new to the series to step into this provocative sequel set in the 1990s. There is plenty going on to keep them turning pages all the way to the end.

Review by Brittany:

I requested a copy of this novel off of NetGalley for review purposes.

I did read the first book, and one thing I was excited about for this book was learning more about Ashleigh as a character. I enjoyed reading about her and the way she dealt with losing one of her children. The book spans over 8 years and consistently revisits Ashleigh's feelings and experiences. She was extremely positive, more so than I think would be realistic in the situation, which allowed for a happy ending for the book.

I also enjoyed reading about the life of the abducted twin, Marnie. The author built her world, making the reader empathetic towards the kidnappers. I thought it was interesting that the author made Marnie's mother deteriorate a bit at the end of the book, thereby giving her an opportunity to meet her biological parents.

Overall, I didn't think this book was very realistic, but I still enjoyed reading it. There was information about Bentley's and it revisited the takeover of Consolidated that was the focus of the first book. Other characters from the first book also got a revisit in this one, which I liked. I will be reading the next in the series.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Blameless Book Review

Blameless by Gail Carriger


Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about preternaturals to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires - and they're armed with pesto.

Review by Brittany:

This is the third in the Parasol Protectorate series, and I enjoyed this one as much as the other two. The writing style follows the same pattern as the other books, with characters speaking in a dialogue appropriate for the indicated time period but also utilizes humor to keep the reader interested.

One basis for this novel was that Alexia wanted to learn more about her pregnancy and how it's possible. Although she does travel to Italy and meet some folks along the way who believe it's possible, I didn't feel like I learned much about her or her pregnancy. I hope that this part of the story develops more as the series continues.

I did enjoy reading about Conall's depression after Alexia left him. While the author made the experience a bit humorous, I think she also did well with illustrating how deeply his feelings for Alexia run and how important their relationship is to him. In the end, when he comes to his senses and goes back to her, her relief is palpable and illustrates her feelings for him as well. Their relationship is one that is quirky and believable, and Carriger has done a fantastic job of maintaining the relationship throughout the books.

I'm also enjoying the development of Madame Lefoux throughout the series. She's an interesting character and an intelligent woman who is quickly becoming one of my favorites in this series. I missed having scenes with Lord Akeldama in this book as he spends most of it outside of London.

Overall, this book is a wonderful addition to the series. I'm looking forward to continuing on!

Notable quotes:

Trying to understand one's own emotions was a grueling business.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Facing Evil Book Review

Facing Evil by Kylie Brant


A serial attacker is locked up, and his murderous accomplice has been gunned down. But the true mastermind behind their lethal reign of terror still hasn't been taken in or taken down, so the harrowing case of the Cornbelt Killers isn't closed - and one murderous woman is determined to keep it that way. The only thing more important to her than evading capture is hunting down her hit list of enemies, topped by Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation agent Cam Prescott and forensic psychologist Sophia Channing.

Faced with an opponent both quick-witted and cold-blooded, Cam and Sophia must scramble to keep up with this horrifying new threat. Little do they realize that in this game of cat and mouse, they're lambs being led to the slaughter.

Review by Brittany:

This is the third in the Circle of Evil trilogy, and I received a free copy on Net Galley per my request. After reading the first and second, I knew I had to pick this one up.

This book wraps up the search for the final Cornbelt Killer. As in Brant's previous novels in this series, her villain, Vickie, is genuinely scary. Here's a woman who thrives off pain and feels absolutely no remorse for the things that she has done to other people. Her complete lack of conscience and sense of responsibility is off-putting and makes her an interesting villain.

Vickie utilizes revenge as a factor in why she chooses her victims, making Sophia a major target. She blames Sophia for the death of her son and partner crime. In an extremely creepy way, Vickie is creative in how she chooses to send men after Sophia. There are also allusions to explosives and her plans to use those on Cam. Her desire for revenge is what drives this final book.

Cam also revisits his undercover FBI task force in this book. This allows him to wrap up a piece of his story line that has been mentioned throughout all three books. It also gives the author an opportunity to reinforce Sophia's feelings for Cam.

Overall, I thought this was a good final book for the series. It wrapped things up nicely and completed the story lines it was meant to.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Webs of Power Book Review

Webs of Power by Darlene Quinn


Webs of Power is a raw, unsentimental portrayal of greed, manipulation, and relationships set in the excessive, insatiable retail industry of the 1980s. When a hostile takeover of the retail giant Consolidated is announce, the lives of three determined women, each linked to the corporate upheaval, are unexpectedly thrown off course: Paige Toddman's marriage to Consolidated's West Coast Division CEO is threatened when she decides to step out of her fast-paced lifestyle to raise the unwanted child she is carrying, a choice driven by her secret past. The fabric of Ashleigh McDowell's life begins to fray when her fiance, the president of Consolidated's West Coast Division, moves away and her father figure faces a lawsuit that could wipe out his controlling shares of the company's stock. Vain and power hungry, Viviana De Mornay will stop at nothing to become the wife of the man leading the takeover. Webs of Power is a thrilling real-world drama with dynamic characters who find the courage to drastically reshape their lives in the face of crises and the twists of fate.

Review by Brittany:

I requested this book on NetGalley because the cover and blurb sounded interesting to me. The blurb of this book reminded me of another book I read recently, so I was in the right mindset to jump into this one.

The pacing of it was a bit of a problem for me. The book got really bogged down in the business side details, which was hard for me to keep up with at times. There were a lot of technical terms and I don't understand the process of a buyout well enough to keep up with it.

I did enjoy the parts of the novel that focused on the women and the repercussions to each of them. Viviana and Paige both had stories that interested me. Ashleigh's story in the book spiraled a bit out of control, and it reached a point where it was almost too crazy for me to enjoy. In future books, I hope that her story calms down a bit. I think there's potential for her; I just felt overwhelmed by some of the things that happened to her. Viviana was probably my favorite. She's greedy and focused on what she wants out of life - which circles largely around power and money - and there was something about her that intrigued me. I would like to read more about her in future books in the series.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I would have liked more focus to be on characters and pacing to be a bit better, but I do think this series has potential and I plan to continue reading.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Forbidden Places Book Review

Forbidden Places by Penny Vincenzi


Forbidden Places is about love and marriage, families and secrets, and about wartime and what it does to every accepted social value. It is a story of three women and one family.

One is married and widowed within five years. She is free to start again. Or is she? The second has a perfect husband she thinks she loves. He becomes a grotesque parody of what he once was. Is that real love? The third becomes trapped in a nightmare marriage. Can the war free her?

Review by Brittany:

I'm a huge fan of Vincenzi, and this one didn't disappoint.

As is the author's trademark, this novel focuses primarily on one family, the Bennetts, an upper class British family into which Grace marries. Grace is of a lower class, a situation that causes her some issues throughout the marriage. Florence, Grace's sister-in-law, and Clarissa, a good friend of the Bennetts, serve as the other two main characters in this novel. I love how Vincenzi takes many different characters and puts the focus on all of them, making the reader get emotionally attached to them all. I was drawn in to each woman's life and had genuine feelings about what would happen to them.

This book takes place primarily during World War II, a time period that I love to read about. With the men gone, the women work toward learning how to run the world on their own. They also all struggle with wanting to serve a purpose and play a part in the war effort, sometimes in opposition of what their husbands want. Vincenzi does well with illustrating how complex of a time that must have been.

While there are definite traits of Vincenzi's that are clear in this book, I was surprised by how hoard some it was to read. There is domestic violence, miscarriages, adultery, and a near rape sprinkled throughout the book. Some parts were incredibly difficult to read about, more so than in previous novels I've read. This book also seemed to be a bit more sexually graphic than other novels by this author. That being said, I didn't feel that any of this took away from the novel.

Overall, this is another fantastic novel by this author. I was pulled into the story and emotionally attached to all of the characters that Vincenzi wrote about. If you like this time period or are already a fan of Vincenzi, definitely pick this one up.

Notable quotes:

Her nervousness, her anxiety had vanished in the sunshine, in the carefree extravagance of her day; she wished she could stay for longer, safe from reality.

"...I don't like this," and she meant not just the parting from one another, but the way their lives had parted too, and he understood while pretending he did not...

It was all very well at the moment, everyone being matey - or pretending to be - with everyone else, but it was a false situation, a false premise.

...thinking even as she spoke how horribly easy it was to sort other people's lives out, to find simple answers, how impossible to do that to your own.

The changes in her over the past few years had been profound. She really hardly knew who she was at all any more. And certainly not who she was supposed to be.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Girl with No Past Book Review

The Girl with No Past by Kathryn Croft

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Twenty years running from your past. Today it catches up.

Leah Mills lives the life of a fugitive - kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until - longing for a connection - she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life.

Then, on the twentieth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won't stop until they've destroyed the life Leah has created.

But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?

Review by Brittany:

I requested a copy of this book through NetGalley because the description of the book sounded interesting to me.

One of my favorite things about this book is how it keeps the reader in suspense. Throughout the story, the reader is aware that Leah, the main character, has a past she wants to hide from. She alludes to it constantly, using her past and the things she’s done as a way to explain why she has a low key job, a small, empty flat, and no friends or significant other. When she starts getting harassed by someone who is aware of what she’s done, the intrigue goes up a notch. I did like how Croft switched between the present and the past to eventually lead the reader to the events of Leah’s past that she’s trying to stop thinking about.

I also really loved the ending, the very last chapter. It was an interesting twist to the story and explained more of Leah’s personality than any other single chapter in the book. It also explained more of why Leah was carrying quite so much guilt.

I did think the writing was a bit choppy and the “villain” of the book was a little disappointing, but this doesn’t take away from the suspense or the enjoyment of the book as a whole.

Overall, I thought this was a really good book. The plot was suspenseful and interesting, and the author threw in enough twists to keep it from being predictable.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Gold Club Book Review

The Gold Club by David Haskell

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Ted Ward has had enough. He's sick of getting passed over by the Sahara corporation, tired of being Mr. Nice Guy all the time, and fed up with a life of endless drudgery. Determined to line his own pockets for once, Ted doles out preferential treatment to select Sahara clients and turns his cubicle into a lucrative, members-only gold club.

Ted's club launches members out of obscurity and into the limelight. But when Sahara's CEO Dennis Hamm schemes to disrupt Ted's VP club and make off with the profits, can Ted escape financial devastation and achieve his dream?

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing I noticed about this novel is that it has some humor in it that caught me off guard. Ted is a bit of a funny character, and this author throws in little stabs of humor throughout the book.

This book also delves deeply into the Gold Club that Ted is building. It outlines his plan on how to make money and the ways he abuses the system to give clients certain privileges. As his operation grows, he needs to incorporate more people, and this author did well with breaking down what type of people would be needed to hold up each end of the operation. The knowledge displayed seemed right on point and continued that way throughout the entire novel. There was also good suspense and some action at the end to appease those looking for a thrilling crime novel.

One area in which I felt the book was lacking was in character and relationship development. Aside from very shallow and basic characterization, the author does not give the reader much to go on. I didn't feel like I knew anything about the characters or the relationships they were building, so I didn't get attached to characters or care about them. This is something that I look for in books I read, so I would have liked to have seen more of this. There was a character death in the book that would have had more impact had the author done more development of his characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It's not one that's going to make you love characters or draw you in emotionally, but it's an interesting take on what success can do to people and how corporations could manipulate that success.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Touching Evil Book Review

Touching Evil by Kylie Brant

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Forensic psychologist Sophia Channing nearly lost her life to a serial killer. Fortunately, her own quick thinking - and Division of Criminal Investigation agent Cam Prescott's efforts - rescued her from a horrifying fate. Together, Sophia and Cam jailed the sadistic predator and closed the case on his reign of terror.

But when teenagers make a gruesome discovery in the Iowa woods, Sophia and Cam realize they've only scratched the surface of an evil that runs even deeper and deadlier than one madman's twisted desires. And they don't come more twisted than the killer known as the Zombie Lover: Vance's mystery accomplice, who's still at large and stacking up bodies. With the law snapping at his heels and private demons screaming in his head, the Zombie Lover is hell-bent on carrying out a desperate, double-edged mission. He's determined to terminate Sophia, then target medical examiner Lucy Benally, who he's vowed to make his own...dead or alive.

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this novel on Net Galley per my request. After reading and reviewing the first book, I knew that I was going to thoroughly enjoy continuing this series. This is not a new series; however, the book is being re-released with editorial changes and updated Kindle covers.

This book picks up where the first one left off, so I do think it's important to read the first one before jumping into this one. While the author did not make that a necessity, I do think it will enhance the reading experience.

As with the first book, Brant creates a villain that gives me the heebies. He is appropriately scary and his fetish for corpses is enough to turn me off of him. His insane rants and the discovery of his permanent marker journal entries on his living room wall gave me insight into this monster, and it was enough to scare me. The idea of real people being like this is almost too much to contemplate, which is how I know that Brant did a fabulous job.

This book also develops the relationship between Cam and Sophia. While the first book revisited their previous dalliance, this book opens up the opportunity for something real to develop between them, and I found myself rooting for the success of a relationship for them. This book also gives more of an in-depth look at Lucy Benally, an ME that the reader was introduced to in the first book, and shows a flash of a personal relationship that might be developing for her as well. I love how this author takes the time to develop her characters and their lives outside of the case that they are working on.

The end of this book leaves a bit of a cliffhanger after delivering two major plot twists, setting up the third book in the trilogy. I enjoyed this one as much as the first one. Brant has done a fantastic job of creating creepy, believable villains, while also developing real characters to be the good guys. I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy and getting some closure for all of these characters.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Given: Celestial Blues 3 Book Review

The Given: Celestial Blues 3 by Vicki Pettersson


After learning his wife survived the attack that killed him fifty years earlier, angel/PI Griffin Shaw is determined to find Evelyn Shaw, no matter the cost. Yet his obsession comes at a price. Grif has had to give up his burgeoning love for reporter Katherine "Kit" Craig, the woman who made life worth living again, and dedicate himself to finding one he no longer knows.

Yet when Grif is attacked again, it becomes clear that there are forces in both the mortal and heavenly realm who'd rather see him dead than unearth the well-buried secrets of his past. If he's to survive his second go-round on the Surface, Grif will have to convince Kit to reunite with him professionally, and help uncover decades of police corruption, risking both their lives...and testing the limits to what one angel is really willing to give for love.

Review by Brittany:

Love this cover! This entire series has beautiful covers, which is one of the reasons I was first attracted to the trilogy.

This installment rounds out this trilogy. In this one, Grif finally finds out what happened to him and solves the mysteries surrounding his past. This book does follow up on the twist at the end of the second one regarding Evie.

I was a bit disappointed by how this book made Evie into a villain. The events surrounding Grif's death were not as he thought they were, and this made Evie a bit of a bad guy. Grif's memories of her up to this point led me to believe she was wonderful and almost perfect, but the reality was different. Although I can appreciate that the author used this technique because isn't this true to life?

This book did have a bit of twist ending, part of which surprised me and part of which didn't. The ending does wrap up the mystery of Grif's death and leaves the reader with a satisfactory ending for Kit and Grif's relationship.

Overall, this book does a nice job of finishing the trilogy. While it isn't my favorite in the trilogy, I do recommend it to those who are already invested in these books.

Notable quotes:

Funny how the dearest memories could evoke the exact opposite reaction in people.

"...men are tough, but women have a ruthlessness to them that I don't think I'll ever understand."

"His whole life. Like a trench coat laid across a water puddle, he just put it out there for her to walk on."

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Immortal Circus: Act Two Book Review

The Immortal Circus: Act Two by A. R. Kahler


Vivienne is almost content with her new life in the Cirque des Immortels. She has moved up from selling cotton candy to telling fortunes, she has a gorgeous, magical boyfriend, Kingston...and no one has been murdered since the clash between the otherworldly Courts. Her life under the faerie big top would be perfect, in fact, if not for the nightmares and visions that compel her to seek and confront her half-remembered past. But for Viv, not knowing her past may well be a blessing. There's a reason she ran away. But can she truly escape herself?

Review by Brittany:

I read and enjoyed - and reviewed - the first in this series, so buying Act Two was a no-brainer for me.

This story is supposed to be about a magical circus, but about half of this installment does not take place at the circus. Instead, there is more focus on the different faerie Courts and what both Mab and Oberon - the Queen of the Winter Court and the King of the Summer Court - want with Vivienne.

One thing that was lacking from the first Act was answers to the mysteries of Vivienne's past. This book explores more of what she went through and why she ran to the circus, under the contention that her memory would be erased. More importantly, this book also explains why Vivienne is such an important player for both sides.

This book made me fall in love with Mab a little more. She's a character that intrigues me so much, largely because all of the other characters essentially fear her. She is also the most cunning of all the characters, understanding how to manipulate people and her surroundings to put herself in a prime position of power. There's something about her that leaves me in awe, even though I'm not really supposed to love the villain. I look forward to reading more about Mab in the Final Act, which I have already purchased.

I'm still not sold on the fey as supernatural creatures. For me, they just aren't my favorite, although this author has done a great job of making them more interesting to me. For those who are interested in supernatural stories, this series is a good choice. I would not recommend reading this one if you have not read the first, though.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Changeless Book Review

Changeless by Gail Carriger


Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears - leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. Even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can.

She might even find time to track down her wayward husband - if she feels like it.

Review by Brittany:

This is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series, and I read and reviewed the first so jumped into the second with high expectations.

Similar to the first book, this one had a certain writing style that fit the time period, so I had to adjust to the style when I picked this one up. I think the style works well for the novel, though, and after just a few pages it was easy to get back into the flow of it.

This novel was a little more risque than the first one. The author makes many more allusions - some not so subtle - to the intimacies of Alexia and Conall in their married relationship. As readers of the first book know, Lord Akeldama is a vampire of a certain sexual preference, and this book introduces another character with a certain preference. This isn't an overtly huge theme in the book, merely a characterizing detail.

The big reveal at the end of this book was fairly predictable. The author gives enough clues to explain why the supernatural set are unable to change that the reader figures it out before the characters in the novel. There's a certain appeal to this, but it also means that the reader isn't surprised. The "villain" in the book is also pretty predictable by the end of the story. This doesn't detract from the story, although I would have liked to have been a bit more surprised by the big climax.

The very ending of the book leaves a bit of a cliffhanger for Alexia and Conall's personal relationship. It also introduces the idea that Alexia might be studied for scientific purposes because of her preternatural state. These two events open up some possible story lines, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Overall, this is a series that I do recommend, if paranormal is an interest of yours. I would recommend starting with the first book to make a more seamless reading experience.

Notable quotes:

"We all become what we are taught to be."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

You Will Never Find Me Book Review

You Will Never Find Me by Robert Wilson


Amy Boxer, the precocious daughter of London kidnap consultant Charles Boxer and Detective Inspector Mercy Danquah, has drifted from melancholy and frustration to drastic action: she's leaving home. But Amy can't just walk out, and goads the talents of her parents with a challenge: YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME.

Amy's destination: Madrid. Here, in the strobe-lights of bars and crowded dance clubs, she's anonymous and untraceable. Except to a volatile, unpredictable leader in the Madrid drug trade, the man known only as El Osito.

Charles Boxer will use his very specific set of skills to retrace Amy's quickly vanishing steps, while DI Danquah takes on her own case in London: a young boy, Sasha Bobkov, has gone missing. Is the disappearance connected to Sasha's father, a retired agent of the Russian secret service, who is working to discover who poisoned his former fellow agent, Alexander Tereshchenko.

As Danquah begins her search for Sasha, a body is found in Madrid. Amy's father may be the next target.

Review by Brittany:

I won a free copy of this book on Goodreads, entering because the blurb interested me.

I didn't realize that this was the second in a series featuring Charles Boxer, but that did not impact my reading experience at all. There is limited character development for both Boxer and Mercy, but I didn't feel shortchanged or as if the author might have given that information in the previous book.

This book jumps right into Amy leaving home, leaving her parents in the dark about where she's going and stunned at her leaving. Boxer is a kidnap consultant, so finding people is what he does and what he's good at. He goes on a search for Amy, which the reader stays up to date on, while also getting information about El Osito, the dangerous drug leader. El Osito is clearly a villain, and the author wrote him to be one that has no redeeming qualities. He's smart but vicious, a dangerous combination.

The action in this story kept me reading, both with Amy's case and with the case that Mercy takes on. There are constant developments being made, and about halfway into the book, there's a twist that alters the course of the story. I thought this author did a great job of keeping me hooked on what was happening.

Something interesting about this book is that I felt like I got more character development for the villains than the main characters. Boxer and Mercy both just are the way they are, and there's really not much development to help the reader understand their personalities or to care about them too much. But the author took time to develop El Osito - which makes the reader hate and fear him - and other criminals that are introduced in Amy's case. There is one villain in particular who I couldn't help but feel a little bit of affection for because of the way he was written.

My one complaint about this book is that there is a lot of discussion about the Russian government that I found confusing. It was a lot of information that came out at once, which left me feeling a little overwhelmed. This is not a knock on the author, merely more of a personal preference and based on my limited prior knowledge on what the author was talking about.

Overall, I think this book is one worth reading. The suspense is good, the villains are good, and the twist was one that I personally didn't see coming. I definitely recommend to those who like a good crime novel.

Notable quotes:

"It's a messy business being human."

"You only ever know about yourself, and most people don't know that much, and it's in a constantly shifting state, rarely still for long enough to be analysed."

"We talked about everything except the thing that was always just out of reach."

Grief is essentially a selfish emotion. It's inspired by the loss of others, but it's private and deeply personal. No one but the individual experiencing it can understand its power...

Isabel wanted to ask about those secrets, but she also didn't want any answers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Aquarium Book Review

Aquarium by David Vann


Twelve year old Caitlin lives alone with her mother - a docker at the local container port - in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

This book was interesting. The first thing that sticks out to me is the formatting. The dialogue was hard to follow at first because of a lack of quotation marks to differentiate between exposition and dialogue. This book also included pictures of the fish that Caitlin was observing during different parts of the books, a neat addition to the book that puts the reader right into the story.

I'm not sure if I liked this book or not. I did feel compelled to finish it, but that may have been largely due to the fact that I was hoping for the story to improve. I mostly felt sorry for Caitlin. About halfway through the book, the story takes a turn that made me despise her mother. I had that horrifying feeling of wondering why in the world some people have children. Caitlin's mother was awful to her from the middle to the end of the book.

Caitlin also formed a bit of a weird attachment to one of her school friends. The development of this relationship made me a bit uncomfortable and felt a bit unnecessary to the main theme of the book. I also thought Caitlin's teacher was made out to be superbly incompetent based on what happened in his classroom, another addition to the story that I felt was unnecessary.

Overall, it's hard to say that I would recommend this book. It's definitely not a happy story, but there's something almost horrifyingly compelling about it that made me continue to the end.

Friday, October 2, 2015

One Wish in Manhattan Book Review

One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot


With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there's more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish - to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfill her daughter's wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there's something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true - could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn't just about filling the minutes...it's about making every moment count.

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this book through Net Galley at my request for review purposes. I requested this book because the cover is gorgeous and immediately appealed to me.

This is a lighthearted Christmas book, one that you know is going to have a happy ending and wrap up nicely at the end, which it did. This book had a nice cast of characters, all of whom are likable. I really enjoyed reading about Dean and Vernon, Hayley's brother and his partner. Although their relationship isn't explored in depth, I loved reading about them and the way they interacted with one another. Hayley and Oliver are also given good dialogue together, which helps develop the relationship.

Angel is my favorite character though. She is smart and quirky, and she's the character who is given the most personality in the book. She loves to rattle off random facts about America since she is from the UK. She was written to be a very neat kid, and I loved reading about her.

Overall, this book is just a fun, lighthearted read. If you're looking for something to curl up with during the Christmas season, this one is a good choice.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chasing Evil Book Review

Chasing Evil by Kylie Brant

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There's nothing strange about bodies buried in cemeteries - unless they don't belong there. And when six murdered women are discovered in other people's grave, the hunt for a sadistic serial killer begins before he can claim a seventh victim.

Agent Cam Prescott of Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation is leading the search alongside forensic psychologist Sophia Channing, who knows the minds of psychopaths inside and out. And after a brief but passionate affair, she knows Cam almost as well. What she doesn't know is that her high-profile involvement in the case has caught the twisted predator's eye - and sparked his fury.

When Sophia suddenly vanishes, Cam and his team shift into overdrive to keep horrific history from repeating itself. But for Sophia, being trapped in the same isolated lair where so much innocent blood has been spilled may get her inside her vicious captor's head - and may offer her the only chance she has to escape an agonizing and lethal fate.

Review by Brittany:

I received a free copy of this book by requesting it on Net Galley. The cover is what initially caught my attention, but the blurb also interested me as I'm a fan of crime novels. This edition is a re-release, with a new cover and editorial changes.

Brant is not an author I'm familiar with, but I was really impressed by her writing. The book sounded like she had done all of her research very well, and the suspense in the book kept me hanging on to the very last page. The author also used the book to detail Sophia and Cam's short affair, which added a little something extra to the book. It helped me understand Cam's motivation for rescuing Sophia, but it also has me wondering if that side of things will continue throughout the trilogy.

The villain in the book was definitely scary. The author did a great job of creating a volatile, horrifying man to play the role on the criminal in this book. He was described as being a muscular weight lifter with an unpredictable temper, enough to be scary without the underlying issues he has when it comes to harming his victims. I was scarily impressed with the character that the author created.

I also thought the development of the case was well done. There are false starts and little tidbits that the DCI has to follow up on, utilizing the assistance of local police departments. I don't know enough about the processes to have an informed opinion, but I felt like the entire case was believable and moved along at a realistic pace.

The end of the book leaves the reader with a new development in the case and a bit of a cliffhanger. I do think this one could be picked up and read on its own, but I know that I will be following up with the trilogy. I think any reader that enjoyed this book would be hard-pressed to pass on the other books! I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy crime novels and who don't have too weak of a stomach when it comes to criminal brutality. While the author is not overly graphic about what happens, there are enough hints that leave the imagination at work.

Notable quotes:

But sometimes silence could be more stressful than the most violent argument.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Lost: Celestial Blues 2 Book Review

The Lost: Celestial Blues 2 by Vicki Pettersson


Fallen angel Griffin "Grif" Shaw and his mortal lover, reporter Katherine Craig, are trying to learn the truth about Grif's death a half a century earlier. This quest will lead them to discover that the Pures might have their own agenda - one that will have Grif and Kit scrambling to stay alive, to stay together, and to choose their fate...before it's chosen for them.

Review by Brittany:

Here's a book with a beautifully fantastic cover, which I'm such a sucker for. I also read and reviewed the first book, so I knew that I was going to enjoy this one.

It's been a year since I picked up the first one, so jumping into this one meant I had a bit of an adjustment period to try to remember who characters were and what all of the terminology regarding the angels meant. The author made it easy, giving some one sentence recaps that were enough to spark my memory. Similar to the first one, Kit and Grif have good banter and good conversations between them, making their relationship one that I can't help by root for, despite the fact that I suspect it won't be able to last.

One element of this book that felt different to me was how gruesome it got at some parts. There is mention of a drug - krokodil - that is Russian and cheap to make, but it also causes the flesh to rot and infections to spring up. The descriptions in the book were tough, but I couldn't help but appreciate them. I also thought it was interesting how this drug leads Grif and Kit to involved with two separate large-scale drug rings, one with Russians and one with Cubans.

This book also explores more of what happened to Grif. He's determined to solve the mystery of who murdered him and his wife Evie, and this book leads Grif to a few more answers. The end of the book leaves the reader with a cliffhanger regarding the murders, which will hopefully set up the discovery of exactly what happened in the third book.

Kit and Grif's relationship is also left on a bit of a cliffhanger in this book. Throughout, Kit struggles with Grif's obsession with Evie and his inability to be totally present in their relationship. By the end of the book, the strain reaches a bit of a boiling point.

I enjoyed this one just as much as the first. I definitely recommend this book if you enjoyed the first.

Notable quotes:

...she told herself that a new love couldn't be expected to replace an old one. That wasn't what new love was for.

But all it'd taken was one slip in thought, one reminder of how hard it was to be compared to someone who was perfect - someone who would always be perfect now that time had also made her saintly - and Kit was suddenly doubting everything she was.

She loved things because she loved them, and that was reason enough.

It wasn't where Grif was that bothered her, or what he was doing. It was what he was thinking about. About another woman.

She had to keep her feelings, especially regarding this woman, under control.

"Why does so much of life have to be about letting go?"

Friday, September 18, 2015

Soulless Book Review

Soulless by Gail Carriger


Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Soulless is the first book of the Parasol Proctectorate series: a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Review by Brittany:

I first wanted to read this book because of the gorgeous cover! I'm also a fan of paranormal books, so this one seemed right up my alley.

The first thing I noticed is that the writing style fits the time period of the book. This was an interesting adjustment for me since most of what I read is written in a more modern style. Once I adjusted to the style, reading it was easy. This author knows how to slip in humor without being in your face about it, and I found myself laughing out loud at some parts of the book. There is one sex scene in the book, and even that scene made me laugh. It wasn't overly graphic and the author clearly doesn't take herself too seriously, and I loved the way she wrote that scene.

This author also did some excellent world building with describing the supernatural set and how they function in society. The way Alexia interacts with them as a preternatural was an interesting twist on the typical paranormal book. The author also took a huge cast of characters and gave each of them enough of their own personality to make them stand out and be easily distinguishable from one another.

This book reminded me of The Mortal Instruments, but for the adult age. Since I was a fan of that series, this was a nice, more age appropriate option for me. I already have the next in the series and am looking forward to reading it. I definitely recommend for readers who like paranormal novels and are looking for one that's not exactly like everything else out there.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Corrupted Book Review

Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline


Bennie Rosato, the founder of the Rosato & DiNunzio law firm, hides her big heart beneath her tough-as-nails exterior and she doesn't like to fail. Now, a case from her past shows her how differently things might have turned out. Thirteen years ago, Bennie Rosato took on Jason Leftavick, a twelve-year-old boy who was sent to a juvenile detention center after fighting a class bully. Bennie couldn't free Jason, and to this day it's the case that haunts her. Jason has grown up in and out of juvenile prison, and his adulthood hasn't been any easier. Bennie no longer represents those accused of murder, but when Jason is indicted for killing the same bully he fought with as a kid, she sees no choice but to represent him. She doesn't know whether or not to believe his claims of innocence, but she knows she owes him for past failures - of the law, of the juvenile justice system, and of herself. Forced to relive the darkest period of her life, Bennie will do everything in her power to get the truth, and justice.

Review by Brittany:

I received an advanced copy of this novel from Net Galley per my request. I'm a long-time fan of Scottoline, having read nearly all of her books, with a special love for Bennie's law firm.

Jumping back into the world of Rosato felt a little like coming home. I loved rolling around in the legalese and Bennie's intensity as a lawyer. There are times throughout the book when the focus is on the trial, and the author uses Bennie's thoughts as a way to keep the reading in the loop on the legal terms and what exactly is going on.

This book was a little different from the others because it lays out two cases, not just one. This one focuses on Jason's current murder case, while also giving the reader the information needed about the previous case that Bennie took on for Jason. The past case also allows the author to develop parts of Bennie's life to share with the reader. I enjoyed learning more about Bennie and piecing together some of her history.

The ending of the book was a bit weird to me. Scottoline always has a twist at the end that changes the case from what you think it will be, and this book was no exception. However, I felt like the twist was not readily obvious to the reader and that it was almost lazy. The author threw in a character that the reader didn't know and had that character completely upend the entire case. It wasn't one of Scottoline's best endings, but the way the case was going was compelling and kept me interested.

Overall, I do think fans of Scottline will enjoy this book, particularly if you are a fan of the Rosato & Associates novels. If you're unfamiliar with Scottline's work, this book is an easy one to jump into, requiring no prior knowledge about characters or events.

Notable quotes:

She wondered if this was what being a parent was like, giving comfort you didn't feel and reassuring someone when you were worried as hell.

She wasn't sure what to call the feeling, which touched a part of her heart so deep that she didn't even know it existed.

"Sometimes the one that gets away, gets away for a reason."

She didn't know what he wanted, and she didn't know what she wanted, either.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Into Temptation Book Review

Into Temptation by Penny Vincenzi


Into Temptation, the third book of the Lytton family trilogy, shifts the focus to New York City and Barty Miller. Rescued from the slums as a baby by Celia Lytton and now living in New York, Barty heads more than half of the Lytton publishing house. Falling on bad times, the family is worried that Barty will make a business decision that would be devastating to them. But will she? As events unfold, long-buried secrets concerning the whole family are revealed, shaking the very foundations of the Lytton's world. Readers have come to depend on Vincenzi for her enchanting prose style and the epic scope of her dramas; like the Lytton family sagas that precede it, Into Temptation does not disappoint.

Review by Brittany:

The blurb for this book makes it sound as if Barty is the central character, but as with all of Vincenzi's other books, there's really no such thing. This book does jump into the fact that Barty now holds a considerable amount of Lyttons in the palm of her hand, and she now has boatloads of money, thanks to her secret marriage to Lawrence. This plays a role in her developing relationship with Charlie, a widower father of a friend of Barty's daughter, Jenna. The girls spend a large chunk of the book pushing Barty and Charlie together.

Celia takes center stage once again in this novel by announcing her retirement and marriage to someone new, after Oliver's passing. She also takes advantage of the opportunity to start to fine-tune Lyttons in such a way that she feels confident about the future that she's building for the company. Sometimes this means interference on her part, and sometimes it means going out on a limb for newcomers. Her relationship with her new husband is also developed throughout the book.

Pretty much every character gets a fair amount of development in the book because it is the last installment in the trilogy. The author does a decent job of wrapping things up, although I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel incomplete at the end. The last scene in the book is interesting, but I was left wanting more. There was a character in the book that drove me absolutely bananas and I wanted him to get his comeuppance, but he never did.

I do, of course, recommend this book, like I have the others in the trilogy. I can't express how much I enjoy diving into Vincenzi's novels, and the Lytton family was an addiction for me. I do think it's important to read this trilogy in order, although I think any of them could be picked up and read as a standalone if you choose.

Notable quotes:

She wondered if this was love and decided it couldn't be. It was too uncomfortable.

Everything she did, everything she thought, was to do with him; he had become a part of her, and she could not imagine her life without him.

"It's not always easy to be sensible."

It was her life. People kept saying that. And it was true. She just wished she could decide if she liked how it was or not.

"I have very little time for the truth. Certainly not unvarnished."

...wishing she could also feel the happiness such a day demanded. Instead of alternately angry and dully miserable, exhausted with the sheer physical effort of smiling, chatting, remaining upright, even.

She sometimes felt she was walking a tightrope in her life; swaying this way and that, nearly losing her balance, righting herself just in time.

You simply could not love someone, marry them, bear their children, share every intimacy of life with them, and then walk away, say right, that's over, nice while it lasted, gone wrong now, though.