Review: “A Mad and Mindless Night” by Elizabeth Cole

Review: “A Mad and Mindless Night” by Elizabeth Cole

A review by Vanessa.

I was offered a review copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This book is set in an already existing series, but I was assured they were stand alones and you do not have to read previous books in order to enjoy others.

Elanora Morrison has a gift that has gotten her into a lot of trouble. She remembers everything. Her infallible memory and perfect recall, combined with her skill for scientific research, seemed like blessings when she met her husband Albert Morrison. But now they are the curse that keeps her under lock and key. Nora’s skills along with her husband’s innovation led them to create a highly valuable new form of communication. Their intent was to test it and sell the results to the government of England to aid them in their endeavors against their enemy, France. There is just one problem: Albert Morrison isn’t Albert Morrison anymore, and only Nora knows it. But he has told everyone that she is mad, and they believe it because he is a man. She has lost hope for escape, until one day an official from the government arrives to check on the progress of the project. Can Nora slip out of the confines of her locked attic room, and convince him to help her?

Ashley Allander is no government official. He is a scorned second son with a terrible reputation for torrid affairs and for ruining women; though many of the rumors are not true. He has no desire to play at being a spy, but when his older brother Bruce Allander, Lord Forrester, deigns to ask for his help he agrees. Bruce is a member of a highly secret organization of spies working for England, known as The Zodiac. Something has gone awry with Morrison’s project, and Bruce needs Ash to investigate. Ash would never admit it, but the role of hero is a tempting one. When he arrives at the estate and sees a woman standing on the roof near the window to an attic room, he is intrigued. Especially when he awakes to find the odd lady has snuck into his room, and begs him not to reveal that he even knows she exists. Are her wild stories true? Is something much more sinister brewing under the facade that is Albert Morrison? Perhaps together they can find out.

I totally enjoyed reading this book, and I will admit that I intend to seek out the rest of the Zodiac series because I believe they will be very fun reads. I was a bit worried at first that this novel would slip into the cliched and well worn story arc that can sometimes plague the historical romance genre, but the author definitely threw in enough twists to keep my interest. The character of Nora is very engaging, and not boringly typical at all. She is no wilting female ready to throw herself at the mercy of her savior. She is strong, incredibly clever, determined, and self-reliant. Though Ashley Allander does fit the mold of your typically misunderstood handsome rogue, the addition of his backstory is a very interesting twist on the “ruined woman” only with the gender roles turned upside down. In addition the romantic aspect was refreshing. There was no shy waif giving in to her desires for the man pursuing her. It was a determined and curious woman chasing her desire, and a handsome more experienced man giving in to his desire for her. Surrounded by a cast of engaging characters, who I only wish we could have learned more about, this was a very fun read.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “When A Lady Deceives” by Tara Kingston

“When A Lady Deceives” by Tara Kingston

A review by Vanessa.

I received this book for free in return for participation in the release book tour, and an honest review.

When Jennie Quinn discovers her most recent informant murdered in the streets of Whitechapel she reacts predictably; she loses her lunch in the gutter. But Jennie is anything but a predictable woman. Her determination, drive, and sense of justice have pushed her to become a successful and respected female journalist at a time in Victorian London when such a thing was quite rare. Jennie knows who killed her lovely actress turned informant. In fact, her contact with the lady is likely what caused her demise. Now Jennie will do whatever it takes, including taking a job as barmaid for a ruthless mobster, to catch the culprit. If only the mobster’s right hand man wasn’t so distractingly handsome… But Jennie has never let anything derail her from her course. Harwick has been ruling London’s criminal element for years, and Jennie has been trying to expose his crimes and bring him down. But she’s not the only one who has that goal firmly in mind.

Matthew Colton does not like having the new auburn haired barmaid around. She has a penchant for getting into trouble poking around all the bar’s patrons, and she is distractingly beautiful… a distraction he does not have time for. He has already sacrificed years of his life trying to bring down the man who had his partner murdered. A sacrifice he was willing to make, even when it meant being disgraced from the police force and having to work closely with that same man. He never questioned his sacrifice, until a certain beautiful woman walked into his life and he realized that the man he had become would never deserve a woman like her. But together they just might find the justice they’ve been searching for.

Though the story does occasionally wander into the realm of the cliché, I much prefer the term classic. While the characters are at times predictable, they cannot be described as boring. The romantic entanglement stays true to what a reader would normally expect from an historical romance genre novel. However, that does not make it any less engaging. The innocent waif overwhelmed with desire for the dark, handsome, more experienced rapscallion is an evident theme, but it’s the twists on this theme that make it the engaging piece that it is. The lady may be innocent of the effects of true desire, but not because she has been coddled and sheltered. It is because she has been through so much, chased her dreams as a journalist, and never met a man who truly made her feel more alive than her work does. The handsome rapscallion is drawn to the lady as expected, but what is most unexpected is how he holds back. He tries to resist her charms because he believes she deserves better than himself. And in a thoroughly modern twist, the lady gives in to her desire for him not because she seeks the expected route of love and marriage. She simply wants to fully experience and explore what she feels for him.

In addition, throughout all the busy back and forth of the romantic story arc, there are also interesting interactions with secondary characters. The mystery, murder and mayhem broiling in Whitechapel is an excellent backdrop for the story. Background characters are intriguing and well written, but sometimes a little under utilized. Kingston writes characters you want to know more about, and I hope that is a problem that will be rectified in what is likely to be a future series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR: Review: “The Messenger” and “The Assassin” by Pamela DuMond

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Reviews by Maria.

I would like to thank author Pamela DuMond for giving me the opportunity to read the first two books in her Mortal Beloved series, The Messenger and The Assassin, in exchange for fair and honest reviews of both novels.

The Messenger by Pamela DuMond

My review for The Messenger:

16-year-old Madeline Blackford is just trying to make her way through her crazy prep school with power tripping teachers, mean girls, and the guy that’s about to break up with her. Her mother left her when she was very young, and Madeline can’t remember much about the car accident they had before she left. But, she lives a basically happy life with her friends and her family. She never expected she was any different than other girls; and certainly never expected to have a super power; nevermind that her power would be to travel through time. More specifically that while she was falling to her death, she’d travel to Rhode Island, to the year 1675.

Madeline started off as a fairly regular female adolescent main character. There wasn’t anything about her personality or story that made her that interesting or different. Aside from her mother’s disappearance nothing made her stand out as a leading character. But when she traveled back in time to 1675, she went through huge character growth which made her much more interesting and likable. I thought her reaction to landing in the past was realistic as she went through many stages: confusion, acceptance, and acclimation. She proved to be tough and smart as she learned many ways of life in the past like chores such as weaving, taking care of livestock, and churning butter. While Madeline was in the past, she was able to convince the people around her that she’s their Abigail. She’s able to take over Abigail’s body after her settlement had been attacked and she was left for dead.

Samuel was an interesting love interest. He is a healer and will reincarnate in that role over and over during his lifetimes. He has a healing and powerful touch, but because of his native blood, he finds much distrust while living in a settlement full of white people. Some people fear he has magic and suspect his ways. The threat of witchcraft in that time was very real with the puritans suspecting everyone around them. He must walk this line and be smart enough not to cross it while living there. Samuel is useful, he’s allowed to stay. He is a simple man and proves his love to Madeline through simple deeds. Their romance is sweet and endearing. It also is tested through death, loyalty, accusations, and courage.

This book was a little slow in the beginning while Madeline was in the present but it picked up and got very interesting once she landed in the past. I really liked DuMond’s attention for historical fictionous details. While the people were probably fictitious, much of the story and past elements were probably real. I know that life for the early settlers was very hard, relationships with the native americans were tenuous, and religious zealotism was a way of life.

Adults and young adults would enjoy this book, especially if they enjoy historical literacy.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

The Assassin by Pamela DuMond

My review for The Assassin:

The Assassin picks up right where The Messenger left off with Madeline seeing Samuel back in her present time. Now that her two best friends know about her power to time-travel, they aid in her search for finding Samuel in this time. Madeline also gets a new trainer/mentor in fellow Messenger Ryan. She quickly travels back in time again, this time to medieval Portugal, the year 1355. She must deliver her message to Prince Pedro’s beloved Inez and travel back to her time. The only problem is when she strikes up an alliance with the Samuel of 1355 and feels herself falling for him all over again.

I definitely liked Madeline more in this book. After all her character growth in the last book this one was more about her coming into her powers and becoming a heroine. She trains and banters with Ryan which shows her feistier side in the beginning of this book. But when she travels into the past again she really shows strength. She enters the body of a lowly gypsy peasant, one who someone just tried to poison.  She seemed more centered and aware of her purpose and power in this book. Madeline knows more about time-traveling now and tries to acclimate to the time quickly. She shows brains and compassion when she cares for Inez’s children while Inez is being brutally murdered; after she discovers she’s too late to warn her. Madeline quickly builds friendships and alliances with others around her. She’s also better at crafting lies to cover up for her story. And slowly she lets herself fall in love again.

This book really didn’t introduce present day Samuel aside from presenting him as somewhat aloof. So I’ll delve more into 1355 Samuel instead. So Samuel is a healer and reincarnates but doesn’t remember his past lives. So he will never recognize Madeline in any lifetime, unless she meets him in enough past lives for him to start to remember her in the present. Unfortunately he doesn’t remember her in this past. He’s a stuffy, privileged lord living amongst the royals. He hasn’t discovered his healer powers or his purpose yet. While he forms an alliance with Madeline while they help Inez, he still thinks little of her. So this past Samuel was kind of a big jerk and it took a long time for me (and Madeline) to like him. But eventually his character did reveal his inner layers and that he thinks of more than just royalty and politics. He shows strength and kindness when in his station, when he didn’t have to. He also genuinely cares about the servants and people around him. Samuel has the moral dilemma of loyalty to his kingdom or to his heritage. He’s a very enigmatic character in this lifetime.  Watching his walls start to come down as he falls for Madeline was very exciting to see, making this Samuel my favorite so far.

I did want to mention Ryan because even though he was introduced in this book and wasn’t around very long before Madeline time jumped; I believe he’ll probably be back in the series. It was very nice to see Madeline have a strong, knowledgeable mentor. Also one who wouldn’t take any of her crap -i.e. her feistiness- without putting her in her place. For awhile there I was really concerned Ryan was going to be another love interest, and while it was brought up, it was never really explored. Which made this relationship refreshingly mostly platonic; because Madeline’s got enough problems in that department.

This 2nd edition to this series went fast and like the first, had great historical scenes. I’m not sure how historically accurate it was, being I know nothing about Portugal in 1355, but I’m sure the essence of the story was true. Life in medieval times was rough for everyone not just the servants but for the rich as well. Crowns changed hands, assassinations happened, and the threat of murder, illness, or death was around every corner. I believe the author did a great job portraying how life was back then. I just wished she would have gone into a little more detail about how Madeline learned the skills as a servant back then.

This book would be a great read of Young Adult and Adult historical fiction readers alike.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

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Trailer for The Assassin
Book & Author details:
The Assassin by Pamela DuMond
(Mortal Beloved, #2)
Publication date: July 5th 2015
Genres: Time-Travel, Young Adult
Synopsis:

“All the excitement of Outlander if it was a YA series.”

THE ASSASSIN IS the anticipated sequel to the YA Time Travel romantic thriller — THE MESSENGER.

The Messenger has been optioned for Film/TV.

The Assassin will be featured in Glamour UK Magazine September 2015 edition.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Time Traveler. Messenger. Beloved. Spy.

“I was a Messenger: I kept the memory of all our encounters, our lives, like a locket that brushes the skin and bones covering my heart. But Samuel was a Healer: he didn’t time travel. His kind lived, died, re-incarnated, and he didn’t retain memories from his past lives. Every year I landed in required starting our relationship over: from ashes, from scrap… Every place I journeyed had beauty as well as darkness; all my time-travels were bittersweet.” ~ Madeline.

Madeline’s a Messenger: time traveling across lifetimes and delivering messages that could change one life or many. When she discovers that her true love, Samuel, is alive in present day, but doesn’t remember her from their past, she journeys to a deadly royal conflict in medieval Portugal hoping to rekindle his memory. Mortal assassins as well as dark-souled time travelers seek to kill her. Will Madeline and Samuel be together again in life—or only in death?

THE SEEKER (Mortal Beloved, Book Three) publishes Winter 2015/2016.

Purchase:
Purchase book 1 – The Messenger:
AUTHOR BIO:

Pamela DuMond is the author who discovered Erin Brockovich’s life story, thought it would make a great movie and pitched it to ‘Hollywood’.

She writes romantic comedic mysteries, romantic YA time travel and New Adult romance.

Her book The Story of You and Me was a Quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakout Novel Award (ABNA) 2014 in Romance.

Cupcakes, Pies, and Hot Guys was a Quarterfinalist in ABNA 2013 in Mystery .

She’s addicted to TV shows — The Voice and Reign. The movies Love Actually and The Bourne trilogy (with Matt Damon — not that other actor guy,) make her cry ever time she watches them. (Like — a thousand.)

When she’s not writing Pamela’s also a chiropractor and cat wrangler. She loves reading, the beach, working out, movies, TV, animals, her family and friends. She lives in Venice, California with her fur-babies.

She likes her coffee strong, her cabernet hearty, her chocolate dark, her foods non-GMO and she lives for a good giggle.

Author links:

Xpresso Book Tours

 

Review: “Maids of Misfortune” by M. Louisa Locke

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa LockeA review by Danielle.

Annie Fuller is a young widow living in 19th century San Francisco. After finally digging herself out of the debt her late husband amassed before committing suicide several years ago, by turning the large old Victorian her aunt left her into a boarding house, she receives a letter from one of her late husband’s more vicious creditors. The letter contains thinly veiled threats to take the boarding house in exchange for settling the debt.

Annie is also leading a double life to supplement her income, as a clairvoyant known around town as Madam Sybil. She specializes in domestic and business advice to set her apart from the other so-called mediums in town, and to be taken seriously. Annie’s favorite client Matthew Voss, a prominent business man in the bay area, is suddenly murdered and all his stock, bonds, and money go missing, unfortunately affecting Annie as well, when it is revealed by Nate Dawson, one of Mr. Voss’ lawyers that Matthew left her a railroad stock which Annie could use to save her boarding house.

Annie and Nate work together to find out who murdered Matthew Voss and stole all of his financial documents. As they get closer to discovering some real evidence, a key witness is murdered, throwing light and suspicion on both Nate and Annie. Now they must race time to find out who the real killer is to stop both their worlds from coming crashing down all around them.

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke is an excellent book to read if you are trying to dip your toes into the historical fiction genre. Reading the descriptive settings of 19th century San Francisco was extremely interesting. This is first in the series and I cannot wait to read the second book. M. Louisa Locke does a great job of shifting the suspicion of the killer’s identity to multiple characters rapidly. I was never able to guess who the killer was and what motive they could have had for hiding the financial documents. The suspect pool was just too large and the reason for motive just too vague to fit anyone person in particular.

Annie Fuller and Nate Dawson are also excellent characters, both very strong willed and entertaining to listen to as they banter back and forth while they deny their feelings for each other. Nate is the perfect gentleman and Annie is not the typical demure young girl that was expected back then.  Following both characters as their romance evolves while simultaneously trying to solve a great mystery is incredibly entertaining and makes for a great read.

 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Fangirl Book Club Pick of the Month: “Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow

Ragtime by E.L. DoctorowEvery month, our club votes on which book we will read for that month. December’s winning book was E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. The following review is based on an online discussion after Decemberr’s meeting.

Spoiler-­free Synopsis:

First published in 1975, Ragtime is an intricate tale of life in pre-World War I America. Expertly weaving together fiction and historical fact, Ragtime follows several seemingly unconnected characters. There is the “average” American family, only known as Mother, Father, Mother’s Younger Brother, Grandfather, and the little boy. The family lives in New York, in a three-story home at the crest of the Broadview Avenue Hill. Father owns a company that manufactures various “accoutrements of patriotism” such as flags, buntings, even fireworks. Next, we meet an immigrant family, also living in New York, sharing one room among the three of them – Mameh, Tateh, and The Little Girl. Tateh is an artist who tries to support his family as a peddler on the streets. Mameh and the little girl sew knee pants to make ends meet until they are informed that the little girl must attend school. Having lost the income the little girl provides, Mameh must find an alternative way to help her family survive. Other characters, both fictional and real, appear frequently throughout the book – a young African-American musician named Coalhouse Walker Jr. provides a detailed look at racial tensions in 1906. Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, and Henry Ford are given fictional connections to the story loosely based on actual events of the time.

Fangirls’ Analysis:

December’s hostess chose this book because she just loves it. “I think that it is timelessly composed, and beautifully demonstrates what a reflection of any society should look like.” Club members voted for it because of an interest in historical fiction and its purported similarities to other works (i.e. Fiddler on the Roof).

What We Liked:

Doctorow’s writing style in Ragtime included simple, matter-of-fact sentences that were no less eloquent for their brevity. His words evoked powerful imagery and we appreciated his ability to let us see early 1900s America from varying perspectives. He allowed us to experience a story of working class success a la Harry Houdini. Through eyes of the unreliable narrator we see characters reaching for the typical “American Dream” and then watch the way those dreams shift and adapt to unexpected circumstances. During the discussion, several parallels were drawn to goings-on in the 1970s, when this book was being written, as well as current events (particularly regarding race and gender equality).

What We Didn’t Like:

While this book was enjoyed by most who read it, others found it difficult to get into. Those who had little interest in the historical aspects found their attentions wandering depending on the subject matter. A few members disliked the unknown narration and the fact that some characters were not given names.

This book bored a couple of members to tears but was largely enjoyed, even loved, by most.

Fangirl Rating: 4/5 stars

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