BOOK TOUR Review: “A Lady Never Lies” by Stephanie Burkhart

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

A Lady Never Lies is the third story in The Windsor Diaries series. I have not read the previous stories, this did not seem to be a problem in following this tale. The Windsor family are the adult children of the modern day British Royal family. With the permission of the government they use a time machine to travel back to Victorian England. This story centers on a young woman from the Victorian time period named Jocelyn Dunkirk. She is a noble lady of unconventional character who is more interested in tinkering and inventing with her father and trying to help clean the air of coal dust and smoke, than with sticking with expected protocol and gender roles. Richard Windsor is the modern day Prince of Wales and next in line to the throne. During his travels through time, he fell hard for Jocelyn but duty required he leave her, and now he is returning to her time to capture her heart.

The story opens on the night of the wedding of Edmund Windsor, Richards brother, and his new bride Keira, a woman from the Victorian time. Like Richard, Edmund fell for a woman out of his time. He chose to stay with her in her time and marry her. While at the wedding, the ring Richard left Jocelyn with to prove his affection, began acting strange and heating up. When she removed it from her fingers, her father noticed it sparking. As he leaned over the ring to inspect it, ash from his cigar fell on the ring and it causes a massive explosion. The ballroom is rocked and Jocelyn is thrown backwards, injuring her ankle. When she recovers her wits, she finds her father badly injured and burned. Festivities are halted as the Lord Ridgecroft, Jocelyn’s father, is carried from the room. At this moment Richard Windsor returns in time to see the woman he loves, terrified and angry that the ring he gave her caused this event, rushing out after her father.

The Lord Ridgecroft’s injuries are severe, but there is no time to dwell. The coal miners of England are on strike and the country is quickly starting to suffer. Parliament assigns Jocelyn to help convince the miners and the bosses to settle and she must be off to handle this business in her father’s place. What she did not expect to learn is that an unknown male cousin will be set to inherit her father’s title and lands if he were to succumb to his injuries. Due to a condition in her grandfather’s will, only males may inherit. So now Jocelyn must meet this cousin and take his measure while he accompanies her on the mission to settle the coal miners strike. During all of this stress, Jocelyn must decide where her heart lies. Can she be with Richard? He cannot stay in her time, but she cannot leave her father behind.

This book was described as steampunk, though I don’t find it to be so. Yes Jocelyn tinkers with a couple of items, which don’t get much description, and there seem to be steam engines, it is more like a time travel story with a small nod to steampunk. I was hoping for more on that front.

The bones of the story were good. Though I felt it lacked the support to be great. It was a quick read with little atmosphere or description. The love scenes were short and lacked description or heat. The personalities of the characters were not developed, nor were the relationships. To me it felt very rushed and I could have used much more detail to get me invested. I was never able to latch onto a character’s motivation for why they behaved the way they did and in the case of the main character, was conflicted in her behavior. She repeatedly said nothing mattered but being with her father, but didn’t argue or second guess the trip to deal with the strike. I suppose duty to country is important, but without enough insight to understand the characters, it made little sense.

I loved the idea of the story, but I just wanted more from it. It does end with a tie-in to bring the reader back for the next story and I may start from the first and read the series to see if the characters get more fleshed out with time.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “The Assassin Game” by Kirsty McKay

The Assassin Game by Jesse McKay

A review by Amanda.

At Umfraville Hall, an isolated Welsh school for gifted and genius teens, The Game is everything and sixteen year old Cate is ecstatic when she is invited to play. Cate isn’t particularly gifted, nor is she a genius. She attends Umfraville because her parents own the island that it was built on. Being initiated into The Assassins Guild is her dream come true because it means the she has been accepted by the in-crowd. It also means that she and her two closest friends, also members of the Guild, get to have some extra fun this school year. The Game is known by many names in other parts of the world – Assassin, Murder, etc. One player is secretly chosen to be the “Killer”; they have to “kill” their fellow players one by one without getting caught. There are rules, of course. The kills are actually harmless pranks meant to simulate gruesome deaths. No one should ever actually be injured while playing The Game. They must also be discreet enough to not disrupt school life and annoy the staff. The Killer must eliminate everyone in entertaining ways while the rest of the players have to do their best to figure out who the Killer is before being taken out and removed from play. Whoever is left standing at the end is the winner.

The Game begins as it always does, with a disgusting initiation for the newest members. Then, chaos happens. Rules are bent to allow a new student to play, a boy from Cate’s past whose appearance rattles her in more ways than one. Awkwardness abounds as Cate has to deal with the emotions of two boys that she kissed and then jilted, as well as some threatening notes that may or may not be part of The Game. Her focus is torn when people start getting hurt, for real. Is someone taking The Game a little too seriously, or is there a wannabe serial killer at Umfraville?

The Assassin Game had plenty of intrigue and thrills to keep my attention. Cate narrated as though she was confiding in a friend; she even addressed the reader directly once or twice. The mystery was a good one and the author did a great job of concealing the culprit until the very end. I definitely enjoyed the thriller aspects, as well as the descriptions of the setting. Emotionally, however, I felt like I was in the mind of a sociopath – Cate reacted to various situations appropriately but it felt as though she was simply going through the motions. I knew what emotions Cate was supposed to be feeling, according to the writing, but I could not connect those emotions to her character. It was a struggle to care about what she was experiencing. The other characters had even less depth, which made the story feel oddly lacking.

Ultimately, I liked this book but did not love it.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “The Axe Factor” by Colin Cotterill

The Axe Factor by Colin CotterillA review by Hannah.

Jimm Juree was a crime reporter in the big city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, until her family moves to a rural village in southern Thailand.  Now, she splits her time between running the family resort, editing the English signs in the area, freelancing for the local paper, and stumbling upon mysteries.  She is assigned to interview a farang (European) author who writes award winning murder mysteries.  At the same time several local women have left town abruptly, leaving their possessions behind.  Among these women is the author’s young Thai wife and a local doctor.  With a severe storm coming in, can Jimm Juree solve the mystery and save the day?

Jimm is an excellent guide to Southern Thailand.  Even though Maprao, the small village she now lives in, is a fairly backward place, there is a wry fondness in the way Jimm sees her new home.   The joy of riding her bike in the rain, the frustration of trying to find a solid internet connection, and the nosiness of her neighbors all add up to a charmingly rural fishing village.

Jimm loves her country, but she is very aware of its shortcomings.  From the English signs so badly translated that they’re comical, to the blatant corruption of the local authorities, Jimm doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is.  The author’s depiction of Thailand is done in such a way that the foreign is familiar.  As a reader, you get to experience a new country without feeling like a tourist.

Jimm is lead to believe one thing while the reader is lead to believe another.  Both the Jimm and the reader are wrong in the best way possible.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Touching Evil” by Kylie Brant

Touching Evil by Kylie BrantA review by Amanda.

Touching Evil begins a few days after the end of Chasing Evil. Mason Vance, the man who kidnapped Dr. Sophia Channing, is behind bars but his accomplice is still out there. Agent Cam Prescott of Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation hasn’t slept much since Sophia was found. He has made himself responsible for her safety and is keeping her in protective custody at his place, fearing that Vance’s unidentified partner may come back to finish the job. They’re right to take precautions, but Sophia isn’t the doctor who catches the partner’s attention… Medical Examiner Lucy Benally is. Cam and Sophia have their work cut out for them as more questions arise and everything turns upside down.

The second book in the Circle of Evil trilogy was even more thrilling than the first. I couldn’t put it away, reading far past my bedtime. Picking up right where book one left off, “Touching Evil” was non-stop action and mystery. I appreciated getting to see Cam and Sophia dealing with the trauma. My biggest issue from the first book, Cam’s sexist attitude, was less obvious this time around. Sophia showed believable signs of being affected by the trauma she had experienced, which is something some authors tend to gloss over. She was still able to function and assist in the investigation, despite Cam’s protests and her fears. Lucy’s background was somewhat of a cliché but still added much-needed depth to her character. The plot had a few surprising twists that I didn’t see coming and the cliffhanger ending has guaranteed that I will read the last book in the trilogy.

 

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “Seven Ways We Lie” by Riley Redgate

Review of "Seven Ways We Lie” by Riley Redgate A review by Amanda.

Seven Ways We Lie tells the story of seven high school students, whose lives are rocked when a scandal erupts at their school. An anonymous email claims that a student is having an affair with a teacher. No names are given so the school administration must open an investigation. Meanwhile, life unravels in different ways for Olivia, Juniper, and Claire – best friends since the sixth grade; Olivia’s twin sister Kat; Claire’s ex-boyfriend Lucas; quiet stoner Matt; and social outcast Valentine. Rumors abound, lies are told, secrets are spilled, and relationships develop and change as everyone tries to figure out who the illicit lovers are, while trying to juggle the usual high school issues on top of everything else.

This might be the best book that I have read in 2015. The narration switched between the seven students and each one had a distinct, natural style. Each character had pieces to the puzzle, and most didn’t even realize. They all had their own, separate dramas happening, with connections to others, that it was easy to set the bigger mystery aside for a bit. Every one of the seven main characters was a fully developed individual, and the writing reflected that when the narrator changed. No topic was off limits. These characters dealt with breakups, divorced parents, abandonment, sexuality and sexual preference, jealousy, drinking, pressure to do well in school, loneliness, bullying, gossip, basically everything that high school students go through in real life. There was a mix of happy endings and bittersweet ones; not everything worked out to everyone’s satisfaction. I enjoyed the candor with which the story was written. The difficult issues were not sugar-coated or glossed over. I believe that any teenager, or adult for that matter, could relate to some aspect of this story and I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary fiction.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR: Review: “The Fading Dusk (Smoke and Mirrors, #1)” by Melissa Giorgio

 The Fading Dusk (Smoke and Mirrors Book 1) by Melissa Giorgio A review by Maria.

I would like to give author Melissa Giorgio a big thank you for letting me read and review her new novel, The Fading Dusk.

It’s been awhile since the last time I found a novel which I couldn’t stand to put down. This book became one I couldn’t bear to stop reading because I had needed so badly to see how it finished. It was captivating, refreshing, mystical, romantic, mysterious, and had me alternating between laughing and sobbing many times!

The Fading Dusk starts with seventeen-year-old orphan Irina working as an assistant to her provider, the street magician, Bantheir. An aggressive man confronts her after one of their shows saying Bantheir has stolen something from him. When that man follows her home and breaks in, Irina’s world turns upside down. Surly, mysterious Captain Leonid saves her life, then arrests her, imprisons her and demands to know Bantheir’s whereabouts. He accuses Bantheir of being a mass murderer. Irina stubbornly clings to her faith in the street magician; the man who had saved her from the streets at a young age, fed her, provided a roof over her head, and made her his assistant. Both Irina and Leonid seek to prove Bantheir’s innocence or guilt before more people are killed.

Irina proved to be a capable and interesting main character. She was orphaned and left to fend for herself at a young age. She’s able to be smart and fight both times she was attacked in the book. She has street smarts and will do anything to protect herself and the people she loves. I enjoyed her compassion, brains, and genuine reactions to so many things changing in her life at once.

Leonid was a mystery. A young man who rose quickly through the prison’s ranks to Captain. He has a mysterious benefactor and keeps many secrets. He is gruff, abrupt, but also is kind and smart. He treats Irina well as a prisoner and saves Irina both from his commander’s malice and when she’s attacked in the prison. He’s attractive and a man on a mission. The officer’s under his command respect him. His best friend sings his praises. He’s compassionate and withholds judgment. The more Irina gets to know him, the more she likes him. He grew into one of my favorite leading male characters.

I have few complaints about this novel. The pacing and length made it go by quickly. The writing was excellent and made me feel fully inside the story. I could feel the poverty, dirt, and hunger of the streets and the dankness of the prison. This novel was addicting and kept the surprises and twists coming. However, I didn’t like how the majority of the book was spent in the prison. I would have liked to see more of Irina’s world outside the prison.

This novel is appropriate for teens and adults alike. I am eager to read future books in this series.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Fading Dusk Tour Banner
Book & Author Details:
The Fading Dusk by Melissa Giorgio
(Smoke and Mirrors, #1)
Publication date: July 19th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Synopsis:

In the gritty city of Dusk, seventeen-year-old Irina makes her living as the street magician Bantheir’s assistant. The job isn’t glamorous, but she loves the crowds, the shows, and most of all, the illusion of magic. But Irina’s world is shattered the night she is arrested and charged as Bantheir’s accomplice to murder—murder by magic.

Real magic, the kind that’s been forbidden since the old wars.

Irina finds the idea of flashy showman Bantheir using actual magic to kill someone laughable, but she’s the only one who sees how ridiculous the claim is. But how can she convince everyone Bantheir is innocent when they’ve already made up their minds? Desperate, Irina must decide who she can trust to help her win her freedom. Is the surly, handsome Captain Leonid telling the truth when he says he believes Irina is innocent, or is he just using her to get to Bantheir? What about Aden, the sweet soldier and longtime fan of Irina’s who claims he’s on her side?

Irina said she wanted to know the truth, but when she stumbles across a dark secret that changes everything, will she be strong enough to survive?

Purchase:
Melissa Giorgio
AUTHOR BIO:
Melissa Giorgio is a native New Yorker who graduated from Queens College with a degree in English. She’s always dreamed of being a writer and has been creating stories (mostly in her head) since she was a little girl. Also an avid reader, Melissa loves to devour thick YA novels. When not reading or writing, she enjoys watching animated films, listening to music by her favorite Japanese boy band, or exploring Manhattan. She is also the author of the Silver Moon Saga.

Author links:
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Review: “The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss” by Max Wirestone

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone A review by Amanda.

Dahlia Moss is going through a tough time. Her boyfriend cheated and had the audacity to dump her when he got caught, instead of the other way around. She has been unemployed for almost a year, despite going on interviews for any job opening she can find. Her roommate Charice has been very understanding about the rent but Dahlia is determined to find a job and pay her own way. An opportunity that seems too good to be true, but also too good to pass up, falls in her lap when handsome jerk Jonah hires her as a private detective. It seems that something important has been stolen from him and he needs her help to track it down. This is no ordinary case, however, because the item is a spear – a digital spear, from an online MMORPG. Jonah claims to know who took it. All Dahlia has to do is meet with the suspected thief and convince him to return the spear. The meeting doesn’t go quite as planned, and then everything goes topsy-turvy when Jonah turns up dead. Dahlia might be in over her head, but she’s determined to find the truth.

This book was a fun, clever read. Dahlia’s inner monologue was immensely entertaining and reminiscent of Rory and Lorelai from the TV show Gilmore Girls. She was an intelligent, nerdy girl with a love of online computer games, which came in handy while she worked the case. She was also a bit flighty, easily distracted, and socially awkward. While I liked and identified with Dahlia, her over-the-top personality was also a detriment at times. She often overshadowed the mystery aspect of the plot with her humorous, but irrelevant, observations. Romance was present but very much in the background. As far as the case went, it was intriguing and kept me guessing until the end. I enjoyed this story and would like to read more about Dahlia, although I would prefer to see more of a balance between her personality and the plot.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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