Review: “Mask of Shadows” by Linsey Miller

Review: “Mask of Shadows” by Linsey Miller

A review by Amanda.

Sallot Leon is a gender-fluid teen who has survived by fighting for money and robbing nobles. A chance encounter with a noble lady leads Sal to an exciting and dangerous new life. While robbing the intriguing Lady Elise, Sal discovers a poster advertising auditions for a position with the Queen’s Left Hand – her elite team of guards and assassins. Anyone may try to join the auditioners; they need only bring proof of their skills.  This may be the only way for Sal to exact vengeance on the Lords and Ladies responsible for the destruction of Sal’s homeland.

The main character Sal was clever, sneaky, and incredibly self-aware. The gender-fluidity was written with care and grace. The story was entirely told from Sal’s perspective, and Sal instructed inquiring minds to address them based on their appearance – “she” and “her” when she was dressed in feminine attire, “he” and “him” when he was wearing masculine clothes, and “they” and “them” when their clothes were neutral. This may seem confusing, but the character was written in such a way that gender truly did not matter. Gender fluidity was regarded as an oddity in this book, and Sal does express frustration with bigoted behaviors, but most of the characters accepted Sal as-is after a simple explanation about preferred pronouns. Readers got to know Sal as just “Sal”; an intelligent and shy person with a morbid sense of humor, who got flustered when romance was involved. Sal was quite likable, if stubbornly single-minded, and readers will find themselves emotionally invested.

The supporting characters were varied and had their own agendas and agency, although several could benefit from more definition. The plot moved at a quick and steady pace, with a lot of action nicely balanced with drama and romance. The world-building was fairly simplistic which was not a detriment to the story, but more details would have been welcome.  Fans of Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series, or Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series may enjoy this book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

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.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America’s First Female Tycoon” by Charles Slack

Review:

A review by Brit.

The 1900s in America were known as the Industrial Age and the Gilded Age both. It was a time of extreme wealth, and extreme flaunting of wealth. But amidst all the millionaires and Jay Gatsby types, there was Hetty Robinson Green. She wore dresses that were years past fashionable. She cooked oatmeal on radiators and hopped from apartment to apartment to avoid paying taxes as a resident. She was also worth $1.6 billion dollars in today’s money.

Most biographies you read tend to idolize the subjects at hand. This book definitely falls prey to some of that, particularly with it’s care to debunk myths about Hetty. For example, she wasn’t actually so frugal that she let her son’s leg problems get so bad that it had to be amputated. She did her best as any mother would. But it is true that she often took him in disguise to be treated at free clinics… because she knew that going there as “the richest woman in America” would make them jack up the prices.

Hetty definitely isn’t a financial how-to guide. But it doesn’t shy away from talking about how Hetty herself became rich. It describes her moves to buy certain assets at certain times, taking the motivations of everyone involved in the deal into account. I’d recommend that readers unfamiliar with finance have a smartphone nearby just so they can look up certain phrases or names (e.g. different kinds of bonds). But overall, you don’t have to be a finance nerd to enjoy this book. The author goes above and beyond with additional historical details that add context to everything. He’s even courteous enough to add brief explainer sentences when someone re-appears in Hetty’s life (such as Collis P. Huntington, a railroad magnate who butted heads with Hetty and her son).

The main reason I would give this book only 4 out of 5 stars is because I don’t think I could recommend it to everyone that asked me for a good book to read. This book is a great read for anyone interested in history, money and how people influenced history in unexpected ways. But don’t expect a book you can skim lightly. This is a dense, absorbing read. You won’t want to set it down.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “Review of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones”

Review of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones

A review by Amanda.

This book is the eleventh in the Charley Davidson series, and contains spoilers from previous books. I received this ebook for free from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

New and shocking information about both Charley’s and Reyes’ origins came to light in book ten, The Curse of the Tenth Grave. But our snarky, caffeine-addicted heroine is still as plucky as ever. She is quick with the quips and sarcastic remarks, immensely loyal to her closest friends and family, and determined to save the world in her own, stubborn way. One of Reyes’ godly brothers has been trapped in the god glass, but that leaves one on the loose to hunt them down. With her infant daughter safely hidden away, Charley is free to focus on defeating her enemies, investigate for her PI clients, and sidestep the limitations her husband tries to place on her, for her safety. Oh, and dodge the angels sent to watch her after she threatened Jehovah.

With every new discovery regarding Charley’s distant past, I half expect that her personality will do an about-face. It is always a pleasant surprise when she retains everything that makes her Charley – her sassy, hilarious remarks, unwavering commitment to her loved ones, passion for Reyes, and her willingness to risk her own life to do what has to be done. That she manages to stay true to herself while also continuing to grow is a testament to the author’s talent in developing her characters in a realistic manner. The series is very much character driven, meaning readers will read book after book because of Charley herself, no matter what cases she is working on, or what is happening in the supernatural parts of her life. The supporting characters are just as integral, and exhibit just almost as much growth.

As much as I enjoyed this story, there was one aspect that disappointed. The main men in Charley’s life, namely Reyes and Ubie, continue to issue orders, even resorting to manipulation on occasion. They both hide their reasons for their demands, ostensibly for her safety, and get frustrated when she doesn’t listen. Aside from the fact that neither of these men seem to trust Charley with relevant information, it seems unlikely that two people who have known Charley for her entire life would actually expect her to comply without question. Reyes and Ubie should both know better, especially so late in the series. Reyes has fallen under the “protective male protagonist” stereotype several times before, as has Ubie, and it never works in their favor. This might be a more upsetting trend, were it not for Charley’s habit of calling them out on their behavior and her tendency to do what she wants anyway. This could be an intentional character flaw, especially for Reyes, since he is otherwise pretty close to perfect. Their banter and head-butting disagreements are still entertaining. Hopefully he will eventually grow past the need to protect Charley in this particular way.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the rest of the series and look forward to continuing with book twelve!

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

BOOK TOUR Review: “The Gathering Dark (The Newfoundland Vampire Book 3)” by Charles O’Keefe

BOOK TOUR Review:

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This story is the third in an ongoing series. I have not read the two books previous. Though they may add a small level of understanding to the world created by this author, this book is capable of being read as a standalone story.

Anne Bonny is a vampire. Yes, the famed pirate of legend. She still lives her life on her terms and with eternity at her fingertips, she plans to continue to do so. When she receives the mental message of his impending death from her only vampire progeny, Anne decides to venture to Newfoundland and meet these vampires who killed her despised offspring.

Cassandra was sired by John, the cruel progeny of Anne. When she falls for and turns Joseph, she convinces him to help her kill the evil vampire. Joseph is having trouble letting go of his humanity and has decided to part ways with Cassandra. When Anne seeks them out to understand what transpired between them all the trio gets swept up into a battle. The evil vampires of the council plan to enslave many mortals creating brainwashed tools.  Can the figure out and thwart the plan that endangers humanity as well as defend themselves against their enemies?

This story is well written. It easily captured my attention and help it for the entire read. There were a few parts that I more than likely would have benefitted from reading the past novels, but it wasn’t a huge hindrance. Though it peaked my attention enough for me to want to purchase those and fill in the gaps. The scenes were crafted well enough to develop a clear image in the mind as I read along.

Though I would not class this book as erotica, there were a few well written sexy scenes between the characters. They were a nice addition to keep a little sexy touch to an interesting story, though not too often to change the genre of this story to what I call a bodice ripper. The author skillfully filled out the love scenes between the various couplings with enough material to entice those who enjoy intimate scenes between all sorts of couples.

The characters were well written and exciting. They had fleshed out histories and were individually exciting as well as carrying enough charisma in a group to add to the overall dynamic of the story. There was a small bit of cheese factor, which I enjoyed and added a touch of lightheartedness in the right spots. I would recommend this book to friends and plan to read more from this author in the future.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

GIVEAWAY!

Charles O’Keefe will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: “Nightshades” by Melissa F. Olson

A review by Amanda.

Vampires, more commonly known as shades, are terrorizing Chicago. Teenagers have gone missing and bodies are turning up, and Chicago’s newly formed Bureau of Preternatural Investigations has been tasked with hunting down the shades responsible. The recently promoted Special Agent-In-Charge, Alex McKenna, and his team will have to think outside of the box to catch these bad guys. Alex goes farther beyond the box than any other agent has by adding a shade to the team, hoping to use her wealth of inside information to gain the advantage. Perhaps, in extreme cases, only a shade can catch a shade.

Lindy Frederick has gone “mainstream” for the last several decades, forgoing her kind’s habit of living off the grid. She’s worked hard to blend in and put the past behind her, using her knowledge of languages to work as a translator. Working for the BPI puts her human pretense at risk, but the shades who have been taking the teens are risking exposing everyone and Lindy has to decide for herself which risk is greater. She agrees to join Alex’s team under the condition that her human cover stays intact. Can they put their prejudices aside to solve this case, before anyone else goes missing?

Nightshades reads as a police procedural with a supernatural bend. It is quick-paced and a bit dry, but definitely not boring. The twist on the overused vampire mythology is different enough to be entertaining rather than predictable. The characters do not have a ton of depth. There is definitely room for growth and further development for each of main characters but they are all interesting people. I found myself wanting to keep reading so I could get to know them better. The author has set the stage beautifully for a sequel, which I will read without hesitation.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

BOOK TOUR Review: “The Alchemists of Loom” by Elise Kova

Book tour Review- The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

A review by Domoni.

Ari is a the White Wraith. A legendary criminal who refuses to bow under the rule of the Dragons. She is a Chimera, a Fenthri imbued with blood or organs from dragons. On Loom, the three humanoid races live together, though not in peace. When Ari finds Cvareh injured on the ground, she moves to kill the dragon and steal his heart. He promises her his boon if she will get him to the alchemists. Ari knows that it would be a risk, and though she despises all dragons, having the chance to get her wish granted convinces her to save and help him.  When Ari’s charge Florence is separated from her after dragons attack their town, Ari realizes Cvareh is running from something much bigger than she realized. The dragon king has his strongest warriors searching for them and it will be a miracle if they make it to the alchemists.

This is an interesting fantasy/steampunk story. The author’s writing is excellent and she has created a deep full world full of vivid scenery and characters. The hierarchies of the different races are complex and frustrating, making the world ripe for resistance. The story had some wonderful moral underlays that hit the heart, making you connect deeper to the characters.

I enjoyed the main characters. Ari is fierce and strong and though her anger was ever present in her distaste for the dragons, you eventually learn the reasons and it makes sense. Florence was actually my favorite. I loved her strength and determination. A good book with two amazing female characters is always a plus for me. I was bothered that the first half of the book alluded to the women being in an intimate relationship and then suddenly they yanked that out from under us. I would have preferred that the author not tease us in that manner, as it quite put me off when the reality was revealed. The actual romance was one of those instalove from hate kind of relationships that I don’t care for and it damaged the story a bit in my mind.

The author created a very distinct new world that did take a little bit of work to keep track of, but it is worth diving into and will invite the reader to return to learn more about this story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

The Alchemists of Loom
Elise Kova
(Loom Saga #1)
Publication date: January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Her vengeance. His vision.

Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.

Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.

When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.

He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iBooks

 

Author Bio:

Elise Kova has always had a profound love of fantastical worlds. Somehow, she managed to focus on the real world long enough to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration before crawling back under her favorite writing blanket to conceptualize her next magic system. She currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and when she is not writing can be found playing video games, watching anime, or talking with readers on social media. She is the USA Today bestselling author of the Air Awakens Series as well as the upcoming Loom Saga (Keymaster, 2017).

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

XBTBanner1