Tuesday, April 25, 2017

REVIEW: No Charm Intended

No Charm Intended
Author: Mollie Cox Bryan

GIVEAWAY:  I am giving away one copy of No Charm Intended, a new cozy mystery from Kensington! US ENTRIES ONLY due to international rights restrictions. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your email address. One winner will be chosen randomly from all entries on Friday April 28th,  2017.  Winner will be notified by email.


Just as Cora Chevalier and her friend Jane start hoping that their latest crafting retreat will go off without a hitch, an ominous text message, a missing nanny and a murder get in the way. Can the pair run the retreat and work to ferret out a killer? If anyone can, it's Cora and Jane!

No Charm Intended is the second book in the Cora Crafts Mystery series. I like the two main characters. Cora is enjoying her new life in Indigo Falls, NC, while still trying to work through anxiety caused by her former job at a women's shelter. Jane is raising her daughter London after leaving an abusive marriage. Both are strong, independent, intelligent women who can run a business and teach others how to make beautiful handcrafts. The idea of craft retreats in a huge, victorian house sounds awesome! I live in western NC and wish Kildare House were real! I would book a retreat weekend in a heartbeat!

The mystery portion of the plot is interesting and engaging. I enjoyed the fact that even the retreat guests got involved in sleuthing. The subplots of crafting and the video game industry didn't overpower the mystery but added depth to it. I enjoyed the fact that a portion of the action was at the abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park in NC.The park actually exists. It closed in 1980 but opens for special occasions and a once a year fall tour, "Autumn in Oz.'' It was nice to have it featured in a cozy mystery!

The book also includes some craft instructions and tips related to projects the retreat guests made at Kildare House during the story.

I enjoyed this second installment in the Cora Crafts Mystery series even more than the first and I am definitely looking forward to the next!

Mollie Cox Bryan is also the author of the Cumberland Creek Mystery series. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website: http://molliecoxbryan.com/

REVIEW: What The Dead Leave Behind

What The Dead Leave Behind
Author: Rosemary Simpson

The Blizzard of 1888 brings New York City to a halt. The snow blocks transportation and 200 people that venture outside during the storm freeze to death. The storm will also completely change heiress Prudence MacKenzie's life. Her fiance, Charles, is found dead on a bench, the back of his head caved in. Officials rule that a falling tree branch knocked him unconscious and he froze to death. Prudence believes the cause of his death might be much more sinister.

Following the death of her father, Prudence's stepmother is in complete control over the household and slowly making her stepdaughter addicted to laudanum. The family attorney informs Prudence that inheritance from her father's will depends on her marrying Charles. With his death, her stepmother gains control of everything -- the house, the money,  even Prudence's dead mother's jewelry. Soon, Prudence finds it hard to even leave the house. Is her life in danger? Is Charles' death murder? What is her stepmother up to? With the help of the family attorney and a former Pinkerton agent, Prudence begins to delve into family secrets. What she discovers is shocking.

I found myself completely engrossed in this story from the start. The backdrop of Gilded Age New York and the aftermath of a massive blizzard is engaging. Simpson paces the story perfectly, letting the tension build up until the very end. Although the final outcome is not shocking, the way it comes about is surprising. Well done!

I liked all of the characters. The "bad guys'' were supremely horrible. I felt justified in despising them right from the beginning. Prudence is a great main character. She is feisty, intelligent, self-reliant and brave. Former Pinkerton agent, Geoffrey Hunter, is a great male lead as well. He is dedicated to getting to the bottom of the case and protecting Prudence. I was very happy to discover that this book is just the first in a planned Gilded Age Mystery Series. Simpson has announced two more future books, Lies That Comfort And Betray and Final Portraits. I will definitely be reading more of this series!

For more information on the author and her books, check out her website: http://rosemarysimpsonbooks.com/

**I voluntarily read an Advance Readers Copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

REVIEW: Ararat

Author: Christopher Golden

An earthquake and subsequent avalanche reveals an age-old secret on Mount Ararat. The timbers and hulking remains of a ship encased in ice. Scientists, historians and others rush immediately to Turkey. They all want to be the first to explore and document what might be Noah's Ark. Adam Holzer and his fiance Meryam pull strings to get exclusive access to the discovery. They climb the mountain with a group including guides, a priest, turkish officials, a UN rep, scientists and historians. As they investigate the timbers of the ancient ship, they discover a coffin that encloses horrific misshapen remains. The terror that ensues will be of Biblical proportions.

The tension and horror of this story builds at a steady pace. There is enough action, suspense and surprises to keep a reader's attention from start to finish. I was engrossed in the story right from the beginning. It's easy to understand why Adam and Meryam are so excited to jump right on this discovery. I don't know of any explorer or scientist who wouldn't want to explore the remains of Noah's Ark. And, through this story, it was so intense to experience their slow realization of just what horror they had uncovered. Not to mention the fact that they are all trapped at the top of  Mount Ararat during an intense storm. The ending of the story caught me by surprise. A perfect ending for a horror-filled tale.

Christopher Golden is the author of many books including Snowblind, and The Gatekeeper Trilogy. For more information on the author and his books check out his website http://www.christophergolden.com/

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

REVIEW: The Star Thief

The Star Thief
Author: Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief is a magical steampunk adventure for middle-grade readers!

Honorine is a maid in the house of Lady Vidalia. The household hasn't been the same since Lord Vidalia disappeared mysteriously. Honorine's life is a steady stream of dusting, cleaning and boring tasks, amid her dreams fueled by Lord Vidalia's dusty maps of the world, books and strange treasures. One night, Honorine finds magical black feathers and fiery footprints leading through the house. Hearing strange voices coming from Lord Vidalia's study, she discovers sailors ransacking the room. Suddenly she finds herself whisked out of the house by a girl with wings into the middle of a battle between living constellations and the crew of a floating steamship. Honorine discovers she is much more than a maid, and constellations are more than stars in the sky.

This is such a fun middle-grade steampunk adventure! The characters are sparkling and the action is out of this world! It is just a fun, exciting read. The plot is creative, interesting and well-executed. The characters are engaging and have depth. Honorine finds herself torn between both sides in this epic battle. I loved her as a main character because she followed her heart and conscience, forming moral decisions based on her own inner compass. She did not make decisions based on battle lines, but by what was right. She is definitely a strong, independent female character even though still a child.

This book is age appropriate for middle-grade readers, but also enjoyable for adults to read. The plot is original and the quick pace keeps the action exciting.

**I voluntarily read an Advance Readers Copy of this book from Little Brown Books via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Saturday, April 8, 2017

REVIEW: Give the Devil His Due

Give the Devil His Due
Author: Steven Hockensmith & Lisa Falco

Alanis McLachlan, reformed con-artist turned tarot reader, knows something is up when a ghost from her past appears at her occult shop in Berdache, Arizona. Biddle, her deceased mother's former lover, just shows up out of the blue. Alanis last saw him 25 years before being walked into the desert by thugs. She presumed he was dead. But...here he is....decades later obviously not dead. Is he there to come back into Alanis and her sister's lives? Or is he running a con of some kind? Her con-radar is jangling like crazy. You can't con a con,right? It can't be coincidence that the minute Biddle shows up, a private detective starts skulking around The White Magic Five and Dime Shop, and promptly turns up dead, murdered in his car. Alexis wonders what Biddle has pulled her into when the bullets start flying.

Everything from a velvet Elvis painting and a strange woman with an uzi is included in this book. Bad guys pop out of everywhere. And Alexis (with lots of help from her friend GW and her sister Clarice) wants to know why. It's amazing how much trouble a long-lost father figure can cause in just a few days!

This book is a fun read. Lots of humor and quirkiness. Alanis is a spunky, indepedent main character. GW, her small time crook friend, is hilarious and very protective of her. He brings his street smarts to the table, and helps with the investigation. Clarice, and her girlfriend CeeCee, are research and computer experts, helping find information on suspects in legal and illegal ways. Throughout the story, Alexis uses tarot readings to help her decide how to proceed in the investigation. The illustrations and explanations of the cards are so interesting! The tarot subplot really brought some sparkle to the story! It didn't overwhelm the mystery portion of the plot, but added to it.

This book is classified as a cozy mystery, but for those readers who don't like profanity of any kind in a cozy, this book might not be for you.  There is a bit of profanity and a few instances of sexual and criminal themes in this book. I didn't find it offensive. It was nice to have a story line that was a bit different with characters that aren't completely good guys. Alexis and her friends are con-artists.....they have just turned their skills to solving crimes rather than ripping people off. The result is an edgier cozy mystery....I enjoyed it!

Give the Devil His Due is the third book in the Tarot Mystery series. The books don't necessarily have to be read in order. This is the first book in the series that I've read and I was able to easily jump right in and enjoy the story. Fun story! I will definitely be back-tracking to read the first two books in this series! I look forward to reading the continuing story as well!

Steven Hockensmith is the author of several books including the Holmes on the Range series and the the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series. To find out more information on the author and his books, check out his website: http://www.stevehockensmith.com/   Lisa Falco is the tarot expert of this writing duo. In addition to the Tarot Mystery series she also wrote another novel, A Mother's Promise.

**I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Midnight Ink. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

REVIEW: Defy the Stars

Defy the Stars
Author: Claudia Gray

The planet Genesis was once an Earth colony. But its people have been fighting a decades long war for independence from Earth. It's difficult to defeat the armies of mechs that Earth sends through the space gate near Genesis, forcing the planet's leadership to form a desperate plan to give them a window of time to rebuild their ravaged forces and attempt to finally put an end to the war. At 17, Noemi Vidal is a soldier ready to give her life to aid her planet. When her only friend is injured in a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself on a long-abandoned ship near the space gate. Its only other occupant is a mech named Abel who is more advanced and intelligent than any mech Noemi has encountered before. Through strange circumstances, they end up working together to attempt to destroy the space gate. During their journey, Noemi learns that Abel is more than a machine. And Abel discovers he can form an attachment to a human  that is so much more than just his programming. Can these two mis-matched warriors save a planet?

I loved this book! Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. Although the plot has been done before in various ways, I found this story engaging, emotional and interesting. I liked Noemi for her independence and strength. And Abel was so desperate to experience new things and develop his mind and emotions much further than his basic programming. When forced to make certain moral decisions, he learned to not just follow his programming but to discern the right thing to do. It was so interesting how his character developed throughout the book. The rag-tag bunch of supporting characters were not as well-developed, but still likable and integral to the plot.

The ending hinted at a continuing series. I can't wait to find out what the future has in store for both Noemi and Abel.

Claudia Gray is the author of several Young Adult books including the Firebird and Evernight series. To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website at www.claudiagray.com

**I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Little Brown Books via NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**