Book 55 of 2015: Havelock by Jane D. Everly

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Eliana Havelock is a female with no past, whose determination to bring down a Karachi arms dealer catches the attention of the British Secret Intelligence Service. MI-6 is currently fractured due to political upheaval with many of its covert programs dissolved or disbanded. When Eliana presents the opportunity to divert an international arms disaster, the head of MI-6 partners her with one of it’s best and brightest, the enigmatic, Connor Blackwell. But in a world of secrets and hidden agendas, who can Eliana trust? And what, or who, is Eliana really after?

I received this book from the publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, for an honest review.

Havelock is a spy action thriller serial that is now just coming out. Each episode is a few chapters long, but in those chapters you get a lot of action and bits of the puzzle. For episode one, we meet Eliana, learn a mystery, and meet the people Eliana gets help from: MI-6. It is written in a mixture of first person and third person. When we are just reading Eliana, it’s first person.

Dare I say it, Eliana is a serious badass. I fell in love with her right in the beginning. She can take down anyone she needs to, she’s resourceful, and she’s flirtatious. She is one of the ultimate femme fatale characters. You would think that her segments, being in first person, should throw you off, but they actually didn’t. I was able to grasp what was going on and feel who she was as a character.

I believe we are shown only Eliana’s inner thoughts because we are supposed to connect with her. Since there is a secret service involved in the series, the idea of trust is going to be a big issue. Eliana’s inner thoughts may help the reader establish a relationship and root for her if a betrayal is in the mix. Which should prove to be fun given how awesome she is.

Now, this is a serial, if you’re not into that then wait, but this is something you may want to read. Especially if you like action. Can’t wait for the second one.

Book 54 of 2015: Nero’s Fiddle by A.W. Exley

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One… death by spontaneous human combustion is a rare act of God
Two… is surely a freakish coincidence
Three… well, that’s starting to look deliberate.
Cara has a new role as Queen Victoria’s artifact hunter, she’s adapting to married life and living in a country manor that more closely resembles a mausoleum.
In London, Inspector Fraser investigates a series of strange deaths by divine fire – except he doesn’t believe in coincidences. Despite himself, he enlists Cara’s help to identify what artifact could cause such a hideous death while his desire to bring her husband to justice burns unabated.
Someone’s intent on making sure a decades old secret stays hidden and Cara must figure out who is responsible before this case consumes her family and rocks the entire realm to its foundations.

I received this book from the publisher, Curiousity Quills Press, for an honest review.

Nero’s Fiddle is the third book in the Artifact Hunters Series. The series follows the life of Cara and Nate as they search for artifacts that have magical properties. Set in a steampunk London, the books are filled with adventure and intrigue. Some are more like spy novels whereas others are more like murder mysteries. This one, is a mix between the two.

Following the events of Hatshepsut’s Collar, a series of unusual deaths are occuring in London. The determined and possibly obsessed Inspector Hamish Fraser is on the search for a culprit. During all this, Cara and Nate are gathering artifacts, setting up shop, and deciding on their future: Parliament or Spy ring?

The character growth was more to their relationship than personal. Given the quickness to their intimacy, that doesn’t really surprise me. We are met with another character, Malachi, who owns the bookstore that Cara visited in the first book. Another interesting thing is the story line that goes on as the book is going. There is a novella that features Amy. It is actually set the same time in this book and had some things that I could see reflecting back in the novella. I’m thinking I’m going to have to read it later on.

The book isn’t as quick paced as the first one, but there are chapters in the book that deal with the past. As in Nessy and Nan, the lovable eccentric elderly duo. I love what we see in the two. It was interesting to see their friendship from the beginning and the events that challenged their lives. It was these chapters that kept me more interested, just because I didn’t know where they fit in.

They fit in nicely, by the way.

The book really begins picking up pace about 60% in. From the beginning to that point, the book is still interesting along with the characters, but it’s that percentage that you are engrossed in the story. I found myself smacking my head realizing the turn of events. Very nice.

In all, this was a good addition to the series.

Book 53 of 2015: Torn Between Two Worlds by Lexi Ostrow

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Her heart was torn differently than others, between two worlds. Her choice would affect her position in each.

Ciara Miller was born the same as others, but she got a little something extra. When she was younger she learned she was a Word Speaker, someone who could create life from stories. Her gift is incomplete until her 27th birthday, before then all she can create is things she, and others like her can see. Evil wants her gift as well and the characters she choses to create become her Guardians against the unseen attackers that want to use her skill. Just before her 27th birthday, fate has a surprise for her.

Stryder is a demon, created to be a backup plan for the Horseman of the Apocalypse, War. Since the day he learned he was nothing more than pawn he and his brothers had been seeking a way to betray hell and fight on the side of the angels. His world is torn apart again when he finds out he’s nothing more than a story and given the option to protect a human female, Ciara, or die.

Ciara hates Stryder for replacing her former Guardian. But she cannot deny the lust and connection that rocks through her every time they touch. She could deny it all she wanted, but she belonged to Stryder and when they find themselves thrown into a war bigger than them both she must choose between her reality bound heart and her fantasy bound soul to save them.

I received this book for free from the author for an honest review.

Torn Between Two Worlds is an erotic fantasy that is a part of the Guardian series. Technically, this is the first book, but you don’t necessarily have to read it first to get the concept of the series. It involves an epic prophesized war and the people chosen to fight in it: Word Speakers and their Guardians.

Word Speakers are humans with the ability to bring out a fictional character from a book they’ve read. The fictional character then becomes their Guardian. The duo of Guardian and Word Speaker become the fighters of the future. In order to find the right Guardian, Word Speakers are encouraged to look for more and harboring a sexual relationship to see if they are compatible. This also strengthens the bond between them.

Ciara is the most powerful Word Speaker in thousands of years. She’s a kindhearted person who has a strong familial attatchment to her Guardian. That is until he disappears and she’s presented with a new one. Stryder is a demon from a fictitious world only to be sent into the real one in order to protect Ciara. The problem? She doesn’t want him.

Ciara was a fairly interesting character. I didn’t feel very close to her, but she did do things that I could relate to. Even though she has a great strength as a Word Speaker, she honestly only wants love. That I can understand. Stryder is much the same. He’s a pawn in a fictional world only to be used as a pawn in the real one. He too only wants someone to grow old with.

Lexi Ostrow wrote a believeable romance with seriously steamy sex scenes. Even though the two characters are from two different walks of life and worlds, they worked together. Ciara wasn’t my favorite at first, but she did grow into something more closer to midway. She showed her strength in a different way. She wasn’t overly emotional, but had her moments. She was more of a logical character. Logical with a strong moral compass. I had to root for them.

The world of the Word Speakers is a bit complex, but interesting. I love the concept of bringing to life a fictional character. I’m just wondering how the war will turn out.

Book 52 of 2015: Darker Side of Worlds by Lexi Ostrow

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Dale grew up fighting for self respect and the respect of others. Being a Word Speaker hadn’t helped. Most of the Guardians he had sought out those that were decidedly darker and fighting on what could be seen as the wrong side of the war. When Ciara gives him her gifts to follow her own happy ending he’s forced to see his self worth and honor her precious gift.

Breena is a dark sprite in charge of sneaking through dreams to steal information in a war between the Seelie and Unseelie court in her world. Finding out she’s a book character destined to save the life of a human wasn’t her cup of tea – but it was her father’s. Commanded to get close the Word Speaker Dale so they could all enter his world she’s forced to leave what she knows behind and corrupt a man on the brink of finding himself.

When passion ignites between Dale and Breena he finds himself seduced by the darkness once more. He’s tangled up in a web that threatens to change his stance in the war just before his 27th birthday. When her true intentions come out he will have to choose between dark and light, and where he stands in the war.

I received this book from the author for an honest review.

Darker Side of Worlds by Lexi Ostrow is an erotic fantasy that twists imagination, romance, and the future of humankind. This is the second book in the series, but each book can be read as standalones. You aren’t going to miss much information or gain too much depending on the book. Except for maybe the brothers and what they do, but it won’t confuse you too much.

The broader storyline in the series is that an epic war is prophesized to happen. In preparation for this war, two brothers (demigods is a good term for them) are charged with finding the fighters for either side. The fighters entail a human called a Word Speaker and their Guardian. A Word Speaker is a person with the gift of bringing a fictitious person to life. When they turn 27, they are supposed to choose a side to fight and lay in wait. The Guardian is the fictitious person brought to protect the Word Speaker from the opposition that comes from the book and whatever evil may befall.

In this book, we learn a new rule in the world of the Word Speakers. I’d tell you, but it’s integral to the story. Just know that this rule sucks and you feel for Dale.

Dale is the male lead. He’s geeky, rich, and has a darkness to him. I really liked him as a character. I could understand where he was coming from and what his motivations were. Likewise, his Guardian, Breena, is a sprite warrior who has a darkness that gives her rather moral complications. She’s strong, sexual, and has emotional moments, but doesn’t let that dissuade her in a fight.

The world of the Word Speaker is an interesting one. I could liken it to the book Inkspell, but only because the characters can bring to life a ficitious character. Aside from that, this series is very adult. The Guardians and Word Speakers have a connection. A very sexual connection. And that connection is seriously smexy.

Lexi Ostrow weaves an interesting world with awesome powers that leave any bibliophile wishing they were a Word Speaker. After all, who hasn’t read a book and wished they could pull out a certain character? I have countless times. The book is a quick read. It has a fun story that is dark, but not her darkest. This is a romance that makes you want more. Seriously hot, but filled with emotion.

Honestly, I love Lexi Ostrow’s work. I haven’t read anything of hers that I hate. So far, I either love the book or it was okay enough to keep going with the series and author. None have detered me from her work. The style is easy to get into, the characters are relateable, and the story makes you want more. And may I add that Dale is a serious honey. I don’t care for redheads all the time, but this man is worth it. Mmmmm.

Book Tour Review: A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris

May Review tours

 

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Genre: historical-fantasy romance Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press Date of Release: May 21, 2015 Cover Artist: Alexandria Thompson

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

 When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

 Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

 But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

I received this book from the publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, for the book’s blog tour and an honest review.

A Curse of Ash and Iron is a steampunk retelling of Cinderella. There is action, romance, magic, and gears. A pretty good combination. Add that it’s a fairy tale retelling and I couldn’t resist.

The book starts off with a prologue that becomes important to set the tone of the friendship between Ellie and Ben. Ellie is the daughter of a well to do man. In the beginning of the book, her mother has died and her father has married her governess rather quickly. Ben is the son of a cook and bookshop owner. In this prologue, the two friends are separated never to possibly see each other again.

The next chapter starts off with the book revealing the relationship between Ellie and her stepmother. Not on good terms. As for Ben, he wants to help Ellie by any means necessary. Even if she sounds insane.

Ellie is a strong willed young woman in search of herself. I like how Chrstine Norris gives the emotions of a young adult finding themselves through a magical reason. Ellie is literally trying to find herself again and it’s through the love of Ben and other people that she finds a way to at least start having an identity. Despite the slavery that her stepmother has put her through, Ellie still shows some spunk to fight back. She doesn’t throw punches, but she throws verbage. Ellie is a character who doesn’t let her situation darken her.

I liked Ben. He was logical, passionate about his dreams, and would walk the ends of the earth to help the girl he knew as a child. He had a bumbly kind of way to him in the beginning, but that awkwardness didn’t stop his intelligence or assurance of logic over magic. Naturally, he’s wrong about some things. Some things can’t be explained through steam and gears.

The Cinderella story is more of a diagram for this story. Yes, there’s the typical pieces you see in Cinderella in this book, but the reasons behind Ellie’s lack of identity and her friendship with Ben is more of its own. There’s adventure and action as well, definitely not what you see in the traditional Cinderella.

I’m a big fan of fairy tale retellings. There’s something about the iconic stories that bring about the childhood. Christine Norris not only brought that child feel, but made it grown up that would intrigue all aged audiences.

Author: Christine Norris

Author: Christine Norris

About The Author:

 Christine Norris is the author of several speculative fiction works for children and adults. She is extremely overeducated, having a B.S. Temple University (Kinesiology), a B.A. from UMUC (English), AND a Masters in Library and Information Science from Southern Connecticut State. All of which means she loves to be in the library, which is her secret day job (whoops…).

 She is married with one son, two rescued cats, a rescued Jack Russell, and a rescued palomino rabbit. There’s a lot of rescuing. She also has a complete weakness for Doctor Who, Sherlock, and other British television shows, as well as an addiction to movies, re-told fairy tales, and police procedural shows. She believes in fairies and lives in New Jersey.

Book 50 of 2015: Hatshepsut’s Collar by A.W. Exley

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“Loving you is easy, it’s living with you that’s killing me.”
An ancient Egyptian artifact is driving Queen Victoria insane, and that’s not top of Cara Devon’s growing list of problems.
Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is a man of numerous secrets, but there is one in particular that threatens his fledgling relationship with Cara. Stunned by Nate’s revelation, and before she can absorb the ramifications of his actions, he is arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned in the grim Tower of London. He stole something the mad queen wants, and only has days to deliver, before his date with the executioner.
Although sorely tempted, Cara can’t let him die on Tower Green, not when their connection means she would share his fate.
Only together can Cara and Nate figure out how to wrestle Hatshepsut’s Collar from around the queen’s neck, before she plunges Britain into a world war. The search for answers sends Cara to the opulent Winter Palace of St Petersburg and the frozen depths of Siberia, with every step shadowed by an enemy with his own dark plans.

I received this book from the publisher, Curiosity Quills Press, for an honest review.

Hatshepsut’s Collar is the second book in the steampunk adventure series, The Artifact Hunters, by A.W. Exley. It is the third book in the series that I’ve read and I’m still loving the books.

This book is written differently than the first book, Nefertiti’s Heart. Nefertiti’s Heart is still a steampunk adventure, but has a murder mystery as a focal part of the story. It made a perfect origin story for the characters, the world, and what to expect in later books. Hatshepsut’s Collar is a dash of political intrigue, a hint of spy, and a cup full of heist adventures. Not only does Exley expand on the world of the artifacts, but she expands the steampunk world. We are given a steampunk view of the oppulent Russian Empire (sweet!).

What made this great was that this book was an expansion to the relationship of Devon and Lyons. Right off the bat, the reader learns something that is tied to a little detail mentioned in the first book. That one detail changes Cara. It brings about a struggle and a choice she doesn’t feel ready for, but is forced into it after Nate is arrested. You don’t get much of Hamish Fraser in this one, but he’s there snooping around and trying to catch his white whale. In the midst of all this, the nation is struggling with an impending war and crazed queen.

For me, this book did take a while to stick with. The first one was nonstop have to turn the page. This book, had moments where I could put down. However, I didn’t want to stop entirely. I love the characters and an expansion of an already awesome world is a great experience.

I LOVED how we learn little details about Nefertiti’s Heart while Cara and Nate are finding these things out. To be honest, for the two of them, Nefertiti’s Heart seems like a good thing to have around. They are constantly getting themselves in nasty problems. I also love the introduction of a mythical creature. That creature seemed perfect for the fiery duo and I absolutely love him. It made me think of a certain cartoon movie that shall remain nameless only because said creature is important to said arrest and said adventure heist.

Yeah, I had fun writing that. It’s difficult to choose what to say and what to keep hidden. Know this though, this book is a great addition to an already great series. Once again, I’m going to say that Exley is an author to keep an eye on and to contiue reading. Just one more book and I’ll be up to date with her series!

Book Tour Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. Exley

May Review tours

 

Mosehs Staff

Genre: historical-fantasy romance Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press Date of Release: May 18, 2015 Cover Artist: Ricky Gunawan

 

 

All things must come to an end…

London is in the frozen grip of an unnatural winter and Queen Victoria wants answers. Cara and Nate know who – the Curator. The queen’s artifact hunters just don’t know what is responsible. Cara is on the trail of an ancient and powerful artifact capable of freezing a city and stirring demons. First she must confront her past and her father’s history. Only in learning why her father became a disciple of the Curator can she hope to learn what the old noble seeks and why he is so fascinated by her.

 Then tragedy strikes and the bond forged by Nefertiti’s Heart is severed. Nate without Cara succumbs to his darkness and he lashes out at those he holds responsible for her loss. Meanwhile, in the shadows, Inspector Fraser waits for his opportunity to pull down the man known as the villainous viscount.

 With London entombed in ice and all hope lost, could this be the end…?

I received this book from Curiousity Quills Press for an honest review for the book tour.

Moseh’s Staff is the fourth book in the Artifact Hunter series. In case you haven’t read any previous book reviews, the Artifact Hunters series is a steampunk adventure that adds in a bit of, what I like to think, Lara Croft flair. There is a kickass strong female lead, Cara, and an equally strong male lead, Nate.

I honestly fell in love with the two main characters in the first book. They have an energy about them that makes you root for them. They aren’t goody two shoes, but they are good in their own right. I love strong female leads and Cara is that strong female. She can box, shoot guns, and isn’t afraid to fight back. Nate is equally strong with his own darkness that you learn in bits and pieces throughout the series. Them and the obsessed detective, Hamish Fraser, make an interesting cast.

London is under ice in Moseh’s Staff and it’s up to Nate and Cara to find out what artifact is pushing back the spring and making an eternal winter. And no, it isn’t Queen Elsa that’s making London frozen. The Lyons’ believe there’s a darker force working and he has a disturbing interest in Cara.

For beginners of this series, you won’t be too confused at what is going on and may fall in love with the characters. I do feel that you should read the first book and the other books are important to their growth, but the events of the books are mentioned in this book through passing. I haven’t finished the other two books (between this one and the first), but I could still gain an understanding at what’s happening as well as be invested in what happens to the characters.

I do love seeing how well Cara and Nate work together in this book. They worked well in the first one, but there is a solid growth in their relationship seen in this one. If anything, this book solidifies their relationship and the strength of their love. One of the main conflicts is the disconnection they feel and how each of them work to try and feel that connection without the other nearby. It’s similar to real life in a way. I know I feel disconnected from my husband when we are apart and I have to remind myself of our relationship. Same concept with the Lyons only with life threatening consequences and awesome steampunk wonder. They have it better.

The main villain, The Curator, isn’t a villain in the sense of the serial killer in the first book (delightfully evil, that one), but he’s his own brand of bad. It’s cool that the bad guys aren’t cookie cutter in each book. It gives a more reasonable feel and honestly, one can only take a crazed psychopath so much. This guy is smart. He’s so smart, this isn’t the first book he’s in (I haven’t met him chronologically). If he lasted beyond one book, it’s a pretty big deal. The Curator also knows more than he leads people on. He’s calculative and has an objective that goes beyond revenge or sex.

The steampunk world gets even more interesting. I’m not too big on automatons because some steampunk worlds seemed to heavily work on the behind the scenes science of everything. Every item seems to need a play by play on how they work in some books. In this series, they are what they are. Not everyone can afford the fancy stuff and the fancy stuff isn’t described in detail. The people are used to this world, they don’t care how come things work, and the readers should feel used to it too. When an automaton or mechanical animal walked by, I didn’t groan or bat an eye. They were more like pretty decorations or the internet today: they make life easier and the growing generations aren’t surprised or wondering how they work.

The story is well written and pulls you in. The characters are fun and interesting. The world is expansive and only gets more expansive, but feels like a real place despite its obvious fantasy setting. Not only is Moseh’s Staff  a good read, but so is the series. I highly recommend getting into this world. It’s a great adventure and a great push away from the droll of life.

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The Author: A.W. Exley

About The Author:

 Books and writing have always been an enormous part of A.W. Exley’s life.

 She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

 Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.