Roadblock

As many roadblocks that I keep hitting, it almost seems like continuing this blog is not meant to be.  I don’t want to quit reviewing.  I’m just finding it very difficult to keep going.  Here’s just the latest crazy thing to happen in my life…

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Over the weekend, I got a terrible toothache.  My daily intolerance (and subsequently calcium deficiency growing up) has made me very susceptible to teeth problems, so this came at no surprise to me.  What did shock me was that my face swelled up horribly.  The sharp, shooting pains of a toothache didn’t scare me as much as being unrecognizable to my own mother.  Needlesstosay, I went to the dentist and had two teeth pulled (abscess was above them).  They said that the antibiotics may take a few days to activate and relieve the swelling.

So, I apologize for not answering emails and basically disappearing off the planet.  I’ll be back eventually.

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Tour Review — Artifact Hunter series (Nefertiti’s Heart)

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Thank you to Candace’s Book Promotion for organizing the tour and to Curiousity Quills Publishing for supplying a review copy.  Check out my review of the first book from THE ARTIFACT HUNTER series and then enter the giveaway for your chance to win copies of both books plus more.

Cover Nefertiti's Heart

 

Nefertiti’s Heart by A. W. Exley

Genre: Steampunk, Science Fiction

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Pages: 280

Published: February 14th, 2013

Links: Goodreads | Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES Kobo | Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Facebook | Goodreads

Cara Devon has always suffered curiosity and impetuousness, but tangling with a serial killer might cure that. Permanently.

London, 1861. Impoverished noble Cara has a simple mission after the strange death of her father – sell off his damned collection of priceless artifacts. Her plan goes awry when aristocratic beauties start dying of broken hearts, an eight inch long brass key hammered through their chests. A killer hunts amongst the nobility, searching for a regal beauty and an ancient Egyptian relic rumored to hold the key to immortality.

Her Majesty’s Enforcers are in pursuit of the murderer and they see a connection between the gruesome deaths and Cara. So does she, somewhere in London her father hid Nefertiti’s Heart, a fist sized diamond with strange mechanical workings. Adding further complication to her life, notorious crime lord, Viscount Nathaniel Lyons is relentless in his desire to lay his hands on Cara and the priceless artifact. If only she could figure out his motive.

Self-preservation fuels Cara’s search for the gem. In a society where everyone wears a mask to hide their true intent, she needs to figure out who to trust, before she makes a fatal mistake.

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It always makes me smile when a steampunk novel creates inventions completely unique to its world.  I love how the rich have mechanical horse-powered carriages.   One of the characters was an air-ship pirate.  One thing that played in the back of my mind was that the focus seemed to be more on providing entertaining characters than characters that easily fit into the time period.  Cara and her grandmother are both willful and naughty.  I’m surprised that there wasn’t more of a focus about the scandalous behavior Cara engages in.  Her female friend (I can’t remember her name) and fiance offered a little glimpse that the way Cara behaves is not normal for a lady, but I wish it was more center-stage.  Still, I liked all the characters.

Romance lovers will love the building chemistry between Cara and her mysterious admirer.  Cara, herself, has a confusing personality at the beginning, since her traumatic past prevents her from enjoying the womanly urges she has that are downright scandalous for the era.  The focus shifts from the serial killer to Cara overcoming the mental scars inflicted on her as a teenager.  This section is surprisingly heavily on the romance.  Since I’m more of a fan of mystery than romance, the middle section lagged a bit.

But a sudden twist of the plot brought me right back to the story.  The ending was far faster paced than the rest of the book and a complete page turner.  Initially I thought a certain character was most definitely the killer, but I was happily wrong.  Turns out all the wrong questions were being asked.

B rating minus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.)

 

Cover Hatshepsut's Collar

Hatshepsut’s Collar by A.W. Exley

Page Count: 274

Published: November 13th, 2013

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

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.

Links:
Goodreads Amazon US | uk | de |  fr | it | es | Kobo

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  • 1 Steampunk Dragon Jewelry Box, Butterfly Hairclip, Full set of paperback books in the Artifact Hunters series & A pair of custom Nefertiti’s Heart / Hatshepsut’s Collar bookmarks with drawn character art (US/CA)
  • 1 Google Chromecast, Full set of paperback books in the Curiosity Quills anthologies (Primetime & After Dark ’13) (US/CA)
  • 12 ebook prize – READ AN EBOOK A MONTH Any 12 ebooks from the CQ catalog in the format of your choice (INT)

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Book Review: A Brief Eternity by Paul Beaumont

a brief eternity

A Brief Eternity by Paul Beaumont

 

Genre: Humor/Satire, Paranormal

Publisher: Dangerous Little Books

Pages: 284

Published: October 25th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

One glorious spring day in London, Jesus Christ rudely interrupts the morning rush hour by returning to Earth. The Second Coming has begun and Jerry, hitherto oblivious to Jesus and all of his friends, finds himself transported to Heaven to live a new life in Paradise. And that’s when his troubles really begin… Witty, provocative, subversive and surprising, A Brief Eternity examines mankind’s fondest wishes for love, redemption, happiness, immortality and, paradoxically, for death. Along the way it provides answers to the most important questions about the afterlife: what’s the food like; who cleans the toilets; and how will the Islamic suicide bombers react when they realise they’re all condemned to Hell, forever? A Brief Eternity is best read soon, while there’s still time. Just in case…

At its core, A BRIEF ETERNITY is a story about a forbidden romance between Jerry and Rachel.  Jerry has a cynical and sarcastic view on life and his biggest surprise when the Rapture happens is that he’s got a one-way ticket to Heaven.  Many of the descriptions are literal interpretations of quotes from the Bible and the result is a version of Heaven that will both fascinate and repulse.  It’s an agnostic’s view of Heaven and while technically a paranormal novel, I’d say that this would appeal more towards fans of satires.

Although countless fiction books have been published about ‘dead’ mythologies, it’s rare to find an author willing to put the same spin on a current day mythology aka theology.  The majority of books written about Heaven or Hell are either strongly supportive of the Christian religion or bastardize the religious portion until it’s not even recognizable.  The former are books like THE LEFT BEHIND series, while the latter books are simply a good vs evil war.

In A BRIEF ETERNITY,  it’s quite clear early on in the book that Jerry doesn’t fit in with the rest of the ‘believers’ sent to Heaven.  Going to Heaven with Jerry’s attitude would be like going to Disneyland and telling everyone at the park that the mascots are just people in furry costumes.  If you truly believe in the magic, then the details don’t matter.  It’s Heaven!  Why is he complaining, right? Still, I couldn’t help but laugh at the predicaments he ends up in and the company he has to ‘suffer’.

Jerry is loaded with questions about the policies of the place and can’t seem to get his mind off of his girlfriend, whose Jewish beliefs kept her locked outside the pearly gates.  When the book switches to her POV, we get an interesting version of Hell.  In these chapters, I’m reminded of the INCARNATIONS OF IMMORTALITY series, which offered a not-so-gritty version of Hell.  Life ‘down under’ continues much like it did on Earth.

Judging by the cover and blurb, A BRIEF ETERNITY appeared to be preachy.  I wasn’t quite sure when the author would stuff his personal beliefs down my throat but I was certain it would happen (spoiler — it doesn’t).  I suppose that you could view this book as a religious satire.   It’s has the humor of the HITCHHIKER’S GALAXY with a controversial plot like THE DA VINCI CODE.  THE DA VINCI code asked what if Jesus had a wife, while A BRIEF ETERNITY asked what if the Bible was literally true…would you still want to go there?

I think that two types of people should stay far away from this book:

a)      You think that religion is a load of horse-shit and all books mentioning it should be burned at the stake like the ‘witches’ during the middle-Ages.

b)      You think that anyone who criticizes the way that God works deserves to burn in Hell.

Basically, this book requires either an open mind or someone who isn’t easily offended by jokes about their religion.  I also want to point out that I’m not quite sure what version of the Bible was used when researching this book.  Each religious branch teaches different things.  For example, I was raised Catholic and never even heard of the Rapture until I had a Methodist boyfriend.  This is about how our conversation went:

Me:  You actually believe that ‘believers’ will one day go poof into thin air and disappear from Earth?

Him: You actually believe that the wine they serve during communion is literally the ‘Blood of Christ’?

Me: Touché.

(Although, in this case, he DID actually believed enough in the Rapture to slap a full size decal on his back window that said: ‘In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned.’  On an semi-unrelated note, he ended up totaling my car when I let him drive.  No Rapture required for that accident.)

I highly recommend this to readers who like humorous satires such as THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE and don’t mind a book that provokes thoughts about what your own version of Heaven and whether people should take everything in the Bible literally.  Paul Beaumont’s spin on Heaven certainly doesn’t match my own version, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story within these pages.

P.S.  I love the oxymoron title.

rating Aminus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.)

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Book Review: Replica by Jenna Black

replica

Replica by Jenna Black

Genre: YA Sci-fi

Publisher: Tor Teen

Pages: 368

Published: July 16th, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter

Breathtaking new YA SF from the author of the Faeriewalker series

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake comes from a high-class Executive family in the Corporate States. Her marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in her state, which means she lives a life of privilege but also of public scrutiny, followed everywhere by photographers, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image — no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathan Hayes is the heir of Paxco — controller of the former state of New York, and creator of human replication technology, science that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Though Nadia and Nate aren’t in love, they’ve grown up close, and they (and the world) are happy enough with their match.

Until Nate turns up dead, and as far as everyone knows, Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn’t know what killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

REPLICA tries to break the YA mold by adding a twist to the relationship between the main female and male characters.  Nadia and Nathan are engaged, but one of them (very minor spoiler – find out in first chapter) is gay and in love with someone else.  In order to maintain her social status, Nadia pretends like she is in love with Nathan.  Their superficial relationship is tested when Nathan is killed, supposedly by the third wheel in their love affair.

The most obvious (for me) person behind the killing ended up being the person to do the deed, which is the main reason I scored this book so low.  I don’t like books that I can predict the end within the first chapter or two.

The other shortfall for this novel is the lack of scientific terms and technology.  The only evidence that this book takes place in the future is the cover and the concept of human cloning.  There is very minimal world building.  There is no science involved, which makes me very wary to even call this a science-fiction novel.   I don’t think of it as a dystopian novel either, though it’s class system could allude to the genre.

Nadia’s motivations in this book appear to be one-dimensional.  I was hoping that she’d develop more over the course of the story, but it didn’t happen.  The story was linear, like in a MG novel.  The entire book felt flat and in my mind I was looking too much into the little things that happened and hoping that there would be something beyond the obvious.  I had hope that there would be some kind of unexpected twist at the end.

But no.   I think tween readers might appreciate the simplistic story, but this book fails in comparison to other books on the YA level.

D rating minus rating  

(I received a copy of this book from the ARCycling in exchange for my honest review.)

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A little bit about me…my job

I know this is an atypical topic for me, but I wanted to share a little bit about me.  Outside of books.

My job

A little more than a year ago, my husband and I were suppose to pack up and move back to New York.  With all of my family on that side of the country, I really was looking forward to the move.

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Here’s a picture of our beautiful truck and trailer! She’s the reason I’m able to afford my book addiction.

Instead, he convinced me to restart our trucking company in order to stay in Arizona.  He now spends 4-5 nights a week on the road.  I have to be up by 7am and usually finish paperwork/dispatching by noon, though some days it doesn’t end until 4pm.  Dispatching requires up typically 10 phone calls a day (up to 23 and as little as 3) and due to a very vocal toddler, I have to hide in my garage to have an uninterrupted phone call.  The paperwork portion of the job allows for a much noisier setting, so I get to do that at my desk, heh.  Sometime after lunch, I put the kid down to sleep.  Since I’m usually up to 2am writing/blogging, I often fall asleep during nap time too.  If I’m lucky enough to remain awake, this is the time of day I get to read during the week.

Without books and my book-related hobbies to keep me company, I’m not sure how I’d survive this life.  It’s hectic during the day and lonely at night.  My husband uses Saturday to enjoy his hobby, so the only day we get to spend together is Sunday.  /sigh

I never imagined myself in this profession growing up and I know that I don’t want my husband to be still on the road when the kid starts school, but it does pay the bills.  In this economy, I’m thankful to have that.

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Review + Giveaway: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

queen of hearts

 

Queen of Hearts (#1 The Crown) by Colleen Oakes

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling

Publisher: Sparkpress

Pages: 205

Published: February 14th, 2014

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest

Not every fairytale has a happy ending.
This is the story of a princess who became a villain.
***
A Father’s Betrayal. A Kingdom with a Black Secret. A Princess Slowly Unraveling.

As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Both WICKED and THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS transformed the evil villains into sympathetic and misunderstood characters.  Colleen Oakes succeeds in doing the same for THE QUEEN OF HEARTS.  It seems that the root of Dinah’s attitude problems stem from the fact that she wasn’t hugged enough as a child.  Truth-be-told, her father makes the future queen of hearts look docile and sane.  This is possibly the darkest version of Wonderland that I’ve read.

Most of the familiar characters return for this series, although in much different roles than they traditionally occupy.  There’s some romance, yet it’s not center stage.  I do like that Dinah’s love for this person seems genuine.  I’m still on the fence about whether his feelings for her are the same.

Our main character, Dinah, is a spoiled princess who abuses her powers to get what she wants.  However, her situation is so precarious that I can’t help but feel sympathetic for her.  The only way she knows how to get people to respond to her is to force her will upon them.  She’s a complex character, whose faults are so plentiful that it’s amazing that she can manage to smile when she does.

What’s truly remarkable is that the author manages to imply quite a bit about the other characters and the world without Dinah picking up on the clues.  Dinah is so self absorbed in her own world that she doesn’t see it crashing down around her until it hits her (literally).

The story and characters deserve five stars.  I just wish that the writing was as magical.  Personally, I think Wonderland needs purple prose to make it feel complete.  I never got the sense of how extraordinary the layout of the land or the characters were because description was either lacking or plainly written.  In most fantasylands, I don’t think it’s necessary to flaunt details and quirks, but Wonderland holds a special place in my heart and I like the weirdness of the place.  I do plan on continuing the series, since my love for well-written villains trumps everything.

B rating

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)

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