Monday, September 30, 2013

Goddess Fish Book Tours Book Review: A Heartless Design

Elizabeth Cole

An enigmatic woman, a determined spy, and a design that could shake the foundations of Europe…

“Heartless” Cordelia Bering refuses every marriage offer she receives. Yet men still try to win her, drawn by her sharp wit and intoxicating green eyes. But Cordelia knows a marriage could reveal her deepest secret and truly endanger her life. Besides, she hasn’t met a man worth considering, until...

Sebastien Thorne, a spy in the service of Crown. One of the elite agents in the group known as the Zodiac, he comes to London determined to solve a mystery with roots on the Continent. He won’t let anything distract him. But is Cordelia a distraction, or the key to the mystery? As he learns more about the “heartless” woman, he becomes embroiled in secrets, plots, and a design that could change the future…and Cordelia is at the center of it all.

A HEARTLESS DESIGN is the first book in the Secrets of the Zodiac, a series that blends the sensibilities of modern romantic suspense with the rich background of the Regency period.

Review: A Heartless Design has all the things I love in a book. It is set in Regency England, there's mystery involved and even some spying.

It really can't get much better than this.

Cordelia is one of London's most beautiful women, but she has secrets, lots of them, and they keep her from walking down the aisle. That is until she meets Sebastian who is a member of the Zodiac.

What can I say about this book...Cordelia is a strong heroine, but she's not the typical Regency heroine. She's not shying away from marriage because she's independent or because men have hurt her in the past. She is independent and beyond that, terribly smart. She's turned down marriage offers from many titled gentlemen. She knows, she can't marry, because if she did, her secret would be found out and that would endanger her life.

That doesn't stop Sebastian from being the perfect man for her.

What you have now are two people with a lot of secrets and they are falling in love.

Its funny, I read a book not too long ago with a heroine that had a career she had to hide, in that case she was an architect and in Cordelia's case, she's a designer of ships...and engineer.

I really loved the mystery involving who wanted the plans and for what reason. It really was an engaging read.

Elizabeth Cole also created some great secondary characters, particularly Cordelia's servants and Sebastian's sister Adele. No story is just about the hero and heroine, and these characters really helped make this book worth reads.

This was a fantastic story that is perfect for fans of regency romance and mysteries

Rating:  5 flowers


Elizabeth Cole is a romance author with a penchant for history, which is why she lives in an old house in an old city. She can be found hanging around libraries and archives, or curled in a corner reading, cat on lap. She believes in love at first sight. Then again, she also believes that mac 'n' cheese is a healthy breakfast, so don't trust her judgment on everything. 

Publisher site:
Author site:
Book site:

Giveaway: Two randomly drawn commenters will each win a $10 iTunes gift card

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Book Review: Bride Of The Wind

Author: Heather Graham
Title: Bride Of The Wind
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publish Date: June 12, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: 
Trapped on the high seas by the pirate known as Dragonslayer, Lady Rose confronts her passionate past

The daughter of a wealthy Virginia planter, Lady Rose Woodbine curses fate for leading her to the court of the British King Charles-and into an unwanted marriage with the handsome and dangerous Lord Pierce DeForte.

His desire for Rose blinded Pierce to the dangerous machinations of his enemies. Banished from England, he lives the life of a pirate-seeking vengeance on those who betrayed him, including the woman he once called his wife. Pierce, now feared as the notorious pirate Dragonslayer, captures a ship carrying Rose. Once his bride, now his prisoner, she's determined to escape from him once and for all.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Heather Graham, including rare photos from the author's personal collection.

Review:  This is a reissue novel by Heather Graham when she was writing as Shannon Drake. You know it is a retro read, because if you look for the original cover art, Fabio is Lord Pierce DeForte.


I have to say this book just didn't do it for me, even though I love the setting. Restoration the court of Charles II. This is a fabulous time in history. (And a raunchy time too)

However I had problems with both the hero and the heroine. I couldn't like them. Rose was too hard headed, and she blindly accepts some pretty lousy treatment by Pierce. And speaking of Pierce, he automatically thinks the worst of Rose for some things that he simply doesn't have evidence to prove. I don't know which character I liked the least.

There's a lot of drama in this book and it mostly in the back story of Rose and Pierce.

If you were hoping this was going to be a swashbuckling pirate novel, you are going to be disappointed. The amount of time the characters spend on the high seas isn't worth mentioning. Most of the story is about how Rose and Pierce ended up as a couple. That is where the primary drama is, and that also explains how Pierce ended up being Dragonslayer.

I never quite figured out how these two managed to be in love with each other! If one night of drugged out lovemaking makes for a marriage..well there should be a lot of these weird marriages going on...oh wait their are..and they are mostly in Vegas!

The ending wasn't all that satisfying either. Everything wrapped up too nice and easy.

If you like the bodice rippers from the late 80s early 90s, you might try this one. As for me, it was just an ok read.

Rating: 3 flowers

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Winter Chill

Author: Joanne Fluke
Title: Winter Chill
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: August 6, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: 
A Small Town. . .

The moment Marian Larsen sees the patrol car stop outside her house, she feels a shiver of foreboding. The news is even worse than she feared. Marian's husband and young daughter have been in a snowmobile crash. Dan is paralyzed and Laura is dead, her body broken on the icy ground.

. . .With A Chilling Secret

Friends and colleagues in Marian's Minnesota hometown rally around to try and ease her grief. But soon there are more horrible accidents. Then the rumors start--that these are not coincidences at all, that someone is picking off victims one by one. And as winter deepens, the search for answers will reveal a killer whose blood runs colder than the blinding snow. . .

Review: Before Hannah Swenson and The Cookie Jar, Joanne Fluke wrote some psychological thrillers, Winter Chill is one of them. Now if you are expecting a cozy mystery like the Hannah novels you may find yourself disappointed. This book is nothing at all like the Hannah books.

For starters, this book is very dark. It starts with the death of a young girl on a snowmobile with her father. Her dad is paralyzed as a result.

There's a lot of grief to be dealt with and neither parent is doing it well. Both have a whole lot of issues and the first part of the story creeps along as they start to deal with them, some in better ways than others.

It all starts with Dan leaving a note as Laura for Marian, to ease her grief, but when Marian keeps getting more notes things get strange and then they get stranger. Marian seems to lose grip on reality, thinking that Laura is with her and she asks for things....and then friends and family start ending up dead.

It is creepy...very very creepy, and definitely not the type of book I'm used to reading by Joanne Fluke.

The plot was what kept me reading after one event that normally would have me cast aside the book, because I wanted to see who else was going to get bumped off. (In my case, I hated that Muffy, the family dog was one of the victims)

As things go on, you see how Marian and Dan's relationship is falling apart, as is the case with many families when a child is lost in such a horrific manner.

Fluke does a great job bringing out the weird in Marian and the guilt infested self pity of Dan. While this is not my favorite novel by Joanne, it was a good read and it gives long time readers a taste of something different.

Rating: 4 flowers

Book Review: A Family For Christmas

Author: Winnie Griggs
Title: A Family For Christmas
Publisher: Love Inspired Historical
Publish Date: Oct 1, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: 
An Unexpected Gift

Eve Pickering knows what it's like to be judged for your past. So she's not about to leave the orphaned boy she's befriended alone in this unfamiliar Texas town. Since Chance Dawson's offer of shelter is the only way to look after Leo, Eve is determined they'll have a warm, welcoming home for the holidays.

Chance came from the big city to make it on his own despite a painful secret. But Eve's strength is giving him a confidence he never expected—and a new direction for his dream. With a little Christmas blessing, he'll dare to win her heart—and make their family one for a lifetime.

Review: This is a holiday novel, but the focus on the story was really not on Christmas but on Eve and Chance and the little boy Leo.

Eve rescues Leo when he is tossed off a train as a stowaway. He's a troubled youth and Eve becomes his champion, Chance who was on the same train becomes Eve's champion as well offering them a place to stay until all their affairs are situated.

An older woman, Dotty, stays with them as a chaperon.

This is a Christian romance so everything is clean, but that doesn't make any difference to the story.

Both the hero and heroine have their own difficulties as a result of their families. Eve's grandmother takes her mother's indiscretions out on her and as a result, Eve has very low self esteem. Chance and his father have a strained relationship as well. He also is unable to read, something he keeps secret from most everyone. It isn't mentioned, but I think he suffers from dyslexia.

In a small Texas town these two come together and start to build their lives. Eve blossoms in the new town especially as her business starts to take off and even when Chance's father arrives things stay on the up and up.

The best character in the story, is Leo. He's such a sweetie pie. He's had a rough life, losing his parents and then his home. He really knows how to speak his mind, and I particularly enjoyed the scene where he was left alone with Chance's father. See his dad cares a lot for his son, but he doesn't have the faith in his son's abilities that he should have. He also wants him to be something he's not. There's a lot of tension between these two.

In between all the tension, there is a wonderful love blossoming in a small pioneer Texas town, right at the start of the holiday season.

If you like historical romance or sweet romance, this is a must read.

Rating: 5 flowers

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guest Post: Jenny Kane author of Another Cup Of Coffee

Lyrically Tongue Tied- Another Cup of Coffee by Jenny Kane

Many thanks for letting me visit your fabulous blog today, to talk a little about my brand new romance novel, Another Cup of Coffee!!

Thirteen years ago Amy Crane ran away from everyone and everything she knew, ending up in an unfamiliar city with no obvious past and no idea of her future. Now, though, that past has just arrived on her doorstep, in the shape of an old music cassette that Amy hasn’t seen since she was at university.

Digging out her long-neglected Walkman, Amy listens to the lyrics that soundtracked her student days. As long-buried memories are wrenched from the places in her mind where she’s kept them safely locked away for over a decade, Amy is suddenly tired of hiding.

It’s time to confront everything about her life. Time to find all the friends she left behind in England, when her heart got broken and the life she was building for herself was shattered. Time to make sense of all the feelings she’s been bottling up for all this time. And most of all, it’s time to discover why Jack has sent her tape back to her now, after all these years…

With her mantra, ‘New life, New job, New home’, playing on a continuous loop in her head, Amy gears herself up with yet another bucket-sized cup of coffee, as she goes forth to lay the ghost of first love to rest...

Jack, the male led within Another Cup of Coffee is, as so many of us are, rather hopeless when it comes to expressing how he feels about other people. So, rather than try and explain himself, and mess it up- which he often does- he falls back on song lyrics to help him out. This was a habit Jack first picked up when he was dating Amy, and she told him all about the blank tape (see blurb!), that her brother had given her to record all her musical memories when she was a student...Since that time, so many years ago, Jack has used the lyrics of others to explain himself over and over again...and not always successfully....

The power shower thundered, sending a searing-hot cascade of water down onto Jack’s head. Squeezing far too much shampoo into his hands, he began to viciously scrub his short hair. What the hell had he been thinking? Well, actually, he hadn’t been thinking, had he? He never looked beyond himself. The moment. The day. He was so stupid. So angry with himself.
Why the fuck had he posted that tape? And more immediately, where was he? And how soon was he going to able to get away from whoever it was he’d spent the night with? Jack could feel the familiar sensation of suffocation closing in on him as he abandoned his hair and began to furiously soap his torso.
He was a shit.
But then you have to be good at something.
And now Amy was coming here. It hadn’t crossed his mind that she’d even visit, let alone move her entire life back south. And not just south, but bloody London. Being back in touch, and hopefully forgiven, was one thing when she was safely tucked away in Scotland. But here. Face to face. Jack hadn’t banked on that at all.
He really didn’t want to see Rob today. It was his fault this had happened. Rob had come into work one day, back in the summer, going on about how worried he and Paul were for Amy. How she seemed to have placed herself completely off the emotional scale. The combination of bright sunshine, happy reminiscences, and the weight of a conversation he and Amy had never had, had brought his buried guilt racing to the surface.
Then, a few days later, Paul had visited Jack and Rob’s bookshop, passing through on one of his rare visits between his archaeological digs. He’d been sorting out some of his university mementos, and had come across a load of photographs.
They were all there, at university, more years ago than was acceptable if Jack was still going to pass himself off as thirty at the clubs he frequented. Amy, Rob and Paul huddled together in a muddy ditch, laughing. Rob, Paul and him, pints of Tiger lager in hand, outside their favourite pub. Paul, Amy and him, all cuddled together on Rob’s battered and suspiciously stained brown sofa. Amy and him. Amy and him together. Smiling. Together.
That had been the killer. That was the photo that had made him think. Her eyes had shone at the camera. If Jack was honest, so had his. So, in a state of happy but unrealistic nostalgia, he’d gone home, dragged a box of assorted junk out from under his bed, and pulled out the tape.
He had weighed the clear plastic box in his hand. It was time to explain. If Amy was half the girl he used to know then she’d forgive him. And suddenly, from nowhere, Jack had found that he really, really needed to be forgiven.
That was why he’d put Unfinished Sympathy on Amy’s tape. He wanted her to understand that he knew he’d hurt her. That he, himself, had been hurt by having to leave her. But for reasons he hadn’t totally understood at the time, he’d felt he had no choice. A fact which had led him to the record the unbearably twee, but wholly accurate, I Will Always Love You. It seemed to say how sorry he was. It said everything he’d wanted to say then, but couldn’t. He was sorry, really he was. But for Amy to turn up here! Bloody hell.
Stepping out of the shower, Jack began to dry himself with a suitably punishing rough brown towel. Now he was going to have to tell Rob he’d returned the tape, and have another go at talking to Kit.
He hadn’t deliberately failed to tell Kit about Amy. Specific conversations about individual exes had never come up. Jack was pretty sure that Rob hadn’t mentioned Amy to Kit either. Amy had been part of their old life, and Kit was part of their current one. Simple.
Jack knew he had to see Kit soon, before someone else filled her in. He wasn’t sure why he’d walked out on her now he came to think about it. At least she’d understand. Kit always understood. After all, they’d remained friends. Great friends. They had moved on smoothly.
‘Talk about my past catching me up,’ he muttered to his sleep-deprived reflection as he dragged a borrowed razor over his chin. ‘It’s pretty much tripped me up, into a pile of shit, and it’s entirely my fault. Bloody sentimental tape. Fuck!’
Music has always paid an important part in my writing life. I have different playlists to listen to depending on what style of writing I am creating. When I am ‘being’ Kay Jaybee and creating erotica, I listen to Depeche Mode (just as Kit, the erotica writer within Another Cup of Coffee does!!). When I was writing Another Cup of Coffee, I listened to non-stop 80’s and 90’s music- just as I did when I was a student back in the 1990’s. And it is that music that inspires Jack’s lyrical feelings- and excuses...
If you want to find out how Jack manages to mess up even the simplest conversations with his overuse of lyrics, and discover how Amy sorts her life out, you can buy Another Cup of Coffee as an eBook or a paperback from –


Thanks again for letting me pop by today
Jenny xx

Jenny Kane is the author of the contemporary romance Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013). This is Jenny’s first novel, but more are in the pipeline...
Keep your eye on her blog at 
You can also follow Jenny on-
Twitter @JennyKaneAuthor

Jenny also writes as the erotica author Kay Jaybee.
As Kay she has written several novels, novella’s and short stories, including,  The Retreat, (Xcite 2013), The Voyeur, (Xcite 2012), Making Him Wait (Sweetmeats, 2012), The Perfect Submissive (Xcite, 2012), Digging Deep, A Sticky Situation (Xcite 2012), and The Collector (Austin & Macauley, 2012).
Details of all Kay’s work can be found at 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TLC Book Tours Book Review: The Bride Wore Size 12

About The Bride Wore Size 12

• Paperback: 400 pages

• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 24, 2013)

Book Blurb: Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is. With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather’s already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather’s sure things can’t get worse—until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather’s long-lost mother shows up.

Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she’s determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it’s the last thing she does . . . and this time, it just might be.

Review:  AGH!!! Why have I not read this series before now? There are 4 books prior to this, and now I've got to hunt them all down!!!


Because they are awesome

Heather Wells is a former pop star turned assistant residence hall director and she is just fun.

The book is the 5th in a series, but Cabot like most cozy mystery writers gives you enough to go on that you can jump right into the book and read on. I will tell you, that if you like cozies and chicklit, you'll be squealing and running to the bookstore or library to get the first four books before you are done with this one.

This book is the best of my favorite genres rolled into one.

So many quirky characters and so much drama and even a bit of wedding mayhem. It doesn't get much better than this. Toss in a dead RA and a prince from the middle east who is a real ladies man, and things get a bit tricky.

It seems that it is hard to plan a wedding and solve a murder at the same time. This is a light, fluffy read but satisfying. It is also a mystery that will keep the pages turning.

Meg Cabot had so many things going on, from Heather's mother, the Prince, the murder and all the fallout that results from it, that you don't realize nearly 400 pages have flown by.

If you've not met Heather and Cooper, they'll become you favorite literary couple after you are done. If you have, I'm sure they already are.

This is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year!

Rating: 5 flowers

Meg Cabot

About Meg Cabot Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary fiction she is the author of the bestselling young adult fiction series, The Princess Diaries. She lives in Key West, FL with her husband. Find out more about Meg at her website, follow her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Historical Fiction Virtual Tours Book Review: The Study Of Murder

Publication Date: September 18, 2013

Five Star Publishing

Hardcover; 264p

ISBN-10: 1432827200

The Study of Murder pits Scottish sleuth Muirteach MacPhee against a mysterious adversary in the medieval town of Oxford in 1374.At the command of the Lord of the Isles, Muirteach and his wife Mariota accompany Donald, the lord’s surly thirteen-year-old son, to Oxford where Donald is to enroll in university. Shortly after their arrival a winsome tavern maid disappears. At his charge’s insistence, Muirteach attempts to help Undersheriff Grymbaud with the investigation, as well as keep Donald at his studies and out of the taverns. He has little success with either venture, although the discovery of some bizarre and suggestive drawings on old parchments piques the curiosity of Donald and his peers. Meanwhile, Mariota thirsts to attend medical lectures at the schools, which are closed to women, and seeks a way to gain admittance to them. When an Oxford master is found brutally bludgeoned to death, Grymbaud asks Muirteach to investigate the slaying. The eventual arrest of an aged servant at the college stirs the ever-simmering discord between townsfolk and university students. The unrest culminates in riots and another senseless killing occurs, endangering Mariota. Gleaning clues from a cryptic manuscript and desperate to save his wife, a determined Muirteach tracks a wily killer through a dark and twisted labyrinth of deceit.

Review:  I've discovered so many wonderful historical mysteries this year, and I can now add The Study of Murder to that list. This is one of those books you could easily pass by because the cover does nothing to really draw you in. Please don't do that.

The characters Muirteach and Mariota are wonderful, both of them are smart, but Mariota is beyond that, being the daughter of a physician and one that really absorbs knowledge. She's definitely unusual, considering this book is set in 1374.

Its wonderful how the two work together and how much they love each other

Then there's Donald. He's the type of boy that trouble finds no matter where he goes and he's the one that gets Muirteach and Mariota involved in the case of the disappearing serving girl as well as the gruesome death of one of Oxford's masters.

These are character's you really like from the start and the attention to historical detail is marvelous. There was only one other historical mystery I've liked quite as much as I did this one and that was Sam Thomas' The Midwife's Tale. I can't wait to hunt down the other books in this series.

McDuffie writes a novel that is short but full of twists and turns. There is more than one crime to be solved as the story progresses, and up until the last page, you are wondering just who the killer is and where Jodetta has gone.

If you are looking for something a little different in a mystery series, this is definitely one to try

Rating: 5 flowers

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: Claimed

Author: Stacey Kennedy
Title: Claimed
Publisher: LoveSwept
Publish Date: Aug 5, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley 
Book Blurb: 
A novel of erotic discovery and forbidden desire that goes beyond Fifty Shades of Grey.

Presley Flynn is ripe to experience her secret fantasies . . . and Dmitri Pratt wants nothing more than to fulfill them. Once inside the elite Club Sin in Las Vegas, Presley is nervous but excited—and determined to surrender to her every desire. Dmitri is her Master, and his touch is like fire. With each careful, calculated caress, he unleashes her wildest inhibitions, giving her unimagined pleasure.

Presley is different than the other submissives Dmitri has mastered. The BDSM lifestyle is new to her, and so are the games they play at Club Sin. From the start, Presley stirs emotions in Dmitri far beyond the raw purity between a dom and the perfect sub. For the ecstasy they share goes beyond the dungeon, igniting a passion that claims the very depths of the heart.

Claimed is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences.

Review: I love Stacey Kennedy's writing, especially her Urban Fantasy stuff and I've read several of her short erotic stories, so I was excited to read Claimed.

It was a learning experience for me.


I discovered I am not very fond of BDSM novels in long form. I can handle the stories when they are novellas or shorts, but at full length, it becomes too much for me. That is me though, and should not reflect on Stacey's writing, because Claimed was hot and wonderful just like the other novellas I've read.

So before you think that I didn't like the book or the story, that just isn't it.

Allow me to give you my pros and cons.


I loved the story of Mary and Charles. Charles was Dmitri's mentor into the BDSM lifestyle.

Dmitri was really a sweetheart.

The romantic element between Presley and Dmitri was wonderful. I liked the touch of sweet romance mixed in with the hot and spicy BDSM scenes.


Steven was just not developed enough to make his dark, nasty side believable enough for me.

So really that was my only con with the story. I just found that longer BDSM novels are not to my taste these days. I guess I'm a vanilla kind of girl.

Rating: 4 flowers

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review: Someone Else's Fairytale

Author: E.M. Tippetts
Title: Someone Else's Fairytale
Publisher: Createspace
Publish Date: Dec 7, 2011
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: 
Jason Vanderholt is Hollywood's hottest actor. Chloe Winters hasn't bothered to see most of his movies. When they meet by chance, he is smitten and Chloe becomes the woman every other woman in America is dying to be, but it just isn't her fairy tale.

Review:  This is novel that falls into that new genre "New Adult" kinda sorta. When I say kinda sorta, that's because most new adult novels have a bit of sex, and Chloe is an abstinence kinda girl, but not in the way most people that feel that way about pre-marital sex are.

She's got a complicated life. Very complicated and with a lot of issues.

She's not an easy character to fall in love with let alone fall in like with. She's a little bit of an intellectual snob, but not entirely. Her bff, Matthew wears a purity ring, but he wants to remain pure for religious reasons.

Then she meets Jason Vanderholt. (aka a kinda Robert Pattinson type of guy..but not quite). He was a Disney actor turned superstar when he landed the role in the New Light films playing a Gladiator. Something about him always reminded me of Edward/Robert though I'm not sure why.

He is really "Everyone Else's Fairytale." From the start he is nothing but sweet and nice and just an all around good guy. It is hard to figure out why Chloe is just so darn stand off-ish towards him, but as her background unfolds...a mom that had an affair with a married man..whose son is a druggie and did some unspeakable things to Chloe...well you can understand why she is the way she is...sort of.

I still found it hard to give Chloe a lot of love. Jason was a nice guy, even when Matthew was pointing out things that might have her change her mind. BTW...Matthew..did not like him from the beginning. There was something overly pretentious about him.

Though I had my issues with Chloe this was a fun book to read. Most everyone has had one daydream or another of a Hollywood star falling for them, and E.M. Tippetts does a good job of showing some of the ups and downs of being in a relationship with a person in the spotlight.

Oh and I have to say I loved Jason's family as well as Chloe's mom, she's a bit messed up too, but she's sweet.

The one real downside I had with this book was with Chloe's relationships, both with Matthew and Jason. You never really knew why she was attracted to either of them, as friends or as boyfriends, so it was a bit hard to deal with her trying to take guy to the next level from friendship.

The book is cute and fun and also a bit serious. I think its a great choice for younger readers. It felt like it fits somewhere between YA and New Adult.

Rating: 3 flowers

Book Review: The Chocolate Touch

Author: Laura Florand
Title: The Chocolate Touch
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish Date: July 30, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: 
Dominique Richard's reputation says it all--wild past, wilder flavors, black leather and smoldering heat. Jaime Corey is hardly the first woman to be drawn to all that dark, delicious danger. Sitting in Dom's opulent chocolaterie in Paris day after day, she lets his decadent creations restore her weary body and spirit, understanding that the man himself is entirely beyond her grasp.

Until he touches her. . .

Chocolate, Dominique understands--from the biting tang of lime-caramel to the most complex infusions of jasmine, lemon-thyme, and cayenne. But this shy, freckled American who sits alone in his salon, quietly sampling his exquisite confections as if she can't get enough of them--enough of him--is something else. She has secrets too, he can tell. Of course if she really knew him, she would run.

Yet once you have spotted your heart's true craving, simply looking is no longer enough. . .

Review: I was drawn to this book by its cover, however, once I started to read the book, I realized that this cover in no way depicts Jaime and Dominique. It is still a beautiful cover but I feel badly for the author, because I really think the cover should represent the story and the only thing in that shot that makes sense is the Eiffel Tower.

But back to the book.

This is one of the best contemporary romances that I've read this year. It is part of the series Amour et Chocolat, but it isn't one of those series that you have to read in order to appreciate and love. I love that so much of the focus is on our hero, Dominique. He is such a bad boy, turned pussy cat. That's what I love to see in romances.

Everyone is trying to push her away from him, because of who he is and where he comes from, and yet with Jaime and with his staff, he is sweet and he feels undeserving of her love.


How can you not love a hero like that?

And Jaime is just as flawed. Where Dominique came from a horrid background, Jaime's family is a wealthy one, owning Corey Chocolate (think Hershey or Nestle's) and she is more of a human right's advocate. She's recovering from terrible injuries while working in Africa and now she's questioning her courage to get back into the game.

So you have two characters that are emotionally broken and yet chocolate brings them together.

What I loved about Laura's writing was how she made eating chocolate so sensual and sexy, especially through Dom's eyes. When Jaime was in his salon eating, it was almost like a love scene.


Then there are Jaime's other family members. Oh how I love her grandfather James, who is trying to check out Dom to see if he's good enough for his granddaughter. I love their interactions and the fact that Dom can't be bought.

There's so much tension between Jaime's family and Dom. However what makes that really amusing rather than cliche is that Jaime manages to keep her last name from him for most of the book.

If you have a love for contemporary romance, Paris, or chocolate, this book and series are a must read!

Rating: 5 flowers

Friday, September 20, 2013

Great Escapes Book Tours Book Review: The Money Bird

Author: Sheila Webster Boneham
Title: The Money Bird
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publish Date: Sept 8, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Great Escapes Book Tours & the author
Book Blurb: 
For Janet MacPhail, photographing retrievers in training is the perfect way to spend an evening. But a photo session at Twisted Lake takes a peculiar turn as Drake, her friend Tom’s Labrador, fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill.

When one of her photography students turns up dead at the lake, Janet investigates a secretive retreat center with help from Australian Shepherd Jay and her quirky neighbor Goldie. Between dog-training classes, photo assignments, and romantic interludes with Tom, Janet is determined to get to the bottom of things before another victim’s wings are clipped for good.

Review: This is the second book in Sheila's Animals in Focus Series. Since it is early on, it is safe to say you can jump into this one without having read the first book Drop Dead On Recall.

It has all the cozy elements that make for great reading, a spunky heroine, her love interest, some awesome pets and a really quirky murder to solve.

The book starts with Drake finding a blood soaked bag with a feather and a torn hundred dollar bill and from there it just gets more interesting. When a body turns up in the lake, and is identified as one of her students, she's determined to get to the bottom of things.

 Janet MacPhail is a photographer and an animal lover. This book is as much about her and her furry friends as it is a mystery and Janet gets up to a lot of things while trying to figure out what's going on at "Treasures On Earth" a cultish retreat on the lake.

There's a lot of humor in this book as well. Early on someone takes a bite out of Janet while she's photographing "A Day In The Life" of their local vet, and that's not the only place you'll find giggles. Another favorite involves her dog and a high school crush of Janets.

Toss in some exotic birds that shouldn't be in her neck of the woods and you have quite a mystery.

There's a lot of attention to detail here, especially with the animals and animal trafficking, which is a crime most of us don't think of on a day to day basis.

I also love Janet and Tom's love for animals. Books with animals are always among my favorite reads, especially when they are cozies and I have to say this is one couple I really love. There's really a great chemistry between the two. I also like that they are both older...erm...more mature. They also don't really go off half cocked while trying to solve the crime.

This is definitely a must read book and a must read series to follow.

Rating: 5 flowers

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bewitching Book Tours Book Review: The Outside

The Outside
The Hallowed Ones Book Two
Laura Bickle

Genre: paranormal YA

Publisher: Harcourt
Date of Publication: September 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0544000131

Number of pages: 320
Word Count: 85000 words

Cover Artist: Shane Rebenschied

Book Description:

One girl. One road. One chance to save what remains…

After a plague of vampires is unleashed in the world, Katie is kicked out of her Amish community for her refusal to adhere to the new rules of survival. Now in exile, she enters an outside world of unspeakable violence with only her two “English” friends and a horse by her side. Together they seek answers and other survivors—but each sunset brings the threat of vampire attack, and each sunrise the threat of starvation.

And yet through this darkness come the shining ones: luminescent men and women with the power to deflect vampires and survive the night. But can these new people be trusted, and are they even people at all?

In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, it’s up to one Amish girl to save her family, her community, and the boy she loves . . . but what will she be asked to leave behind in return?

 Advance Praise for The Outside:

 “Top-notch. . . . A horror story with heart and soul.”
—Kirkus, starred review

“At once horrifying, hopeful, and hauntingly beautiful, this gorgeous read with its rich textures and spine-tingling suspense kept me glued to the pages in utter fascination. Laura Bickle is a master storyteller.”

 -Darynda Jones, NY Times Bestselling author of The Darklight Series

Praise for The Hallowed Ones

"This is a book to make you fear the shadows--a horrifying and gruesome tale of faith, and things that blink red eyes in the night. I began reading in the daylight, and read on into the late hours, leaning close, biting my lip. I could not look away; I was obsessed. Katie is an unbreakable soul."
—Lauren DeStefano, New York Times Bestselling author of the Chemical Garden Trilogy

"What an eerily believable, unique story! I can't stop thinking about it--or shivering."
—Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely Books

"Tight pacing, suspenseful scenes, Wow! moments of tension, and exposure into a world I knew little about, The Hallowed Ones is an exciting, terse read. . . . Laura Bickle's debut novel for young adults has quickly become my favorite dystopian novel of 2012. . . . It left me wanting more, so much more."

"Readers will find it hard to put down this suspenseful, scary, compulsively readable adventure."
—Kirkus Reviews

"Katie's an original character, and her thoughtful rebellion makes her an interesting addition to supernatural fictions's gallery of strong heroines."


Copyright © 2013 by Laura Bickle


The hard part about the end of the world is surviving it, surviving when no angels scoop you up to fly you away to heaven. God doesn’t speak. But I kept asking.

“Unser Vadder im Himmel . . .”

My breath was ragged in my throat, my voice blistering around the words of the Lord’s Prayer. I spoke in Deitsch, the way my people always did when we prayed. It didn’t matter if evil understood me, only God.

“. . . Dei Naame loss heilich sei . . .”

I opened my arms, my coat and dark skirts flapping around my legs and wrists. I stared out at a field, holding a sharpened pole in each fist. One had been a garden hoe in a previous life and the other a shovel. The metal had been stripped from them, but they were still tools. Weapons. A crumpled piece of paper was fastened to my chest with straight pins, the writing growing faint and illegible in the gathering darkness.

Darkness with eyes.

“Dei Reich loss komme . . .”

I strained to see into the night. Shapes seethed. I knew that something terrible was out there. The bullfrogs had stopped chanting and the late-season crickets had gone silent. I heard crunching in leaves, saw something shining red.

“Dei Wille loss gedu sei.”

My knuckles whitened on the wood in my hands.

“Bonnet, c’mon!”

My head snapped around, my bonnet string slapping my chin. I could see two familiar figures retreating behind me. A short, round woman scurried through the field. Her platinum hair was bright against the night, almost appearing as a moon bobbing along churning water. She reached a nervous white horse who was pawing at the earth, clambered clumsily onto its back. Between her and me, a lanky shadow in a dark jacket gestured at me with white hands. Alex.

Bonnet. That was Alex’s nickname for me. My real name is Katie.

Alex said that God did not rule the end of the world. Alex said the end of the world was ruled by sun and Darkness. By time. And time was one thing we had very little of. The light had drained out of the day, and we were vulnerable.

I saw Alex taking off his jacket, wading through the grass toward me. I swallowed. That meant that he sensed the same thing I did, that the hair also stood up on the back of his neck, that he was ready to fight.

He stripped off his shirt. My heart flip-flopped for a moment and my grip on the stakes slackened for a fraction of a second. His pale skin was covered by black sigils that seemed to blur in the twilight. It was cold, but for them to work well, the creatures pursuing us needed to see them —the same reason I’d pinned the petition to God to my chest.

I worked the prayer through my teeth, one eye on the horizon, at the roiling shadows in the east.

“ . . . Uff die Erd wie im Himmel.”

“Damn it, Bonnet.” He grabbed my elbow. He tore the white bonnet off my head, stuffed it into his pocket.

I snatched at the strings. “Don’t . . .”

“This thing makes you a target. I could see you from all the way back there.” He stabbed a thumb at Ginger’s retreating figure on horseback, melting into the grass. “It shines like a beacon.”

I lifted my chin. “Ja. Maybe it should.”

This was an argument we repeated often. Though the end of the world had come, I adhered to the old ways. I was born Amish, and I would die Amish.

But hopefully not tonight.

Alex’s eyes narrowed and he looked over my head. I could feel his hand grow cold through the sleeve of my dress.

“They’re here,” I breathed.

He swore.

Alex pulled me back, back into the tall grass disturbed by a breeze.

My breath hissed behind my teeth:

“Unser deeglich Brot gebb uns heit,
Un vergebb unser Schulde,
Wie mir die vergewwe wu uns schuldich sinn.”

I ran. I felt the grass slashing around my skirts as I plunged into the gathering night. The landscape slipped past, and I had the feeling of flying for a moment, of hurtling through that striped shadow in which no crickets sang.

But I knew that a more solid Darkness gathered behind me. I could feel it against my back, the way the air grew thick and cold, the way it felt above the earth right before first frost.

The last lines of the Lord’s Prayer slipped from my lips:

“Un fiehr uns net in die Versuchung,
Awwer hald uns vum ewile.
Fer dei is es Reich, die Graft,
Un die Hallichkeit in Ewichkeit . . .”

Evil hissed behind me, crackling like ice popping over a fire. I felt the thread of a spider web slip through the grass, breaking on my hands.


I turned, swinging the hoe in an arc around me. It whipped through the grass with the sound of a card trapped in bicycle spokes. A pair of glowing eyes leapt back, but claws scrabbled around the makeshift stake. I lunged with the second weapon in my left hand. The point struck home into something solid, and that something shrieked. I fought back the urge to shudder.

Nothing human made a sound like that. It was a sound like a bobcat wailing at sunset, mourning the loss of the day. Only this shadow mourned the loss of flesh.

Alex, ever the anthropologist, had a theory about that sound. In the calmer daylight hours, he speculated that this shriek had been at the root of the banshee myth, in an earlier, more orderly age. Once upon a time, when there had been civilization. I’d never heard the myth before, but I knew that inhuman sound all too well now.

The stake broke off in my hand, and I stumbled back with only splinters in my fist. Something swept up from the grass and ripped at my sleeve with claws.

I howled, smelling my own blood. The scent would bring more of them.

I twisted in its grip. The letter pinned to the front of my dress rustled and the creature with the glowing eyes hissed. It loosened its hold, enough for me to jam the ruined stake into its face.

I was no longer a pacifist. I meant to kill.

I was no stranger to death. We Amish lived close to the earth, under the watchful eye of God and all of his kingdom. I had helped with the butchering of pigs, mourned the loss of dogs at my kennel in whelping. I had stood at the bedsides of my grandparents when they died. I’d held my mother’s last child, a stillborn, and witnessed a neighbor die during child-birth. Those things had happened in normal life.

But when life stopped and God’s kingdom fell into shadow, I saw death in an entirely different fashion. I had dressed the bodies of women in my community for burial, only to be forced to cut their heads off before daylight’s fingers of sunshine had left them. I had seen children torn asunder, reduced to unrecognizable smears on a ceiling. I had slain men who were once like brothers to me, impaled them, and burned them.

I had seen too much. 

I had seen true Darkness.

My heart thudded against the fabric of my dress and the holy letter pinned there —small defense against the undead, but still a defense. I thrust down with all my might to jam the stick into the face of the creature twisting beneath me in the grass.

This was not murder, I had decided. This was doing the Lord’s dirty work. Putting the dead back in the earth.


I glanced up to see a pale face with a gaping maw hurtling toward me. I saw fangs, red eyes, little else. I flung my right hand with my remaining stake up before me, but the creature slammed against it, buffeting me back to the sea of grass. I landed on my backside, my feet tangled in my skirt. Its cold shadow passed over me, blocking out the pinpricks of starlight in violet sky. It smelled like blood.

Food,” it rasped. “Lovely food . . .” It reached toward my face, gently, reverently, almost as an intimate might. It was a very human gesture, rendered savage by the greed in the red eyes. By hunger for the blood that slipped down my arm and pooled in my palm.

Get away from her!

A black and white blur passed between me and death. Alex. From behind, I could see the familiar tattoos stretching across his skin: a Djed pillar, sacred to Osiris. And on his chest, an ankh made of scars, which he told me was the symbol of eternal life.

It was nothing like the carefully scripted letter pinned to my dress. It was called a Himmelsbrief, and had been made for me by my community’s Hexenmeister, a petition to God on my behalf. But any symbol of divine power behaved in the same way, the way that crucifixes and holy water did. God, in whatever guise he chose, did have some power over these creatures.

The vampire reached for Alex with an expression of longing.

“Food,” it whispered, with a nearly palpable sorrow.

But its hands were stilled just above the ankh burned on Alex’s chest. It was as if this was an invisible barrier it could not cross. The vampire froze in puzzlement, and I could almost imagine that some thoughts still rattled around its head as it had learned what was safe to eat and what was poisonous.

“Not food,” Alex responded. There was a subtle jerk at his elbow, and the flash of a silver knife plunged between the vampire’s ribs. The creature clawed, scratching at the edge of the ankh. I could hear the sizzle of his flesh, a sound like bacon frying. Black blood flowed over Alex’s wrist. He shoved the vampire down to the grass, and I could see his knife slashing, the black droplets of vampire blood clinging to the tips of the grass stalks like dew. I was still mystified by it, by its lack of redness, by its soft, inklike consistency. It smelled like iron, though, which was enough to tell what they had once been. Alex speculated that iron oxidized in their blood, darkening it.

That black blood was on my wrist. I smeared it against my skirt as Alex’s fingers wound around my hand. “We’ve got to go. There will be more.”

I nodded. This was no time to contemplate biology or humanity. This was time to act, to move. To survive.

We ran, hand in sticky hand, sliding through the grass like ghosts.

I could see the bright helmet of Ginger’s hair and the stark white figure of the horse far before us. We’d given them a head start, which was good —Alex and I had the only really effective weapons against the vampires. Alex had his tattoos and I had the Himmelsbrief. They were more of a deterrent, Alex said, like spraying mace at a perpetrator. The startlement they created sometimes gave us enough opening to run away. Or kill.

“Where are we going?” I asked, casting my gaze about the dark landscape. It was suicide to be out in the open like this. “We can’t fight until daylight.”

He shook his head, mouth pressed in a flat line. “I don’t know. The sign said that there was a church back there, but all we saw was burned timbers. Useless as shelter, if it was desecrated by the vamps.”

“We’ll have to find someplace else,” I decided, nodding sharply to myself.

“How do you feel about sleeping in trees?” His face split open in a lopsided grin, his teeth white in the darkness. There were some at the horizon we could possibly reach, but none in the field.

“I’m quite sure the vampires can climb trees.”

“Maybe not if we set fire at the roots . . . they don’t like fire.”

I made a face. “I don’t much fancy the idea of being roasted alive in a tree.”

“Reminds me of a movie, The Wicker Man . . .” he began.

I glanced at him blankly. I had never seen a movie.

“Never mind, then. I’ll tell you later.”

Ginger’s horse was climbing a slope ahead of us. This part of the meadow wasn’t cultivated, and the grass and weeds swelled over this rill in the earth, perhaps five feet tall, stretching east to west.

My skin prickled. In the far distance, I could see more glowing eyes gathering. They had heard us. They smelled blood. I pulled at Alex’s sleeve and pointed.

Ginger had reached the top of the hillock. She was panting, and her glasses slid down over her nose. She was dressed as an Amish woman, but she was not one of my people. She was an Englisher, like Alex. She was an old friend of my family who had lost everything: her husband, her children. And she was the only part of my old life I had left. I clung to her.

The horse stared to the south. His ears flattened, and his eyes dilated black as obsidian. His nostrils flared, and his tail swished back and forth. He pawed the earth, pacing nervously. I had found him back on Amish land with an empty saddle, smeared in blood and with his former rider’s boot still in the stirrup. We had discovered that the horse had a sixth sense about the vampires. Perhaps he could sense them the way dogs could sense earthquakes. Or perhaps he was merely a nervous horse and vampires were everywhere.

Alex had named him Horus, after an Egyptian god of the sky who defeated evil. Ginger and I just called him Horace.

“They’re out there,” Ginger said, staring out at the dark and patting Horace’s sides soothingly.

Ja. They’re coming.” I climbed up the hill, gazing at the flattened trail of grasses we’d left.

Alex scrambled to the top of the hill. Ginger and I made to rush down the slope on the other side, but he said: “Wait.”

I looked up at him, my brows drawing together. “What do you mean?”

Alex shook his head. He squatted, and squinted to the beginning and the end of the strangely squiggling formation of land.

“Alex. We’ve got to go.” Now it was me urging him on.

He slipped on his jacket. “We wait here.”

Ginger’s head popped up above the grass line like a platinum gopher. “What are you talking about? We’ve gotta get moving.” She tugged at Horace’s reins, but he would not budge. He stood on the pinnacle of the hill as if he were a statue.

Alex shook his head, and he pressed his hands to the ground. He was smiling. “No. We wait here. On the hill.”

I bit my lip. Perhaps the stress of running from vampires for the last several weeks had caused Alex to finally lose touch with reality. Perhaps he had some desire to make a last stand. I confessed to myself that I felt like that often. I hadn’t been baptized, so I wouldn’t get to heaven, but it was sometimes peaceful to imagine not existing in this chaotic world any longer. I didn’t think I’d be sent to hell, but I just wasn’t sure.

In any event, I wasn’t quite ready to test theology.

“Alex,” I said. “We need to go if we’re to have any chance of—”

“Do you trust me?”

He crouched on the top of the hill, looking at me with an infuriatingly jovial smile. I felt myself frown, but I reached down for his hand. Behind me, Ginger sighed and scrambled up the grass bank.

We sat on the crest of the little hill, looking down, as dozens of glowing eyes converged upon us.

“We’re screwed,” Ginger said.

I didn’t disagree with the sentiment.

Those luminous eyes drew near. I counted more than two dozen pairs. My heart hammered, and my mouth felt sticky and dry. I fingered the rough edge of my makeshift weapon. I might be able to kill one vampire with it. Not dozens.

Jagged silhouettes of people pulled themselves from the grass, like spiders extricating from webs. I braced myself, clutching my puny staff. Their eyes swept up the hill. I expected them to rush to us like water in a trench after a rainstorm.

They reached up with pale fingers that smelled like metal. Their lips drew back, hissing, and I could see the thirst in their eyes. But they made no move to climb the hill.

I sidled closer to Alex. “What’s stopping them?”

“Holy ground,” he said, grinning.

My brows drew together. I didn’t understand. I saw no sign of any human habitation here. No church. No graveyard. Just this oddly shaped hill that rose up out of the field.


Ginger started laughing behind me. She turned on her heel and surveyed the sad little hillock. “I see it now,” she said. She huddled in closer with us when a vampire snarled at her.

“See what?” 

“We’re on an Indian mound,” Alex said. “A holy site built by any one of a number of tribes in this area. They were used as burial mounds, ceremonial sites, astronomical measurements . . . some, we have no idea what for.”

“How did you know?” It looked like just a rill in the land to me. A bump.

“See how it’s sorta shaped like a snake?” He gestured to the west. “It’s hard to see underneath the tall grass, but notice how it undulates in the ground?” He swished his hand back and forth like a snake swimming, and I could see some of the suggestion of a reptile in it.

“I saw a mound one time that was shaped like a big serpent eating the moon.” He cocked his head and started to walk off down the snake’s back. “I wonder if this one is like that . . .”

Ginger snagged the back collar of his jacket. “No exploring in the dark with the monsters down below.”

“What do we do now?” I leaned on my staff. The hissing and bright eyes below were unnerving. Pale fingers combed through the grass.

Alex sat down. “We wait for morning.”

I sighed and knelt down to pray. I could feel the chill of the earth beneath my knees, dew gathering. My skin crawled at the thought of the creatures, only feet away. I shut my eyes, trying to prove that I trusted God. He had kept us safe so far. He would keep us safe as long as it suited his purposes.

That was part of what I believed —what the Amish believed. We believed in Gelassenheit — surrendering ourselves to God’s will. It was difficult, at times like this. I struggled to keep my eyes closed, seeing crescents of light beneath my lashes; I could not quite make myself trust the darkness.

“Unser Vadder im Himmel . . .
. . . dei Naame loss heilich sei . . .”

“Damn. I wish I had a harmonica,” Alex grumbled.

Review: If you haven't read The Hallowed Ones stop right now and go buy it, then buy The Outside. Everything will be that much clearer to you if you do. Laura Bickle's Amish Dystopian series is really a page turner.

I'm always intrigued by any fiction involving the Amish, most of which is more Christian then this. Laura doesn't take the faith of Katie away in this story, even though the world she lives in is so different, now that there are vampires out there. And these aren't the same kind of vampires we're used to anymore. Yes, they are evil...oh and they don't sparkle! Whoo hoo!

Katie aka "Bonnet", Alex and Ginger are making their way in "The Outside" which is very dangerous. There are more vampires now than humans and even some scared places aren't safe.

This book develops Katie and Alex's relationship. One of the best parts of this book involves the two of them in an abandoned mall having a "Date Night."  The scenes of Katie getting ready are priceless, since as an Amish girl, she wouldn't be wearing any of the clothes she finds at the department store.

Not all the characters make it to the end. I won't spoil it and say who comes and goes, but some new additions arrive and one of them is a wolf they named Fenrir after the mythological wolf. How Fenrir came to be part of their group is another wonderful scene in their travels.

This book is hard to review because it is so good, a great continuation from The Hallowed Ones. Laura Bickle's characters are ones you really come to love and you don't want to let go of them when the last page is finally turned. To go into all the things that are fabulous would spoil the story and so much happens in this book that it would be so easy to do that, and I won't.

Laura's does a good job of showing the Amish culture in this book. With Katie you see that you can take the girl out the Amish culture, but you can't take the Amish out of the girl. You often see Katie struggling with the new things in the English world and you see her struggles with faith as well. 

Alex is the perfect foil for her and the two are perfect together.

This is truly one of the best young adult series I've read in ages. I highly recommend this book, but only if you have read The Hallowed Ones first. I'm anxious to find out when Book 3 is coming out!

Rating: 5 flowers

About the Author:

Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams).

Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and six mostly-reformed feral cats.

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