Thursday, October 31, 2013

Litfuse Blog Tour Book Review: Glittering Promises

Glittering Promises (Grand Tour Series, #3)Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: David C. Cook
Series: Grand Tour Series # 3

Lisa T. Bergren’s popular Grand Tour series concludes as Cora Kensington journeys farther into Italy, wrestles with a terrible ultimatum from her father, and comes to terms with the Father who will never fail her.

America’s newest heiress must decide if her potential fortune is rationale enough to give up her freedom and all that God is leading her toward. And when her newly-discovered siblings are threatened with ruin, her quandary deepens. Then as Cora nears Rome, more journalists are track the news story of the decade—“Copper Cora,” the rags-to-riches girl—and want to know more about her family and the men vying for her attention. Meanwhile, a charming Italian countess decides that if Cora isn’t going to claim Will’s heart, she might just try...

I took deep breaths of the air, redolent with the scents of lavender and rosemary, the hot smell of summer in Italy.

“If you spot him again, shoot him on sight,” my father said. “I shall deal with the repercussions myself.”

“Let’s just say no strings that are obvious. You and I both know that there are always strings. Always.”

I could not have asked for a better end to this amazing series. The third installment promised to be so many things, and I was not disappointed one bit. This book follows the group to Italy, for the conclusion of their trip and in order to get away from the press for a while. I felt that Italy was a wonderful place to end this series. The descriptions and imagery were mastered beautifully, and honestly the pace felt so much more calm and serene because of Cora and her friend’s surroundings. Lisa Bergren is an amazing author and this review, I am sure, will not do her justice.

This book wastes no time diving into Cora’s life and all the conflicts she faces at home and in her own personal life. Cora really grows as a person and a character in this book because she has to make a few decisions, and these are not easy ones to make. She feels torn between the father figures in her life, as well as the two men that are vying for her heart. Cora is a remarkable person, and after following her in three books I must say that she has been one of my favorite characters to read over the past year. She now just feels like a childhood friend to me, and when I need a good dose of inspiration I will turn to some of her most encouraging lines in these books.

These books have given me a little bit of everything all wrapped into one. They were like a big birthday cake made from scratch providing: history, romance, adventure, action, and best of all, drama! This book is just like the rest, and keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. At times while reading I pictured this book being turned into a television series, and must admit that I believe it would be a marvelous one at that! Lisa Bergren, keep writing books like these!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the folks at Litfuse Blog Tours in exchange for my participation on a tour and my honest review***

Book Review: Copperhead

Copperhead (Ironskin, #2)Author: Tina Connolly
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Ironskin # 2

The sequel to Tina Connolly's stunning historical fantasy debut.

Helen Huntingdon is beautiful—so beautiful she has to wear an iron mask. Six months ago her sister Jane uncovered a fey plot to take over the city. Too late for Helen, who opted for fey beauty in her face—and now has to cover her face with iron so she won’t be taken over, her personality erased by the bodiless fey.

Not that Helen would mind that some days. Stuck in a marriage with the wealthy and controlling Alistair, she lives at the edges of her life, secretly helping Jane remove the dangerous fey beauty from the wealthy society women who paid for it. But when the chancy procedure turns deadly, Jane goes missing—and is implicated in the murder.

Meanwhile, Alistair’s influential clique Copperhead—whose emblem is the poisonous copperhead hydra—is out to restore humans to their “rightful” place, even to the point of destroying the dwarvven who have always been allies.

Helen is determined to find her missing sister, as well as continue the good fight against the fey. But when that pits her against her own husband—and when she meets an enigmatic young revolutionary—she’s pushed to discover how far she’ll bend society’s rules to do what’s right. It may be more than her beauty at stake. It may be her honor...and her heart.

The emblem of the Copperhead Society was spreading faster and faster these days, almost as fast as the blue bits of fey that lay quiescent throughout the city.

With relief, Helen reached to unbuckle her iron mask, but her husband stopped her. “Could be dangerous.”

And anyone who had fey attached to their bodies was at risk of being taken over by the fey.

It had even happened to Helen. Only Jane’s quick application of an iron spike into her arm had killed the fey and saved her. Helen shuddered, remembering the moment.

Copperhead looks at Helen’s point of view, Jane’s sister, as bits of fey are being found all over town and the threat of fey activity is present once again. The action and adventure start as quickly as the story does. We are once again thrown into this eerie world where the need to protect yourself is at an all-time high. Before you can blink your eyes, you will have already have reached the rising action, Jane will be missing, and Helen will go on the chase of her life looking to save her sister. Helen is not prepared to learn all that she does about herself as she takes the most unforgettable journey of her life!

I really did enjoy Jane’s character in the last book, and must admit that I wasn’t so sure about Helen when I first started reading. She came off as selfish and snarky to me at first, whereas Jane came off right the opposite – genuine and sincere. However, as the story progressed so did my love for Helen. Her character really did grow on me as she took a stand on many issues, and even rose up against her own husband. She showed me what really mattered to her once her sister went missing, and these characteristics are what make a character extraordinary.

I must admit Ironskin was not my favorite, but this one definitely makes up for that. It has the perfect Gothic backdrop and really touches on some powerful feminist issues for women like divorce, women’s rights, and the importance of outside appearance. I felt like this book was better than the first and really took issues to the next level and explored more avenues than the first one did. This one also added a bit more romance and mystery, which I can always appreciate. However, I would strongly recommend reading the first one before reading the second one. The second one could be read alone, I believe, but I think they will be enjoyed more if they are read in order!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Tor Books in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Red

RedAuthor: Alison Cherry
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Felicity St. John has it all—loyal best friends, a hot guy, and artistic talent. And she’s right on track to win the Miss Scarlet pageant. Her perfect life is possible because of just one thing: her long, wavy, coppery red hair.

Having red hair is all that matters in Scarletville. Redheads hold all the power—and everybody knows it. That’s why Felicity is scared down to her roots when she receives an anonymous note:

I know your secret.

Because Felicity is a big fake. Her hair color comes straight out of a bottle. And if anyone discovered the truth, she’d be a social outcast faster than she could say "strawberry blond." Her mother would disown her, her friends would shun her, and her boyfriend would dump her. And forget about winning that pageant crown and the prize money that comes with it—money that would allow her to fulfill her dream of going to art school.

Felicity isn’t about to let someone blackmail her life away. But just how far is she willing to go to protect her red cred?

The banner fluttering in the breeze outside City Hall read SCARLETVILLE, IOWA: NATIONAL REDHEAD SANCTUARY.

It was Scarlet Sunday, the anniversary of the founding of Scarletville, and the yearly carnival was in full swing. The lampposts in the center of town were festooned with red flowers, and the breeze carried the popcorn-and-fried-dough smell of celebration.

Because unbeknownst to the adoring crowd, Felicity’s hair color – that bright coppery red that made her so enviable in Scarletville – was completely artificial.

Starting right now, you will act like you want every brunette in this school to be your best friend. Fail to impress us, and everyone finds out what you really are.

This story is literally all about the color red. It takes place in a town called Scarletville, a place dominated by redheads, created by a redhead, for people to live and produce more redheads. Anybody who is of great importance in this town has red hair. Now don’t misunderstand, other people live there too. There are blondes and brunettes as well, but no one can be considered anyone unless they have red hair. Felicity St. John is one of the most popular girls in her school, but no one knows her secret. She really doesn’t have the deep, dark shade of red hair that she pretends to have. She is really a Strawby, someone with strawberry blonde hair. But to save her reputation and her spot in the Miss Scarlet pageant, she and her mother have been hiding that secret from everyone since she was a small child. Until one day when Felicity receives a note saying: I know your secret.

This book can be shallow at times and I honestly had to stop reading it a few times, just to make sure I was taking it all in correctly. Wait, am I really reading a book about people being popular and well-liked only if they have red hair? Yes, but it was the deeper meaning of this book that really drew me in. This book is really about real life issues like bullying, acceptance, and alienating people just because you don’t like the way they look. I think these are issues that we can all agree are still prevalent in schools and amongst adolescents today. The underlying message was there and it was very powerful by the time I finished reading.

My two favorite characters in this novel were Ivy and Jonathan. Neither of these characters play huge roles in the book, but I love the roles they play in Felicity’s life. Felicity became annoying to me at times, but even when her secret was out both of these people still cared for her and did not shun her away like the rest of the town. Jonathan is just the guy that every girl needs to find. It was obvious from the first time I met him how he felt about Felicity, and he did not care about the shade of her hair at all. Ivy is just like Jonathan, but in best friend form. She stood by Felicity no matter what, when other people that she thought were her friends did not. Felicity was never really alone, and I think that was a powerful message as well.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Delacorte BFYR in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

Mrs. PoeAuthor: Lynn Cullen
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Gallery

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late...

Set amidst the fascinating world of New York’s literati, this smart and sexy novel offers a unique view into the life of one of history’s most unforgettable literary figures.

But my husband had run off, and even if I did sue him for divorce, it would do me no good – he had no money to support me. I was in no position to turn up my nose at Mr. Edgar A. Poe and the recognition his backing might give me. Surely no harm could come from that.

“Tell him, please, that I admire his poem greatly.”

I unfolded the paper. It opened to a copy of ‘The Raven.’ The hair raised on my arms.

Miss Fuller gave me a conspiratorial smile. “Last chance to come clean about Mr. Poe.”

This is the story not of Edgar Allan Poe’s wife, but of his alleged affair with Francis Osgood, another writer of poetry. Lynn Cullen has an incredible eye for detail and mastery of beautiful imagery and language throughout this book. This was the first book that I have ever read by her, and was excited to add a new author to my always growing list. As and eleventh grade English teacher, junior year being the time that we cover American literature, you can probably figure that Poe is at the top of my list. Anything written by him or about him will sit on my bookshelf. I was anxious to read a copy of this book, and was not the least bit disappointed.

This book covers so much than the relationship between Frances and Poe, but also cover a significant amount of history and allows readers to immerse themselves in this vintage New York that Cullen has written, and written wonderfully I might add. We see a bit of literature, cultures, and social customs of the times which is always a nice when reading historical fiction. I like to have a nice exposition laid out before me before diving into a different time period. One of my favorite parts of this book was getting to the end and realizing there was an author’s note. It is very informative and adds a few more interesting details, especially for big Poe fans! This was definitely a nice touch that I was not expecting.

A lot of this book is based on fact and Lynn Cullen’s extensive research on Poe, Virginia (his wife), and Frances. I was intrigued by the fact that Virginia actually encouraged their relationship and invited Frances to their home on several occasions. I have completed enough research to know that many Poe scholars think that the affair did not happen, but with some of the evidence provided in stories like this, from real historians who have done their research, it just cannot be denied. This story was an inspiring one in the fact that it made me want to continue research and learn more about each of these individuals.

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Gallery Books in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Starry Night

Starry Night: A Christmas NovelAuthor: Debbie Macomber
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books

’Tis the season for romance, second chances, and Christmas cheer with this new novel from Debbie Macomber.

Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places.

“I want this chance, and if it means tracking down Finn Dalton into some forsaken tundra, then I will put on my big-girl shoes and go for it.” But not the heels she’d worn last night, that was for sure.

Carrie smiled and held the gold band between her index finger and thumb. This ring could very well be her ticket to reaching the elusive Finn Dalton.

Sawyer scratched the side of his head. “I wouldn’t start off mentioning the ring and his mother.”

“All women?” Carrie challenged. He wasn’t making sense. “You see us as selfish and untrustworthy because your mother left you? And you have the nerve to tell me you don’t have abandonment issues?” She resisted the urge to laugh. This guy was a real piece of work. “Have you considered counseling?”

This book was just what I needed to get in the mood for Christmas. We start off by meeting Carrie Slayton, a society page columnist who is dying to write more important pieces instead of local society events. Right before finally walking out the door and quitting forever, her editor gives her a challenge: find and interview the famous, reclusive, national bestselling author named Finn Dalton. Carrie doesn’t think twice before accepting the job. She doesn’t even care that he is rumored to live in the cold, deserted Alaskan tundra. So while forfeiting her vacation time for Thanksgiving, she takes off to Alaska with the hopes of locating Dalton and being able to finally write the pieces she has always dreamed of writing.

This story is warm and cozy, with just enough suspense, romance, and mystery added in as well. Carrie takes a big risk going off to Alaska in the middle of one of the winter’s worst storms. She first finds Finn’s estranged mother, with whom he refuses to communicate with, and she points Carrie in the right direction. Carrie is dropped off outside of Finn’s cabin and hopes that he will take pity on her. The setting of this story is absolutely what I was in the mood for. It is icy cold outside the walls of Finn’s home, but inside Finn and Carrie are sharing a chemistry that is hot enough to warm the entire tundra!

Finn has such a hard exterior that it was often difficult for me to like him at all. Carrie, however, I fell in love with from the very beginning. She was a woman with aspirations and goals that didn’t let anything slow her down at all. She wanted to be a “real” journalist, and just what does it say for her determination that she was willing to go to such great lengths? I love Macomber’s writing style. It always draws me in immediately from the start. The way she wrote the relationship between Finn and Carrie was so powerful because just when you thought the ice was going to break open, it snowed again! I liked the fact that she left Finn as such a mystery to start with. Carrie was the fire that melted his huge iceberg!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Ballantine Books in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Book Review: Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream

Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream (Tara Holloway, #6)Author: Diane Kelly
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Series: Tara Holloway # 6

Fired. Tara Holloway can’t believe it. After all she’s done for the IRS, a few too many shots fired from her weapon and suddenly she’s public enemy number one. To add insult to injury, another agent has replaced her, and a ten-million-dollar assault case is hanging over her head. So much for traveling to Tokyo with Special Agent Nick Pratt, former partner and current boyfriend. Tara’s stuck in Texas, and using green tea ice cream to soothe her disappointment, as well as the terrifying prospect of a life behind bars.

Tara’s former boss, Lu “the Lobo” Lobozinski, has a plan—to stick Tara in auditing, where she can’t possibly get into trouble. But between bumping into a college frenemy whose family business is under audit, Tara’s stubborn determination to keep an eye on Nick behind the scenes, and her new long-range rifle, she’s about to get a taste of just how dangerous her life can be, in Death, Taxes, and Green Tea Ice Cream from Diane Kelly…

“Don’t believe it. I didn’t kill anyone. I just shot four men who deserved it, that’s all!”

Especially men. They seemed to fear that admitting an error would shrink their testicles.

I punched the button for the garage and sent a reply. I’m damaged goods.

This series, along with Tara Holloway, have stolen my heart. Tara is a kick butt heroine with some series butt-stomping skills. She is fierce and passionate about what she does. This series continues to develop in a positive way, and give readers new cases and brand new characters to grip ahold of! At the start of this book, and the end of the last one, readers learn that Tara has been fired from her job, and for someone like Tara this constitutes a mental breakdown. But as always, Nick steps in to save the day and Tara is on another mission once more!

I didn’t really know how to feel about Tara no longer working for the IRS, but once again Diane Kelly comes through in a clutch. I worried for nothing it turns out because even though she no longer has a badge and a holster packed with heat, she still has other advantages to getting inside some of her very own cases. Tara, as well as the author who wrote her, is highly intelligent and incredibly clever and she always gets what she wants! Tara is someone for other women to look up to; she is a feminist herself and believes in equal treatment for all women. In Tara’s eyes, women can do all that men do, and do it better. She is an outstanding heroine that continues to grow and bloom with each addition to this series.

Tara and Nick’s relationship makes me happy! I love watching it mature and develop into more for both of them. Nick really respects Tara’s space, which any man must do if he is going to date Tara. Tara proves that she cannot be held down, and Nick has just the right personality to work alongside her. Their relationship works well and adds humor and a light romantic fluff to the stories, just what they needed!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Paperbacks in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Once We Were Brothers

Once We Were BrothersAuthor: Ronald H. Balson
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man?

Once We Were Brothers is Ronald H. Balson's compelling tale of two boys and a family who struggle to survive in war-torn Poland, and a young love that struggles to endure the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust. Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for a moving and powerful tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.

Everything in our world seemed to be influenced by what was going on in Germany, and everyone we knew was trying to keep abreast of the news.

“Two weeks later, before the sun rises on Friday, September 1, 1939, a million and a half German troops cross the Polish border in the most, ferocious, deadly attack ever known to man.”

“Once we were brothers,” said Ben sadly.

This book begins with Elliott Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, held at gunpoint by a man named Ben Solomon who is also holding him at gunpoint. Once the commotion is put to rest Elliott’s charges are denounced, but Ben just knows that his is right in accusing Elliott of supporting and being a part of the Nazi regime. Ben goes on to hire attorney, Catherine Lockhart, in the hopes of bringing Rosenzweig to justice. Ben claims that Elliott is really Otto Piatek, a child his family raised, who later betrayed his family and turned them over to the Nazis. This is a story of survival, love lost, hatred, hurt, and strength!

I enjoyed this book simply for its historical context. Sometimes it is nice to read Holocaust books just to remind myself how good I really have it, and what happens in a world where evil is cast out and goodness is broken down. This story is so powerful, especially seeing a man who survived the Holocaust still holding onto many of his pent up feelings and hatred after all that time. Holocaust survivors have a tendency to be some of the most strong, unfaltering people. Ben Solomon is an excellent example of both of those characteristics. The fight that he takes on in this book is riveting and absolutely breathtaking. He already survived the Holocaust, but he will not rest until justice has been served for him and his family.

This book brings forth so many powerful, strong emotions. Listening to the story of Ben and Otto was so gripping and really made me cling to each page. The story was told is such wonderful detail and with such strong imagery and imagination. A Holocaust formed friendship is not something you read in books every day, but it makes a wonderful concept and is fledged out quite nicely in this book. Many emotions rushed over while reading this book, and I am just preparing you all as well! Holocaust reads are some of my favorite, but prepare yourself because you made need some tissue!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for my honest review***

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: Time After Time

Time After Time (Time Between Us, #2)Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Series: Time Between Us # 2

Calling Anna and Bennett’s romance long distance is an understatement: she’s from 1995 Chicago and he’s a time traveler from 2012 San Francisco. The two of them never should have met, but they did. They fell in love, even though they knew they shouldn't. And they found a way to stay together, against all odds.

It’s not a perfect arrangement, though, with Bennett unable to stay in the past for more than brief visits, skipping out on big chunks of his present in order to be with Anna in hers. They each are confident that they’ll find a way to make things work...until Bennett witnesses a single event he never should have seen (and certainly never expected to). Will the decisions he makes from that point on cement a future he doesn't want?

Told from Bennett’s point of view, Time After Time will satisfy readers looking for a fresh, exciting, and beautifully-written love story, both those who are eager to find out what’s next for Time Between Us's Anna and Bennett and those discovering their story for the first time.

Wherever you are in this world, that’s where I want to be.

And just like that first night, she kissed me back, pulling me into her, like she still wants me here and still trusts me with her heart, even though she probably knows by now that she shouldn’t.

Her whole face is lit up so bright, I swear we could turn off all the lights in the bookstore and still see each other perfectly.

This time last year I had just finished Time Between Us and didn’t think I could wait a whole year before getting my hands on Time After Time. I greatly missed Anna and Bennett and was very anxious to see where their relationship was headed, especially because they live seventeen years apart. This story picks up right where the last one left off, and I was anxious to see the next steps for the time traveling couple. I went back to the first book and re-read the ending, just to refresh my memory, and then I was ready to get started on the next part of their journey!

This book contains more of Bennett’s perspective, and readers will spend more time with him in 2012 San Francisco. I do love Anna’s perspective better, but this put things into a more clear vision for me and helps build some background into Bennett’s past, as well as his family and their past. We get more inside Bennett’s head and realize just what lengths he will go to for Anna. We see how much he sacrifices just to travel back to 1995 Chicago, and the side effect that the time traveling is starting to have on him. I would love to see this book cast as a movie just to see who would get to portray Bennett.

On the other hand, as we were digging deeper inside Bennett’s mind we got to see more of Anna’s despair and desperation. Anna was really the one that was put in between a rock and a hard place because she never knows when Bennett is leaving and when he might return again. Even though they always try to plan the next time they will see each other, Anna always has to wonder if he will be able to return again. Anna tries to make sure that her life goes on as normal, but it becomes harder and harder with Bennett not around.

If you loved the first book in this series, then you cannot miss out on the next installment!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Disney-Hyperion in exchange for my honest review***

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Review: Murder At Hatfield House

Murder at Hatfield HouseAuthor: Amanda Carmack
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Signet
Series: Elizabethan Mysteries # 1


1558. Kate Haywood, a simple musician in the employ of a princess, will find herself involved in games of crowns as she sets out to solve the murder of the queen’s envoy....

England is in tumult under the rule of Queen Mary and her Spanish husband. Confined to house arrest at Hatfield House, young Princess Elizabeth is the country’s greatest hope. Far from court intrigues, Elizabeth finds solace in simple things: the quiet countryside and peaceful recreation, including the melodies of her chief musician and his daughter, Kate Haywood.

But Kate will prove herself most valuable when an envoy of the queen—sent to flush out heretics in the princess’s household—is found dead on the grounds of Hatfield. Acting as Elizabeth’s eyes and ears, Kate is sent out on the trail of a killer whose mission could destroy her family, friends—and the future of England.

“I am Lord Braceton, sent by Her Majesty to examine this household,” he said. “I was greeted in your lane by a murderous villain, whose cowardly attack has left my manservant dead.”

Something inside of her, some spark of eager and dangerous curiosity that had been with her since she was a little girl, wouldn’t let her.

She was going to get them all killed.

The figure turned away with a satisfied smile and hurried toward the stream to rinse away the blood, leaving a black cloak behind in the water to wash downstream, unseen.

I have noticed that I have not been reading as much historical fiction as I normally do this year, and I am working on remedying that as we speak. I was so glad to see this book, the first in a new series, come along and even more excited when I realized the time period. Then I realized that Queen Elizabeth is a character in this book herself, and so became all the more intrigued. This story focuses more around the life of Kate, who is just a musician in Princess Elizabeth’s employ. Kate serves as our female guide and sleuth, and risks her own life when the lives of the royals are put in danger.

I was most impressed with the historical setting and Kate Haywood’s character. The book is set during Queen Mary’s rule, and so England is in shambles as history tells us. Her appreciation for detail and realistic fact is appreciated, especially in a new series while she is still setting the tone for the rest of the books. Kate proves herself to be loyal and determined when it comes to saving the lives of the people she cares for the most. I had no problems with Kate, and felt that she was just the right character to lead me through this mystery.

The only things that I did not care for about this novel was firstly the predictability. I felt like it was a little obvious what was going to happen at times, and usually this doesn’t bother me, but for some reason at certain times in this book it really did. The next thing was that I felt that the book ended too quickly and I would have liked a little more detailed wrap up. I read one other review where a blogger felt this way, and honestly I am just glad to know that it wasn’t only me.

However, I did enjoy the book and I am greatly looking forward to the next one!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Signet in exchange for my honest review***

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book Review: Gunpowder Tea

Gunpowder TeaAuthor: Margaret Brownley
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

In a case that could change her career, Miranda uncovers a love that will change her life.

When Miranda Hunt sees the classified ad for an heiress to the legendary Last Chance Ranch, she knows assuming the identity of Annie Beckman is the perfect cover. As one of the finest agents for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, Miranda has been tasked with apprehending the Phantom – an elusive and notorious train robber thought to be hiding on the sprawling ranch.

But she isn’t the only one there with something to hide. Wells Fargo detective Jeremy Taggert is working the scene undercover as well. And although their true identities are a secret, it is impossible for Jeremy and Miranda to hide the spark that flares between them.

But neither is about to let romance interfere with such a huge case. Besides, Miranda hasn’t removed Jeremy from her list of suspects yet. The closer they come to uncovering the identity of the Phantom, the more dangerous he gets – and no one on the ranch is safe.

But neither are their hearts – the longer Miranda and Jeremy spends working together, the harder it becomes to keep their feelings in check. Their careers – and their lives – depend on solving this case. Love will have to wait.

Suspicion ain’t proof unless you’re married.

An undercover agent is only as good as his (or her) disguise.

Anyone poking around in another’s history could well end up riddled with bullet holes.

The only person to get into trouble for following a good example is a counterfeiter.

This is the third book and final book in the Brides of Last Chance Ranch series. Margaret Brownley is an author that delivers every time with endearing characters and cozy, comfortable settings. This story follows Miranda Hunt as she goes undercover, working for Pinkerton Detective Agency, posing as Annie Beckman and tries to solve the case of the Phantom, a thief who has been robbing trains and banks near Last Chance Ranch. This particular assignment will provide Miranda with the opportunity to prove herself as a top detective in the agency! Jeremy Taggart is the only wrench in her plans. She doesn’t realize that Jeremy is working the same case as her, and by the time it is all said and done they both end up suspecting each other! Can they learn to work together or will they continue to bump heads?

This is my second novel involving the Pinkerton Agency, and specifically a Pinkerton female. Miranda has lived her whole life trying to prove to her father her worth. He was once a Pinkerton detective, but died on a case years ago. Once she receives this job, she feels like her life has finally started. Her determination is striking and unforgettable. She literally lets nothing get in her way. I loved seeing Jeremy added to the equation because I got to see a different side of her after that. A female in charge is always the way to go if you want to win my heart! Miranda is an excellent character, who might be just as strong-willed as me!

The mystery of the Phantom intrigued me, and honestly I loved how much mystery and adventure were incorporated into this story. This is not just a love story, and that makes it all the more fun. Brownley has a knack for embracing all literary elements: mystery, setting, motivations of characters, and makes them work together for the greater good of the story. Her depictions of the Last Chance Ranch are cozy and inviting, just like with some many of her other stories as well!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Nelson Books in exchange for my honest review***