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Review: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

[ 2 ] July 28, 2015

illusionarium book coverReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

I’m a fan of steampunk and of young adult literature, so it isn’t much of a surprise that I loved Illusionarium by Heather Dixon. I did not read Dixon’s first novel, Entwined, but I can say that Illusionarium is an enjoyable action-packed adventure. Dixon does a fantastic job of illustrating a new world full of well-rounded and likable characters.

The story begins in the aerial city of Fata Morgana where Jonathan leads a normal life, ready to escape the small city’s boundaries. All of that changes when the king appears with a request of Jonathan and his father – they must work together to cure the queen of a deadly plague afflicting women called Venen. Jonathan must convince his father to use an experimental drug called fantillium that induces accelerated shared dreams. Since the team only has five days to cure the queen before the disease claims her life, fantillium’s unique effects may hold the key to the antidote.

The writing style really stood out to me. Dixon ties the use of amusing footnotes combined with a distinct storytelling method that left me wanting to read more. But I’m not going to lie – it did take me a few chapters to really get into the writing style. I’m not sure what’s so different about how this book was written, but it definitely worked for me.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the direction Dixon took with the use of a plague. So many novels talk about the aftermath of a plague or the beginning of a plague. It was a good change of pace to read a book concerned with finding the cure rather than the effects. My only criticism would be the slight lag in the middle of the novel. However, I think readers will want to read on to know how everything ties together in the end.

Overall, I was very pleased with Illusionarium. I think this will be a memorable standalone addition to the young adult fiction genre. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers’ attention, and it was very nice to read a YA lit novel that wasn’t focused on romance.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Greenwillow Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Unkept by Ericka Clay

[ 1 ] July 27, 2015

unkept book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

All towns have secrets and in the small town of Burling Gates, the secrets of the past always remain near the top of the present, ready to boil over. For Vienna Oaks, working in the family business, at their funeral home, these secrets will never be buried like the dead. Vienna carries them all with her in an anxiety ridden, quietly chaotic life. For Vienna’s former rival, Heather Hammel, the secrets of her past will soon bleed into her present and the two women learn that they are more connected than they ever could have imagined. Unkept is broken into alternating viewpoints from Vienna and Heather and the distinction provides the reader with a continuous flow of the story and the progression of the characters. Author Ericka Clay explains the relationship between the two women through flashbacks that feed into the current plot nicely and both Vienna and Heather act as main characters and narrators. The different viewpoints of the action fill in gaps, show all sides of the story and also add more dimension to fringe characters. No details are left out of Vienna or Heather’s lives.

Life for Vienna has not been easy and her life is rife with family issues that include alcoholism, a deceased mother and an incarcerated grandfather. Vienna seems to waft through her life, quiet and beautiful, yet surrounded by so much emotional/personal noise. Her estranged grandmother and her reserved father, who has a difficult time with emotions, add to her family troubles. It often seems that her father’s bold girlfriend, Loretta who is a crazy cat lady, seems to be the most stable. Vienna holds onto the past to the point of a virtual obsession and turns the events over and over in her head. Not even her level headed friend Rosa, or an affair with the love of her life Wyland can pull her from her darkness. Wyland also happens to be the husband of Heather, who is very pregnant with their first child. For Heather, her darkness includes an absent father, a hoarder mother and a lifetime of being mean and heartless, particularly to Vienna in order to escape her home life and her own self confidence issues. Freshly moved back to Burling Gates, the paths of the two women eventually cross again, various truths emerge and an unlikely bond quietly, although not easily begins to emerge. As both Vienna and Heather confront their demons, current and in the past, the two begin to rise and come into their own power.

Unkept is dark, twisting and completely possible. The relationships, the secrets and all of the characters make the reader realize that so much transpires in life below the surface. Ericka Clay pushes these issues to the surface, uncomfortably at times, and makes it clear that everything often comes full circle in life. Her writing is rich, vivid and dramatic. Her characters are well-developed, reachable and the reader will be completely engrossed in the story.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ericka Clay. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

[ 4 ] July 24, 2015

china rich girlfriend book coverReviewed by Benish Khan

China Rich Girlfriend is the sequel for the phenomenal bestseller Crazy Rich Asians. China Rich Girlfriend takes off two years from where the previous novel left off.

Rachel Chu is upset on the eve of her wedding to the young heir and Asia’s most eligible bachelor, Nicholas Young. The characters are finally getting married after the scheming and plotting of Nick’s mother Eleanor in the previous book. The sequel is wickedly hilarious with even more twists and turns than the previous novel. Rachel is on another journey with Nick and this time around, they’re looking for her birth father. Rachel has all the things most women desire–a dream wedding with the perfect wedding dress, an Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, and even an amazing fiance who would sacrifice everything for her, including his inheritance. What’s lacking is a part of her family – her birth father – and Rachel mourns his absence and wishes he was there to walk her down the isle.

Readers will follow Rachel’s journey as she is shoved into the elite social scene of Hong Kong whether she actually wants to be there or not. This brings her to mainland China. Singapore sounded insane in the previous book but China is even more fascinating to read about. Readers will also get a glimpse of Michael and Astrid’s journey and their story. There are several other characters introduced in the story; I found Corrina in particular to be very likable. She’s a consultant who helps people “get into” the billionaire class.

The author Kevin Kwan delivers well in the comedy section. The novel does seem to poke fun of the wealthy Asians but it’s done in a way that is not meant to be offensive. Kwan also reveals that some of the stories are based on his previous experiences. The novel is balanced out with family conflict, drama, romance, and a plot many would enjoy. I do prefer the previous book, Crazy Rich Asians over the sequel, although this one is hilarious in its own way. You can’t help but root for Rachel and Nick–they’re made for each other. They’re the rate few sane people in this novel although, the others are quite entertaining. I’m also fond of Astrid who is Nick’s cousin; she is trying to save her marriage and is a woman many females will be able to relate to. The author has mentioned that there will be a third book and I definitely excited to give it a read.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Benish Khan has her B.A in Psychology and Religion from the University of New York. She’s a psychologist and artist by day, and a bookworm by night. She currently blogs at feministreflections.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Death Code by Lindsay Cummings

[ 2 ] July 23, 2015

the death code book coverReviewed by Christen Krumm

Sometimes you get your hands on a book and it sinks its claws into you and will not let you go until you devour ever word. The Death Code did that to me. No only were the chapters short, but they were so fast paced it was nothing to sit and read one hundred, two hundred pages in one sitting. And talk about ripping your heart out at the end (and then handing it back). Brilliant Lindsay Cummings. Brilliant.

The Death Code is book two in Lindsay Cummings Murder Complex series. It picks up pretty quick after book one ended (so be sure to read book one first. I read it late last year and character were still a little foggy . . . I caught up quick though). Meadow, Zephyr, and the rest of their team work to get out of the Shallows. Once out, they journey to a place called the Ridge in search of Meadow’s family. Once Meadow leaves the Shallows she starts to get sick and she knows that she’s going to die soon, but she keeps fighting, refusing to die until her family is safe. The Ridge makes the Shallows look like a cakewalk—and is a bit reminiscent of the dome in Catching Fire. Tribes here are broken up into colors, and they are at war with one another. The Initiative has different ways of spreading diseases trying to over ride the Murder Complex and discover the Death Code—the code that will reverse Meadow’s mother’s work and allow for death. It is a race against time — will Meadow be able to find her family or will death overcome her first?

I am really sad this series is over. I loved every minute of it. Book two is horrible in the perfect way only The Death Code can be. It is depressing, bloody, sad, (do not worry it ends on a good note) and so, so good. Lindsay writes in such a way that the book demands to be read and read fast. I love that it ended on a hopeful note. Maybe Lindsay will continue the series after all . . .

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Christen is a ravenous reader, wanna be author, Litfuse Nester, and slightly addicted to coffee. Lives in Arkansas with her husband and three mini people. Connect with her at her blog: http://ChristenKrumm.com or Twitter @ChristenKrumm.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperCollins Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Diamond Head by Cecily Wong

[ 2 ] July 22, 2015

diamond head book coverReviewed by Amanda Farmer

Diamond Head is the debut novel by Cecily Wong and it is a hard one for me to review. I may, however, be in the minority when it comes to how I felt about this book. I had trouble getting into the story and liking any of the characters. I found it extremely easy to put this book down and forget about it. I did manage to finish it with some difficulty. I found this book to be boring and dull, even though I really wanted to like it.

Diamond Head is a book that I wanted to like because it had such potential with characters tied to Hawaiian and Chinese backgrounds. Unfortunately, the narrative of the story kept flipping from past to present and from one point of view to another with transitions that were not smooth at all. I found the entire work to be very confusing; if Wong focused on one or two of the background stories, it could have been a great book. As it stand, the story was overly long and too wordy for my taste.

The book is about different Leong women and their lives traveling from China to Hawaii and making a living. It follows several different generations as well as an “ancient legend” that follows them. The book focuses on the Chinese legend of the red string of fate, which states that the red string binds one to her intended beloved, but will also punish for mistakes in love, twisting any missteps into a destructive knot that passes down through the generations. I found the legend to be somewhat interesting but it fell short due because of the way the book was written. There was entirely too much telling and not enough showing for readers.

The book does have secrets, love, loss, independence, and fate, so if you find that to be interesting with a dose of history thrown in, you will find this book to be right up your alley. Personally, I will probably not be picking up anymore of Wong’s books.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Amanda loves spending time at home with her husband and their dog, Oreo. She loves reading, playing puzzle games, beading and watching movies. When she’s not reading, she’s working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears

[ 1 ] July 21, 2015

a bride at last book coverPlease join Melissa Jagears, author of A Bride at Last, as she tours the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

I am an avid reader. I enjoy many different genres with mystery and suspense in a tie for first place. But a close second would have to be historical fiction. Maybe it is the change of pace from the high speed mystery or maybe it is being able to enjoy a different time period through the eyes of a character. Whatever it is, I was happy to be able to read Melissa Jagears’ new novel, A Bride at Last. It is an engaging historical tale and I found it quite to my liking.

The heroine of the story is a young school teacher, Kate Dawson. Kate was supposed to be a mail order bride. When she realized that she was deceived, she turned to teaching children. One of her students is a young man whose mother is dying and his father is absent–obviously for a good reason after we hear from his mother. But when the mother dies and push comes to shove, two men step in to replace his father. One turns out to be a jerk who forces the kid into thievery and a life of deception; the other is a dirt farmer and Kate’s intended husband.

While I enjoyed the banter between Kate and Silas, I loved the sizzling chemistry even better. The fun and the laughs that broke up the serious story line made me enjoy the book even more. All in all, though, A Bride at Last was more serious and showed hardships of daily living on the prairie, as well as the struggles people went through without the trinkets and electronics we have today. It truly made me think about my own life and how nice I have it. A Bride at Last gets a 4.5 star rating from me. Great for the reader who loves historical fiction!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

Review copy was provided by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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