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Category: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason

[ 6 ] October 29, 2013

Anvil of GodPlease welcome J. Boyce Gleason, author of Anvil of God, as he tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy of the book below – open to US residents.

Reviewed by Shannon Trenton

Charles the Hammer died in 741, starting a war between brothers and between faiths that would shape the future of the realm forever. J. Boyce Gleason’s Anvil of God is the story of Charles’ children – three sons who would face off over their shared leadership and a daughter determined to gain her freedom from political games.

The mayor of the Franks is bound to raise a Merovingian king to oversee the entire realm, but Charles Martel has higher ambitions for his family. He chooses to divide the kingdom between his three sons: Carloman, a fierce warrior whose skill on the battlefield is only outstripped by his devotion to the Church; Pippin (or Pepin), a proven knight who languishes in his older brother’s shadow; and Gripho, the son of Charles’ second wife Sunnichild and newly installed in the knighthood.

Daughter Trudi has never felt comfortable with the ladies of court. From a young age she has trained with the knights and found company with the men, but as she awakens to her femininity she seeks help from stepmother Sunni to harness her power and take control of her life. When she learns of her betrothal to a Lombard prince she leaves her home in pursuit of her true love.

Gleason’s depiction of the early Carolingian dynasty is an exciting adventure that takes the reader across a historic realm in upheaval. He weaves historical fact (well cited in the Author’s Note at the end) with new characters, taking creative license with some details to close gaps and carry the plot. In a stroke of brilliance he elevates the religious turmoil between the early Church and Pagan regions from an historic footnote to a key component of the battle for control.

The story is further bolstered by a cast of characters who are complex and who are connected to one another in various, often unexpected ways. Even third-tier characters show personality and are far from simple names on a page.

Anvil of God is a gripping novel of history, family, faith, and war. History fans and lovers of adventure will find hours of enjoyment with this excellent debut, and will be eagerly awaiting the second installment of the Carolingian Chronicles.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby and cooking.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by iUniverse. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Never List by Koethi Zan

[ 3 ] October 15, 2013

16158525Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Koethi Zan’s novel, The Never List, effectively takes readers to the dark recesses of their own minds and the minds of the social deviant in a thrilling, surprising and engaging manner. Zan’s tale focuses on two very cautious friends, Sarah and Jennifer, who take very great lengths to avoid tragedy, destruction and harm. The girls, who appear as normal girls do, keep a lengthy list paired with grim statistics of a wide variety of disasters. They began keeping the list, dubbed “The Never List”, after surviving a car crash that took the life of Jennifer’s mother. Sarah and Jennifer do all that they can to ensure their own safety in the most normal of circumstances and take it to the extreme even as they head off to college together.

Even with all of their research and preparation to avoid anything terrible, they make a simple human error leaving a college party and get into a car from a car service that ends up taking the girls somewhere far from their dorm. Sarah and Jennifer berate themselves for allowing this error in judgment to happen, but the focus is removed from that idea once they awaken in a dark basement that will hold them captive for three years. There are two other girls in the basement and the lives of all are now forever linked even if they do not want them to be.

The Never List does not focus on the harrowing time that the girls spent in the basement, but rather picks up with Sarah, an almost agoraphobic, and recent developments in the case. Sarah cannot escape her past and she decides to do some investigating of her own to try to find out what really happened to Jennifer and to make sure their captor remains behind bars. The abuse in the basement comes back in flashbacks throughout the story and the way that Zan pieces together the past and the present never leaves the reader wanting for information. The shocking details and the perverse and twisted path the story takes is shocking, disturbing, unbelievable and creepily, entirely possible. As a result, the book and all that Sarah uncovers, is a quick, engaging read. Zan makes The Never List a delightfully disturbing book that thrills at every new development.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

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

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

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Review: The Art of Forgetting by Peter Palmieri

[ 1 ] October 15, 2013

Cover_MediumReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a leading neurologist, professor and researcher who is on the verge of making what he hopes to be a huge breakthrough in the medical world. Lloyd devotes his study, when he is not devoting himself to premed students in the bedroom, to researching a cure for memory disorders such as dementia. He is content with his bachelor lifestyle, his work and cultivating his ego, as well as his laboratory mice. As quickly as the world and a lifetime of more promise seems ready to emerge for Dr. Copeland, events take a turn for the worst and nothing in the doctor’s life will ever be the same as a result.

The Art of Forgetting starts off a bit slow, but this does not mean that the content is boring in the least. Rather, the story skips around a bit, incorporating snippets from the past that will prove to be very interesting later in the novel. When Erin Kennedy, an old neighborhood friend of Lloyd’s from his childhood is reintroduced into his life, the stage is set for the drama to unfold. The sexual tension and chemistry is undeniable between the two and when it is discovered that Erin has accepted a job on the hospital medical ethics board where Dr. Copeland works, things really begin to get interesting.

The deeply personal and somewhat controversial research that Lloyd is performing, humanely, on lab mice, takes a horrible nosedive when one of the mice ends up dead. The lovable lab assistant, Kaz, is devastated and this seemingly unimportant event sets off a chain reaction that does not shine lightly on the doctor. The new Chief of Staff, Dr. Lasko, is shrewd, cruel, and cunning and has had it out for Dr. Copeland since day one. Copeland’s research is suspended, he soon is, allegations and threats are made and people close to Lloyd begin to turn up dead.

As the drama unfolds, Dr. Copeland becomes extremely likeable and the series of events – while incredible at times – are plausible, intriguing and dramatic. The relationship between Lloyd and Erin is high charged and well developed and Palmieri has a quick and interesting writing style. The book is not bogged down with medical terms or procedures and it was fun to read a novel that is outside of my normal genre. This medical suspense novel was easy to follow, full of interesting characters and ideas and a plot that moved along nicely.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

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

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

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Review: The Conditions of Love by Dale M. Kushner

[ 5 ] October 7, 2013

kushnerReviewed by Holly Madison

The Conditions of Love is Dale M. Kushner’s first novel, but you would never know it by the way she writes. The way she describes her characters, her style and often profound little snippets of wisdom hidden throughout the story all make her a very unusual author – probably one of the most talented writers I have ever had the privilege to read.

Right from the beginning, I was drawn into The Conditions of Love by its unusual cover. The cover may look like random things tied together – a flood and a pet parakeet, but these are actually both very relevant to the story within. It is also worth noting that the style of the cover was artful and well done, something that seems rare in most of today’s books.

The story covers three separate sections that tie together fluidly, and each one gives a unique insight into the relationships of a girl named Eunice.

The first section is set in the 1950’s, and gives a perspective of Eunice from the time she is a little girl. The story is centered around Eunice’s eccentric, unlikable mother, and the relationship that they have with each other. Along the way it is impossible to feel anything but heartbreak for this lonely, lost little girl. In many ways, Eunice is more of an adult than her mother, and her independence eventually takes her away from her unpredictable life with her mom and washes her into an enchanting life with a woman named Rose.

The second section finds Eunice as a teenager living in the woods with Rose. It is here that she transitions from child into woman, and she learns that she is a person of value, one to be treasured and appreciated. This was my favorite section because Rose is an incredibly likeable character with a story that is completely unique and heartbreaking in itself. Eunice learns from Rose how to be a beekeeper, how to rescue lost animals, and how to work hard and love deeply. In many ways, Rose is the mother that Eunice never had – the mother she always deserved. But just like a flood that washes lives away, Eunice’s life with Rose eventually is taken away as well, and she finds herself in foster care.

The last section of the book focuses on Eunice from the time she is a teenager until she is an adult. Eunice learns very quickly that love comes in many forms – from a childhood pet turtle to a flawed mother, from a hippie in the woods to a beautiful older man. It is here that Eunice falls in love for the first and last time, and the story follows her throughout her life while tying in characters from her past.

I could not find a single flaw with this book. The characters are all completely unforgettable, but even more importantly, Kushner’s poetic, beautiful talent with words sets this book apart from any other that I have read. This is absolutely a book that I will come back to read again and again. The love of a mother, the love of a father figure, the love of a pet, the love of a friend, and the love of romance — all of these concepts are so beautiful and intricate, and each variation of love takes an ordinary life and makes it nothing short of extraordinary.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Holly is a digital artist and an environmental scientist. She also participates in parrot and exotic animal rescue.

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

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas

[ 24 ] October 3, 2013

Mother-Mother-by-Koren-ZailckasPlease join Koren Zailckas, author of Mother, Mother, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours.

Enter to win a copy below – open to US and Canada!

Reviewed by Jax Kepple

The seemingly perfect Hurst family has some serious issues. SERIOUS issues. I could kind of see where this book was headed, but when I got to the ending, I was still completely blown away. It was a huge twist, expertly pulled off by first-time fiction writer Koren Zailckas, who previously wrote a bestselling memoir. Mother, Mother tells the story of how dysfunction and narcissism can wreak havoc on children and the lengths people will go to to maintain a facade.

After their eldest daughter, Rose, runs off to New York City with her boyfriend, life in the Hurst household is never the same. Josephine cannot accept the fact that her oldest daughter Rose would give up acting, which she had pushed for Rose’s entire life, for science and that she would leave them. Violet, Rose’s younger sister, grapples with Josephine’s fixation and intense oversight on every aspect of her life and rebels by shaving her head, getting into hallucinogenic seeds and becoming a vegan. William, coming off of an autism diagnosis and some bullying at school, starts having seizures and becomes Josephine’s pet and her right hand assistant. He winds up being home schooled by Josephine, and she also helps him get dressed and flosses his teeth before bed. Douglas, the father, is an alcoholic who feels as though Josephine thinks of him as a loser, which makes him spiral out of control.

The action begins when Violet is admitted to a mental hospital, after tripping on some seeds and threatening her brother with a knife…or did she? She starts to get some hand written letters from Rose, and they begin to develop a friendship, something their mother had prevented them from doing while they were growing up. William decides to figure out who his dad is cheating on his mother with (Douglas keeps mysteriously taking calls), but instead uncovers some interesting things about Rose and why she left. All the while, Josephine is one step ahead, lying and manipulating the situation so that no one knows what is really real, what actually happened to Rose. The length of her selfishness and her calculating, shrewd manner was astounding.

The mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter were fantastic, and perfectly appointed to this thriller. Told in alternating chapters from Violet’s and William’s points of view, the quick pace and humor as well as the twists and turns were deftly handled by Zailckas with aplomb. The characters were fully realized humans, and they jumped off the page as the story progressed to a very satisfying (although not happy) ending. I wouldn’t wish a mother like Josephine on my worst enemy.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Tenth Witness by Leonard Rosen

[ 2 ] October 2, 2013

17233995Reviewed by Claudia Robinson

“I found myself wishing that Kraus was the hero his biographer made him out to be. Never mind that his steel was turned into Hitler’s tanks and bombers. Von Kraus was part of Nazi apparatus, but he could also have been one of the righteous who saved Jews at great peril to themselves. These people existed, and I desperately wanted Liesel’s father to be one.”

Henri Poincare and Alex Chin have been in the business of consulting and engineering for the Interpol for a few years when Lloyd’s of London commissions them to design a floating dive platform in the North Sea in an attempt to raise some treasure from the bottom of the wreck, HMS Lutine. Neither could have known, however, the implications and subsequent tribulations, accepting the job would bring. When Poincare meets and falls in love for the beautiful, strong, independent Liesel Kraus, Poincare has no idea what kind of ride he’s in for.

Complicating things further, Poincare’s father calls to let him know that his beloved Uncle Isaac has passed away. When a mysterious man appears, weeping at his Uncle’s funeral, a tattooed number on his left forearm, Poincare realizes, with great remorse, how little he really knew about his Uncle and his life during the war, when Nazis reigned supreme. Determined to honor his Uncle’s memory by piecing together his past, Poincare embarks on a literal trip down memory lane that, unknown to him, could possibly be his last trip, anywhere. Especially, when he realizes all is not is what or who, it seems, including the lovely Liesel and her father, Herr Kraus.

Leonard Rosen’s The Tenth Witness is an intricately, delicately woven tale of love, murder, history, mystery and deception. The story forces readers to walk through a dangerous and horrific time in history, get to know the people who suffered, on either side of the wall, and engage in their personal sagas, trials and tribulations. Powerful, well researched, emotionally challenging, and raw, Rosen’s characters inhale his readers in to the story, allowing them to feel, alongside Poincare, the pain raw, gaping wounds a trip like Poincare’s, through the past, can cause. When is the past best left behind and when is it not only necessary, but moral, to commune with the ghosts of a past perhaps, left alone. Rosen allows readers to determine this dilemma on their own, as Poincare must, ensuring a full bodied, passion driven novel, that delivers excellence from start to finish.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Claudia lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband and two children.

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

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