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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: 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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Giveaway: Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper Gift Pack

[ 12 ] July 21, 2015

movie star by lizzie pepper book coverTo celebrate the release of Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Liftin, I have a great gift pack to give away to 1 lucky reader!

The package will include a copy of the book, a pair of branded sunglasses with a Lizzie Pepper hangtag, and popcorn all packaged in a gold envelope!

Open to US residents only

About the book

Hilary Liftin is the ghostwriter and co-writer behind numerous celebrity memoirs, ten of which have been New York Times bestsellers. In this, her debut novel, Liftin turns her ghostwriting talent into fictional brilliance with a celebrity “memoir” that is making a splash as the beach-read novel of the year. Dreamt up by Liftin one day when she was fantasizing about the celebrities she would like to ghostwrite for, Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper was born as the story of a beautiful, modestly successful actress who catapults to fame as the wife of Rob Mars, the A-list Sexiest Bachelor of the Year.

“I’ve had a million meetings in my acting career, and I had no idea that this would be the one that would change my life forever. I walked into the room, and there was Rob . . . in the flesh.”

Swept away by Rob’s romantic courtship, his luxurious life, initiated into the mile-high club, courted by every clothing designer desperate to “dress” her, Lizzie relishes having finally found true love.

lizzie pepper gift packBut what happens when the dream-come-true fantasy life goes horribly wrong?

“Now Rob knew all my secrets. What I didn’t think about at the time was that he was still keeping at least one secret from me.”

As Lizzie’s perfect Hollywood life unravels, and she is shocked to discover the “real” Rob Mars, Lizzie Pepper finally decides to tell her side of the story. She shares both the good: the million-dollar wedding, the award shows, the designer clothes (that it turns out she gets paid—a lot—to wear), the private jets to private-island vacations, and of course, the birth of their beloved twin boys; and the bad: the secrets, the lies, the locked door in their home that she is never allowed to open, the mind-body group, One Cell, that seems to control their lives, and the ultimate betrayal that leads to their shocking front-page divorce.

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper reads like a story ripped right from tabloid headlines. Fast-paced and utterly irresistible, it’s a fascinating inside-look at the world of Hollywood celebrities.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Bhalla Strand by Sarah Maine

[ 4 ] July 21, 2015

bhalla strand book coverReviewed by Alyssa Katanic

Sarah Maine has studied archaeology in Great Britain, and she pours her knowledge of the subject and passion for following the clues of the past that our ancestors leave behind into her new work of fiction, Bhalla Strand. Published by Freight Books in Glasgow and set, mainly, on a remote island in an area known as the Hebrides during both the 1910’s and 2010, it is full of the charm of British English, as well as names of characters, such as Ruairidh and Aonghas, which I am still quite unsure as to how to pronounce.

Slotted as a mystery, Bhalla Strand is so much more sophisticated than the usual “Who done it?” mysteries that I tend to stay far from. Instead, it is a very well written piece of literature that applies the author’s knowledge of archeology and ancestry research in order to unfold the story behind Bhalla House, the crumbling mansion inherited by Harriet (Hetty) Deveraux, and the skeleton found beneath its floor boards.

Throughout Bhalla Strand, Maine shifts between the story line of the Blake family and Bhalla House during the 1910’s, and that of Hetty’s developing plans for the house and island in 2010. For the Blake family, especially for the artist and master of the house, Theo Blake, Bhalla Strand is an island of strained and lost relationships which, nonetheless, constantly draws him back to explore these losses as he expresses them though his paintings of island life. For Hetty, on the other hand, Bhalla Strand is a place of healing from the loss of her parents and grandmother as she reconnects with the mysteries of her ancestors and tries to sort out their stories through the photographs, letters and art that she discovers. It is also a place for her to detach from present draining relationships and to connect with those still living a simpler life on the island.

Often, there are novels which throw in needless details or leave threads of story line underdeveloped and disconnected from the main body of the story. Maine, however, leaves no loose ends as she masterfully weaves a complex story of love and loss, assumptions, mistakes, accidents, and regrets from both the past and present ends of the timeline. Her characters are clear and very human, and the crumbling house, the art, and wildlife (especially the Selkies, or seal woman of lore) are played excellently as metaphors throughout the novel.

To be completely honest, I finished reading the novel a week ago and am still finding myself thinking on it through out my day, still “feeling” for the characters and the humanness of their tragedy. We all love a happy ending, and, though Hetty’s works out well, that of the Blake family works out fairly realistically in a way that the character of Hetty describes as being, “lives that were now played out. Past Help. Past saving…” As is true, for all of the ancestors whose lives we explore through the archives. Lives that cannot be rewritten into “happily ever after” but are what they are: Past help. Past saving.

Bhalla Strand, by Sarah Maine, is a fantastic read, sophisticated, romantic without being seedy, and very well done over all.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Alyssa Katanic is a wife and homeschooling mother of 7 children under 11 years old. She loves reading and collecting great books to share with others and knows that one can never have too many!

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

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Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

[ 2 ] July 20, 2015

gospel of loki book coverReviewed by Marcus Hammond

If you’re not a fan of mythology, fantasy, or comic books, you may not know who Loki and the gods of Asgard are. The mythology of Nordic cultures is a rich tapestry of bloody battles, furious vengeance, vanity, and heroism. The pantheon of characters calls upon the best and worst attributes of human culture. In The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris, all of these concepts are brought together in an entertaining romp through many of the ancient Norse tales.

The story revolves around the narration of Loki, the Norse god of tricks and lies. He sets out to tell his own and Asgard’s history to set his reputation straight. The gods of Asgard make him sound like a villain, but Loki finds that an unfair characterization. Each chapter reads like an episode in the victimization of Loki, and is told with dry humor and clarity.

Harris’s characterization of Loki is excellent. He’s devious and manipulative and has fun at it. Most of Loki’s stories revolve around his manipulations of the Asgardians. From the beginning it is clear that Loki feels like a victim of Odin (the “king” of the Norse gods) and his brethren. Loki takes their abuse in stride and watches each character closely to learn their weaknesses. He plays on their vanity, lack of intelligence and/or greed to exact his revenge for never being fully accepted as an Asgardian. In one scenario, Loki tricks Freyja, the goddess of desire, into selling her body to dwarves for a piece of jewelry. By working his manipulations, Loki completely humiliates Freyja and angers Odin (who secretly lusts after the goddess). There are many examples of plots like this that Loki sets against the gods, yet he always seems to end up the victim of his own scheming.

By establishing the central point of the narration as Loki’s victimization and developing that through his schemes and adventures, Harris presents an interesting duality to the story. The god of lies and tricks acts as is his nature and seeks vengeance for being treated as an outcast. As with all mythology this lesson reveals a deeper meaning about human nature—if we are condemned for our actions, it is our nature to blame those that condemn us.

There’s a lot of humor sprinkled throughout Loki’s story as well. While many of his schemes are directly tied to his distaste for his fellow gods, there are moments of camaraderie, as well. Loki shares many adventures with Thor, the God of Thunder. During one situation, Loki dresses Thor up as a bride to trick an enemy of Asgard. Harris expertly crafts the banter and attitudes of the two gods to portray the distrust and tension between Loki and Thor, but also the humor in enacting such a ridiculous scheme.

Overall, the story may not be accessible to everyone due to its strong roots in Norse mythology and fantasy. As an avid comic book reader and fan of myth and fantasy, I found the story to be a quick, enjoyable read.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

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

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