Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: The Savage Dead

The Savage Dead by Joe McKinney

Publication Date: 09/03/2013
Publisher: Kensingston Publishing Corp.
Imprint: Pinnacle Fiction
Genre: Horror/Fantasy/Zombie
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0786029307
ISBN-13: 978-0786029303

(Received for an honest review from Pinnacle Fiction)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Joe McKinney on the WEB: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from The Savage Dead, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


It starts in a laboratory. A man-made strain of flesh-eating virus. Created by a power-hungry cartel. Capable of turning victims into brain-dead carnivores. Smuggled aboard a cruise ship that's about to set sail...One by one, the passengers are exposed. A U.S. senator. A young couple. An undercover agent. A beautiful assassin. Some will be infected. Others will survive. But no one will be spared if the outbreak isn't contained - and the dead outnumber the living...Enter Delta Force operative Juan Perez. He's fought the deadliest killers in the darkest hellholes on earth. But he's never seen anything like this - an apocalyptic cargo of pure zombie mayhem heading for the coast. If Perez and his SEAL team can't stop it, America, and quickly the entire population of the world, are finished. The plague years will begin...


Officer Joe McKinney once again thrills readers of the horror and fantasy genre with his latest zombie offering, The Savage Dead. McKinney is an award winning author who takes the zombie apocalypse to another level with each book he writes. Coming off the hugely successful Dead City series, McKinney takes readers back to the beginning with a fresh take on how zombies came into existence. Zombie lovers, police procedural readers, and readers who love a book with a military slant will love this one!

I know there must be some zombie fans out there. With the advent of television programs like, The Walking Dead, zombies have become a popular horror character and everyone is cashing in on the dividends. As many of you know, I am a paranormal fan in just about any capacity, but zombies are not my favorite paranormal characters. But once in awhile an author comes along that makes a zombie worth reading about. 

Authors like Rhiannon Frater and Joe McKinney put a new face on the zombie population. McKinney who is a police officer not only adds the human element to the zombie conflict but he is also able to draw in readers who enjoy a good action thriller mixed with a police procedural. These zombies are in for a rude awakening! I liked the fact that McKinney puts a new spin on how these characters were essentially created in The Savage Dead. They don't just appear out of no where. This is a very well planned process by a major drug cartel. I liked that angle and thought it had some validity in the fact that scientist are creating some pretty scary things, a flesh-eating virus? Why not...

A cruise ship is an interesting form of deployment for a flesh eating virus. You have a mix of different people from all walks of life. One of the cool parts for me, as reader, was that not everyone is affected by the virus. There are still some people who remain intact to fight these abominations. I liked the fact that McKinney gives readers that glimpse of hope they need to keep them reading. There has to be that resistance factor and McKinney does a fantastic job with that. 

Enter Delta Force operative, Juan Perez. This protagonist is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to zombies. He has been to hell and back as a military operative and this is just a new page in his book. I liked the way McKinney writes Perez as tough as nails but still willing to learn about his adversary and adapt to the zombies. He is extremely likable and readers need the tough guy persona to look to. But McKinney doesn't stop there. He uses female characters in just the same heart-pounding manner. There are tough women in this book and McKinney doesn't shy away from them. I loved that part.

This book has a definite military slant. You have the destructive drug cartel who obviously will stop at nothing to get what they want. You have a potentially global epidemic on your hands and you have a SEAL team trying to spot it. McKinney excels at writing the procedural details of both police and military operations. I love a good military thriller, and adding in zombies is probably a very successful combination for a lot of readers.

As I have said... I'm not a zombie fan. I don't like flesh eaters and yes, that means that some scenes are pretty gruesome. But.. I do like Joe McKinney. I'll have to say that this is one of the better written zombie books I've ever read. The scenario is plausible. The characters are riveting and McKinney actually sold me on the story line. I still don't like zombies, but the kick-ass heroes in heroines in this book made for an excellent read. If you haven't tried a zombie novel, this is one to read. Then go grab McKinney's Dead City series... Very interesting!

The Savage Dead is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! (WOW... did I just give a zombie book a 5? Yes... Yes I did!)

About the Author:

Joe McKinney has been a patrol officer for the San Antonio Police Department, a homicide detective, a disaster mitigation specialist, a patrol commander, and a successful novelist. His books include the four part Dead World series, Quarantined, Inheritance, Lost Girl of the Lake, Crooked House and Dodging Bullets. His short fiction has been collected in The Red Empire and Other Stories and Dating in Dead World and Other Stories. In 2011, McKinney received the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel. For more information go to

Review and Giveaway: First Degree Fudge

First Degree Fudge (Fudge Shop Mystery - Book 1) by Christine DeSmet

Publication Date: 09/03/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 352
ISBN-10: 0451416473
ISBN-13: 978-0451416476

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Christine DeSmet on the WEB:


Excerpt from First Degree Fudge, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


First in a new mystery series--includes fudge recipes!

New candy store owner Ava Oosterling specializes in making heavenly homemade fudge and fresh starts. But she’s just found out that her newest flavor is to die for….
Between getting her store up and running and uneasily settling back into her charming Lake Michigan hometown, Ava Oosterling has her plate full. She hopes using local fresh dairy and her own flavorful imagination to cook up one-of-a-kind fudge will also create a brand-new start for her. And if she can tempt wealthy ex–film star Rainetta Johnson to try her newest creation, Cinderella Pink, at a local fund-raiser, maybe her road to big-time success will be short and sweet.
But when Rainetta chokes to death on a stolen diamond hidden in the fudge’s fluffy depths, Ava is pegged as the prime suspect. Now saving her business and reputation means investigating a batch of townspeople who had numerous reasons to hate disdainful, hard-bargaining Rainetta. With Ava’s best friend and her former flame in the suspect mix, she must figure out who the real culprit is fast or face a very bitter end.…


Christine DeSmet is taking on fudge in her new Fudge Shop Mystery series. First-Degree Fudge is the first book in the series and will have readers drooling with it's descriptions of heroine Ava Oosterling's confections. Set in a small Wisconsin town on Lake Michigan readers will enjoy the down home atmosphere and quirky characters that Desmet brings into play in this cozy mystery. What do Cinderella Pink Fudge and diamonds have to do with murder? Readers are about to find out in this cozy debut!

There are some pro's and con's to DeSmet's first offering in this series. One of the pro's is definitely the author's ability to write descriptive prose. When DeSmet starts to write about the Cinderella Pink Fudge and other delights she hopes to produce for Ava's fudge shop, the reader will likely swoon. DeSmet talks about fudge in a way that will make the reader almost taste the delicious flavors, smell that candy smell and hear the ooh's and aah's. It also helps that the author puts a few of those recipes in the back of the book for readers to recreate for themselves. This was one of my favorite parts of the book and shows a lot of potential.

Another pro was the small town of Fisher Point, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan. This was a perfect setting for this series. I haven't read too many cozies set in Wisconsin or on Lake Michigan, so that was something that drew my interest right away. When an author is starting a new series, it is extremely important for them to establish the setting and make it a place that readers will want to return to. The overall atmosphere of the series definitely had that enchanted small town feel, with places like Granpa's Bait and Beer Shop and the Blue Heron Hotel. I think DeSmet did a good job of setting up the town and it's quirky inhabitants. 

Unfortunately there were a few problems with this debut that I have to mention. When it came to characterization, the author does a fairly in depth job with heroine, Ava Oosterling but the rest of characters fall a little flat. They are one dimensional and the reader will have a hard time figuring out whether this a person who may be in the next book or not. I think DeSmet focus was a little centered on the main character and left too much to the readers imagination on the supporting cast. I didn't get much back story or relevance to many of the other characters, even the killer.

The other issue I had was the main character herself. DeSmet describes her very well, but unfortunately I didn't like the description. She comes across as overzealous, and somewhat annoying. She does not try to work with the police, but against them. She also makes some decisions that were not in keeping with how the author was describing her. I think that perhaps as the series continues DeSmet may make Ava a little more likable. I think it is so important for the reader to identify with the heroine and it's missing to some degree with this one.

The mystery aspect of the story was a good one. I liked the overall theme of the former movie star and the diamonds and how that played into the plot of Ava's Fudge shop. There were a few times when I felt like the author was repetitive and others where some of the plot devices come out of left field. The villain was not very predictable which is usually a good thing, but in this case it's not. The reason the bad guy wasn't easy to figure out was because the plot was a little bit all over the place. 

I definitely think there is potential here for a good series. We have to keep in mind that the first book in a series is generally not the best book, because so many things have to fall into to place to set up the entire series. The authors focus is often on too many things at one time. I think Christine DeSmet has a wonderful idea here, but the execution was a bit off. That's not to say that it can't be fixed. The next book in the series will probably be a lot better. I don't think we count this one out just yet. Try it for yourself and see what you think. It might be right up your alley. These are of course, just my humble opinions.

First-Degree Fudge is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Christine DeSmet is a winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart as well as a three-time finalist. She is also a winner of the Slamdance Film Festival writing contest. A member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America, Christine teaches fiction and screenwriting at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of First Degree Fudge by Christine DeSmet.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 14th.

1. Please leave a comment describing your favorite kind of fudge. Recipes appreciated... LOL.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Murder Plain and Simple

Murder, Plain and Simple (Amish Quilt Shop Mystery - Book 1) by Isabella Alan

Publication Date: 09/03/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0451413636
ISBN-13: 978-0451413635

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Isabella Alan  (aka. Amanda Flower) on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Murder, Plain and Simple, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


When Angela Braddock inherits her late aunt’s beautiful Amish quilt shop, she leaves behind her career and broken engagement for a fresh start in Holmes County, Ohio.
With her snazzy cowboy boots and her ornithophobic French bulldog, Angie doesn’t exactly fit in with the predominantly Amish community in Rolling Brook, but her aunt’s quilting circle tries to make her feel welcome as she prepares for the reopening of Running Stitch. 
On the big day, Angie gets a taste of success as the locals and Englisch tourists browse the store’s wares while the quilters stitch away. But when Angie finds the body of ornery Amish woodworker Joseph in her storeroom the next morning, everything starts falling apart.
With evidence mounting against her, Angie is determined to find the culprit before the local sheriff can arrest her. Rolling Brook always appeared to be a simple place, but the closer Angie gets to the killer, the more she realizes that nothing in the small Amish community is as plain as it seems....  


Murder, Plain and Simple is the first book in the Amish Quilt Shop Mystery series by Isabella Alan. Alan is a pseudonym for bestselling mystery author Amanda Flower. This cozy mystery is set in the Amish community of Rolling Brook, Ohio and introduces readers to heroine, Angie Braddock. Alan's take on the Amish is not necessarily what the reader might expect and there is plenty of action to keep those pages turning. Cozy readers and Amish enthusiasts alike will be raving about this debut. It proves to be a great start for Isabella Alan.

Angie Braddock is returning to her aunt's quaint little quilt shop in the heart of an Amish community. Angie's mother and her sister took very different paths in life. One married and Amish man and started a life with him, the other moved to Texas to be a part of southern society. Angie has been brought up as a part of Dallas society, but she needs a change when her engagement ends in heartbreak. Her aunt's shop sounds like just the change she needs. Author Isabella Alan introduces readers to Angie and to the town of Rolling Brook. Alan writes Angie as a strong, independent woman, who isn't afraid of a challenge and she certainly finds one when she takes over the Running Stitch quilt shop. Readers will definitely find Angie to be a likable heroine, whose curiosity knows no bounds.

The town of Rolling Brook is not exactly what Angie expects it to be like and it probably won't be what the reader expects either. Alan's take on the Amish is interesting and perhaps a little hard to take in the beginning. Most often the Amish are portrayed as very forgiving and trusting in God to handle their problems and that sort of thing, but in Rolling Brook the Amish are a lot more human. You'll find everything from greed and gossip to betrayal and murder in this little town and that's just in the first few chapters. I thought Alan took a risk with this kind of approach to the Amish community, it was definitely outside the box. But if we are honest with ourselves, this probably pretty realistic as to how it really is. The Amish aren't perfect either and in this case it plays into the story well. 

A local shopkeeper believes he is the real owner of the Running Stitch and Angie is going to have to come up with her aunt's old deed before the question can be settled. When he shows up dead in her storeroom, Angie is determined to clear her good name and find out who wanted Joseph the woodworker dead. There are quite a few suspects and plenty of motives. Alan keeps the reader guessing all the way to the end. I thought I had it figured out a time or two, but I was just chasing false leads. Alan holds reader off until the big reveal and that makes all the difference.

Alan goes out on a limb with this one, but she brings it all together and it works. Once the reader starts to get into the book, they will start to understand why Alan wrote the book they way she did and what she was trying to accomplish. It's a good mystery and the clues are easy to figure out, while the real killer stays hidden until very close to the end. A good debut to a new series. Looking forward to seeing where Isabella Alan will take this series and how the community of Rolling Brook will evolve.

Murder, Plain and Simple is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this book 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author

Isabella Alan, an academic librarian for a small college in Ohio, grew up visiting the state’s Amish country with her family. Her 2010 debut, Maid of Murder, written under the name Amanda Flower, received an Agatha Award nomination for Best First Novel. 

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Murder, Plain and Simple by Isabella Alan.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 12th.

1. Please leave a comment describing a favorite quilting or sewing experience or one you would like to have.
2. Please fill out the FORM

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: The Outlaw Knight

The Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

Publication Date: 09/03/2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 576
ISBN-10: 1402274629
ISBN-13: 978-1402274626

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Landmark)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Elizabeth Chadwick on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from The Outlaw Knight, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside Feature

Cover Art: I have seen a couple of different covers for
this title and wanted to share both.


A Deadly Rival.
An Ancient Family Dispute.
An Impossible Love.
He should have known better than to fight with the future King John. Ruthless and feared, John is not one to forget or forgive. But Fulke FitzWarin couldn't help himself, and now the vindictive John has insured that Fulke will never become lord of the castle he loves.
Instead of accepting his fate, Fulke rebels. He begins an affair with Maude Walter, the wealthy widow desired by John himself. Negotiating a maze of deceit, treachery, and shifting alliances, Fulke's route to success is blocked at every turn. And when the turmoil of the Magna Carta rebellion combines with a shocking tragedy, everything Fulke has fought for is thrown into the path of destruction.


Previously released as Lords of the White Castle, The Outlaw Knight is a medieval romantic adventure by highly acclaimed British author, Elizabeth Chadwick. 12th Century England provides the background for this sweeping story of betrayal, love and what it means to honor king and country. Chadwick is adept at using little known historical characters and bringing them to vivid life for her readers. Her skill as a historian, as well as, a writer is nothing short of amazing. This is an excellent tale depicting the reign of King John and his many follies, and a story about a man whose only dream is to reclaim his family home.

Historical fiction is somewhat different from historical romance in the fact that there may be a relationship or a love interest but the story is based on a real historical character. The author can take a well known person and write what might be considered a biographical sketch or they can take little known historical figure and expound and embellish that story with fiction. In the case of The Outlaw Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick has taken a man that has very little historical background and brings his story to life for her readers. 

Fulke FitzWarin becomes squire to Lord John when he is only fifteen years old. He is desperate to somehow regain his family holdings. His only hope is getting John to return it to him. But John is anything but cordial to Fulke. He treats him as though he is somehow less than desirable. A country boy who does not have a place in court. John is spoiled and resentful. He grows into a man who is all about his own pleasure and cares nothing for the plight of others. Chadwick does a wonderful job describing John and his habits. She makes it very clear to the reader that historically and fictionally, John was a real piece of work. 

Fulke however, is very different. He takes a lot from John because he wants to bring back honor to his family. But an argument between the two brings everything crashing down around him and John turns his holdings over to someone else. Fulke becomes enraged and throws off any sign of allegiance he has ever shown John and so the story begins. Fulke is now and outlaw. Chadwick does an amazing job of showing Fulke as a man who is put in a desperate position. She writes him as a loyal man, yet he is forced to denounce his King when he is betrayed by him. I thought Chadwick was excellent at showing the depth of Fulke's personality and what it took for him to do this.

I enjoyed all of the give and take between John and Fulke. Fulke is determined to make sure he thwarts every possible avenue that John has to success as the King. Fulke even chooses a woman that John has selected for himself. The relationship between Maude Walters and Fulke was very tender at times and passionate at others. I liked how Chadwick uses the romance between them as a catalyst in the story, but does not make it a focal point. Had she done that it would have strayed too close to historical romance for me, but I still enjoyed reading about how they came together and what they meant to each other.

The Magna Carta rebellion is essentially a huge part of the story. Should it be enacted it would change the future of other sons like Fulke who have been cheated of their family holdings and also for women during the time period and how they were bartered between families basically to the highest bidder. I loved the fact that Chadwick describes the plight of women during the time period and makes it clear to the reader that they had very little rights up until this time and how the Magna Carta changed that. Her descriptions of what women had to go throw at home and in marriage was riveting. 

Chadwick has written a novel in which the story shines, but the historical background is exceptional. Her descriptive prowess is amazing. Even down to the descriptions of what the food was like and the living conditions. I think I enjoyed that most about this book. I loved the characters and their interactions but just learning more about 12th century England really took center stage here. Chadwick is one of those authors that you know must spend her days buried in research and becoming a part of the medieval time. I love reading her books for a lot of reasons but I think mostly I like to be educated and entertained and she does that in spades.

The Outlaw Knight is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Elizabeth Chadwick is a best selling, award winning author of historical fiction. A born storyteller, her first novel The Wild Hunt won a Betty Trask Award in 1990. She has been four times shortlisted for the RNA Award in the UK for the best mainstream romantic novel. Her book The Scarlet Lion was selected as one of the top ten works of historical fiction of the decade by Richard Lee, founder of The Historical Novel Society.

Giveaway Details:

Check out Manga Manic Cafe for a great character interview with Fulke FitzWarin and your chance to win a copy of The Outlaw Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick. You still have about ten days on this one. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Loves Awakening

Love's Awakening (Ballantyne Legacy - Book 2) by Laura Frantz

Publication Date: 09/15/2013
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Imprint: Revell
Genre: Christian Historical
Pages: 416
ISBN-10: 0800720423
ISBN-13: 978-0800720421

(Received for an honest review from Revell)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook, IndieBound

Laura Frantz on the WEB: Website, Journal, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Love's Reckoning (2012), Love's Awakening (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Love's Awakening, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


Ellie Ballantyne, youngest child of Silas and Eden, has left finishing school. But back at her family home in Pittsburgh, Ellie finds that her parents are away on a long trip and her siblings don't seem to want her to stay. When she opens a day school for young ladies, she begins tutoring the incorrigible daughter of the enemy Turlock clan. The Turlocks are slaveholders and whiskey magnates, envious of the powerful Ballantynes and suspicious of their abolitionist leanings. As Ellie becomes increasingly tangled with the Turlocks, she finds herself falling in love with an impossible future--and Jack Turlock, a young man striving to free himself from his family's violent legacy. How can she betray her family and side with the enemy? And will Jack ever allow her into his world?

Masterful storyteller Laura Frantz continues to unfold the stirring saga of the Ballantyne family in this majestic tale of love, loyalty, and the makings of a legacy. With rich descriptions of the people who settled and civilized a wild landscape, Frantz weaves a tapestry of characters and places that stick with the reader long after they turn the last page.


Laura Frantz continues her sweeping saga of the Ballantyne family in Book 2 of the Ballantyne Legacy series, Love's Awakening. A master storyteller, Frantz is able to weave history and inspiration into her stories with ease and grace. Her characters epitomize the strength and determination needed to survive the tumultuous times leading up to the Civil War. The historical detail in this novel is mesmerizing, as well as, the heartfelt tenderness with which Frantz writes. Readers will be swept away by this gripping tale of family, love, and freedom.

What can I say about Laura Frantz, she is a writer after my own heart. Her stories are steeped in history and carry such an atmosphere of grace and elegance. With Love's Awakening Frantz is able to show the opulence and grandeur of the plantations of the time, while also showing the seedy underbelly of slavery and sedition. Frantz does not steer away from the dark side of the era and takes readers on a journey that will stay with them long after the last page of this novel is turned.

The Ballantyne family is a beckon of respect and religious fervor in early 1800's Pittsburgh. Their reputation is impeccable, the children well learned and behaved. Their enterprises and businesses thriving and bringing opportunity and refinement to their community. While the Turlock family has a less than stellar influence. Their contributions to Pittsburgh are in the form of Whiskey and all that it entails. These two families are polar opposites, in everything from how they raise their families to their leanings on the question of slavery and freedom. Frantz develops a the relationship between this families that borders on a feud and gives the reader the feeling of enmity between them.

When Ballantyne daughter Ellie returns from finishing school she expected to marry an upstanding, acceptable man, not Jack Turlock. Ellie and Jack come in contact with each other through the day school that Ellie begins for young ladies. Jack's sister Chloe is one of Ellie's students. Frantz starts to bring these two characters closer together through Jack's love for his sister and his interactions on her behalf. Ellie begins to realize that Jack has changed. His convictions are not those shared by his family and she begins to fall for him despite the vast differences in their upbringing and families. Frantz is able to convey to the reader a deep sense of family and the desire of both Ellie and Jack to live up to the expectations of their families despite their growing attraction. Frantz does a fantastic job of showing just how different they are and what their love is facing.

This book is at it's core a historical romance. Frantz is using the backdrop of pre-Civil War Pittsburgh to show the conflict her characters are facing. The historical detail is absolutely remarkable. Frantz has certainly done her homework. But I think more importantly she has instilled her characters with a deep sense of right and wrong and the question of slavery helps to illustrate that. I thought she did a fantastic job of showing both heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. This was not an easy time to live in and any story about the time period should reflect that. This happy ending comes with a cost and I liked that because it was realistic.

I loved all of the referencing to the Underground Railroad and the sense of urgency that Frantz is able to imbue to the reader. This was a time in history when people had to fight for their beliefs and sometimes they paid dearly for it and Frantz really gets that point across. In short, I really loved this book and it will probably make my top ten Christian/Inspirational books of the year. A great example of inspirational writing for readers of mainstream and Christian romances.

Available September 2013, at your favorite bookseller, from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Laura Frantz is the author of several books, including The Colonel's Lady and Love's Reckoning. A two-time Carol Award and INSPY Award finalist and a recent Christy Award finalist, she currently lives in the misty woods of Washington with her husband and two sons.

Giveaway Details:

Hop on over to Christian Bookshelf Reviews for your chance to win a copy of Love's Awakening by Laura Frantz. The giveaway ends on September 27th so you don't have much time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blogger Needed !!!

Hello everyone! I have a wonderful opportunity to talk to you about today...

Since I began blogging a few years ago I have cultivated a relationship with several publicists. I produce quality reviews that help these publicists promote and get the word about authors and books. I have been privileged to be able to offer you the reader a reference tool in order to choose books and authors that you enjoy reading. To try new things and interact with each other about books. Also I have provided many giveaways and ways for you as a reader to interact with your favorite authors.

Because I have had such a good relationship with
these publicists and authors I have built a very good reputation in the publishing community. I am offered more and more books to review all the time. I get hundreds of requests each month and I'm forced to turn down a lot more than I am able to accept. I have recently been offered a huge review opportunity that will add somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 reviews a month to my blog. 

These reviews would include more historical fiction, young adult, paranormal and urban fantasy titles, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, cozy mysteries, you name it, there would be a lot more of it. I am really excited about the opportunity to add a lot of new followers, new types of books and authors, along with being able to offer a lot more giveaways. But I cannot take this on alone. I need a review partner. I also work a day job during the months of January - April and need someone to help me out at those times as well. 

I want someone who is versatile and willing to
experiment with genres they have not been exposed to as well as old favorites. I want someone who will be fair and not judgmental or harsh. I have very high standards of how I conduct the blog and expect that this person would adhere to that. I believe any one of you who read a lot would be capable and would enjoy the process. I am not stepping away from the blog by any means and would still be very active in how things are done etc. I just want to take on more.

I am providing a FORM I would like you to fill out if you are interested. I would either have the publisher send the books you would review each month directly to you or I would send them myself. They would be yours to keep as long as the reviews post according to a mutual schedule. I was someone I can work closely with and provide good solid reviews. I have dealt with many of you through giveaways and believe any of you could take on this responsibility. At this point it would probably be between 8 - 10 reviews a month, so be committed to reading a lot before you apply. 

I need someone quickly so that I can accept the offer
and move forward within a months time. I will work closely with you and help you in any way. I can provide a review template of how I want each review structured and how the giveaways work etc. I'm excited and hope that you are too... I look forward to working with you. If you have questions you post in the comments or send me an email:


I look forward to hearing from you soon!


Fill out this FORM if you are interested and we'll take it from there.


Review: Sunblind

Sunblind (Darkborn Legacy - Book 2) by Michael Griffo

Publication Date: 08/27/2013
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Imprint: Kensington Teen
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Pages: 400
ISBN-10: 0758280742
ISBN-13: 978-0758280749

(Received for an honest review from Kensington Teen)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Michael Griffo on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Moonglow (2013), Sunblind (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Sunblind, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


Dominy had no choice in becoming a werewolf. The day she turned sixteen, a witch's curse erased every trace of normal from her life and ignited a wild hunger that's already cost Dominy her best friend. And though she's still got her boyfriend, Caleb, and other allies who promise to help her find a cure, Dom feels completely alone. Yet she isn't alone...Throughout her hometown of Weeping Water, Nebraska, a legacy of evil is slowly coming to light, pitting friend against friend in an unfolding battle. Dom was sure her only hope was to fight what she's become. But with an enemy threatening her family, she'll have to harness the power she fears and gather all the strength she's got...


Michael Griffo's second book in The Darkborn Legacy series, Sunblind is a coming of age story, paranormal style. Griffo's fast paced werewolf adventure focuses on a young girl with a curse. This book is filled with all of the paranormal elements enthusiasts of the genre enjoy from magic and witches to werewolves and all things in between. Evil has come to the small town of Weeping Water, Nebraska and it's up to heroine, Dominy Robineau to figure out how to stop it. Griffo's hard hitting style and descriptive prowess with the keep the reading turning those pages long into the night.

The Darkborn Legacy is a different take on werewolf mythology that was provocative and absorbing. Sunblind is the second book in the series and it is definitely not a stand alone. It relies heavily on the events of the first book, Moonglow and should be read in succession with it to allow the reader a full reading experience. Michael Griffo uses a curse in order to turn his protagonist, Dominy Robineau into a werewolf. Much of the series is focused on Dominy's attempts to remove the curse or to find a cure to her werewolf issues. 

Griffo excels at descriptive writing and uses that in his sketches detailing Dom's changes from human to werewolf and back again. He is able to convey to the reader everything from how the changes makes the character feel physically to the sights and smells and even the mental dialogue of girl vs. wolf. That alone made this book worth reading to me. It was a feast for the senses in that respect. Werewolves tend to be my favorite paranormal characters and Griffo does an amazing job of bringing them to life in his book.

Sunblind begins to show the changes that are occurring in Dom's hometown of Weeping Water, Nebraska. It is easy to see that Griffo is building up to a showdown. In this book, the evil is beginning to become a lot more noticeable and Dom's family and friends become more of a target. She is still actively trying to get rid of her curse, but is she going to be able to protect those she loves, if she does? The inner struggle the character goes through is well written and brings up some dark aspects of her curse. 

Dominy is a character that is young and just beginning to find out who she is when this curse begins to take full affect. She shows a great perseverance and strong determination as she is forced to accept what she has become and finds new purpose in finding the woman who cursed her father. As a character I thought she was an excellent heroine though a bit on the neurotic side as most teenagers are. Which means the author was spot on with his characterization of a teenage girl who should be focused on boys and finishing school instead of evil curses and a hairy back. 

There were moments in reading this book that I felt everything was a bit disjointed and needed to be clarified a little more. But in the end it all came together and made sense. I think it was just a matter of fine tuning that made it seem off to me and probably not the fault of the author. I liked this one better than Moonglow and I'm looking forward to the release of the third book in the series, Starfall.

Many of you may question as adults, why you should a young adult werewolf novel? And that's a valid question. Though most of the characters are young, there is still the good vs. evil theme and the underlying idea of whether to accept fate or challenge it that permeates this series that should be considered. These are ideas that are transcendent no matter what your age is and I believe that there is a lot here for adults to explore as well. I enjoyed it a lot and I think you will too!

Sunblind is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Michael Griffo is an award-winning writer and a graduate of New York University. He has studied at Playwrights Horizons and Gotham Writers Workshop, and has written several screenplays.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Sup with the Devil

Sup with the Devil (Abigail Adams Mystery - Book 3) by Barbara Hamilton

Publication Date: 09/03/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery 
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 0425257266
ISBN-13: 978-0425257265

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Barbara Hamilton (aka. Barbara Hambly) on the WEB: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads 

(Note: I was disappointed that there was no page for Barbara Hamilton and that there was no mention of this series on Barbara Hambly's website either. Although there is a blog post about her alter ego. The series was not even listed under the authors list of books. It's such a good series, it's really a shame that there is very little mention of it.)

Books in the series:

The Ninth Daughter (2009), A Marked Man (2010), Sup with the Devil {Mass Market Paperback} (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from Sup with the Devil, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.


Murder in Colonial America...

1774: Spring brings uncertainty to Boston as the entire city awaits the Crown’s response to the infamous Tea Party. Urged on by the Sons of Liberty—and Abigail’s husband, John—militias form and arm themselves. But when a Harvard Loyalist is murdered, the only side Abigail finds herself on is the side of justice… 

After an attempt on the life of her scholarly young nephew Horace, Abigail travels to Harvard to investigate. A mysterious woman had hired Horace to translate some Arabic, only to leave him disoriented and frightened—and at the mercy of her henchmen. But Horace survived—with a tale of pirate treasure…
While Abigail and Horace try to unravel the strange circumstances, one of his fellow students—a young man loyal to the King—is murdered. And though the Sons of Liberty are desperate to find the rumored gold, Abigail is more interested in the truth. For the Devil’s treasure comes with a curse that could bring down anyone, regardless of where their allegiance lies…


Barbara Hamilton is a pseudonym for popular historical romance writer, Barbara Hambly. Hambly has also written other historical mysteries including the Benjamin January series. The latest book in the Abigail Adams series by alter ego, Hamilton is well written and extensively researched. Pre- Revolutionary War Boston comes to life in this historical whodunit featuring the ever resourceful Abigail Adams, as a fictionalized amateur sleuth. Hamilton's use of political intrigue and historical references add a sense of authenticity and genuineness to the book. A great addition to the series!

The real Abigail Adams was in intrepid character in her day. She was very intelligent and interested in politics and government. She is remembered for her contribution to the property rights of married women and women's education during Revolutionary times. She was certainly interested and involved in her husbands political career and that of her son, John Quincy Adams. I thought Barbara Hamilton chose a very well known and amazing woman to be the heroine of this series. Abigail would most definitely have been a good amateur sleuth. Her inquisitiveness and ingenuity were unparalleled in her time and well represented here.

I am a big fan of historical writing in general, whether be fiction or otherwise. I was really interested in this series because of Abigail Adams and I was intrigued to see how she would be portrayed here. Hamilton is quick to show the reader that Abigail was very intuitive and well versed in the politics of the times. She wrote her as versatile and willing to help those in need. In Sup with the Devil she is coming to the aid of her nephew Horace who has had a traumatic experience. Hamilton shows the depth of Abigail's character throughout the book and the reader is drawn in to Horace's story quickly. 

I liked the premise. The political intrigue with the Sons of Liberty and the historical characters like Sam Adams and Paul Revere that show up in the book, add credibility to the story, but they are not the main focus. The focus is squarely on the fact Horace has been poisoned and his friend murdered, possibly in reference to an Arabic translation referring to the Devil's treasure. It was a very engrossing story that kept me on the edge of my seat and in thoughtful repose by spurts. Some of the action was quick and furious while some parts tended to drag a little bit.

Abigail goes to Harvard with the intent to find the culprit. I liked her tenacity and the way she was able to bring others around to her way of thinking. Horace was a competent sidekick in this one, though his spouting of Latin phrases was a bit aggravating at times. It is obvious that Hamilton knows her time period thoroughly and has done a lot of research to make sure that Abigail purports herself as a woman of the late 18th century should. The historical references in the book are interesting and add to the overall Colonial feel of the story.

It was a good mystery. It had a lot of good clues and Abigail was adept at finding and understanding them. I had this one figured out before the main character even starts to consider the killer as a suspect. I know, that's a bit soon, but sometimes it's more about the journey than the big reveal and that's the case with this book. It was so interesting that the reader doesn't really mind that the bad guy is in plain sight. I enjoyed the fact that Hamilton still gives the reader a lot to think about and maybe even makes them waver on who they think it is throughout. Overall I liked this one and I think this series deserves a lot more credit than it gets.

Sup with the Devil is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Barbara Hamilton is a pseudonym for Barbara Hambly. Hambly is a full-time author, who works in several genres. In the mystery world ,she is known for her bestselling Benjamin January historical mystery series, includingA Free Man of Color and Good Man Friday among other titles. She has also written a number of historical novels about famous women in American history, including Mary Todd Lincoln and Dolly Madison.

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Sup with the Devil by Barbara Hamilton.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 8th.

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