Review: The super spies and the cat lady killer by Lisa Orchard

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer by Lisa Orchard

Title: The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer

Author: Lisa Orchard

Publisher: Astraea Press

Details: released March 12, 2012, 175 pages, $2.99 (ebook)

Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Sarah Cole and her sister are visiting their uncle and aunt in a small town for the summer.  Sarah meets a skinny girl named Jackie right away, and they get along famously.  In the midst of getting to know each other they stumble on the body of the local old lady recluse who has been murdered.  The rest of the book unfolds with interesting twists and a second mystery is uncovered by the girls.

Review: These characters were likable, and the villain totally scary. It started a little slowly, but the plot developed nicely and ended up having several loose ends tied up neatly.

Recommendation: This is a good book for a middle school readership.  I liked it, and would read more by Lisa Orchard. I give it four quills.Four Quills

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Review: Upon a Midnight Dream by Rachel Van Dyken

Upon a Midnight DreamTitle: Upon a Midnight Dream

Author: Rachel Van Dyken

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($3.99)

Pages: 223 pages

Release Date: March 27, 2012

Genre: Regency Romance, Fairy Tale

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Rosalind Hartwell’s family has fallen under a curse, and it is all her fault… Well, it’s half her fault.

The other portion of culpability falls on Stefan Hudson, the recently returned prodigal, the Marquess of Whitmore and soon to be Duke of Montmouth. It was their responsibility to marry and join the two families in order to avoid bringing the full fury of the family curse crashing down around them.

When Stefan and Rosalind call off their engagement, members of both families start dropping like flies, starting with the fathers of both houses. It seems as though Stefan and Rosalind have no choice but to follow through with marriage after all. But Rosalind insists on being wooed, and Stefan had been stranded on a deserted island for so long, he has all but forgotten most of the social graces.

In their quest to reverse the family curse, they find out there is much more to all the strange sickness and death than meets the superstitious eye. But will they figure out the secret in time to save the rest of their families?

Review: A much-loved favorite fairy tale re-mixed in a new and intriguing story. Rachel Van Dyken was able to weave a brand new story out of the old, which is not easy to do. Between the heroine’s narcolepsy and the over-protective, cane-wielding godmother there is a wonderful mix of the original fairy tale with Van Dyken’s own inventions.

The hero, who suddenly re-appears after having been presumed dead, is an interesting mix of knight in shining armor and unbearable shipwrecked savage returning to polite society.

The heroine, who is convinced she is dying, is a strong female lead holding out for love even in the midst of the threat of a curse befalling her family. She is a worthy opponent of the stubborn, arrogant Stefan, and often gives him a taste of his own medicine in more ways than one.

Recommendation: This is an enjoyable read, a bit steamy in some places, but clean overall. It was written for an adult audience, and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for readers under fifteen. It has mystery, betrayal, romance and suspense all rolled in, so there is a little something for everyone. It is an excellent start for the new series, and I am looking forward to the next installment about Beauty and the Beast. I give Upon a Midnight Dream four quills.

four quills

For those of you who haven’t yet read the House of Renwick trilogy, the characters in this book do make an appearance in The Redemption of Lord Rawlings. It’s definitely worth picking up. You can check out the review here.

Review: The Fairy Godmother Files: Cinderella Complex by Rebekah Purdy

The Fairy Godmother Files by Rebekah L. PurdyTitle: The Fairy Godmother Files: Cinderella Complex

Author: Rebekah L. Purdy

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($2.99)

Pages: 235 pages

Release Date: March 19, 2012

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Fairy Tale

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Maggie is hoping her junior year will be the best year yet, but her hopes are dashed on the very first day when the school mean girl targets her as the victim of displaced anger.

Add to that the family secret she discovers at her grandmother’s retirement party, leaving Maggie with no choice but to take over for her grandmother as the newest…fairy godmother–wings, wand, and all–and her prime directive is to make sure all her assignments get their “happy ever after”.

Easier said than done.

Her first mission turns out to be none other than her nemesis, mean girl Katrina Melville. But naturally, the indignation doesn’t stop there. Kat’s HEA includes the one guy Maggie has been crushing on since puberty hit, school hottie Connor Prince.

To top it all off, her new responsibilities require to disappear at a moment’s notice (literally) to answer every beck and call of the assigned prima donna. And Maggie’s friends don’t take very kindly to being ditched in the middle of bonding time. So much for junior year being the best yet.

Review: This was exceptionally well written. The story was engaging from the very beginning and it had everything you could want: romance, action, suspense, love triangles, evil stepmother, monsters… And of course, it sets up for a continuing story at the end. I did think it was a little strange that while her “knight”/body guard received ongoing training for his job, Maggie herself received none. Of course, that just added to the humor when her spells kept going wrong, and to the suspense when she ran into the evil Grimms–so not necessarily a bad thing.

The dialogue between the characters is so well-timed and well-written it gives a great sense of the characters and the age group. The sibling rivalry and the anger towards the father (I hated that guy) for the way he was treating Maggie and her brother were both funny and realistic. Loved the character interaction.

Recommendation: I laughed out loud throughout this whole book. So many funny lines and lots of physical comedy. Great for young adult and adult readers alike. It’s a clean read, but there are some older themes, so I wouldn’t recommend for younger than high school age. I give The Fairy Godmother Files: Cinderella Complex  four quills.

four quills

Can’t wait for the rest of The Fairy Godmother Files!

Review: The Missing: Book 1 – Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Found

Title: The Missing: Book 1 * Found

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon & Schuster

Format: paperback ($6.99)

Length: 314 pages

Release Date: April 21, 2009 (reprint edition)

Genre: Middle Grades – science fiction

Available at: Book stores everywhere

Summary: Who are Jonah and Chip anyway? Even they don’t know. When cryptic messages start showing up in their mailboxes, they suspect they may be in danger. The two boys, along with Jonah’s adoptive sister, Katherine have a mystery to solve: the letters, the trip to the FBI office, strange people appearing and disappearing at will…what is going on?

Review: Talk about leaving you in a position where you HAVE to read the next book in the series. You are thrown right into the mystery at the very beginning and the suspense builds seamlessly to the end. But it’s not the end. It’s only the beginning.

Recommendation: Great read for those interested in science fiction and time travel. Geared towards young adult, but intriguing for any age. Four quills:

four quills

Guess I’m gonna have to pick up Book Two!

Review: The Black Duke’s Prize by Suzanne Enoch

The Black Duke's Prize

Title: The Black Duke’s Prize

Author: Suzanne Enoch

Publisher: NYLA

Format: E-book ($2.99)

Length: novella

Release Date: November 23, 2011

Genre: Romance – Regency

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary: The Black Duke is a man with a temper who strikes fear in everyone who knows him. He does what he wants and pity the fool who gets in his way. In spite of his bad humor, he does have a close circle of friends who seem to tolerate him. A group of friends who take under their wing one Katherine Ralston, a young lady of considerable strong will herself — and the only one, it seems, who can put the Black Duke in his place and live to tell about it.

Katherine is the heiress to her deceased parents’ estate, but her uncle is in control of it until she comes of age. He sends her away to London for a Season to live with her godparents, while he secretly sells her inheritance off piece by piece. She suspects his motives and is determined to keep her property. But her plans are thwarted by her own godfather and the Black Duke himself…or so she believes. And in spite of her connection to her inheritance, she will have to choose between that and rescuing the man she loves.

Review: This is a well-written and clean romance novella. It was a quick read and sucked me in to the story line immediately. The plot was well-developed throughout. And the characters were both strong. Their evenly matched tempers made the tension mount steadily, which developed the relationship between them as well as set up the climax of the story. My least favorite thing about it was the double-antagonists, which is less a reflection on the writing and more a reflection of me as reader. I can only take so much confrontation. 🙂

Recommendation: What’s not to like? Great writing. Strong characters. Clean romance. Suspenseful twists and surprises. It’s easy to see why The Black Duke’s Prize has been a top-seller for such a long time. A very enjoyable read. I give this book four quills:

four quills

Review: Aegean Intrigue by Patricia Kiyono

Aegean Intrigue by Patricia Kiyono

Title: Aegean Intrigue

Author: Patricia Kiyono

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($1.99)

Pages: ? (Short story/Novella)

Release Date: February 1, 2012

Genre: Romance – Mystery

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press, Smashwords

Summary: Francie Vasileiou is a graduate student working on her PhD in archaeology in beautiful, culture-rich Greece. Raised by a famous archaeologist father and a famous actress mother, her life was anything but average. In spite of her mother’s plans for her future, she chose a life as an archaeologist– her true passion. Unfortunately, on every dig she is involved with, priceless artifacts have disappeared without explanation, leaving a dark cloud of suspicion on her integrity.

Enter Alex Leonidis, a tall handsome private investigator, hired by a wealthy man with interests in the latest dig site. His objective: to observe Francie closely in order to prove her involvement in the missing artifacts. His plan: to go undercover as a Project Director of the dig site. Alex observed her closely all right — drawn inexplicably to her beauty, her passion and her work ethic. He has a difficult time keeping his mind on his primary objective.

But artifacts are still disappearing. Is Francie the culprit? Or is it one of the other crew members — the old, absent-minded professor, the seemingly inept newbie who is always checking his phone, the crew cook? And what will happen when she finds out he’s been lying to her about who he really is?

Review: This story is one of those whose plot is so engaging you are drawn immediately in. It’s difficult not to want more when it’s so good but it ends so soon. As a short story, it can’t be judged by the same criteria as a full-length novel (though a longer format would have given the room to flesh out all the details of this amazing story).

I would have liked to see more development in the relationship between the two main characters, as most of it is brought about through the internal dialogue of the respective character and not as much through their interaction with one another. But overall, a very enjoyable read. As it is, there is romance, mystery, twists and turns, betrayal, reconciliation, and much more. It’s incredible how the author can pack so much into this story.

Recommendation: This a great book for an afternoon or evening read. You can read it in one sitting, and it keeps you intrigued from start to finish. I give Aegean Intrigue four quills.

four quills

I have The Legacy waiting on my Kindle to read. And I also recommend The Christmas Phoenix — a great Christmas novella.

Review: Minna and the Valentine by S.G. Rogers

Minna & the Valentine by S.G. Rogers

Title: Minna & the Valentine

Author: S.G. Rogers

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($1.99)

Pages: 64 pages

Release Date: January 31, 2012

Genre: Romance – Fantasy

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Minna’s father hates wizards, so Minna has had to keep her secret powers hidden from him. When the head of the wizard school and his protege show up on her doorstep asking for help to seal a rift in the fabric dividing alternate realities, Minna is forced to choose between saving the world and guarding her secret.

Minna and the wizard’s protege set off on their quest to retrieve the magic letter opener and repair the rift, but they get much more than they bargain for when they realize their destinies are connected inextricably on both sides of the rift.

Review: This a short read with a straightforward plot. It was light-hearted and clean, and fun to read. Since I hadn’t read anything from this author before, it gave me a small taste of what to expect from her longer works. As a short story or novella goes, it was well done. It focused on two main conflicts: the rift had to be fixed and the two main characters had to realize they were meant for each other.

If the author wanted to make this into a longer novel, it could easily be done. I definitely would read the longer version as well. It would give more time to develop both conflicts and build suspense. As it is, the characters and setting are well written and offer an enjoyable story, including some surprising twists along the way.

Recommendation: I haven’t read a whole lot of magic/fantasy. The genre makes me a little nervous, but S.G. Rogers did an excellent job with this story. I believe the primary age group is young adult here, but adults who enjoy fantasy will like this as well. A great book to read when you want something light, quick and fun. I give Minna & the Valentine four quills.

four quills

Review: Jamais Vu by Monique O’Connor James

Jamais Vu by Monique O'Connor James

Title: Jamais Vu

Author: Monique O’Connor James

Publisher: Astraea Press

Format: E-book ($.99 at the time of this review)

Pages: 227 pages

Release Date: October 3, 2011

Genre: Paranormal

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astraea Press

Summary: Darby Lambert had the picture perfect life — a wealthy family, a nice car, a good education, a successful, good-looking boyfriend, a bright future. But one bullet threw her whole life, her whole existence, careening out of control.

Somewhere between death and life, Darby meets a man who sends her back to help people escape an untimely death. She sees these the deaths of these people in her dreams. One of these people is the talented musician, Kasey, who is in danger of overdosing on drugs.

The immediate connection between Darby and Kasey draws them into each other’s lives. Darby tries to convince Kasey to kick his drug habit, all the while running from demons of her own.

The author takes the reader on a journey with the main character from her “death”, through her efforts to save people who have come to hold a prominent place in her life. Unfortunately, there are forces working against her that seem to be winning.

Review: This is a tough one for me to review because it’s unlike anything I’ve read before. It is definitely a rare style of writing, and the author does it well. I love it’s unique flavor and imaginitive plot.

The writing is fantastic. The reader’s attention is captured from the very beginning, and the plot is built slowly for the first two-thirds of the book, continually adding more intricacies to the conflict. The author does a good job developing the main character throughout her traumatic recovery, eventually bringing her to a full self-awareness.

The last third of the story moves fast. So fast, that when the end comes, you might sit there for a few minutes to digest what just happened. It’s a thinker.

Recommendation: It might not be for everyone, because it is a bit of a wild ride through the main character’s stream of consciousness. From what I understand, the second book in the series brings it all together, so the questions you are left with at the end of Jamais Vu are answered in Deja Vu. If you’re not afraid to try something new and different in your reading repertoire, you are in for an amazing trip.  I give Jamais Vu a rating of four quills:

four quills

Review: Shadows on the Sand

Title: Shadows on the Sand

Author: Gayle Roper

Publisher: Multnomah Books

Format: E-book (also available in paperback)

Pages: 322

Release Date: July 19, 2011

Genre: Christian Romance/ Christian Suspense

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterbrook Multnomah, Christian Books Distributor

Summary:  Carrie Carter and her sister Lindsay run a small cafe in Seaside, a resort town on an island off the New Jersey coast. Things are just starting to wind down after the busy summer — the vacationing crowds are dissipating and the cafe is settling back into the company of their year-round regulars.

One of those regulars, Greg Barnes, makes Carrie’s heart do a happy dance every time he comes in. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to know she exists other than to serve his usual bacon and eggs in the morning (and he doesn’t even like eggs). That is until he starts to realize he has noticed her more than he planned.

When the body of Carrie’s murdered dishwasher turns up and her young waitress disappears, the peace of Seaside is turned upside-down. It seems everybody is hiding something, some secret demons from the past. While Greg’s demons threaten to destroy their new-found love, Carrie’s past comes back to haunt her as well, throwing her faith and life as she knows it into turmoil.

Review: Shadows on the Sand is a well-written mystery with lots of moving parts. The visual description of the setting paints the scene for the reader. The characters are well-developed, though sometimes their reactions to the circumstances are a little less intense than it seems would suit the situation. The story deals with several different human issues: murder, grief, abuse, faith, deception, guilt, anger, forgiveness, loss and love. The author brings all these strands of the story together at the end into a clear resolution without any loose ends, weaving in the tenants of faith and incorporating the theme of “for everything there is a season” from Ecclesiastes.

With that being said, I will add I could have lived without the Twitter sequences. They were inextricably entwined with the plot but felt awkward and a bit contrived to me — though they did make for great comic relief in the more intense moments. And they were the path through which rescue came several times, so I can’t say they are without merit.

As far as the climax of the story, I was white-knuckling the Kindle for a few minutes, but given the seriousness of the scene, the intensity could possibly have been knocked up a notch or two. Overall though, a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: I had a difficult time putting this one down. The suspense, the mystery and the love story came together to create a good reading experience. Readers who enjoy good mysteries will not be disappointed. For Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper I offer four quills:

Four Quills

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. You can buy the book or read a sample here.

Review: Punish Me with Roses by Juliet Moore

Punish Me with Roses book cover

Title: Punish Me with Roses

Author: Juliet Moore

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services?

Format: Kindle

Pages: 184

Release Date: October 15, 2011

Genre: Romance – Victorian/Historical

Available at: Amazon

Summary: When her arrogant and politically ambitious cousin and his valet are found dead in their rooms, Victoria Clavering becomes the number one suspect in their murders, even in her own mind. She escapes to Cornwall to visit an uncle she has never met, unaware that she is running right into the clutches of the suspicious relatives of the valet who are out to prove she committed the crimes.

One of these relatives is Alexander Trevelyn, whose job it is to earn her trust and induce her confession. He gets more than he bargains for however, when he finds Victoria is not the cold-hearted greedy woman he was hoping to discover.

Inexplicably drawn together, Victoria and Alexander undertake to solve the many mysteries surrounding her uncle’s life and the deaths of Victoria’s cousin and his valet, all the while falling head over heels for each other.

Review: When I selected this book to read, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, since I have never read any of Juliet Moore’s work before. Many of her Amazon reviews spoke of editing so bad it was impossible to finish the book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case at all. Were there things missed in editing? Yes. But no more than any other book I’ve seen. All of them were easily figured out as you were reading.

As for the style, I loved the writer’s easy flow of writing. Something about her writing, that je ne se quois, made me not want to put this down. Just enough detail to set the scene, but nothing that distracted me from the story itself. The characters were believable and easy for me to connect to. The heat level is listed as subtle and it was that, though maybe on the sweet side of subtle. All the loose ends of the plot came together at the end.

With that being said, although the resolution was complete and the story ended happily, it wasn’t quite as well developed as I was hoping; it seemed to end too abruptly. But that would be my only complaint of the entire novel. Remarkably well conceived and written.

Recommendation: I would definitely read more from this author. Her writing style is intriguing and her story was compelling. In fact, I’ve already downloaded Hidden Heiress for my next read. To Punish Me with Roses, I give a four quill rating:four quills

Punish Me with Roses by Juliet Moore is a must-read. You won’t want to put it down.