Publisher: Ballantine Books

Guest Review: The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Posted May 16, 2017 by Tina R in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth UnderdownReviewer: Tina
The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: April 25th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 304
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three-half-stars

'VIVID AND TERRIFYING' Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six...

1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women's names.
To what lengths will Matthew's obsession drive him?And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
'A richly told and utterly compelling tale, with shades of Hilary Mantel' Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat
'Anyone who liked Cecilia Ekback's Wolf Winter is going to love this' Natasha Pulley, author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
'Beth Underdown grips us from the outset and won't let go...at once a feminist parable and an old-fashioned, check-twice-under-the-bed thriller' Patrick Gale, author of Notes from an Exhibition
'A tense, surprising and elegantly-crafted novel' Ian McGuire, author of The North Water
'Beth Underdown cleverly creates a compelling atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia... Even from the distance of nearly four hundred years, her Matthew Hopkins is a genuinely frightening monster' Kate Riordan

To begin with, I don’t really read a whole lot of historical fiction. But there is something about the subject of witches that catches my attention. Call it some sort of fascination if you will, but I don’t actually know. I just know that the subject is intriguing and the cover really drew me to the book, so I submitted my request to receive a review copy. \

When I got the copy of The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown in the mail I was actually surprised. Especially since it is not really typical of what I read. (Whether this has any leverage on the books you are chosen to receive I have no idea…) The first thing I noticed it that the cover is awesome! If I would have saw it on the shelf in a bookstore, I would’ve picked it up immediately as something about it just makes me want to know more. And then of course, the subject matter….witches. Who doesn’t remember sitting in school and listening to the teacher tell us about the horrible things that happened to people (mostly women) who were accused of being witches? Like I said, it is just a topic that pulls me in.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is a well-written and carefully researched book. It is a mixture of so many genres. We have historical fiction based on a real story, there is mystery and suspense, and even a little horror mixed in with the depiction of what happened to all the people accused of witchcraft. A little something for every reading taste to be sure.

I found the book a little tough to get through in the beginning. For me it was a little slow in places, although the book is packed with vivid description and emotion and has an interesting storyline. I still would recommend this book, as it did hold my interest and the writing was vivid and well presented.

I would like to thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. I think the author did an awesome job keeping the subject matter interesting and for providing such vivid description. I would actually have rated it 3.5 to 3.75 stars if the rating system here would’ve let me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

three-half-stars

Retro Review: Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann

Posted April 26, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 17 Comments

Retro Review: Over the Edge by Suzanne BrockmannReviewer: Rowena
Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann
Series: Troubleshooters #3
Also in this series: All Through the Night
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: September 27th 2005
Genres: Romantic Suspense, Military
Pages: 395
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four-half-stars

"Suzanne Brockmann has taken romantic suspense by storm with her action-packed thrillers. Now she has written the most gripping novel of her career-an unforgettable story of an explosive hostage situation in which two people are caught between the call of duty and the lure of destiny."Her passion is flying. As one of the best helicopter pilots in the naval reserves, Lieutenant Teri Howe is strong, dedicated, and highly skilled-until a past mistake surfaces, jeopardizing everything she's worked for. Rock steady Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok has made a career of tackling difficult challenges. So it's no surprise when he comes to Teri's aid, knowing that his personal code of honor-and perhaps his heart-will be at risk. But when a jet carrying an American senator's daughter is hijacked, Stan's unflinching determination and Teri's steadfast courage are put to the ultimate test. The rescue mission will be daring and dangerous. But somewhere between peril and resolution, the line between friends and lovers begins to blur, pushing both their lives "over the edge." . . .

*****As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

This review was originally posted on May 27, 2009.

This is my May read for Nath’s Re-read Challenge. It’s my absolute favorite book in the Troubleshooters series by Suzanne Brockmann. I picked it for this month’s read because it’s been a long time since I’ve done a reread of this one. Too long, in fact.

This book is about Stan Wolchonok, the Senior Chief of the Navy SEALs Team 16 and helicopter pilot, Teri Howe. This is an early Troubleshooters story where there was still that secondary historical military story going on and in this story we get Annabet and Hershel’s story. Though that wasn’t my favorite of the historical military secondary stories, I didn’t think it was that bad. Her whole connection to Stan seemed kind of forced to me but other than that, this book was damn near perfect for me…even after all these many years since I’ve read this story for the first time.

This book showcased everything I love about this Navy Seal team. The comraderie between each of the different men on this team plays out so nicely and I can’t help but love them all. The way that they trust each other and work well with each other never ceases to make my heart go pitter patter in my chest. I just love me some strong, sexy men and there is a great many of them on this team alone.

This is the story where the story of Sam and Alyssa takes off, this is where your emotions where these two are concerned gets trampled on and your heart gets ripped out of your chest but you won’t be able to help cheer these two on. It was so nice to see these two before they get married. To see these two fight their attraction, face their attraction and battle their attraction is my very favorite thing about this entire series. It’s their love that kept me captivated with each and every book in this series.

Suzanne Brockmann does a fantabulous job of writing different storylines in one book and just making it work. Reading about Max and Gina, Sam and Alyssa, Annabet and Hershel didn’t take away from my love of Stan and Teri. I thought Suz did a marvelous job balancing each of these storylines to make a well rounded story and she excelled at keeping me at the edge of my seat. My heart was backed up in my throat and reading this book this time around shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was for me because I read this book already, more than once and yet still I was shocked, I was joyful and I was entertained.

Stan was a fabulous hero and when he got up on that stage and sang his heart out to You Make Me Feel Like a Woman, I laughed because only Stan could get up there and have the balls to sing that frickin’ song. Teri was a great heroine, the way that she bulldozed her way into making Stan accept their attraction and the singleminded way she went after him had me cheering her on throughout this entire story. It was nice to revisit these characters again because we don’t see too much of them in the series now, I miss these guys and I loved this story all the more after finishing it this weekend. It was a good book then and a great book now. I love this frickin book and if you haven’t read this book yet, or even started this series? What are you waiting for? This book is the shit and you should be reading it!

The best quote EVER is in this book, from my lover of all lovers, Sam f*cking Starrett:

He looked up, directly at Stan. “Will you please f*^&*%^ go and f**^&% get me a real f**%^&* World Airlines 747, Senior Chief? Right f**^&%* now?”

sigh You just gotta love Sam.

Rating: 4.75 out of 5.

four-half-stars

Review: The Chosen by J.R. Ward

Posted April 10, 2017 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Chosen by J.R. WardReviewer: Casee
The Chosen by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #15
Also in this series: Lover Mine, Lover Unleashed, Lover at Last, The King, The Shadows, The Beast, Lover Enshrined
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: April 4th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 544
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four-stars

A scorching forbidden love threatens to tear a rift through the Black Dagger Brotherhood in J. R. Ward’s newest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.

Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear—even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation, and death.

As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone.

With so many secondary characters, it is hard to review this book. I’m going to give it my best shot without rambling, so stick with me.

The Chosen started off where The Beast left off. The Brotherhood still hold Xcor captive and they’re waiting for him to wake up to do whatever they need to do with him. Tohr wants to kill him, but he can’t. The Band of Bastards are in the wind. Layla had the twins. Throe wants to overthrow Wrath and be the King of the race. The Scribe Virgin is no more.

If you were worried about Layla being a boring heroine (which I was), you needn’t have worried. She was fierce. From the beginning of the book, all Layla could think about was that she betrayed Wrath and the Brotherhood. She never put her love for Xcor above her duty to her King or her love her her children. She didn’t have her head in the clouds. She knew that she and Xcor had no future. Love isn’t all it took. Love by itself doesn’t solve everything after all. She had children to consider. What she didn’t consider what the Qhinn would go off the deep end when he found out that she was seeing Xcor. And boy, did he ever.

Qhinn was incredibly sweet at first. He didn’t know about Layla’s betrayal and thought she had postpartum depression. He was extremely worried about her. That changed in a heartbeat when he found out what she did. Then he turned into a psycho. No joke. He was a maniac. I can’t even describe what an asshole he turned into. I wanted to throat punch him. He deserved it. The way he treated Layla, Blay, and even his own daughter deserved a throat punch or three.

Xcor and Layla realized that they had no future, so every moment they spent together was like their last. Layla wouldn’t let Xcor hide from her. Xcor was so used to hiding himself. His childhood was heartbreaking all because of a birth defect that he had no control over. Xcor was ready for Layla to turn away from him at any time, but she never did. The time they spent together was even more special because any moment could be the last. It was just sad.

Wrath was intense. So freaking intense. It doesn’t matter that he’s blind, you don’t cross the guy. Which Tohr and Qhinn did. They put their vengeance before their King and they got told. Both of them. I can understand (a little), that Tohr would go against Wrath. Kind of. A little. But Qhinn? He’s just been recently inducted into the Brotherhood. That he would go against Wrath? No. Wrath isn’t having any of that. This book totally makes me want to reread Dark Lover.

V and Jane. I never liked them together. V and Butch all the way. Jane is too absorbed in her career. And V needs someone that is a little absorbed in him, I believe. Not overly absorbed, but a little. Right? Yeah. Well, V is looking to cheat. That’s right. V and Jane are on totally separate pages here and V is considering cheating on his mate. Who does that? I appreciate that JRW doesn’t just end a book with a HEA the end period. But cheating? That’s harsh. V is so damaged so seeing him so torn up over this was some good reading.

The end was a little too pat for me. I mean, really. If you read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Come on. The scene with the four of them and the babies? Seriously. After all that angst? Please. Gag me. The thing with Lassiter? The only way it could have happened. Tohr and Autumn? Sigh. I love those two. Qhinn and Blay? Blay deserves better. The only redeeming moment for Qhinn in this book was when Blay called and Qhinn dropped his vengeance and went after him. Overall, I was happy with this book.

Assail and Sola’s book is next.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

four-stars

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
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two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

Guest Review: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

Posted November 30, 2016 by Tina R in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: House of Echoes by Brendan DuffyReviewer: Tina
House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: April 14th 2015
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Suspense
Pages: 384
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four-half-stars

In this enthralling and atmospheric thriller, one young family’s dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare.

Ben and Caroline Tierney and their two young boys are hoping to start over. Ben has hit a dead end with his new novel, Caroline has lost her banking job, and eight-year-old Charlie is being bullied at his Manhattan school.

When Ben inherits land in the village of Swannhaven, in a remote corner of upstate New York, the Tierneys believe it’s just the break they need, and they leave behind all they know to restore a sprawling estate. But as Ben uncovers Swannhaven’s chilling secrets and Charlie ventures deeper into the surrounding forest, strange things begin to happen. The Tierneys realize that their new home isn’t the fresh start they needed . . . and that the village’s haunting saga is far from over.

House of Echoes is a novel that shows how sometimes the ties that bind us are the only things that can keep us whole.

There is no way that House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy can be a debut book! I had to get that out of the way from the gate! This book is so well-written and is bursting with a dark & creepy, tension-filled vibe that causes the reader to assume that the author has been writing forever.

The setting for this book is right out of a Gothic horror story. It has all the elements that you can expect will scare the crap out of you! When I first read the summary about the troubled family with the dilapidated old mansion in the middle of nowhere I immediately said “Sign me up!!” This book is exactly what a reader like me searches for!

Mr Duffy knows exactly what it takes to keep us reading. He has that powerful skill of building the suspense and keeping the reader on the edge of our seat. The characters are so realistic that I almost felt like I was spying on an unsuspecting neighbor as I was reading! This is a truly unsettling story and I think any person who loves a good thriller will devour this one!

I would like to thank the author for this incredible book, and also NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review it. I have actually bought 2 copies of this book since reviewing it and have given them as gifts. And as any fellow reader knows, this is the biggest compliment you can give to an author. Grab House of Echoes today. It is a perfect read for a a cold and gloomy Autumn day!

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars