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Author: Regina Scott
Title - Never Doubt a Duke (Fortune’s Brides #1)
Set in surrey, England, late January 1812.
Mrs. Jane Kimball is the widow of a cavalry officer. Miss Meredith Thorne stared Fortune Employment Agency to help ladies in Jane’s situation. Armed with her astute feline, Fortune, Miss Thorne presents Jane to Alaric, Duke of Wey. Jane is quickly hired as governess for his three daughters who are aged ten, eight, and five. As Jane settles in, it becomes clear that someone in the household wants her gone. But who and why? Then there is the duke, who Jane is beginning to like too much.
Alaric has never been involved in the raising of his daughters. He has left that job to his mother and the staff. Yet now that he was receiving nightly reports from Jane, Alaric begins to realize how much he is missing. He is ready to make time for his girls while still dealing with controlling the flood problem and getting an heir. Though he knows it is his duty, he wishes that he could wed Jane; however, dukes are forbidden from marrying members of the working class.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first installment of a brand new series by one of the best Regency authors, Regina Scott. By the halfway point, Jane has met Patience and it is clear that she will be the focus of the next book. But let us concentrate on this one, okay?
The author has crafted a fascinating tale. The main and secondary characters have well developed backgrounds. Each daughter has her own personality and quirk. It is easy to see that the oldest will be the hardest to win over. My only problem is in believing that a duke would fall in love with a governess and not simply try to seduce her into becoming his mistress. Ms. Scott has made this duke too honorable for that to even cross his mind. And though I believe this to be a bit unrealistic, it makes for a tantalizing story.
If you are looking for mystery or a touch of suspense in your next story, this tale has a bit of each too. More than one staff member complains about Jane, especially at the beginning, but who would want her gone? I enjoyed this novel from the very first page. I look (eagerly) forward to seeing Miss Thorne’s settle Patience in a position and can only pray that Regina Scott writes fast. ****
Author: Lenora Bell
Title - How the Duke Was Won
(The Disgraceful Dukes #2)
James Warren never expected his father and older brother to die, but now he is the Duke of Harland. His plans are to marry a lady with a spotless reputation, sire an heir, ensure the success of his new cocoa manufactory, and then return to his business in Trinidad. He invited four ladies and their mothers to his home in Surrey. After only a few days, James would choose his new duchess.
Charlene Beckett is the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan. It is an answer to all of her prayers when Lady Desmond makes her an offer. Charlene agrees to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. The other ladies battled for prestige, glory, and the thrill of being called “Her Grace.” But Charlene is fighting for freedom, her sister’s innocence, and her mother’s health.
***** FIVE STARS! OMG! I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of novels set within the Regency Era. It is rare when I find one that has no life threatening danger, yet holds onto my interest as if it overflowed with suspense. I only managed to put this book down once – to order pizza because I certainly was not going to take the time to cook anything.
The character of Charlene is a strong one, yet very loving. The new earl, James, is selfish at first but quickly changes. He has also brought his illegitimate daughter from Trinidad, to the surprise of the Society ladies. Of course, this young girl plays a key role in helping Charlene and James in various ways. She is absolutely precious!
Though I have never read anything from this author before, Lenora Bell has made a new fan in me. I will be looking into the first title of this series and will definitely be reading the next. I cannot recommend this story highly enough. Stellar! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Secrets and Sensibilities (Lady Emily Capers, Book 1)
Hannah Alexander is the art instructor at the Barnsley School for Young Ladies. (She has plans to become a portrait painter and has already completed a couple of commissions.) When Lady Brentfield, Priscilla Tate’s aunt, invites her niece and three friends for Easter holiday, Hannah is assigned to play chaperone and accompany her students to the country home. Before Hannah even finishes descending from the carriage at the country home, she meets a handsome man with the hands of a crafter. She quickly learns the leather craftsman is actually the new Earl of Brentfield, recently arrived from America. From that first meeting David Tenant makes his interest in Hannah clear to all. So it is not hard to understand why Lady Brentfield shows instant antipathy toward the art instructor.
David informs Hannah that he would like her help. The house is honeycombed with secret passageways and within them he and his servant/friend, Mr. Asheram “Ash”, have located several valuable pieces of art. Ash has been reviewing the papers on Brentfield for David and has identified a number of discrepancies between what was supposed to be inherited and what was actually in evidence. He also uncovered information that indicated that the previous earl and his son might not have died accidentally. Hannah is too intrigued not to assist David, as long as it does not interfere with her duties to her charges. Yet when accidents begin targeting David, Hannah and her four charges put their heads together to discover whether the events really were accidents or if someone among them is a murderer.
***** FIVE STARS! (NOTE: This novel was originally published in May 2000 as “A Dangerous Dalliance” but has been edited since.) The romance between Hannah and David is clean, with only light kisses being shown. There are no hot bedroom scenes and no (real) compromising situations discovered. The story also holds mystery and suspense, keeping the reader glued in order to see what would happen next. As the reader, I could not put down this novel. I read the entire story in one sitting. (Yes, I found this tale to be that good.)
Hannah and David’s romance is but the first in this series. Each of the four young charges (Priscilla, Emily, Daphne, and Ariadne) will have their own stories told. And I am wasting no time in beginning them. Excellent! Highly recommended! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Art and Artifice (Lady Emily Capers, Book 2)
Lady Emily Southwell, daughter of the Duke of Emerson, has been promised to Lord Robert Townsend since childhood. She and her friends have only just graduated from the Barnsley School for Young Ladies. They are looking forward to their come out balls and enjoying their first Season together. As they travel home, Emily announces that she has decided not to marry Lord Robert. Instead, Emily is determined to take her rightful place among the famous artist of the Royal Society for the Beaux Arts. Yet Emily has hardly even settled into her bedroom before Lord Robert informs her that they would wed immediately.
When Emily notices Jamie Cropper, a handsome Bow Street Runner, dogging Lord Robert’s steps, of course she confront him; however, the man refuses to divulge anything. Emily decides to investigate Lord Robert also. Perhaps she would uncover something horrid enough about the man to get her out of this unwanted betrothal. After all, a Bow Street Runner would not be investigating her fiancé unless there was a good reason. Soon Jamie Cropper is dogging Emily’s steps too.
**** FOUR STARS! If you want a good Regency Romance without all of the hot bedroom scenes, this series is perfect. Though the novel involves romance and mystery, the entire story manages to remain true to the Regency Era. Emily’s friends are delightful and play major roles in Emily’s life. I look forward to reading more in this series.
On a side note, this title was originally published in 2008 as “Le Petite Four” but has been edited since then to give readers an even better adventure. A wonderful way to help pass a rainy afternoon or to detox after a hard day at work. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Ballrooms and Blackmail
(Lady Emily Capers #3)
Priscilla Tate’s family is down to their last pences. If an eligible suitor did not offer for her soon, they would not be able to pay their bills. The family has managed to keep this quiet thus far. Luckily, Priscilla Tate is the most celebrated debutante of the Season. She is well on her way to wringing a marriage proposal out of the Duke of Rottenford when blackmail notes begin appearing, threatening to expose a dark secret unless she stops her pursuit.
Lady Emily Southwell and Ariade and Daphne Courdebas, put their heads together to help their friend, Pris, uncover the identity of the blackmailer. But there is a small roadblock in the form of Nathan Kent, the duke’s handsome personal secretary.
***** FIVE STARS! Our group of characters return for another scandalous mystery set among London’s social elite. This time Priscilla is in the main spotlight. Rest assured that each title in this series can stand on its own. Yet those who read the previous novels will enjoy this story a little more, such as the changing (maturing) attitude of Priscilla’s character. Her selfish nature is all but gone, thanks to her friends and their prior adventures together.
This story, filled with romance, mystery, and a touch of suspense, is another winner from author Regina Scott. Awesome! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - Eloquence and Espionage (Lady Emily Capers #4)
Ariadne Courdebas, youngest daughter of Viscount Rollings, has earned a reputation as a bluestocking. She and her older sister, Daphne, are having their first Season. But while Daphne received vouchers to Almack’s, she did not. Though Ariadne wishes she could attend, she is pleased that her sister may go. (The two sisters adore each other.)
It has been four days since the intriguing events at Lord Rottenford’s masquerade ball and Ariadne is craving some adventure – something she gets often thanks to her friend, Lady Emily Southwell. Ariadne soon finds herself on the lookout for a French spy.
Jason Sinclair, heir to the Marques of Winthrop, is a secret intelligence agent. He is currently on the hunt for a French spy. When the spy almost kills Ariadne, he knows that he must follow and protect the lady at all costs. Protecting Ariadne gets easier when her father catches him kissing her. As his betrothed, Jason has reason to be by her side often. The lady knows that the engagement is not real, but is eager to assist him. Now if he can only keep his feelings for Ariadne from growing.
**** THREE & A HALF STARS! This tale begins shortly after the last Lady Emily Caper ends; however, each story in this series can stand alone. Ariadne’s character is in interesting one. She constantly looks at the world around her as if it was a story in a book and she is excited to be playing the lead heroine this time. She can get carried away some times. She also has a secret unknown to Society, which could ruin her if it be discovered. Jason’s character is younger than I am used to, but with all he has had to deal with (and is still dealing with) in his life, he is very mature. All the characters from the previous titles are present, but they play minor roles. I have come to adore these characters and I am eagerly looking forward to the fifth story. ****
Author: Kelly McCullough
Title - School for Sidekicks (YA)
Evan Quick is a geek when it comes to superheroes. He has always dreamed of being one of the people who developed powers; however, metahumans are rare. Then super villains attack during his class field trip. He somehow survives a death ray and actually saves his idol, Captain Commanding, before everything goes black. Evan wakes up at AMO, the Academy for Metahuman Operatives, and discovers that he is now part of the amazing world of Masks and Hoods.
Evan quickly learns that being part of the metahuman world is not as great as he thought it would be. Not only are there normal human classes but one must actually have a license to be a hero. In order to get a hero license, Evan would have to be the sidekick of a real superhero. Problem is that his idol, Captain Commanding, has blacklisted Evan. (Seems the hero is embarrassed at having to be saved by a kid.) Luckily for Evan, there is one hero who loves thumbing his nose at Captain Commanding and asks the AMO to allow him to mentor Evan.
Foxman gives Evan the sidekick name of Meerkat and whisks him to the Den. (Foxman’s Den is much like the Bat Cave.) Though Meerkat finds Denmother (the A.I. running the Den) to be cool and all the gadgets awesome, Foxman has zero interest in fighting crime. In fact, Foxman readily admits to being a “has-been” who is perfectly content to remain semi-retired. So in between taking classes like Combat with Dinnerware and Banter Basics, Evan must convince Foxman to become a real hero once again.
***** FIVE STARS! McCullough’s diabolic gaze lifts from the Adult Fantasy genre and shifts to the Young Adult Fantasy genre, where he will (no doubt) contaminate the minds of the next generation of readers; those lucky ducks! The target audience is listed as grades four and up; however, I urge anyone past their teenage years to pick up this title as well. (My husband and I love this story!)
Evan’s adventures will open your eyes to all the problems of being a real sidekick. It is especially difficult for a sidekick such as Evan/Meerkat, who has a superhero mentor that is as good as Batman when it comes to fighting, strategy, and using gadgets that his brilliant mind creates, but has some interesting flaws as well. Evan’s time at school is just as interesting. Each student (and teacher) has different abilities and the school has many secrets that it keeps from the students. In other words, there is a lot more going on that I tell in my synopsis. I actually feel sorry of anyone who misses out on this gem! Outstanding! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Bride Ship (Frontier Bachelors #1)
Our story begins January 16, 1866, at Pier 2, New York Harbor. Allegra Banks Howard is now a widow with a four-year-old daughter named Gillian. Allegra refuses to be the woman the Howards expects her to be and she absolutely will not allow Gillian to be molded into what the Howards will demand and then to be forced to marry and to live at the whim of the prominent family. To keep this from happening, Allegra and Gillian snuck out of the Howard mansion in Boston two weeks prior. The pair joins Asa Mercer’s expedition along with several other women. Their destination is Seattle, where women are needed and they would have a chance to begin their lives anew.
Six years ago Clayton “Clay” Howard decided to leave society and head west. He had wanted Allegra to go with him. She refused and ended up marrying his brother. Having recently heard of his brother’s death. Clay returns and follows Allegra to the New York Harbor. But his Allegra has changed and she refuses to return to Boston; therefore, Clay decides to travel with her.
Allegra needs Clay’s wilderness savvy, but she refuses to rekindle what they once shared. Too bad her heart disagrees.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! Most of this story takes place aboard ship. Allegra “Allie” has two friends that she becomes close to. I dearly hope to see Madeleine and Catherine get their stories told in the near future. (By the way, I enjoyed the tales Clay told the ladies about the beautiful, but dangerous, lands they would see.)
The author not only paints vivid sceneries for her readers, but also fully develops her characters. I came to care for several and hated to see the story end. I never wanted to slap sense into a character for stupidity. Regina Scott is above writing such nonsense or insulting the intelligence of her readers. I believe this is why I always get excited whenever I spot a new Regina Scott title in the book stores. This author R-O-C-KS! *****
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Title - Instinct (Chronicles of Nick)
Nick Gautier deals with zombies, demons, vampires, shifters, all sorts of creatures and people every day. Many of those are his friends and allies. Thanks to them, Nick has survived everything that has been thrown his way. Just as Nick begins to hope that his life is finally back to normal, everything goes to hell – literally.
Nick has accepted the demon that lives within him. Now he must learn to control it. This is not an easy task while trying to keep a low profile. The dark gods are still after Nick. Now that those dark gods know where to find Nick, they will stop at nothing to get him.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Sherrilyn Kenyon’s cast of characters are well developed and seem to become more real with each story. Nick’s character in particular is evolving, growing, and I can see glimpses into what Nick could one day become – and it is fabulous! Some secrets of the Primordial gods are revealed in this installment and readers will learn more about Kody, his mother. These characters are not the only interesting ones in the story either. (Not by a long shot.)
It does not matter if you are male or female. I feel that anyone from the ages of teen to adult would love this story. Heck, they would love the entire series. There is very little language, a lot of Nick’s trademark sarcasm, and an ample supply of action. The only real down side (of the entire series) is that each story seems to have cliff hanger endings. It is no wonder to me that this series (and the author’s “Dark-Hunter” series) are soon to be major motion pictures. Tales by Sherrilyn Kenyon are major awesomeness! ****
Author: Katharine Ashe
Title - I Adored a Lord (Prince Catchers)
Ravenna Caulfield was the adopted daughter of a poor country vicar. Ravenna ran free and had a wonderful way with animals. She learned all she could about how to care for them. At the age of seventeen, the Reverend Caulfield allowed Ravenna to seek employment (of caring for the animals) in an unknown gentleman’s distant household with nothing but a great black dog (named Beast) to defend her. Of course, Mr. Pettigrew had no idea that his new employee was to be a woman and he could not allow a lady to reside with him for the sake of her reputation. It had been Ravenna’s idea for Pettigrew to apply for a transfer of guardianship and the reverend allowed it with no trouble. Thus Pettigrew and Sir Beverley came to care for Ravenna as if she were their own. The two men had the pleasure of watching the lady continue to grow and bloom. Her talent of caring for animals also continued to grow. But when Beast finally died, Ravenna’s heart broke and she became depressed.
Mr. Pettigrew and Sir Beverley, at the urging of Ravenna’s older sister, accepts an invitation to a house party hosted by Prince Sebastiao of Portugal. The house party is set in the remote mountains of France in early March. Ravenna has no interest in the prince but is drawn to the animals. While visiting the stables at night, she is caught by an unknown man. The man tackles her and then he kisses her. She hits him with a door and then a pitchfork and bites him. This is how Ravenna and Lord Vitor Courtenay meet.
Vitor has known battle for so long that all he now wants is to dash off to another dangerous mission. Instead he is playing babysitter to his spoiled prince of a half-brother and his international cast of potential brides. Even if Vitor were allowed to leave he could not, because the castle is now snowbound. Vitor’s stolen kiss in the stables causes him guilt, but he is unable to stay away from the intriguing lady. And when Ravenna comes across a corpse in a suit of armor, the need to protect her is strong. Ravenna and Vitor quickly find themselves wrapped in a mystery they’re perfectly paired to solve.
**** FOUR STARS! This story may be wrapped in the form of a historical romance, but is actually a challenging who-dunit mystery with a large cast of suspects. With a snowbound castle set in remote mountains, I got the feeling of the old types of stories where all the suspects are gathered into one room for the climatic revealing of the killer’s identity. I did not know which part I was enjoying more, the unusual romance or trying to figure out who the murderer was (based on the clues) before the main characters managed to.
Katharine Ashe writes with an eloquence that kept me enthralled with the story and begging for more once the last page had been turned. ****
Author: C.H. Admirand
Title - Patience (The Three Vices #1)
Set in London, 1815. Three years ago Lady Patience Wainwright had been betrayed by Lord Alasdair. Having been through the humiliation and hideous gossip due to a man she trusted, Patience now finds it impossible to trust any man. Patience is selfless. She never thinks of herself. She has a good, pure heart and goes out of her way for those in need of assistance. Her biggest problem is that she acts without thinking things through first, especially when it comes to caring about how Society will view her after her actions. This is how Patience came to be on the field one early morning when her dear friend, Oliver Higginbotham, was to duel a viscount.
Phillip Carrington, Viscount Rexley, is stunned to see that he has shot the wrong gentleman. When Rexley realizes that the wounded person is actually a lady, he is horrified. The lady left quickly and he was unable to ask about her identity. So imagine Rexley’s surprise to learn that the lady his father has betrothed him to is no other than the lady who should never have been out on a field of honor. Rexley did not want to wed, especially a lady who acted like anything but; however, his family’s honor demands it. The more time he spends with Patience, the more Rexley becomes enamored of her. Once wed, he could lay down the law to Patience. For now, Rexley is too busy trying to figure out why his father recently tried to commit suicide, who is blackmailing his father and why, and who is out masquerading as him (Rexley) and accosting ladies.
***** FIVE STARS! C.H. Admirand has crafted a brilliant love story, filled with action, humor, and drama, that often had me sitting on the edge of my seat. As an added bonus, the Kindle version is very low priced; great for anyone’s budget. The heroine, Patience, does not have a selfish bone in her body, but the red head is prone to obstinacy and to rushing into action whenever someone needs help – especially if it is someone she cares for. As for the hero, Rexley, I admired his honor and the dedication he has for his family; however, once the pair are wed, Rexley makes the HUGE mistake of demanding Patience to change simply by telling her to obey him. (Needless-to-say, that does not work out well for him.)
It seems to me that C.H. Admirand gets better with every story she writes – and I believe this is the best yet! I can hardly wait until the cousins’ (Charity and Prudence) have their stories told. Stupendous! *****
For your convenience you may read more about, or purchase this book, from Amazon in KINDLE format by clicking HERE!
Author: Sarah MacLean
Title - No Good Duke Goes Unpunished
(Third Rule of Scoundrels)
He is the Killer Duke. Twelve years ago he was accused of murdering Mara Lowe on the eve of her wedding. At the time, he had not known that the lady he was about to take to his bed was supposed to become his newest stepmother. His father was three times her age. With no memory of that fateful night, Temple had been exiled by his father and shunned by the rest of the aristocracy. But now Temple has reigned over the darkest of London’s corners for over a decade. Though he is wealthy and powerful, he is still considered to be beyond redemption. Until one night, Mara comes out of hiding, offering the one thing he has dreamed of … absolution.
It had been a young, desperate Mara that had disappeared twelve years ago. She planned never to return, but when her brother gambles away not only all of his money, but hers, at Temple’s exclusive casino, she has no choice but to offer Temple a trade that ends in her returning to society and proving to the world that he is no killer. Mara well knows that Temple would not care what had happened that night long ago, nor why she had framed him for murder.
Though she deserves his anger, Temple soon finds that it is difficult to resist the pull of the mysterious and maddening woman who often smells of lemons. Yet he would give her no mercy. He would ruin her, return to his rightful place, and never look back.
***** FIVE STARS! As I read, I could not help but wonder why Mara would frame a man for her murder on the eve of her wedding and then disappear. Where did Mara hide? What has she been doing for twelve years? I had so many questions. Temple was an innocent. He was collateral damage. Therefore, I found myself on Temple’s side from the start.
Sarah MacLean has given her main characters dark and difficult backgrounds, so when they finally meet again the emotions run high; volatile. MacLean does not simply toss an ordinary main character to her readers. She makes them unique, such as giving Mara miss-matched eyes. This makes the people more believable. With strong characters and intensely emotional clashes, Sarah MacLean’s Third Rule of Scoundrels is un-put-down-able! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Husband Campaign
Set in Derbyshire, England. The story begins in July, 1815.
John, Lord Hascot, lost his ability to trust when his elder twin brother, James, stole the woman he had been about to propose to. Since then John has devoted his life to his horses on Hollyoak Farm. A horse from Lord Hascot is coveted, but John will only sell a horse to one who meets his standards. In addition to his declining to sell to just anyone with money, John has a reputation for incivility. Needless-to-say, marriage is the last thing John is contemplating when he spies Lady Amelia Jacoby asleep in his stable. Bad weather has trapped the couple together and, to save her reputation, the pair soon wed.
Lady Amelia understands that John does not expect any heirs. He only offers the shelter of a home, funds to furnish and decorate it, funds for clothing, and his utmost respect. He would keep his wedding vows and she would manage the house, staff, and deal with unexpected guests. For Amelia, loves comes softly and unexpectedly. She soon decides to begin a campaign to win her husband’s heart, for her sake and his.
When the Dowager Lady Hascot arrives unannounced, with Major David Kensington on her arm, John realizes that the visit has all the makings of a disaster. Caroline may be the Dowager, but she is not John’s mother. She is his brother’s widow. The resident veterinarian, Dr. Fletcher, and Amelia believe that their guests are here for some purpose other than making the acquaintance of John’s new wife … and they are correct.
**** FOUR STARS! Regina Scott has written a story true to the Regency era. The characters, as well as the circumstances, are totally believable and highly entertaining. (I became very attached to Amelia’s outspoken maid.) As for Lord Hascot, John is not only loyal but honorable. He never lies to Amelia, even before they wed. His horses mean much to him. He cannot tolerate anyone who is mean to an animal. He also does not suffer fools, stupidity, or any person who does not prove they are honorable.
Regina Scott’s writing style is as graceful as her heroine. She does not toss in a lot of rare words that would have readers reaching for the dictionary every few minutes. This story is easy to read and flows smoothly. My interest was captured almost immediately and I never found myself getting bored. An excellent tale for all who enjoy a good Regency, Historical Romance, or just want a realistic love story. ****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Wife Campaign (Regency)
Whitfield “Whit” Calder, Earl of Danning, has a very loyal and devoted valet named Peter Quimby. Quimby has been Whit’s valet since Whit inherited the earldom around the age of fifteen. This means that Quimby knows his duties thoroughly enough to anticipate Whit’s needs before they even cross his employer’s mind. Whit knows this. Whit appreciates this. Whit values this. On the down side, this also means that Whit would never seriously consider firing Quimby whenever the valet does something for Whit’s own good.
Whenever Whit is able to leave his duties behind and have some stress-free time alone, he travels to Fern Lodge, his fishing retreat. But this time Whit arrives at Fern Lodge to find his home being invaded by three eligible young ladies and their parents. Unknown to Whit, his loyal valet sent each lady an invitation to attend a house party where (or so the invitation eluded) the earl would propose marriage to her. Each lady thought that she was the only one invited. Each lady was happy and ready to accept the proposal – except one.
Ruby Hollingsford believes she will never find love with an aristocrat for various reasons. Ruby has been tricked into attending the Earl of Danning’s gathering by her father, but she certainly will not compete for the earl’s attentions. Yet, Whit is not the selfish aristocrat she envisioned. And with a little trust, two weeks may prove to be ample time for an unlikely couple to fall into love.
***** FIVE STARS! My synopsis of the story does not do it justice. To me, the author hits the nail on its head when she describes the snobbishness and drama that Society had (back in the era) for those lower in rank. This is, to say, no matter how rich Ruby is now, she still has no title and her father is in trade. There is also some danger involved in the tale, but I cannot discuss it without spoilers (which I refuse to do.) Once you read this book, you should understand why I will always snatch up any title with this author’s name on it. If the book has the name Regina Scott on its cover, it is sure to please. Highly recommended! *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Courting Campaign (Master Matchmakers #1, Regency)
Set in the Grange, near the Peak District, Derbyshire, England. It begins in June, 1815.
Miss Emma Prymont has been Alice’s nanny for three months and would protect her young charge with her life. During this time, Emma has seen how lonely the child has been. Her mother is deceased and her father is too wrapped up in his work to take notice. The cook, Mr. Jennings, believes Sir Nicholas Rotherford needs a new wife and that Emma would be perfect. Emma refuses to wed a scientist; however, she agrees to do her best to bring father and daughter closer together. With the cook’s help, Emma shows the workaholic scientist just what Alice needs.
Ever since scandal destroyed his career, Nicholas has secluded himself in the Grange and has devoted all his time to his new invention. He is developing a special lamp that miners can carry into the ground so they can see their way safely. Now his daughter’s sweet, quick-witted nanny is proving to be an unexpected distraction. Emma challenges Sir Nicholas to see things differently – Alice, his role as a father, even his work. But she does it with a general good nature and pragmatic approach he cannot refute.
***** FIVE STARS! In this Inspirational Regency Romance, Regina Scott’s heroine grew up an abused orphan. Her foster father was involved in destroying the hero’s career. This is how the author ensures that the pair has the same interest of natural philosophy. (Especially in the making of lamps for underground miners.) Though Emma is in hiding from her foster family, knowing that her past could very well pop up to cause trouble kept me in suspense, as did the conflicts with Sir Rotherford’s widowed sister-in-law who ran the household and knows about Emma’s past. The main characters are not above praying to the Lord for guidance. (That is why this is dubbed and “Inspirational” story.)
If you are searching for a historical romance that does not have characters you would want to hit upside the head due to miscommunications or stupidity, then this story is for you. The sweet, intelligent, and lovable characters will warm your heart while the romance and suspense keeps your eyes glued to the pages. Perfect. *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Heiress’s Homecoming (Everard Legacy #4, Regency)
Set in Cumberland, England. The year is 1813. After his wife died giving birth to Jamie, Will ran off with the diplomatic corps. Only the death of his older brother brought him home. If he had not been called home to claim the title and assume its responsibilities, Will might never have seen his son grow up. Now he is William Wentworth, Earl of Kendrick, and his son, Jamie, is an impressive young man at seventeen years of age. Will suspects that his neighbors, the Everards, were connected with his brother’s death eight years ago; therefore he wanted nothing to do with them. But Jamie had grown up with Lady Samantha Everard as his best friend. Upon meeting the young lady, Will can easily understand why.
Baroness Samantha Everard will lose Dallsten Manor and the bulk of her fortune if she does not wed by her twenty-fifth birthday. That fateful day is less than a fortnight away. Until a few odd years ago, Samantha had not known that she had any living family members. Since she met her three handsome cousins and watched them fall in love and begin having children, Samantha’s life has been filled with so much joy. But if she has learned nothing else, Samantha knows that those in her family feel their emotions stronger than most others. Samantha fears that she may repeat her mother’s mistake of marrying someone she loves only to realize a few years later that it had been only an illusion. It would be a few years of false love, followed by a lifetime of misery. Therefore, Samantha is fiercely determined not to wed in order to keep her inheritance – even if that means losing her home and becoming the poor relative of the family.
Will knows from his son that Samantha is under a great deal of pressure, yet Jamie refuses to divulge her secrets. Even with his years of diplomacy, Will is unable to convince the lady to tell him what is wrong. But when Will notices that Samantha is being stalked, he becomes even more determined to solve the mysteries surrounding her.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! This is the final book in the Everard Quartet. There is not as much danger as in the previous titles of the series, but there is enough suspense to keep readers glued to their seats until the very end. (For those who would like to look up the Cousins’ stories: The Rogue’s Reform is the story of Jerome and Adele. The Captain’s Courtship is the story of Captain Richard and Lady Clair. The Rake’s Redemption is the story of Vaughn and Imogene.) Those who have read the prior stories have seen Samantha grow into a lovely and intelligent lady, who is very good at horseback riding and fencing. Now we see the results of her unusual life. And I could not be happier.
It is pretty obvious who the bad guy of this story is, but that does not lessen the suspense at all. About the half-way point of the book, Samantha’s cousins arrive with their families. Vaughn is the only one who plays an important role though. After all, Samantha cannot reveal any of the information about Will’s brother and she certainly is not going to put her personal problems on display for him or anyone else. I admire that about Samantha’s character. She is a strong role model. I would also like to mention to readers that this is an Inspirational Regency Romance, meaning that the main characters often say a short prayer or recall a Bible verse. Do not fret if you are not a Christian though. The author does not shove religion down the reader’s throat. It is one of the traits that I love so much about this author. Regina Scott’s stories seem to come directly from her heart. Highly recommended reading! *****
Author: Sophia Nash
Title - The Duke Diaries (Royal Entourage, Regency)
Rory Lennox, the Duke of Abshire, is new to his title, which was bestowed upon him for services rendered to the Crown. As the story opens, Rory is caught in bed with his archenemy’s still-innocent sister, Miss Verity Fitzroy, the morning after the (soon to be well known) bachelor party. Verity refuses to wed Rory, preferring to be sent away until things blow over. But once settled in Derbyshire, Verity becomes so bored that she actually agrees to educate the children in the village while their teacher is away for a fortnight or so. When Rory appears, Verity knows it is his intension to persuade her into accepting his hand in marriage. While Verity has always been fascinated by Rory, she has too much pride to wed a man against his will. In the end, she agrees to an engagement, which she insists that she will break off at the end of the season, even if it renders her unmarriageable. (Not that it matters, as she never intends to ever wed.)
Meanwhile, a London newspaper begins to publish excerpts from a mysterious diary, detailing the most shameful exploits of the most scandalous bachelor party (which was also attended by the Prince Regent.) These stories could easily incite the country to riot, as they come so soon after the French Revolution. Rumor is that Rory recorded his friends’ misdeeds, but Verity knows he is innocent. Should the truth be revealed, it could destroy any hope of happiness for Verity. But when a series of mysterious accidents takes place, Rory realizes he must face down his greatest fears not only to save Verity, but to win her hand and her heart.
**** FOUR STARS! Author Sophia Nash sharpened her claws on certain gentlemen during the previous titles of this series. Now, to my utter delight, Nash sinks those slender talons deeply into the lives of Rory and Verity. I have been quoted in the past as describing Sophia Nash as “having an awe-inspiring, book-writing talent” and this story shows exactly why.
Unlike many other Heroines, this one has a backbone and can think for herself. She is not responsible for the stories printed, though they do come from her missing diaries. And unlike other Heroes, this one is certain of his actions (mostly) and has no urge to flaunt his brave acts from during the war to prove anything. The author has created believable characters and taken strides to keep events true to history. I found myself curious at some points and laughing aloud at others. Mystery, suspense, and romance collide to give readers a fun and memorable story. ****
Author: Yelena Black
Title - Dance of Shadows (Book 1/Young Adult)
As with her mother and sister before her, Vanessa Adler is poised to be a star. To her, ballet is everything. As she dances, Vanessa loses herself to the music. She feels as if all else fades away. She becomes the music. And becoming the music is exactly what the New York Ballet Academy tries to teach their talented students.
Vanessa’s older sister, Margaret, had been attending NYBA when she disappeared. Though Vanessa loves ballet, finding out what happened to her sister is Vanessa’s main priority. Along the way, Vanessa meets new friends and deals with petty seniors. Then one of her new friends goes missing, just like Margaret, and Vanessa learns of the school’s dark secret.
*** THREE STARS! This paranormal drama gives a glimpse into the world of ballet. The dancers make the moves appear to be easy. The truth is just the opposite. It is a lot of hard work. It is leaving blood and sweat on the floor daily after hours of training.
This story begins as Vanessa is settling into her dorm at NYBA. After the first chapter, the pace speeds up and the story starts to feel more sinister. By the ending, the story seems to vibrate with paranormal danger. However, the middle section slows down to a crawl. Not much happens and the story drags a bit. Threads are left dangling to be picked up in the second title of this trilogy, but readers are not left with a huge cliffhanger.
Author Yelena Black’s writing style is as graceful as the dance she writes about. It flows smoothly, is easy to read, and paints a vivid picture. I look forward to the next installment. ***
Author: Jennifer Rush
Title - Altered (Young Adult Sci-Fi)
Anna Mason lives with her dad in New York’s farmland. Dad is a scientist and works for the Branch. In the basement, four male teenagers live in cells. The teens suffered from amnesia, an unplanned side effect of their alterations. The Branch is trying to create the perfect team of soldiers by gene manipulation.
Nick is brooding. He seems to find Anna disgusting to be near. He gives Anna the creeps. Cas is always hungry. He wants to eat constantly and never gains an ounce of weight. He has the best motor skills, but the worst recall. Anna finds him to be playful and very entertaining. Trev is smart, caring, and has a photographic memory. Anna considers him to be her best friend. He is the one that Anna can confide her secrets to. Then there is Sam. Sam is the leader of the group and has a talent for languages. He is the strongest and has stolen Anna’s heart.
When the Branch decides it is time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape. Strangely, Anna’s dad insists that she go with them, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. Anna soon discovers that she is somehow connected to Sam and the others. Anna tries to figure out what is going on and she quickly begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about herself. As Branch agents pursue them, the five teenagers hunt for clues to their pasts. And the secrets seem to never end.
***** FIVE STARS! I am having a difficult time believing that this is the author’s debut novel. My interest was piqued on the very first sentence. I was hooked shortly thereafter. I ended up reading the entire story within a single afternoon. Then I did something that is extremely rare for me – I reread it! I found it to be just as riveting the second time through.
Unlike most books today, this one does not slow down in the middle. The story is fast paced with twists and surprises littered throughout the adventure. (The most curious clue to me was the tattoo of birch trees that covers Sam’s back.) I actually feel sorry for anyone that misses this compelling read. Un-freaking-believable! *****
Author: Amanda Hocking
Title - Wake (Watersong #1, Teen Paranormal)
The town of Capri is always filled with tourists during the warmer months. So when Penn, Lexi, and Thea show up, no one notices anything odd for awhile. The only thing different in the area lately is the fact that some people have gone missing. But soon everyone is talking about Penn, Lexi, and Thea. They are super gorgeous. They are the kind you want to hate, but you actually envy. They have captured the attention of everybody in Capri, but is Gemma the three girls seem to want.
Sixteen-year-old Gemma Fisher is pretty, carefree, and enjoys nothing more than swimming. Even though school is out, she still has swim practice. Gemma is in training. She has dreams of being in the Olympics someday. But swim practice is work, not fun. Fun, for Gemma, is her nightly swim in the bay. It is just Gemma and the water and the stars. Oh, there is also the boy next door, Alex. He has always been just a friend and he plans to go to college in a couple of months, but this summer they are taking their relationship to the next level.
Then one night while swimming in the bay, Gemma is spotted by Penn, Lexi, and Thea. They have been trying to get Gemma to join their group, but something just seems off about them. This night Gemma is unable to say no or walk away. It is as if the three girls cast a spell on her. The next morning Gemma wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing that something is different.
Gemma is stronger, faster, heals crazy fast, and is more beautiful than ever. Penn, Lexi, and Thea have somehow altered Gemma – all the way down to her cellular level. Whatever they did cannot be reversed either. As Gemma finds out more about her new, unwanted powers, she learns that she has only two options. Gemma can stay with those she loves and die in the near future or she can accept what she has become, join the three girls, and enter their dark world.
**** FOUR STARS! This is the first in the four-book Watersong series. It’s about a young girl who is transformed, against her will, into (what was thought to be) a mythical creature. Though major threads are left dangling, this first installment ends in a good spot. The backgrounds of the main and secondary characters are well developed. However, the backgrounds of Penn, Lexi, and Thea are not revealed and fully explained until about the middle of the story. It is obvious that the author adores mythology and has done considerable research on the material. Her writing style is appealing, easy to follow, and flows smoother than a calm sea. This series is destined to win awards. I foresee a bright future for Amanda Hocking and many new fans. ****
Author: Amanda Hocking
Title - Lullaby (Watersong #2)
Gemma Fisher now has Penn, Lexi, and Thea’s curse; along with all their strange powers. To keep the creepy trio from killing those she loves, Gemma agrees to leave with the three sirens and to obey Penn’s commands. That does not mean that Gemma would give in to the unspeakable hungers that plague her. Those hungers grow stronger with every day that passes. Gemma knows that it is only a matter of time before she succumbs to the bloody urges.
Harper refuses to give up searching for her younger sister. No matter what, Harper is determined to locate Gemma and bring her home. Daniel joins Harper in the quest. But even if they manage to find Gemma and return to Capri, how could they possibly change her back to normal? Slowly, but surely, Gemma is losing her humanity. And the other deadly sirens will never let Gemma go … alive.
FIVE STARS! This is the second novel in the riveting new fantasy quartet by Amanda Hocking. This author is more than simply an up-and-comer. Instead, Hocking has already arrived. She has pulled up a chair, plugged in her trusty computer, and taken her rightful place at the virtual mahogany table beside the other elite authors in the Teen Fantasy genre.
This story opens where the first left off. Gemma and her new siren sisters are no longer in Capri, Maryland. They have moved way down the east coast and into a massive white mansion with a handsome rich man named Sawyer. Readers see events unfold from both Gemma and Harper’s eyes. This way the readers can see what Gemma is going through, as well as how Harper and her team are researching data to help rescue Gemma. If nothing else, I have learned that being a mermaid/siren is not as glamorous as it sounds.
Amanda Hocking mixes contemporary teen life with mythology, adds a bit of suspense, drama, and romance, to create a thrilling saga that I doubt I will ever be able to forget. Breathtaking! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - The Importance of Being Wicked (1/29/13 - Regency)
Lady Miranda Garrett is twenty-eight years of age and has been a widow for three years. Shortly after their marriage, John founded the construction company of Garret and Tempest. The Mr. Tempest part of the firm’s name helped with the funding needed to begin the business, but he has never set foot in the company’s door. He only asked that the money be repaid over time – with no interest – and his name to be used in the firm’s title. Miranda has always been interested in drawing buildings and eventually became the brilliant architect behind the company’s curtains. Because no one would hire a company run by a woman, Miranda let John take credit for her work. Upon John’s death, Miranda and her small staff of employees kept the business going, but never revealed who the firm’s architect really was, especially not to Miranda’s own family.
Winfield “Win” Elliott, Viscount Stillwell and heir to the Earl of Fairborough, very much regrets that Fairborough Hall caught fire; however, he knows that the damage could have been far worse. Win contracts Garrett and Tempest to do the reconstruction. He is startled when Miranda arrives to represent the firm and survey Fairborough Hall’s damage. His first thought is that the lady looks more like a governess than a Viscount’s widow. Her clothing is years out of fashion, her hair is arranged in a stiff manner, and she wear the most dreadful shoes. Win quickly comes to realize that the lady knows much about architecture and construction and, with a bit of clever manipulating, manages to convince him to improve the plumbing and even (Heaven forbid!) install electricity. Though Win understands that a man (Emmett) will handle the construction crew and that the elusive Mr. Tempest will draw up the plans, he is still uncomfortable knowing that Miranda will be on site to oversee everything. After all, it is such a long way for a woman to travel daily. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on whom you ask), his mother solves the problem. Margaret knows Miranda’s mother from long ago and insists that Miranda stay with them at Millworth Manor until Fairborough Hall’s restoration is complete.
The more time that Win spends in Miranda’s presence, the more confused Win becomes about her. For Win, charming women was almost a natural skill. Miranda is the first woman who did not easily fall for him. Every encounter with her leaves him frustrated. Miranda is annoying, argumentative, intelligent, and obviously hiding something from him. And frankly, it is every little boy’s dream to be with his pretty governess. Perhaps that is why Win cannot seem to stay away from the lady.
***** FIVE STARS! Once again Victoria Alexander has done a masterful job at creating believable characters that stay true to Society’s rules of the Era. By the time Miranda meets Win, he has already had three broken engagements. Throughout the story, bits are revealed about each former fiancée. I found myself curious as to what had happened. Who was at fault? Was there something too wicked about Win? Therefore, I was thrilled to find that the author included a novella after Miranda’s story. The novella is broken down into three sections. Each section gives the name of Win’s fiancée and tells what actually happened to cancel the wedding. So with this book, you get a full-length story, as well as a novella. (Score!)
Both Miranda and Win love a good argument, ahem; I mean a good debate, so they are often challenging each other. This causes a lot of witty dialogue and utterly hilarious situations. I laughed so hard at one section (when the couple finally decides to hit the bedroom together) that I marked the first three pages for my husband to read later. He laughed almost as much as I did. This is because the author has an outstanding writing style that allows the reader to easily picture the scenes in their minds.
The secondary characters are entertaining as well. Miranda’s family is lively. When the parents, siblings and their spouses all get together for dinner, things are never boring. Win’s family is not so dramatic, but they are not dull either. All characters, be they main or secondary, have well developed backgrounds. The plot moves at a good pace. And I cannot wait to read the story all over again. I feel very sorry for anyone who misses this fantastic tale. *****
Author: Regina Scott
Title - The Rake’s Redemption
(Everard Legacy #3, Inspirational Regency)
Set in London, England, spring 1805. Lady Imogene Devary is the only surviving child of Robert Devary, the Marquess of Widmore; therefore, it is no wonder that the father dotes on her. At least he did until recently. Lord Widmore has been spending more and more time away, dealing with matters at the War Office.
Vaughn Everard is an infamous duelist and poet. He is also the cousin of Lord Jerome Everard and (former) Captain Richard Everard. The three cousins are searching for the killer of Arthur Everard, their uncle. At the same time, the cousins are helping Samantha with her first Season. Three weeks ago, a man connected to the Marquess of Widmore had warned them that the marquess meant to topple the crown. Though Vaughn has qualms about dragging an innocent lady into his quest for revenge, his conscience assures him that as the daughter of his enemy, she is fair game to help uncover the truth.
Imogene cannot believe that her father is guilty of the crimes Vaughn suspects. He does not know her father. The marquess would never commit murder in cold blood or collude with the French to overthrow the crown. Yes, her father’s actions have been odd lately, but that does not make him guilty. Then Imogene and Vaughn discover a terrifying plot. Only together can they learn the truth and protect their newfound love and England’s very future.
**** FOUR STARS! This is a stand-alone story; however, I urge you to read the first two titles so that you may fully sympathize with the cousins’ mission. Otherwise, Vaughn may come across as too stone-hearted at times. (The first title is The Rogue’s Reform. The second title is The Captain’s Courtship.) Characters from the previous titles make cameos, but the only one that actually plays some minor parts is Samantha. Samantha tends to speak her mind, which I believe is often very entertaining; but this time around Samantha comes across as more childish than previously. Yet I still cannot help but like her. (Samantha’s story will be told in early March, 2013. The title will be The Heiress’s Homecoming.)
Romance, mystery, suspense, and drama collide to ensure that readers will never find themselves bored. I can only hope that Samantha’s story is as intriguing as this one. ****
Author: Orson Scott Card
Title - The Lost Gate (Mither Mage, Teen Sci-Fi)
Several centuries ago Loki closed all gates between the worlds. Many people with magic had been left behind. Humans without any trace of magical talent are now called drowthers. The drowthers no longer believe in magic. But Danny North has known since early childhood that his family has magic, and that he is different from his family. The North Family lives in an old rambling house. It is filled with dozens of Danny’s cousins, aunts, and uncles, all ruled by his father. Their home is in the mountains of western Virginia, far away from the towns, schools, and drowthers. Danny’s cousins are learning how to create fairies, ghosts, golems, trolls, and other magical things that drowthers believe to be only myths and legends. However, Danny has never shown an aptitude toward any magical talent or formed an outself.
For a long while, Danny believes he is simply a very fast runner. When he realizes that he is actually making and traveling through magical gates, Danny fears for his life. Since Loki, the greatest and strongest gatefather, closed all the gates, everyone in the Families watches each child for possible signs of becoming a gatemage. No gatemage is allowed to live. Danny is only thirteen-years-old when his secret is revealed. He quickly makes a gate and flees. Somehow, Danny must struggle to survive in the drowther world, hiding from those who would kill him, while he tries to figure out just how his powers work and how to make a gate do things that he consciously desires.
*** THREE STARS! The character of Danny is not the only focus of this story. About a quarter of the book focuses on Wad, a magical boy that spent several centuries living (trapped) within a tree. When the strange silent boy showed up one summer in Castle Nassassa’s kitchen garden, the night cook took him under her protection. At various times throughout Danny’s adventures the tale shifts to Wad’s. It is like reading two different books at once. Yet by the book’s end I understand how the two stories are linked.
Unlike Wad, Danny is an itinerant character. The author, Card, has the teenager traveling to various parts of America and meeting several less-than-savory people. It is interesting to watch Danny adapt to life on the streets. The story keeps a steady pace. The plot is solid, the characters are intriguing, and the content varies between philosophical and intense. Well done! ***
Authors: Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston
Title - Earth Unaware
(The First Formic War / Teen Sci-Fi)
Victor Delgado may only be a teenager, but he and his father are the best mechanics on the ship. The big corporate miners have stores of spare parts and resources on their ships. As free miners, Victor’s people make do with what they have. If something needs fixing, they pull out the junked parts and use their imaginations. Victor is a genius innovator. His inventions keep the family operation running smoothly in the Kuiper Belt. His life forever changes when Edimar “Mar” spots something odd in space.
Fourteen-year-old Mar is an apprentice spotter. Her job is to watch for movement in space: comets, asteroids, anything that might pose a collision threat to the ship. Mar notices an insanely fast mass moving in the far distance. Its velocity decreases over time and natural objects in space do not slow down on their own. Her gruff father would belittle her if this turned out to be nothing, so she contacts Victor. He agrees with her assessment. This object could very well be a near-lightspeed alien ship.
First contact is deadly. The aliens seem to be descended from insectlike creatures, so the free miners begin calling them “hormigas” (ants). These technologically superior creatures have no regard for human life. They have unimaginable firepower, a proven malicious intent, and are rocketing toward Earth. There is no way for the free miners to warn Earth and Luna and everyone in the Belts of what is coming. If ever there were a time to think “outside the box”, this was it. The fate of humanity will rest on one of Victor’s crazy ideas.
***** FOUR & A HALF STARS! My synopsis only touches the alien sections of this incredible story. This novel began as a back story to “Ender’s Game”. If you have not read Ender’s infamous story, please do so! “Ender’s Game” is one of the very best science fiction novels of our time (imho). You do not have to read “Ender’s Game” in order to thoroughly enjoy this book. After all, this tale takes place long before Ender is even born. Yet for those who have read about Ender, you will receive glimpses of major players in their younger days. For example, Ender knows that humanity lives due to the brilliant tactical maneuvers thought up by Mazer Rackham. In “Earth Unaware” I am allowed to see which special military team would choose Rackham as a possible candidate, who would train him, and how.
It is obvious that Card had given some serious thought into how the whole asteroid mining industry would work. This was not just a few ideas slapped together and presented to the public. Card & Johnston explain the economic infrastructure that exists to make survival in the Belt possible. They explain the amazing tools the miners use in their everyday lives. Then the authors up the ante by having Victor test a new gadgets and ideas that he dreams up on the fly. How the items work and why they were needed is detailed for the reader.
Fans of Robert Heinlein would especially enjoy the “Ender’s Series”, as well as this new story, “Earth Unaware”. The meticulous thoughts and beyond-his-time-ideas in which Heinlein penned into his novels can be found in Card’s as well. As with Robert Heinlein, the name of Orson Scott Card has made my short list of “Must Read” authors. And this new Formic War story is going to win awards – just watch. *****
Author: Orson Scott Card
Title - Ender’s Game (Teen Sci-Fi)
Andrew “Ender” Wiggin kept his government-issued monitor on until the age of six. That was a year longer than most. Many of the other kids are jealous, especially his older brother, Peter. When the bad boys at school corner him, Ender does what he has to. Shortly thereafter, Colonel Graff arrives at the Wiggin home and offers Ender the chance to attend Battle School.
It has been about eighty years since the last war with the buggers. The buggers almost managed to wipe humanity out of existence. Since then, the government has been trying to make officers for the next war; a war that could happen at any time. Battle School is where children are trained to become commanders. All the children are organized into armies and they compete in zero gravity war games.
Unknown to Ender (but well known to readers), Graff intends to make six-year-old Ender into the best battle commander in history. The future of humanity could very well depend on Ender becoming a perfect killing machine. Ender is bright, in perfect health, highly intelligent, and imaginative. To Ender, winning is everything. (To quote part of the book: “Ender Wiggin isn’t a killer. He just wins – thoroughly.”) To some others in the military, Graff is often too cruel to the children, especially to Ender. But Graff is doing what he believes is necessary for the preservation of the human race. Ender realizes early on that Graff is isolating him from the kids by using every low-down trick in the book – and several NOT in the book. The mind games are nothing new to Ender. He was used to dealing with Peter, who is a master manipulator. As Ender thinks up more and more amazing strategies to win the war games, he is also shaping himself into the very weapon Graff wants so badly.
***** FIVE STARS! This is one of the most impressive novels of our time (imho). The author takes a nascent child (Ender) and places him in a military school to (basically) sink or swim. Due to the exigencies of an upcoming war, the person in charge of Battle School (Graff) is unstinting in his mistreatment of all the children.
This story has already become required reading in some high schools. Teachers enjoy having their students debate on whether Graff is guilty of mistreatment of children or if his actions are justifiable. Another point of debate is the emotional and psychological toll on young Ender.
Though the story mainly focuses on Ender, some time is given to his brother and sister who are still back at home. Those Wiggin siblings are as intelligent as Ender, but instead of strategy they have more manipulative and/or persuasive abilities.
All-in-all, this is an excellent story for Science Fiction fans of any age. (Fans of Robert A. Heinlein will especially enjoy this tale. The meticulous thoughts and beyond-his-time-ideas can be found in this story too.) Un-Freaking-Believable! *****
Author: Brenda Jernigan
Title - Black Magic (Time Travel Romance)
Story opens in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1980. Alexandria Dumont is a doctor of physical medicine and a doctor of rehabilitation medicine. While at a flea market, Alex purchases an oil painting from Hattie, an old Cajun woman. The painting shows a lovely plantation with a small lake in its front. Beside the lake is a young lady in a peach gown. The mystery lady is peering into the water. But the reflection does not show the beauty that surrounds it. Instead, it shows a home burned to the ground and the lady dressed in rags. When Alex moves her new portrait, a child's diary falls from its backing. That night Alex begins reading the journal as she falls asleep.
Alex wakes up the next morning to find herself in 1835. The only familiar things around Alex are her black medical bag and Hattie. In this time, Hattie is a free black woman who works as the housekeeper of River Bends, a large cotton plantation in New Orleans. Alex is unsure why she has fallen back to 1835 until she meets Melissa "Missy", a twelve-year-old crippled girl. Alex knows that she can help Missy walk again and convincing her brother/guardian, Brad Wentworth, is a challenge. But soon Alex is settling in at River Bends and working with Missy.
Brad Wentworth is a well known attorney, retired, who has never lost a case. Now he owns and operates the family's plantation and cares for his little sister. With Hattie's assurance that Alexandria is a very good doctor, Brad hires her to care for Missy. Even should his sister never walk again, Missy seems to deeply enjoy Alexandria's company. Though Brad is well known and his friends call him the master of seduction, Alexandria is not intimidated by him or impressed in the slightest. Brad is also about to announce his engagement to Julia Turner. Their marriage would merge their lands, making River Bends the largest plantation in New Orleans. So why can he not get the stubborn, lovely, redheaded doctor out of his head?
***** FIVE STARS! A little magic, a lot of suspense with some drama thrown in for good measure, and romance...what more could one want in a Time Travel Romance? Okay, let's toss some in a villain or two that readers cannot help but love to hate. This story has it all. Brenda Jernigan has written a compelling tale that hooked my interest instantly and refused to let go until the story was over. Alex's sojourn to 1835 was vividly detailed and stayed true to the time period. Julia's character seems to ooze evil at times. I looked forward to seeing her get what she deserved. And Brad's character could never be conceited while Alexandria was around. Alex is a strong character, independent, and has an indomitable spirit. Ms. Jernigan is a pro when it comes to foreshadowing ominous events and I found myself riveted by the mysterious Hattie and the enchanted with little Missy. The name of Brenda Jernigan is simply another way to pronounce the word "Rhapsody". Marvelous! *****
Authors: P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
Title - Dragon's Oath
(House of Night Novella Series #1)
In England, the year 1830, Bryan Lankford is the third son to the Earl of Lankford. When Lord Lankford becomes fed up with his son's antics, he disowns Bryan and banishes him to America. But at the dock, Bryan is Marked by a vampyre, a Tracker, and given the choice of staying at London's House of Night or boarding the dragon-prowed ship to America. To Bryan, the choice is easy. The new fledgling vampyre heads to America.
It is 1833. Twenty-two-year-old Anastasia is a fully Changed vampyre. She is also the youngest professor in the Tower Grove House of Night in St. Louis. Though young in age, she is an expert in spells and rituals. After fifteen students approach and beg Anastasia for a love potion to use on Dragon Lankford, the young professor decides it is time for action. With the permission of High Priestess Pandeia, Anastasia casts a drawing spell. Instead of attracting Dragon's attention to anyone, this drawing spell focuses on the fifteen students who are obsessed with the young Sword Master. Once cast, the fifteen fledglings will see Dragon clearly, without their romantic infatuations clouding their judgements. (Sort of an anti-Dragon Lankford spell.)
The spell works, but due to the real Bryan Dragon Lankford charging into her circle, the spell goes slightly awry. The honest truth about Dragon is revealed to more people than intended. Anastasia's spell draws the future Dragon before her. The fully Changed version is undeniably a Warrior and the conjured vampyre reveals to Anastasia the truth of their future romance. They are destined to be mates. But first, according to the future Dragon, Anastasia would need to be patient. The young, rash, arrogant, and egotistical Dragon would need time to grow and mature.
Sheriff Jesse Biddle hates vampyres and wants to destroy all of them. Unknown to the mortals he is sworn to protect, Biddle has a dark creature trapped within a silver cage and the sheriff craves its power. Anastasia's spell reveals the truth about Dragon to the monster. Biddle learns that Dragon "will extinguish the Dark light" unless he is stopped. If Sheriff Biddle wants the dark power, he must kill Anastasia, the Dragon's mate.
***** FIVE STARS! This is the first in a series of House of Night novellas. Each will reveal back stories about some of the House of Night's biggest characters. In this offshoot of the popular vampyre series, the life of Sword Master Dragon Lankford is told. The story opens in the present day. Dragon holds vigil over a young fledgling's funeral pyre. As he guards the fire, Dragon begins to remember the past. At the end of the story, readers return to the present day. Now that I know about Dragon's life with Anastasia, I understand the man's need for vengeance. The reason for his cold efficiency in duty makes perfect sense.
With this new novella series, readers will receive insights that may enhance the full-length HON series. I have high hopes that these novellas will help breathe some life back into the full-length series. *****
Authors: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Title - Lenobia's Vow (HoN Novella #2)
Set in the year 1788. Sixteen-year-old Lenobia Whitehall lives in France with her mother. Because she is the illegitimate daughter of the Baron of Bouillon, she works as a servant while her half-sister, Cecile, gets everything she desires. When Cecile suddenly dies, Lenobia's mother takes immediate action to ensure that her daughter has a better life than what France could offer. Lenobia is soon surrounded by other girls on a ship bound for New Orleans, where they will be married off to the city's richest Frenchmen. No one knows that it is Lenobia masquerading as Cecile. The girls are chaperoned by Sister Marie Madeleine Hachard and under the protection of the Ursuline Nuns. But even this may not be enough to save Lenobia.
Back in France, Lenobia had caught the eye of an evil bishop, Charles de Beaumont. The Catholic Church has sent the Bishop to New Orleans and he is traveling on the same ship as Lenobia. The evil bishop has an appetite for lovely young women and should he see Lenobia, the Bishop would expose her as a fraud. So Lenobia remains hidden in her cabin, feigning seasickness. But early each morning, Lenobia sneaks out to visit the ship's stables, where the handsome Creole man, Martin Rillieux, and his beautiful Percheron horses quickly capture her attention.
**** FOUR STARS! Those who follow the full-length "House of Night" series know Lenobia as one of Zoey's favorite professors. Lenobia played a big part in the recent release of "Destined" (HoN #9). In Zoey's time, Lenobia is the fearless horse mistress at Tulsa's House of Night.
This is the second title in the novella spin-off series. (The first is "Dragon's Oath".) This story tells the history of a mortal Lenobia in the year 1788. At the age of sixteen, Lenobia's life is already difficult. Most of the tale takes place on the ship. Readers learn about the mortal man that Lenobia falls in love with and why she eventually makes her vow to never love another. The cast of characters is small, but the story is big on suspense. I now see Lenobia's feisty character in a whole new light. Awesome! ****
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Title - The Seduction of Scandal
Set in the early 1800's. Ferris Parish was located on a piece of land that jutted boldly into Scotland, although only the wealthy took pride in English roots. The rest were descended from reivers, border raiders who had crossed between Scotland and England with impunity until the first earl of Bossley battled the raiders, offered protection to his people, and brought peace. That had been almost two-hundred years ago, and times had changed.
The current earl of Bossley is a hard, greedy, and ambitious man. His coffers are rich because he takes everything from his people - and often he takes more than his people have. Lord Bossley's son and heir is Lord Sherwin "Freddie". Freddie is determined to wed Lady Corinne Rosemont, youngest daughter of the seventh duke and duchess of Banfield. Once Freddie marries her in three weeks, Bossley will have more power than any man in England.
Lady Corinne wants nothing to do with Freddie. The man may be young and considered to be handsome, but Cory finds him repulsive. Pleading with her parents not to make her marry Freddie does no good. They are intent on the match, even after Cory walks into her room and finds Freddie in bed with her maid. Cory wishes she had the nerve to run off. Then it dawns on Cory that there actually IS a way. Lately there has been a masked highwayman in the area. The thief is called the Black Thorn and has been causing Bossley all sorts of grief. When Cory spies Major John Ashcroft, commander of the local militia, riding away in a carriage, she hides in the boot. Cory wants to sneak into London and hide away until after the wedding date has passed. When the Black Thorn holds up Major Ashcroft's carriage, Cory slips out of the boot. Not expecting her to be there, the major ends up shooting Cory. Instead of helping Cory, Major Ashcroft flees, abandoning her to the mercy of the thief.
Reverend Mr. William "Will" Norwich is the foster son of Lord Bossley. Will had been only three when Bossley took him off the street in Barbados. He owes his life to the earl; however, Will is unable to overlook the misery that Lord Bossley is causing to the people of Ferris. Though he feels much guilt in doing so, Will has been stealing the money his father tries to deliver to London and quietly divides it among the Ferris locals. Will knows that Major Ashcroft has a large amount in the carriage. Getting the money is easy, but seeing Cory shot and left for dead is not. The pastor cannot leave her alone, but by taking her with him, Will must reveal his identity. Once on the mend, Will wants to return Cory to her parents. But Cory insists that he hide her until after her wedding date. To keep the noose from his neck, Will agrees. Now if only he can keep her hidden from his foster family for three weeks. And if only he can keep his feelings hidden from her.
**** FOUR STARS! I have seen the damsel in distress with the highwayman scenario done often in the past; however, rarely have I seen it played out with the damsel blackmailing the highwayman and never have I seen the highwayman as a pastor. I could not help but find it intriguing. I am so grateful that I gave this story a chance!
Cory, the heroine, was not stupid or ignorant as many Regency ladies are often portrayed, but she was apt to do things spur-of-the-moment (without planning ahead). I admit that her recklessness irritated me a time or two. As for the bedeviled hero, Will's ambivalent feelings for Cory were so well described that I actually felt sorry for him. (Will often found himself in one quandary or another.) Not only did the author do a great job on background developments, but she also managed to discreetly insert a bit of mystery which later became a pretty nifty twist. Cathy Maxwell has taken an overdone plot and altered it until it became something unprecedented. Terrific! ****
Author: Julie Kagawa
Title - The Iron King
(Iron Fey #1, Teen Fantasy)
At the age of six Meghan's father disappeared while they were at the park. He was never found. Her mother moved them to a small, out-of-the-way town and remarried. Now Meghan Chase has a four-year-old half brother, Ethan, whom she adores. Other than with her best friend, Robin Goodfell, Meghan has always felt different than everyone else. On the day before her sixteenth birthday, which no one but Ethan and Robin seem to remember, Meghan begins paying more attention to what is around her. If only her humiliation at school could be simply a hallucination, like the gremlin she saw in class.
When a dark and handsome stranger begins watching her, Robin becomes very protective. Robin Goodfell is really Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck. Meghan believes it all a prank until Puck takes her into Nevernever, the land of the Fae, and escorts her to King Oberon, her biological father. Puck had been sent to the mortal world and tasked with protecting the king's daughter. Meghan wants only to rescue her brother and go back home. Ethan had been kidnapped by a new breed of faery. To save Ethan, Meghan must convince Puck to help her escape her father, avoid being killed by Queen Titania and her minions, deal with an enemy prince named Ash - who's attitude toward her keeps running hot and cold - and find out where her brother is.
Can Meghan rescue her brother? Can she keep Puck and Ash from literally killing each other? Does she dare give her heart to a prince who might enjoy seeing her dead? And most of all, if Meghan manages to survive through the overwhelming obstacles before her, will her life ever be the same again?
**** FOUR STARS! Action, drama, suspense, and magic all blend together in order to serve a delicious banquet for readers to consume and enjoy. Being half-fey gives the character of Meghan high potential for the author's imagination to play with. Julie Kagawa will have readers begging for the next exciting installment. ****
Author: Julie Kagawa
Title - The Iron Daughter
(Iron Fey #2, Teen Fantasy)
Meghan Chase is half Summer faery princess and half human. She is now a prisoner to the Winter faery queen, Mab. When the Iron Knights steal the Scepter of the Seasons and kill Crown Prince Sage, the Winter Court believes that the Summer Court were to blame. With her own fey powers blocked, Meghan finds herself stuck right in the middle of a faery war. Winter Prince Ash has been indifferent to Meghan since he delivered her to Queen Mab. Feeling deserted by the prince she thought loved her, Meghan realizes that if she was to survive her stay in the Winter Palace she would have to become strong as iron.
To stop the war, Meghan needs to retrieve the Scepter of the Seasons from the Iron fae and return it to Mab. When Prince Ash helps Meghan begin the journey, he is branded as a traitor. His own brother, Prince Rowan, has his personal Thornguards hunting them everywhere. Meghan is joined on her quest for the scepter by the infamous Puck (who is still trying to show Meghan how he feels for her), an aloof faery cat named Grimalkin, and Ironhorse (who was once the Iron King's lieutenant). As Meghan grows a backbone of iron, she also comes to understand that even should she retrieve the scepter and stop the war, she and Ash would still be on opposite sides. Due to this, they would always be enemies and could never be together. Once the scepter was back where it belonged, they would part forever. Could Meghan's growing feelings for Puck help her through the upcoming heartbreak of losing Ash?
***** FIVE STARS! This second story of the series picks up where the first left off. If you have not read the first title (The Iron King), chances are you will find yourself lost or confused at times. I strongly urge you to read these stories in order. I found this episode to be just as enthralling as the first. It is creative, well written, and has believable characters that I could easily identify with. The character of Meghan shows that you need not have magic or be considered special in order to stand up for yourself and do what is right. I eagerly look forward to the third title's release. Author Julie Kagawa writes teen fantasy as no other! *****
Author: Julie Kagawa
Title - The Iron Queen (Iron Fey #3)
It has been one year since Meghan Chase first went into Faery. She is the half-human daughter of Oberon, the Summer King. After defeating the Iron King, Maghan inherited his iron glamour. Within her runs two types of magic, Summer and Iron. Problem is that the Summer and Iron powers clash whenever she tries to use one and this causes her to become extremely sick. By her side is Ash of the Unseelie Court. The Winter Prince has been exiled from Nevernever by his mother, Queen Mab, for loving Meghan. Meghan has been exiled by her father because she chose to follow Ash. Puck (Robin Goodfellow) is another outcast.
The three are still trying to decide how they will survive in the mortal world when they are recalled to Faery. The Summer and Winter Kingdoms have (amazingly) joined forces to battle against the Iron Fey, but their armies are slowly being crushed. The wyldwood grows smaller daily, as more and more land is absorbed into the Iron Kingdom, thus expanding the false king's realm. King Oberon and Queen Mab are willing to lift all three of their exiles, abolishing all crimes and rendering full pardons. In return, Meg would journey into the Iron Realm and assassinate the false king before all is lost.
**** FOUR STARS! This series is not the type that new readers can simply pick up anywhere and begin reading. They would be totally confused. So if you have not read the first two titles (The Iron King & The Iron Daughter), you may as well stop now and go purchase them. Trust me, they are worth it.
This story ends in such a way that the author can either choose to stop the series here or write one more episode. Personally, I am hoping for another title. I am not satisfied with how the love triangle currently stands, yet I have no idea what could be used as a main plot or what villain could be battled.
The character of Meghan comes across as a bit dense this time. More than once it takes Meghan a long time to see what is obvious to the reader. As the grand finale neared, Meghan's lack of thought became tedious. Grimalkin, the feline fey, usually ended up having to spell it out to Meghan. On another note, Meghan also contradicts herself. At one point in the story, Meghan confesses that she is not sure that she could actually bring herself to kill someone. She even worried about the nightmares that were sure to follow such an act. Problem is that Meghan had already killed one or two of the Winter fey during a battle only a few pages earlier.
Teens who love fantasy stories involving the Fey and magic will enjoy this entire series...as long as they can overlook a few flaws. ****
Author: Gena Showalter
Title - Intertwined (Book 1, Young Adult)
Everyone believes sixteen-year-old Haden "Aden" Stone is crazy, a schizophrenic. He has spent his entire life in juvie and various mental institutions; however, those four voices in his head are real. Aden has four souls living within him and each soul has a special paranormal ability. One soul can predict the future. A second soul can time travel. The third can possess others. The fourth cannot help raising the dead into flesh-eating zombies. Instead of being locked away, Aden now resides at the D&M Ranch in Crossroads, Oklahoma. It is a halfway house for wayward teens. For months Aden has been having visions of a beautiful girl who is filled with ancient secrets. A girl who will either save him or kill him.
Aden is fending off the zombies that he had accidently animated from a cemetery when Mary Ann Gray walks by. Somehow her simple presence causes the undead to crumble and the four loud voices in Aden's head to go silent. Of course, having silence for the first time in his whole life, Aden is compelled to follow the pretty teen in hopes of learning how she does it. Mary Ann and Aden find themselves attracted to each other, as if they were long lost siblings. Yet at the same time, they feel a wild urge to run away from each other in terror.
Mary Ann soon spies a large, black wolf following her everywhere. It seems to understand her words and actions. At the same time, Mary Ann is having problems with her boyfriend, Tucker Harbor, who is becoming violent and her best friend, Penny Parks, who is keeping secrets.
Aden is having more problems than usual too. Dealing with the other boys at the ranch is bad enough, but then the girl from his visions appears. According to Victoria, one week ago he had attacked her people (vampires) with overwhelming energy. Her father, the king, has sent Victoria and her werewolf bodyguard, Riley, to observe Aden. Vlad would decide Aden's fate once Victoria reported back. To top it all off, vampires and shifters are not the only beings that felt the blast of energy. Aden has become a magnet for anyone with supernatural abilities. Mary Ann falls into that category too. She is a neutralizer. No one can use their magical abilities when she is near.
As the four begin to form a wary alliance, things begin spiraling out of control. Crossroads, Oklahoma, is about to be flooded with all types of magical creatures and the collateral damage would be devastating.
***** FIVE STARS! Even with my long synopsis I have not touched upon even half of the plot, subplots, characters, or events. Whenever I began to believe that things could not possibly get any stranger, fascinating, or dangerous, the author would prove me wrong. As for the ending, the story does not end in a cliff-hanger; however, many threads are left dangling. The next title, Unraveled, will continue where this one stops.
Author Gena Showalter has created a fascinating world with strange and intriguing characters that readers cannot help but feel drawn to. From the first page, until the last, my eyes were compelled to keep reading long past my bed time. I guess that is a good word to describe this story: compelling. *****
Author: Gena Showalter
Title - Unraveled (Intertwined #2)
Humans believe that sixteen-year-old Haden "Aden" Stone is a schizophrenic. Aden lets them believe it. Actually, Aden is a human who attracts the supernatural like a magnet and has three other souls trapped in his head. Each soul has a special paranormal ability. The first soul can predict the future, the second can possess others, and the third cannot help raising the dead. Recently Aden's world has not simply become strange, it has totally altered. Thanks to Dmitri, a deceased betrothed of Victoria's, Aden is the unwilling king of the vampires. It is not a title Aden wants, however, the only way for someone else to obtain the title is by killing him.
Vlad's remains are sealed within the crypts to prevent any lingering rebels from hurting him further. It is still two weeks before Aden will officially be crowned, yet several vampires have already issued challenges. In addition, the Vampire Council is adamant that Aden wed. Aden's still beating heart belongs to Victoria, but there are other vampire princesses who insist on a chance to win his affections. To deny them the opportunity would cause a war. Then there is the problem of all the magical creatures that have come to Crossroads, Oklahoma, in search of Aden with plans of either using his power for their own agendas or destroying him.
During the day, Aden resides at the D&M Ranch, a halfway house for wayward teens, and tries to attend public school. This is not an easy thing to do since ghosts keep trying to strike up conversations with him, other students are being eaten by flesh-hungry goblins, and his therapist is not human and is determined to learn all of Aden's secrets.
Yet above all the problems, one stands out as the worst. Sealed within the crypts is the very much alive, very hungry, and very angry dethroned vampire king ... and Vlad wants his crown back!
**** FOUR STARS! Readers that have not read the first book ("Intertwined") may find themselves lost more often than not. This type of series, with a continuous running story line throughout them all, is one where would I prefer to wait until all titles are published. That way I can simply read them all back-to-back. If you have not begun reading this series, I highly suggest you wait and read this series that way.
A lot of new characters are introduced in this installment. Their species and relations to other characters can become confusing if the readers are not careful to keep it all straight in their heads. Though this story does not end with a cliff hanger, many major strings are left dangling to be picked up and continued within the next book. (Pretty much the same way as the first book ended.) Surprise changes occur to at least one of the major players. I cannot say more without spoilers, which I refuse to ever give in my reviews.
I found the author's writing style to be dark, yet irresistible. Gena Showalter has created a vibrant world filled with various paranormal creatures that few will be able to resist. Fabulous! ****
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Title - Ice Princess (Regency - Novella)
Set in London, 1762. Aphrodite is the mysterious Madam of Aphrodite's Grotto. No one knows her real name is Coral Smythe. Few know what she looks like behind the golden mask that she wears whenever she is out from within her private chambers. Though she is a lady of the evening, she has not entertained a man in over two years. But four months ago, the Grotto needed repairs due to a fire. Since then, Jimmy Hyde has held the majority of shares. So when he announces to the customers that seven full nights with Aphrodite herself would be the prize to the winner of a special card game, she has no choice but to agree.
Captain Isaac Wargate did not intend to enter Aphrodite's Grotto, but that was where his crew members were. His men deserved their downtime after being so long at sea. When Hyde announces the special card game, Isaac could tell that Aphrodite had known nothing about it in advance and that she is not happy about being the prize. Isaac also has no idea why he is the first person to agree and hand over the insane amount of money to join the game. Perhaps it is due to his loneliness. His wife, Alice, had died four winters ago. Whatever the reason, once Isaac wins Aphrodite's company, he is granted access to her cleverly hidden chambers, a place no man before had set foot.
The first night or two, Isaac merely wishes her company, leaving Aphrodite off balance. But soon the golden mask is removed. While together, she is simply Coral and he is Isaac. Both find themselves in unfamiliar territory.
**** FOUR STARS! Coral had been a secondary character in the author's first book, The Raven Prince. Due to the overwhelming interest from her readers, Elizabeth Hoyt has given Coral her own story. This novella is a Kindle exclusive and has a low price since the story is not a full-length tale. Seldom have I read a story where the heroine is a Madam or one of her ladies. The author has done a terrific job of revealing Coral's vulnerable side, as well as her hard-core side. This is not easy to do when dealing with someone in Coral's occupation. There is a need to explain to the reader what caused Coral to choose the profession originally and why she is still in it. Once done, the reader must be convinced to sympathize and care for such a person. Elizabeth Hoyt has excelled in doing all of this with the character of Coral. If you are searching for something different, something rare, then look no further than this novella. I loved every minute I spent reading it. ****
Author: L.J. Smith
Title - The Forbidden Game (Teen Paranormal)
(3-in-1 volume. Contains The Hunter, The Chase, The Kill)
The Hunter: Jenny Thornton's boyfriend, Tom Locke, is turning seventeen. For his birthday, Jenny has their closest friends over to celebrate. Summer is the sweetest of the group. Zach is the geek. Dee is an ebony huntress. Michael is the huskiest. Audrey has been Jenny's friend the longest and still competes with Dee (the newest member of their group) for Jenny's friendship. While searching for an interesting game they can all play together, Jenny finds herself in a bad part of town with two thugs stalking her. She flees into a strange game store and meets a teen boy with the strangest blue colored eyes and white hair. He convinces Jenny to purchase a special game, promising her that all the players will be treated to mystery, suspense, seduction, temptation, and secrets will be revealed. Once together and the adults out of the house, Jenny and her friends construct a Victorian house and paper dolls to represent themselves as the game instructions dictates. Then they pledge the oath on the box that the game is real and that they understand that by playing the game they put their lives at risk.
But this is no ordinary game. The players soon find themselves actually within the Victorian house they made. The Shadow Man, named Julian, is the boy from the game store. He informs Jenny that her friends have been scattered around the house, with has three stories and a turret on the top. Jenny is the main player. She must locate each friend's room and then help them face their greatest nightmare. If Jenny reaches the top, the door out of the game is there, waiting for them. However, Julian also informs Jenny that not all of her friends may survive and the game has a time limit. It began at nine o'clock in the evening. Jenny has until sunrise, at six-eleven, to get out of the game with her friends. If she loses, Jenny will be trapped in the Shadow World and belong to Julian.
The Chase: Jenny and her friends are still haunted by what happened to them while in Julian's game. One of her friends did not survive and they feel the loss. They told the truth of events to their parents and the police, but no one believes them. However, the nightmare is not really over. The two thugs who stole the game from Jenny's house had opened the game's box and played. Julian has been released and he wants Jenny. Another game is to be played. Julian will hunt each friend, one-by-one, and take them back to his secret base. Jenny must figure out where the base is hidden and reach it before Julian stops her, who is to be taken last. If Jenny wins, she will be released from the binding vow she made Julian previously. If she loses, Jenny must go with Julian to his world and stay with him forever.
The Kill: With Julian holding two of her friends in the Shadow World as hostage, Jenny and the others must go on a treasure hunt at a carnival. But horrible creatures await the teens as they fight for their survival and Jenny's freedom from Julian.
***** FIVE STARS! This volume includes the entire trilogy of the series. The stories are as seductive as silver and as deadly as a cobra. If there is an author more suspenseful in teen paranormal stories than L.J. Smith, I don't want to know about him! *****
Author: L.J. Smith
Title - Dark Visions (Teen Paranormal)
(3 in 1 volume / The Strange Power, The Possessed, The Passion)
The Strange Power: In Ohio, Kaitlyn "Kait" Fairchild has always been the strange girl that no one wanted anything to do with. If her weird eyes did not make people keep their distance, then the rumor of her being a witch sure did. Kait told herself she did not care, but secretly she wished she could be normal. Kait often gets the urge to draw. Though she does not know what she is drawing WHILE she is actually drawing it, once finished the picture foreshadows coming events. Now Kait's life is changing. Joyce is a representative for Mr. Zetes in California. Kait will spend one year at Mr. Z's institute in California where she, along with four other teens, will reside. They will not only have their psychic abilities tested, but also a chance to learn how to control their abilities. For Kait, it is a chance at having a normal life. She has only to learn to control her powers.
Lewis Chao's power is psychokinesis, mind over matter. Anna Eva Whiteraven can communicate with animals. Rob Kessler channels energy to heal others. Kait connects with them instantly and finally has friends. But the last boy in the group is Gabriel Wolfe, a strong telepath. He has been in lots of trouble with the law and has even been forced to kill. Gabriel wants nothing to do with the others. He looks out for no one but himself, having long since learned that helping others or caring for others leads only to trouble. But the teens soon learn that Mr. Z is not the nice, wealthy man they assumed. He has a hidden agenda for all five of them. Gabriel makes the mistake of helping Kait, the girl who fascinates him, and all five of the teens end up mind-linked. All five are connected, as if their minds are part of one web, linked together at all times. They can communicate without talking. They know where each other are and what they are thinking. Problem is that they cannot break the link. When the truth about Mr. Z is revealed, the five must flee for their lives.
The Possessed: Kait, Rob, Gabriel, Anna, and Lewis are fleeing from Mr. Z and Joyce. From Kait's dreams and art/visions, they seek a certain white house near the coast. Problem is that they have no idea where the white house is. There is a lot of coast bordering between California and Washington (state). Rob and Kait have fallen in love. Their mind-mates are happy for them, they can tell. Except for Gabriel, who keeps his shields up tight. He is the only one that has been able to keep his thoughts and feelings from the others. As the five search for the white house (that may be able to help them break the mind web and protect them from Mr. Z), they must also stay on guard. Mr. Z has great wealth, power, and connections. Police are on his side. Worse, Mr. Z has a group of other teen psychics with him now. These new teens were from the pilot study (before Kait's group) and they are not exactly sane. Now these evil teens, under Mr. Z's orders, are bombarding Kait and her mind-mates with horrible psychic attacks.
The Passion: Kait, Rob, Anna, and Lewis feel adrift. They cannot believe what Gabriel did at the white house. Nor can they bring themselves to believe the horrible consequences. Gabriel has returned to Mr. Z and is now the enemy. Kait and her friends guard the piece of pure crystal given to them from those in the white house. They must find a way to reach Mr. Z's corrupt crystal before they can use their pure shard to destroy it. To do this, Kait sneaks away from the others and convinces Gabriel that she is joining Mr. Z's side. With the other mind-mates far away, Gabriel cannot read them so Kait has only to guard her own mind from the strong telepath. Gabriel's feelings for Kait have not changed. If anything, they have grown. With Rob out of the picture, he finally has a chance to be with her. But soon Gabriel figures out that Kait is keeping secrets from him. Enclosing his mind from Kait again, he bluntly informs Kait that sooner or later the other teens will find out whatever it is she is hiding. And when that happens, Kait can expect no help from him. The other teens are all but insane. Kait is alone within the enemy's camp and it is only a matter of time, a very short amount of time, before she will be revealed as the spy she is.
**** FOUR STARS! This one volume encases the entire trilogy of this amazing and suspenseful series. This quixotic tale will grab readers by their throats and refuse to let go until the final page has been read. This author is a master at creating plausible characters that readers can easily relate to and empathize with. No one else can compare with L.J. Smith! ****
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Title - Shade (Teen Fantasy)
The Shift occurred seventeen years ago. Everyone born after the Shift can see and talk to ghosts. Aura Salvatore lives in Maryland with her aunt, Gina. Born one minute after the Shift, Aura was one of the first with the paranormal ability. Aunt Gina helps ghosts find peace and cross-over by helping them find vengeance/closure via law suits. Many post-Shifters work as court translators for this reason. But some ghosts allow bitterness to warp their souls. These rare ones are called Shades. They are dark, powerful, and dangerous. Once a ghost transforms into a shade, they can never cross-over. Leaders around the world created special government agencies to protect the post-Shifters. America's federal version is the Department of Metaphysical Purity "DMP". They even have their own highly trained Special Forces unit. These agents are called Obsidians. The Obsidians mainly hunt shades and lock them away forever in a Black Box.
Logan Keeley is Aura's boyfriend. He and his siblings have a band, The Keeley Brothers. Logan is excited because two recording companies want to sign them up. Aura is turning seventeen. As a birthday present to herself, Aura has decided she is finally ready to let her romance with Logan become physical. After Logan's crucial gig, during the after-party, Aura and Logan slip away for their first intimate time together. Instead, Logan overdoses and dies. He may no longer be alive, but Logan's ghost remains. His parents hope to help Logan cross-over by suing the recording company that gave him the drugs.
Then there is the new Scottish student, Zachary "Zach" Moore. He is assigned to help Aura with her ancient astronomy thesis project. Though she still grieves for Logan and talks to his ghost most nights, she finds herself attracted to the living Scot. It does not help that Zach is understanding or infuriatingly patient. As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever more complicated, she realizes that the DMP has taken a special interest in her. Worse, Zach is somehow involved.
**** FOUR STARS! Let me warn readers that this story has a major cliff-hanger ending. Little is actually resolved and now I find myself frustrated at having to wait. (Personally, I hate books with cliff-hanger endings so I probably will not bother reading any more of this series.) The author has done a good job in setting up the main characters' backgrounds. Understanding the nuances involving what post-Shifters have to deal with came slowly, as well as understanding the Obsidians and their Black Box, but I believe the author did very well in handling it all. It is a lot of information and it does not come across as if the details were being crammed into my head or thrown at me too fast. I believe any teenager who loves the paranormal mixed in with a bit of (a complex) romance will thoroughly enjoy this story. Stellar! ****
Author: Marley Gibson
Title - The Reason (Ghost Huntress #3, Teen)
Seventeen-year-old Kendall Moorehead and her friends have had much success with their ghost hunting. But every time Kendall believes she is getting a handle on her awakened powers, something else pops up. Recently Kendall has had a premonition of her own death. Though she is a bit scared, Kendall refuses to let it stop her from living her life. Jason Tillson, her boyfriend, seems to be more worried about it than she is.
Then the mayor, Donn Shy, asks Kendall to investigate the manor in which she and her stepdaughter live. The stepdaughter, Shelby-Nicole Holt, has been hearing weird footsteps in the attic since they moved in. Emily, Kendall's spirit guide, warns her not to do it. The bitter spirit within the mayor's manor is dangerous.
The investigation is put on a brief hold when tragedy strikes. Taylor, Kendall's best friend and the twin sister of Jason, goes home to find her mother on the floor unconscious. With their mother in the hospital and their future uncertain, Taylor stays with Kendall's family and Jason stays with a buddy until their father can be reached in Alaska. Until their dad can fly down to them (in Georgia), the group will focus on the mayor's ghost problem.
On the side, Kendall and another of her best friends, Celia Nichols, begin researching Emily. The spirit guide would never reveal anything about herself to Kendall and she has decided it is time to learn how, when, and why Emily had died.
**** FOUR STARS! For those who have not read the first two books in the series, you will not find yourself lost. (I know because I did not read them.) The author has done a terrific job of revealing all the characters without too much fuss. However, readers who did read them will see a lot of changes, some of which will affect future stories and the cast of characters. I found this to be an intriguing tale of teen paranormal abilities, ghost hunting, and sleuthing. Anyone, regardless of their age, cannot help but be interested if they keep an open mind. Well done! ****
Author: Alice Kuipers
Title - Lost for Words (Teen Fiction)
Set in Islington, North London. Sixteen-year-old Sophie Baxter tries to cope after surviving the worst summer of her life. The story begins just after the school's Christmas holiday break. Sophie attends St. David's High. During the time period between the beginning of the new school year and now, Sophie has kept her emotions bottled up within herself. She refuses to speak about, or even remember, the incident which took her sister's life. Keeping it all to herself, Sophie's mental anguish has been pushing away her friends. She refuses to open up even to Lynda, the therapist her mother makes her go to; however, Sophia does accept a journal that Lynda gives her to write in.
Rosa-Leigh is a new girl in school. She has moved to the area from Canada. Since Sophie's long-time friendship with Abi has become rocky, Sophie begins to spend time with Rosa-Leigh. With the help of her new friend and the journal, Sophie struggles to deal with the trauma of surviving a horrible event, seeing her sister die, and finding a path to normalcy.
*** THREE STARS! This story reads much like a journal, complete with dates. It was difficult for me to keep that in mind, because normally in a journal the writer does not add in all the necessary narration scenes that had to be included within this tale. Exactly what the traumatic event was that happened is not explained until very late in the book. Since the author clearly did not want the reader to find out until then, I will not go into details. However, teen readers that have witnessed the tragic and unexpected death of a loved one could benefit from reading this story. I still cannot understand why the nature of Sophie's incident is kept so quiet from the public/reader. Anyone who is looking for a story about coping with the aftermath of this type of life-altering trauma will never be drawn to this title, because there is no topic-link mentioned for a search to latch on to.
Though Sophie's mother obviously lost a daughter, she did not actually witness the death or live through the terrifying even. However, the author has done a great job at showing the single-mother's grief and sense of helplessness in being unable to help Sophie. I do not believe that the mother's character could have been done better. To me, it seems flawless, phenomenal.
The story is set in London. If you have never lived there, be prepared for some different type of wording. This book, my copy at least, is published in America, so there will be no spelling confusions for American readers. (Many UK words have an extra letter, such as in the word "colour", or letters are altered, as in the word "centre". Since this is published in America, the words are spelled that way.) Yet American readers will spot a difference in many words and phrases. No big deal though, because it is obvious what they mean by the way in which they are used. (One easy example is "Mum" instead of "Mom".)
All-in-all, this is an entertaining read, though depressing. (Sophie is not a strong character.) If you are a teen who has actually witnessed the death of someone you love due to an unforeseen tragedy, this story may help you learning to cope with the maelstrom of emotions and nightmares that usually follow. ***
Authors: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Title - Tempted (House of Night #6)
(This title begins immediately upon the ending of the previous title, Hunted. After having banished Kalona and Neferet from Tulsa, Zoey Redbird and her group begin their recovery. After an overnight rest, the group returns to Tulsa's House of Night and give help to those they are able. The school is still divided, many placing all blame squarely upon Zoey's shoulders. As the first ever fledgling High Priestess, Zoey must take the situation before the Vampyre High Council in Italy.
Stevie Rae is considered to be the High Priestess of the new Red vampyres. She has been keeping secrets from Zoey and knows that Zoey realizes it. Some of the bad red fledglings are still dwelling in the depot and Stevie Rae intends to give them one last chance to change. But Stevie Rae now has an even bigger secret. She has rescued a dying Raven Mocker.
*** THREE STARS! I could not decide between two or three stars. As much as I enjoy this series as a whole, I am disappointed with this installment. The first half of this story is mostly filler. Very little happens at all and the story drags slowly. In fact, over the first quarter is the same night as it was when Hunted ended. However, once the halfway point of the book passes, things begin to finally move forward. I would not feel right if I did not warn potential readers that this episode ends with a massive cliffhanger. Many readers, myself included, hate this type of ending.
All-in-all, this is an okay read, but nothing vital happens until its conclusion. Readers on a strict budget could skip this title, pick up the next, and miss nothing of importance. I sincerely hope the next title, Burned will be better. ***
Authors: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Title - Burned (House of Night #7)
Zoey Redbird's soul has shattered. As her friends watch over her mortal body (which is now devoid of all tattoos), Zoey's soul drifts in the Otherworld. Unless Zoey can face what has happened, pull her shattered pieces back together, and return to her body within seven days, it will be forever too late.
James Stark is Zoey's Guardian. He is the only living person who can reach her. However, the only way is for the Warrior in him to die so that the Shaman in ham can come forth. (Translation: Stark's body must remain on the edge of death so his soul may travel into the Otherworld to find and rescue Zoey.) Once there, Stark finds that Zoey is not alone. Heath Luck is with her. Worse, Neferet has Kalona's body tied up with Darkness and Kalona's spirit is also in the Otherworld. And unless Kalona kills Zoey (or simply keeps Zoey's soul from returning to her body in time), his immortal soul would become Neferet's to control and use.
Meanwhile, it has only been two days since Stevie Rae had almost been burned/killed by the rogue red fledglings at the depot. Stevie Rae has decided that it is time for her and her group of good red fledglings to take back their depot home. But unknown to her followers, Stevie Rae has saved the life of Rephaim, who is the son of Kalona. No one who sees Rephaim could ever mistake this creature as being human. He has the body of a human, black wings, the head of a raven, and the eyes of a human. Rephaim has vowed to stay with Stevie Rae until she tells him to leave. Should her fledglings learn of Stevie Rae's friendship with the Raven Mocker or that they share an Imprint, it could spell disaster.
*** THREE STARS! Though P.C. and Kristin Cast have proven in the past that they can come up with creative material and engaging characters, the ones used in this series are beginning to take a nose dive. Where Zoey's character began with inner strength and the need to fight for what she believed in, she now comes across as a wimp. The character of Stevie Rae has morphed into what Zoey's once was.
For the duration of this story, the series is at a standstill. Very little happens to move events forward. Things are beginning to drag. In an attempt to spice things up, the writing duo has inserted some mystical, yin-yang magick. However, the black bull, the white bull, and what they represent are only discussed. Nothing really interesting comes from it. "Darkness" takes hold of a secondary character, who "Changes" into a possible future problem. But all-in-all, anyone who decides to skip this installment of the series will not miss anything vital. ***
Authors: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Title - Awakened (House of Night #8)
Ever the master manipulator, Neferet has managed to bamboozle the Vampyre High Council into believing she has returned to the Light and has been reinstated as a High Priestess. Wanting revenge on Zoey Redbird, Neferet must first lure her back to Tulsa. Zoey and her Guardian Warrior, James Stark, have chosen to remain on the Isle of Skye for some rest. Everyone else has returned to Tulsa's House of Night only to find everything on the border of chaos.
Stevie Rae is the first-ever Red Vampyre High Priestess. She is still dealing with her emotions from breaking up with her boyfriend, Dallas, and her mixed feelings for Rephaim, the Raven Mocker that she shares an Imprint with. But the stress on Stevie Rae is beginning to show. So when a friend of their inner-circle dies, Stevie Rae makes the phone call which brings Zoey and Stark back to Tulsa. Though all know Neferet murdered their friend, no one has any proof and she has a solid alibi.
Rephaim, the son of Kalona, strives to keep his relationship with Stevie Rae from his father and Neferet. Torn between his respect for his father and his mixed feelings for Stevie Rae, Rephaim can neither betray his father, nor stop protecting this new friend. However, the Raven Mocker will soon be forced to choose between his immortal parent and the Red One. Until then, Rephaim will brainstorm for a way to remove Kalona's spirit from beneath Neferet's controlling thumb.
** TWO STARS! As with the previous book (Burned), little happens to move events along. As with what happened to Heath a couple of titles past, another character is culled from the series. Dallas, the rogue red fledglings, and Erik only have brief cameo parts in this installment of the series. To be honest, I cannot see any reason for Dallas, Erik, or the rogue fledglings to even have been mentioned.
The character of Zoey still comes across as weak and immature. Hiding away from her problems and leaving others in danger is simply out of Zoey's character. I no longer feel a connection to her. Instead, the character of Stevie Rae is toughing things out. Yet even Stevie Rae is avoiding her duties this time around. She blows off her close friend and Prophetess, Kramisha, often.(Sort of like: If I do not let Kramisha tell me the problem, then it does not really exist.)
Speaking of Kramisha's character, the Poet Laureate seems to be highly intelligent, so why can she not speak proper English? To me, this comes across as a racial slur - something I thought this generation had managed to filter out. Kramisha is more level-headed and has more backbone than any other character currently within the HON series. The authors really need to develop Kramisha's character more and give her more time in the spotlight.
P.C. and Kristin Cast are talented authors who have managed to create a mystical world full of strong characters for readers to cheer on and evil villains for them to hate. Even though the titles of Burned and Awakened are little more than fluff and filler, I have hope that the writing duo will bring back the high standards of entertainment readers had become accustomed to. **
Authors: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Title - Destined (House of Night #9)
Zoey Redbird is safe with her Guardian Warrior, Stark, by her side. Stevie Rae, the first Red High Priestess, is safe with her mate, Rephaim, by her side too. Even Aphrodite, who is not really human or vampyre, has her Guardian Warrior, Darius, always close at hand. Though they and the others reside at the Tulsa Depot, each night they bus to the Tulsa House of Night for their daily lessons. It is difficult to get an education when you must keep your guard up constantly. But since the High Council cannot see Neferet for what she really is, the false High Priestess is still a major problem. The manipulative beauty has totally allied with the white bull (or Darkness). It is Darkness in its purest, most powerful form. The white bull has also given Neferet a gift, a creature she has named Aurox.
Aurox may look like a handsome young man, but he is Neferet's secret weapon. When the gorgeous teen fights, the bull within him begins to show. Neferet tells him never to think or feel for himself - to only do as she commands - but whenever Zoey is near, Aurox cannot help but feel. There is something strange, almost familiar, about the female fledgling.
Rephaim is a former Raven Mocker. Nyx has forgiven and blessed Rephaim. During the day he is a raven, but at night Rephaim is a boy. During school hours, Rephaim does his best to keep his distance from Dragon Lankford. At the same time, Rephaim must deal with his immortal father, Kalona, who claims to want a truce with his new group of friends. Neferet is a shared enemy and Kalona would be a powerful ally, but he still could not be trusted.
Neferet brings the rogue red fledglings and their leader, Dallas, back to the Tulsa House of Night. The bad blood between Dallas and Stevie Rae will cause a lot of trouble. In addition, Neferet has hired several humans to work on the campus. This will ensure that chaos will reign.
The Twins, Shaunee and Erin, are beginning to clash. All hope that it is nothing but a bump that happens with all BFFs from time-to-time. And Nyx sends Erik out to Track and Mark his first fledgling. But the new fledgling is unlike any before!
**** FOUR STARS! P.C. and Kristin Cast are bringing the HoN series back up to par. Professor Lenobia, the Horse Mistress, takes the spotlight a few times. (Lenobia's past is revealed in the HoN Novella "Lenobia's Vow".) Readers will see more of the feisty professor in the next installment.
In a shocking twist, one of the characters die and a new fledgling, with interesting powers, joins our group in the fight against Darkness. One other major event happens at the exciting end of this installment, but to even hint at what it is or who is involved would ruin the story. Just trust me, readers will see A LOT of changes this time around and the plot is finally moving forward again.
P.C. and Kristin Cast are back! And the future for this series looks better than ever. Stellar! ****
Author: Laura Kinsale
Title - Lessons in French
Lady Callista "Callie" Taillefaire had been seventeen when her father, the Earl of Shelford, caught her in the carriage house with Trevelyan "Trev" d'Augustin, Duc de Monceaux. Having interrupted the couple, only seconds from Callie being ruined, the furious earl rejected the young duc as a penniless nobody of unsteady character. Having been treated as a contemptible French scoundrel, Trev went to France.
Nine years have passed. Callie has recently gotten out of mourning for her father's death. Cousin Jasper is the new Earl of Shelford. He and his wife, Dolly, now reside at Shelford Hall. Having reached the age of twenty-seven, Callie has resigned herself to becoming a spinster. Three times Callie has been engaged. Three times Callie has been jilted. She now spends her time trying to be invisible at gatherings. Otherwise, Callie's time is divided between her animals and caring for Madame de Monceaux, Trev's dying mother. Once again Callie trying to fade into the background of a party when Trev enters the room.
During the previous nine years Trev has become embarrassingly wealthy by arranging boxing spectacles of both fixed and fair varieties. Having been exiled from England recently, Trev is staying one step ahead of the hangman's noose so he may be with his dying mother. Spying Callie, Trev's emotions rise from whatever grave he had buried them into so long ago. Before he disappears forever, Trev is determined to sweep Callie into one last adventure.
***** FIVE STARS! After a long self-exile one of my all-time favorite authors, Laura Kinsale, has returned! I could not be more thrilled. This time the story is a light romance and, as usual, the author manages to weave animals into the tale. No small animal such as a hedgehog, porcupine, skunk, or ferret during this adventure though. Instead, I found myself enchanted by a humongous bull named Hubert.
All the characters are well developed, including the secondary ones. The story is well written with various sub-plots to keep things moving along smoothly. There is a bit of mystery, some exciting romps, and odd but lovable characters as well. Laura Kinsale's stories are absolutely yummy! *****
Author: Victoria Alexander
Title - The Princess and the Pea (Reprint)
Set in the year 1895. While Marybeth visited London she was told that she was not good enough for the Earl of Graystone. Once home in Chicago, Marybeth told her friends, Cecilia "Cece" and Emily White, all about it. Furious on behalf of her friend, Cece carefully manipulates her parents to take them for a London holiday. Cece fully intends to entice the Earl of Graystone with what he needs most, an American heiress to save his family's finances. Once the earl proposed, Cece planned to reject and humiliate him by informing the earl that he was not good enough for her.
Jared Grayson, the Earl of Graystone, is determined to marry the next American heiress he enjoys being with, whether she passes his mother's crazy tests or not. When Jared and his friend, Quentin Bainbridge, meet Cece and Emily, they are intrigued. Jared is enchanted with Cece and they are soon sneaking away together. They end up falling in love, even though Jared has no idea she is an American heiress and Cece has no idea he is the earl. Knowing he must marry for money, Jared breaks up with Cece - in a note.
When Jared and Cece meet at a ball, Jared is thrilled. Cece is an heiress and he loves her. It is perfect! However, Cece refuses. She wants to be married for love, whether she has a fortune or not. All thoughts of revenge are banished as Cece walks away. But Jared is determined to have Cece as his countess.
*** THREE STARS! Be warned that this is a reprint. It was released years ago with a different cover. I fell in love with Cece's daring personality instantly. The first half of the story kept slowing down too often for my tastes; however, once Jared's mother began devising some creative tests for Cece, to see if she was worthy of her son, things began to really take off! To me, the best parts of the story are watching to see how Cece overcomes the obstacles tossed directly into her path. ***
Author: Suzanne Allain
Title - Mr. Malcolm's List (Regency)
Set in London, 1818. The Honorable Jeremy Malcolm, second son of the Earl of Kilbourne, is considered to be the biggest catch of the season, but he has earned a reputation as a heartbreaker. Lord Cassidy "Cassie" is Malcolm's friend and decides to let him know the title he has received. Cassie's cousin, Julia Thistlewaite, believes it to be true. Malcolm had escorted Julia to an opera (once) and she has waited for him to call ever since. Julia feels humiliated when Malcolm does not come courting. Family loyalty has Cassie asking Malcolm about it. This is how Cassie learns that Malcolm has a list of qualifications for a bride. Malcolm has been escorting ladies to events or dancing with them at parties in order to test each. None of the ladies, including Julia, has met his qualifications. The biggest mistake Cassie ever makes is when he tells Julia about the list.
Selina Dalton was a paid companion to Mrs. Ossory. When Mrs. Ossory died, she left Selina a comfortable settlement that guaranteed her an independence the rest of her life. Selina is just getting ready to return to her parents' home when she receives an invitation from Julia to spend time with her in London. Selina accepts, excited at some time in town. Yet upon arriving, Selina learns that Julia only invited her to help humiliate Malcolm. Julia wants to present Selina as the perfect woman he is looking for, then allow him to discover that SHE has a list and he fails to meet her qualifications. But by nature, Selina is open and very honest. Even though Julia threatens to send Selina away should she refuse to help, Selina decides to spend some time with Malcolm to see if he really is one to play with ladies' emotions or if Julia is simply a spoiled brat with wounded pride.
Selina and Malcolm meet by accident in a library, during a party. Selina has no idea it is Malcolm and finds her time with him pleasant. Malcolm is soon paying calls to Selina. Then the nephew of Mrs. Ossory, Henry Ossory, meets up with Selina and gives Malcolm some competition, which irks Julia to no end. Malcolm invites them all to a house party at his estate, Hadley Hall, in Kent. Let the plots and schemes commence!
***** A lovely Regency Romance with witty dialogues and the ever important happy ending. This cast of characters has a wide variety of personal attitudes ranging from meek to hardheaded. The clashes between the personalities keeps things hopping almost as well as Julia's schemes. There is only once or twice that pride keeps a character from listening to an explanation, thus keeping things from easily being solved. Whenever I find myself wanting to smack a character it lessens the enjoyment of the story for me. Do not be disheartened though, this only happens once or twice and it actually fits with the character's personality. Highly recommended for all fans of the Regency genre. *****
Author: K.G. McAbee
Title - The Dark Legacy
(Crystal Staircase, Book One)
The Macgregor family arrives at their new home, Rest-And-Be-Thankful. Ten-year-old Noah and his older sister, Holli, are thrilled to see it is a massive homestead built in the 1700's by their pirate ancestor, Captain Ambrose Craven. The pair, along with their overweight Lab named G-bert, looks forward to spending the entire summer exploring the place and its equally huge grounds. They know that it just may take the whole summer to investigate everything too. The home is several stories tall and has obviously been added onto many times.
According to the lawyer, only two months prior their Great Uncle Enoch Macgregor transferred ownership of Rest-And-Be-Thankful to their dad and then simply disappeared. Great Uncle Enoch also left Holli an expensive set of paint brushes since she loves to paint in acrylics. Since Noah loves books, he receives the journals of Enoch, a mysterious French woman from 1753, and Captain Craven! Within one journal, Noah reads a short poem about traveling through the painting within Rest-And-Be-Thankful and into a whole new world and time.
Soon Noah, Holli, and G-bert find themselves in a world where animals talk, the evil Captain Craven rules, and smelly skeleton minions abound. And the only way home is through a painting that dwells within Captain Craven's fortress.
***** W-O-W! This is the perfect adventure book for ages eight and up. The book follows Noah's point-of-view. His sister, Holli, is only a couple of years older. Like most siblings, they argue a bit, but obviously care for each other. G-bert adds some wonderful humor to help off set the spooky settings, mystery, and minions. The author did an amazing job of making all the characters believable. (Even the talking animals!) Be warned that there is a cliffhanger ending, but the next book, The Island Prison, will pick up where the first leaves off. I can hardly wait! Stellar! *****
Author: Crystal Temple
Title - Betty Morgana Through the Ages (YA / Oct. 2008)
After elves slaughter her village, Betty is reborn as a vampire, thanks to Drago, the king of all vampires. For the next ten centuries, she thrives on a diet of blood and revenge, in reverse order, but then, she discovers love and also her true purpose in "life." A prophecy has foretold her existence and shaped her destiny, if she has the courage to pursue it.
*** With a simple style, this story will surely be easily accessible for the younger audiences who are not mature enough for books such as Twilight, etc. Though at times the language is somewhat anachronistic to the era in which it is set, that will make it something to which pre-teens can readily relate, rather than having to learn the speech patterns of the past. For a first effort, this book shows that the author has promising potential if she continues to develop her skills. ***
Author: Hetty St. James
Title - Bertie's Golden Treasure (Traditional Regency)
Set in England. In the year 1812, Lady Zenobia "Bertie" Hadleigh is a the impressible age of sixteen. She has a twin sister named Abyssinia "Bessie". Even though they are twins, they are dissimilar in looks and interests. One of their brothers is named Tyler. Tyler has a close friend named Sean Brett. The group talks Bertie into accompanying them to a circus. Bertie has no interest in exotic animals, gypsies, or anything else the circus offers, yet Bertie agrees to go simply to be near Sean, who she has had a crush on for quite some time now. A fortune teller predicts for Bessie a silver treasure and for Bertie a golden one. All is normal until the other three in Bertie's group decides to play a harmless prank on her. However, the prank goes horribly wrong and since Sean played the biggest part, Bertie's humiliation is complete. After such devastation, Bertie wants nothing more to do with Sean.
Nicholas "Nick" Hadleigh may be the oldest brother of Bertie, Bessie, and Tyler, but he is also the Earl of Woode and head of household. Nick is wed to Joan, who said during their engagement that she would be thrilled to sponsor the sisters in London when they reach of age. In reality, she wanted nothing to do with Nick's siblings and had them moved into the Dower House once they were wed; so Nick's siblings resided there for years being practically raised by their aunts. After the circus fiasco, Nick decides to take a little more interest in the lives of his brother and sisters. Five years pass.
Bertie is not twenty-one-years-old and Joan has run out of excuses to delay presenting Nick's sisters to society. Bessie has no interest in having a season in London and stays home, but Bertie is excited. Aunt Kate ends up sponsoring Bertie with Joan only assisting. After several horrible instances in London, Bertie quits London and goes home. Bertie has not been away long, but she finds that things there have changed. Though Bertie now only wishes to be left alone to enjoy the solitude of spinsterhood, the new Duke of Kilnarne shows up to make her his duchess. Nick, still in London, has already given his blessings to the match and the Duke of Kilnarne will not take no for an answer.
***** I found this story to be a wonderful delight. Drama abounds from the beginning to the ending. Fans of the more traditional style of Regency Romances will especially enjoy this tale of a prior era. Humorous, touching, and true to the Regency period, this is a book not to be missed! *****
Author: Ruth Karas
Title - The Crystal Rose (YA)
From childhood, knights and their deeds have fascinated Breanne. After she is orphaned suddenly, she discovers a life that is equally adventurous and brings her into contact with knights, wizards, and dragons. She also learns many things she believed were wrong. But most importantly, she joins her life to that of the rightful heir to the throne, a man in hiding who will need all of the magic Breanne possesses to reclaim his place and restore peace to their land. Considering the man, who Breane loves, is more court jester than king, that could be a challenge for more than obvious reasons.
*** Though greater length would have served this book well by allowing for more world building, the author will easily entertain her target audience in this miniature epic fantasy. ***
Title - Mihte's Quest (Teen Fantasy)
After being abandoned by their mother and removed from their home, Jack, Ellie, and Jamie are sent to their father, a near stranger who lives in the country. However, despite all fears and dread, they find it a wonderful place until they are drowned by attacking swans and swept to the Underworld and slavery. When they are able to get free, the children become caught up in a quest to expel the evil Ghouls and restore the rightful Swan Princess so that order and beauty will return and all worlds will be safe from the darkness. The fate of their own land rests upon their courage and success.
*** This is a story that is simple enough to be accessible to younger children, but readable enough for even adults. Echoes of many classic stories, Swan Lake, Narnia, Greek and Celtic myths, and Arthur resound throughout the fast paced narrative. It is hopeful without being overly perky, balancing out the dark aspects as the trio of children find that their trials in the normal world have made them strong enough to face the fantasy land evils. ***
Author: Christine Norris
Title - Crown of Zeus
Though at first unhappy to be moving to London, Megan soon finds herself making friends and enjoying living in a "haunted" house. During a sleepover, she and her new mates discover a journal and then a book that draws them into a magical land where they must find the "Crown of Zeus" in order to return home. Their journey brings them face to face with legends; with Perseus, Theseus, the Pegasus, and the Sphinx. Through dangers untold, their quest continues, and is not over even when it seems to be.
**** Books like this bring children the magic of reading. Though the message is obvious to adult eyes, hopefully, younger readers will simply catch onto the fact that books can transport you to lands you can never hope to see with your physical eyes. Megan is an engaging heroine who dispenses classical legends in an easy to digest form, making this a both educational and fun read. ****
Author: Suzi Goode
Title - The Lost Wizard
Twins Mark and Jenny were looking for an adventure when they decided to explore the allegedly haunted house, but they were not expecting to find a crash-landing, very confused, absent-minded wizard named Magicus, much less get swept along with him at faster than light-speed on his journey. That's only the beginning of what the two children got caught up in when they met Magicus. Though he wasn't sure what he was trying to do, where he wanted to go, or how to do any of it, they liked him. Besides, when he was able to control his magic, he did it well. However, Magicus was only the first magically inclined person to land in their lives. Soon, his friend/enemy Jigie arrived looking for a youth spell, witch Totty Rimmer and her two turned into bird ex-husbands, the head of the Shades of Evil league, and a real ghost were making life interesting. The real question is, why are these people here, and what is going on?
*** Though for the most part, the story is rather nonsensical, the message in the end is one that will make you smile. This would be a great book for pre-teens who aren't quite old enough for Harry Potter. ***
Author: Ann Tracy Marr
Title - Round Table Magician
Imagine a world where King Arthur and his Knights were not merely legends, but actual, historical figures and where magicians walk among everyday folk. This is the sort of world in which Lord Brinstone and Martha Dunsmore live. Aside from the magical aspect though, it is much the same as the world that did exist in the Regency era here, complete with societal rules that strictly governed behavior, and thus, even a noble deed might have consequences. Brin finds that stepping in when Martha needs a helping hand in a fight and then escorting her home may have compromised her honor, so he must be prepared to wed her. The thing is, he doesn't really know her and furthermore, he is a wizard and involved in covert operations. He does not want to tell just anyone such a thing, but Martha has a magical secret of her own as well. As they get to know each other, Brin will discover the truest magic is love.
*** Those who feared that the Regency genre might be dead need not worry. It is kept alive and healthy by such authors as this who employ their fertile imaginations to reinvent the world. Gentle humor and romance are combined deftly and pleasantly in this relaxing read. ***
Author: Meg Davis
Title - Sira (Young Adult)
Sira, daughter of Pax, risks much for the sake of kindness, never realizing the butterfly effect she will release. As she grows into a lovely young woman, all the peace and joy her mother worked to achieve are at risk from those hungry for power. Both Sira and her brother become their targets. Only by finding love and maintaining courage can they hope to keep their lands free in the light. Even so, sacrifices will be demanded.
*** In the simplicity of this story there is an underlying complexity that seasons it with interesting twists. Dark and light contrast to paint a clear picture of hope and faith. ***
Author: Rita Y. Toews
Illustrator: Jon Ljungberg
Title - The Bully (Ages 6-12)
This is a FREE book that anyone can read about dealing with bullies. You can either download to your computer, it takes only seconds, or open it up from the site. It looks like a picture book! Simply click the arrow to turn each page. And just like a "print" book, the reader sees the page flip. COOL!
The story is set in an elementary school and teaches how a bully operates and what your child and you can do to stop it all. There is also a multiple choice quiz for parents/teachers and children to do together. For the younger kids, there are lots of wonderful drawings that can be printed out for coloring.
Highly recommended reading for ages 6 - 12.
Author: Linda Joy Singleton
Title: Double Vision (Young Adult)
It all started with The Watcher! Haley was with her family at a restaurant when her eyes locked with his. At first glance he looked like an ordinary teen, but his eyes radiated danger and menace. Bravely Haley corned him only to have him vanish! By accident, the guy had left behind a pair of glasses with reflective dark lenses and seven wings carved in the frames.
When Haley wore the glasses it all looked like the world she knew, however, much was different. For example, cats do NOT wear collars that allowed them to talk and ask you to scratch them behind their ears, right? Wary of the sunglasses, Haley was unable to decide whether to destroy them or keep using them.
Haley knew she simply HAD to figure out what the glasses really were and how to work them. The glasses were her only hope to prevent a murder.
***** I have found that when I see a book with the names L.J. Singleton OR Linda Joy Singleton there is no need to read the back. No matter what it is about, it is going to be great. This story is no exception. It contains a fascinating plot and some interesting theories to boggle the mind. I loved every minute and recommend it highly. *****
Kathryn Sullivan: The Crystal Throne (Young Adult Fantasy)
Jeanne and Peter fall through The Watcher into a magical world of beings. They were picked by The Watcher to be the champions. Jeanne had an empathic ability on Earth that was amplified. When the Ring of Calada chose her as its wearer, Jeanne's powers increased. Peter did not believe in magic. His disbelief was a protection against magic which would help their cause. Together, with Fleet Ones (talking horses) and an elf, they must travel to the Crystal Castle beyond the Mountains of Illusions to defeat three powerful witches who ruled the land.
***** Excellent story! Filled with goblins, trolls, dwarfs, ghosts (life-drainers), windborne hounds, a wizard, elves, shadow creatures ... you get the idea. Jeanne and Peter seem to be in their mid-teens, but no exact age is given. All-in-all, in my opinion, this is one of the best fantasy e-books I have read! Highly recommended! *****
Mary E. Trimble: McClellan's Bluff
(Sequel to Rosemount /Young Adult)
Leslie Cahill was in eleventh grade. Her father, John, owned the "Circle C" ranch in eastern Washington. her older brother was named Wade and was the foreman. Her mother had died eleven years before in a wreck.
Life on a ranch was filled with chores, but she loved everything about it. Her brother was getting ready to wed, move out of the house, and into his own. The problem for Leslie was that her father was serious about a lady named Lilith. Wedding bells were definitely due to chime soon. It was hard for her to accept that he would soon remarry. It got complicated even more by Lilith's daughter, Roxanne. Roxanne was just NOT an easy one to like!
While juggling all this, Leslie met Sloan Stroh, the nephew of a neighbor. He was quite a few years older than Leslie and he kept asking Leslie to sneak out on dates with him. Being admired by a mature guy felt great to Leslie, but her father and brother had their doubts about him. How could she show them how great Sloan was? And was he REALLY as wonderful as she believed?
***** This is a great sequel to ROSEMOUNT, however, even if you did not read the first book everything will be easy to understand.
The author writes in a way that teens seem to understand and relate to. It deals with topics that hits close to home for many of today's younger generation. However, even if the reader has nothing in common with Leslie's home life, they will almost always find themselves in situations similar to some of Leslie's. This is another great book by Mary Trimble that I highly recommend! *****
Mary E. Trimble: Rosemount (Young Adult)
Leslie Cahill was a sophomore. She, along with her much older brother, Wade, helped her father with the ranch. She thought her life was perfect, until Rosemount.
John Cahill was determined that Leslie attend Rosemount, a boarding school for girls. Leslie was just as determined NOT to go! However, her dad forced her to. Leslie knew he was dating Lilith. She also knew Lilith had a daughter. So Leslie was convinced John was sending her off to a boarding school so he could marry and have a new family. When her dad dropped her off at her new dorm, Leslie ran away!
The school called about six hours after Leslie disappeared. Wade got the call before John had even got home and he immediately set off to locate his sister and bring her home for a serious family meeting! But Leslie had planned well. She had cut her hair, gotten a false photo I.D., her saving account, and a back pack of food and clothes.
***** This book covers about two weeks of Leslie's life as a run-away. She was lucky to meet one of two nice people who helped her out! The author did an excellent job of showing the story from Leslie's point-of-view, as well as, John and Wade's. I never set the book down once. It was that amazing! Highly recommend for ages 13 and up! *****
Judith B. Glad: title - The Anonymous Amanuensis(Regency)
Evelyn Dixon was secretary to Sir Wilfred Hadley, her uncle's father, for five years (until he died). Eve was the poor relation, forced to live with mean and spoiled Charlotte and Alfred. Eve convinced her uncle, Major Charles "Chas" Hadley, to write her a letter of recommendation for employment as a secretary. With it, she left for London. Once there, she became friends with Thomas "Tom" Patterson. They had met at a registry office. Eve found out quickly that no one would hire a female as a secretary. Tom heard of a position with Mr. James Quinton who engaged in the spice and silk trades. He was also the heir to the Earl of Seabrooke. Desperate, Eve had Tom purchase her some male clothing and teach her how to walk, talk, and act like a man. Once done, she applied for, and received the position!
Quinton had reason not to trust females. Even his mother was a bad example of the female gender. Prudence was the only female he cared for. His new secretary, Mr. Dixon, was extremely intelligent and well suited for his position, yet something did not feel quite right.
**** Now here is a well written Regency Romance! I found it to be a wonderful diversion on a rainy day. The secondary characters are as well developed as the main. The main plot, as well as, the sub-plots kept me riveted. I had to know what was going to happen next. Recommended reading! ****