Stacking the Shelves (132)

Stacking the Shelves

The good and bad news about midnight impulse buying, all in one tidy list. This was a week where it seemed like everything I read was a mid-series book where I not only hadn’t read the previous books, but in some cases hadn’t even known there were previous books.

After I finished each of them (Medium Dead, Seduced by Sunday and Officer Elvis) I decided that I’d had so much fun and/or enjoyed them so much that I had to get the rest of their respective series. And after I reviewed M.J. Scott’s The Shattered Court over at The Book Pushers, I discovered that she writes contemporary romance as Melanie Scott. So damn many books, so very little time.

For Review:
After Midnight (Denver Heroes #1) by Kathy Clark
After the War (Homefront #2) by Jessica Scott
Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Potting Shed #3) by Marty Wingate
Cities and Thrones (Recoletta #2) by Carrie Patel
Lawless in Leather (New York Saints #3) by Melanie Scott
The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey
Risk It (Rule Breakers #4) by Jennifer Chance
Ruthless by John Rector
The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
This Wedding is Doomed by Stephanie Draven, Jeannie Lin, Shawntelle Madison and Amanda Berry

Purchased from Amazon:
Angel in Armani (New York Saints #2) by Melanie Scott
The Devil in Denim (New York Saints #1) by Melanie Scott
Fiance by Friday (Weekday Brides #3) by Catherine Bybee
Half a Mind to Murder (Dr. Alexandra Gladstone #3) by Paula Paul
An Improper Death (Dr. Alexandra Gladstone #2) by Paula Paul
The Last Clinic (Darla Cavannah #1) by Gary Gusick
Marcus 582 (Cyborgs: Mankind Redefined #3) by Donna McDonald
Married by Monday (Weekday Brides #2) by Catherine Bybee
Single by Saturday (Weekday Brides #4) by Catherine Bybee
Symptoms of Death (Dr. Alexandra Gladstone #1) by Paula Paul
Taken by Tuesday (Weekday Brides #5) by Catherine Bybee
Wife by Wednesday (Weekday Brides #1) by Catherine Bybee

 

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Review: Officer Elvis by Gary Gusick + Giveaway

officer elvis by gary m gusickFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: mystery
Series: Darla Cavannah #2
Length: 202 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: April 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

After performing at a local old-folks home, off-duty police officer and part-time Elvis impersonator Tommy Reylander smoothes out his pompadour, climbs into his pink Caddy, and gets all shook up—fatally so, when a bomb explodes. Whether he was killed for his police work or bad singing is a mystery that detective Darla Cavannah is determined to solve.

Though it’s been several years since Darla (reluctantly) partnered up with Tommy, she convinces her boss to let her lead the murder investigation. As the new regional director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Shelby Mitchell can think of better uses for his star detective’s time, but not even the most hardened good ole boy can resist Darla’s smart, savvy persuasions. She soon embarks on a roller coaster ride through the world of Elvis tribute artists while tracking down one of the most bizarre serial killers in the history of the Magnolia State. Aiding her pursuit of the killer is recently reprimanded officer Rita Gibbons, fresh from the trailer park and described by Shelby as “half a licorice stick short in the manners department.” But Rita’s plenty smart, even when this case takes their suspicious minds in an entirely unexpected direction.

My Review:

This seems to be a week where everything I read turned out to be in the middle of a series – and I hadn’t figured that out beforehand.

last clinic by gary gusickSo like several of my early reviews this week, even though Officer Elvis is the second book of Darla Cavannah, I can attest that it is not only possible to read this without having read the first (The Last Clinic), it is a whole lot of fun to read this one, with or without having read the first one.

Officer Elvis is an absolute hoot from beginning to end. Not that there isn’t a very serious series of murders to investigate, but the surrounding events are just way too much fun.

There are at least 85,000 Elvis impersonators (really) in the world, and someone seems determined to cut that number down. In other words, there’s a serial killer targeting Elvis impersonators, and Lieutenant Darla Cavannah of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation has caught the case.

She doesn’t start out thinking this is a serial killer cases. She starts out investigating the death of one of her former police partners. Tommy Reylander may have been one of the worst Elvis impersonators ever in the history of Elvis impersonators, but he was also a cop. Not terrible good at that, either, but still a cop.

In Jackson Mississippi, just like everywhere else, cops take the death of other cops very seriously, no matter how strange or unusual the circumstances of that death might be. Tommy died when his pink Cadillac Elvismobile exploded.

Tommy even dressed his girlfriend like Priscilla Presley, and the lookalike “Cill” is one of the first suspects – except that Tommy had almost no assets. He wasn’t even a good enough cop to have pissed off very many criminals, although there are a few.

But when Darla discovers a string of Elvis impersonator murders, everyone in the office is forced to conclude that someone wants Elvis to permanently leave all the buildings.

Some of the murders are inherently tragic, especially the one that misses its intended victim. Almost all of the circumstances contain an element of Elvis trivia and a whole lot of gallows humor.

The string of crimes is pointing directly to the upcoming Ultimate Elvis competition in nearby Tupelo Mississippi, Elvis’ birthplace. As all the contestants (and potential victims) gather for the high point of their year, one man is determined to take back what he believes is rightfully his. He just has to get Elvis back to Graceland to carry out his plan.

It’s up to Darla and her new partner, disgraced detective and Elvis fan Rita Gibbons, to let just enough, and not too much, of this last tribute play itself out.

Be prepared to be all shook up by the ending.

Escape Rating B+: This was way too much fun. I laughed through all of the early set up of the story, and just couldn’t stop. There are too many joke possibilities in the idea that this many people are seriously, or not so seriously, pretending to be Elvis. Particularly all the variations. The yodeling Elvis was probably my favorite, although I’m very happy not to have to listen to him.

But underneath the humor there is a very serious investigation of a serial killer – and one who is both organized in the way that he is committing the crimes, and psychotic in his motivations.

At the same time we have a dive into this rather strange offshoot of the entertainment industry – the world of the Elvis Tribute Artists. Some people take it seriously, some people don’t, but it looks like the Dixie Mob has its dirty fingers in this particular pie – just as it does in other parts of the entertainment industry.

What Darla can’t figure out is why the Dixie Mob and two of her own local criminal kingpins cared two hoots about Tommy Reylander. He may have been a cop, but he was seriously bad at it. She can’t help worrying at the puzzle of why the local meth kingpin, the local sleazy club owner, and the head of the Elvis Tribute Artists association and his hired goons had any interest in Tommy in the first place. If he was killed as part of the string of Elvii murders, why do these villains care?

And if he wasn’t, what did these crime lords have in common with Tommy, who wasn’t even smart enough, or venal enough, to be on the take?

Darla is determined to find all the answers, and as a viewpoint character she is fascinating to follow. She’s a terrific cop, but it’s more than that. As a Yankee in the Deep South, she has an outsider’s perspective on all the players, but as someone who has lived in Mississippi for ten years, even though she is still not accepted in a lot of ways, she has figured out how things (and people) work. That she is not involved with any of the various families and factions makes her a good person to see through all the connections and assumptions.

She’s smart, and she’s tough when she needs to be, but she has developed her own set of friends and colleagues who help her navigate a place where she will always be on the periphery. And it works for her and the reader.

Darla’s first adventure is The Last Clinic, where she investigates and falls for her husband. I can’t wait to see how she got started.

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of OFFICER ELVIS.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Seduced by Sunday by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway

seduced by sunday by catherine bybeeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Weekday Brides #6
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date Released: April 14, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

She swore off love forever…but he just might change her mind.

Meg Rosenthal: Matchmaker by day, realist by night, Meg is not about to get swept away by a charming, darkly handsome businessman in a designer suit. She’s come to a beautiful secluded resort to evaluate the private island’s potential for her agency, not to ogle its owner. But there’s something about the magnetic man that’s hard to resist, even for a woman who refuses to fall in love.

Valentino Masini: A successful and drop-dead sexy businessman, Valentino is used to having the finer things in life. Yet he’s never wanted someone the way he wants Meg, who’s stirring up a hurricane of trouble in his heart. But just as he decides to convince her to stay, someone else decides it might be time to get Meg off the island…permanently.

My Review:

The romance in Seduced by Sunday is marvelously sweet and super hot, but what got me in the end was the intense feeling of danger that is faced by all the characters involved in this story. There were a lot of times where I was reluctant to read further, not because I wasn’t enjoying the story (because I absolutely was) but because I was so afraid for the characters that I didn’t want to see anything else bad happen to them.

Another very strong factor in this story is the power of friendship. Not just women’s friendships, although that is in full force and is the ultimate saving grace for several of the characters, but the strength and importance of true friendship, particularly in very stressful lives.

And last but not least, there is an element about the healing and saving power of being self-sufficient and self-reliant. It feels as if all of the women in this series have been through their own personal hells, have rescued one another by giving each one an important and fulfilling job, and then letting romance happen later as the icing on an already quite satisfying cake.

No one seems to get rescued by Prince Charming. It looks like occasionally they rescue each other, or the woman does the rescuing. I love that.

I’m saying all this even though I haven’t read the earlier books in this series. I loved Seduced by Sunday, and was on the virtual edge of my seat during some of the nastier events, but the sense that these people are all there for each other through thick and thin, because they’ve already been through hell together, shines strongly through the story even though there are only hints of the previous books. Those hints are more than enough to carry the reader along into their world.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t now have a yen to read the rest of the series, because I most certainly do. These women (and the men who deserve them) are awesome.

When Seduced by Sunday begins, the skullduggery that Meg Rosenthal hopes not to find at Valentino Masini’s modern-day version of Fantasy Island is not the evil she eventually uncovers. Val turns out to be one of the good guys, but he has been hoodwinked, and so has most of his family.

Meg is currently running the Alliance, an agency that very, very discreetly arranges contract marriages for people who need to fake being married in a way that no one can discover. Discretion isn’t just the Alliance’s middle name, it’s their first and last names too. These contacts are not about sex, they are about appearances. At the end of the year, the women walk away with a divorce and a sizable settlement. No one is supposed to fall in love with their contractual spouse-in-name-only, but occasionally they do.

Val Masini owns a private island resort that just might be secure enough for the Alliance to send their fake married couples on their equally fake honeymoons. Meg decides to investigate by taking her friend, and former client, Michael Wolfe to the island. They are not a couple, and Michael is gay. No one would care, except that Michael is a very successful leading man in Hollywood, and no one is quite sure whether Hollywood is ready to embrace a gay romantic/action-hero.

So the test is to see whether Val’s security is tight enough that no one is able to find them on the island, and that no one comments on their non-relationship. Meg doesn’t count on her attempted subterfuge being severely tested by her slightly officious host. But behind Val’s anal-retentive desire for security is a man who has been too buttoned up for far too long, and Meg has him breaking all too many of his own rules.

It all starts going sideways when Val discovers he has a security breach. What he can’t see, although the reader will figure it out long before he does, is that what he really has is a security blind spot. One that nearly gets both his sister Gabi and Meg, the woman he has come to love, nearly killed. That it also nearly ruins his entire business stops mattering the instant he is certain what went wrong. Which doesn’t help him save them. It’s all up to Meg to save the day – with a little help from a lot of her friends.

Escape Rating A-: I did figure out who was responsible for the security breach relatively early on. But the reason was way more convoluted, and much more dangerous, than I (or any of the characters) suspected.

I loved Meg as the heroine. She is tough and sassy and takes no nonsense from anyone, including Val. In spite of her need to monitor her own health due to her asthma attacks, she never sits on the sidelines and waits for stuff to happen. Her job with the Alliance is to investigate people and their potential weak spots, and she brings all of her skill and attention to bear the minute she starts thinking that there’s a problem at the resort.

Her “spidey-senses” tingle the minute she meets Val’s sister Gabi’s fiance. There’s something not quite right about Adolfo, even if she can’t pinpoint anything specific. He seems slimy, and Meg knows slimy is as slimy does. That Gabi and Val’s mother can’t stand the man is just another reason to dig and dig deep.

Meg is a force of nature. Once she gets rolling, all that the others can do it come along on the journey and help contain the fallout. She doesn’t just drag Val along (not that he isn’t willing to be dragged) but Michael is right in there digging beside her, even though he knows that the hornet’s nest they are stirring up will unmask all of his secrets. His friendship with Meg is more important than staying in the closet, no matter what the cost.

That all of Meg’s very influential friends pitch in and help when the true evil starts being uncovered is a testament to how much these people care about each other. It really shows.

treasured by thursday by catherine bybeeI like Val, but he just doesn’t come off as strong as Meg. This is her show, and it’s a winner. So is she.

In the end, it is really Meg who rescues poor Gabi. Not just by sweeping in with a virtual army, but by befriending her and giving her hope and purpose at a point in her life when everything has been stripped away.

Gabi’s story is next in Treasured by Thursday, and I can’t wait.

 

 

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

There are two separate giveaways available. The first one is for a Kindle and several gift cards. The second is for 3 ebook copies of Seduced by Sunday. Enter both for more chances to win!

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Medium Dead by Paula Paul + Giveaway

medium dead by paula paulFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: historical mystery
Series: Dr. Alexandra Gladstone #4
Length: 188 pages
Publisher: Random House Alibi
Date Released: April 14, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Under Victoria’s reign, women are barred from calling themselves physicians, but that hasn’t stopped Alexandra Gladstone. As the first female doctor in Newton-upon-Sea, she spends her days tending sick villagers in the practice she inherited from her father, with her loyal and sometimes overprotective dog, Zack, by her side.

After the corpse of village spiritualist Alvina Elwold is discovered aboveground at a church boneyard, wild rumors circulate through the charming seaside village, including one implicating a certain regal guest lodging nearby. Tales of the dead Alvina hobnobbing with spirits and hexing her enemies are even more outlandish—but as a woman of science and reason, Alexandra has no doubt that a murderer made of flesh and blood is on the loose.

Finding out the truth means sorting through a deluge of ghostly visitors, royal sightings, and shifty suspects. At least her attentive and handsome friend Nicholas Forsyth, Lord Dunsford, has come to her aid. Alexandra will need all the help she can get, because she’s stumbled upon dangerous secrets—while provoking a deadly adversary who wants to keep them buried.

My Review:

Medium Dead is the 4th book in Paula Paul’s Dr. Alexandra Gladstone series. I can say with absolutely assuredness that it is not necessary to read the other books in this series to enjoy Medium Dead, because I somehow totally missed that there were earlier books, but I very much enjoyed this one.

I could tell that all the characters had history together, but the author did a good job of giving readers enough background to ensure that this story was an interesting and enjoyable one.

Of course, as soon as I discovered the truth, I went and bought the first three books. I liked this one so much that I wanted to read more of Alexandra’s adventures.

Alexandra Gladstone is an unconventional heroine, but she is in a profession that seems to lend itself to investigating murders. Alexa is a doctor. Admittedly, in the Victorian era women were not supposed to be or allowed to be doctors, but Alexa, and the village of Newton-on-Sea that she serves, have decided not to care.

Alexa inherited her practice from her father. The late Dr. Gladstone also trained his daughter in medicine. She’s all the doctor that her remote village has – or needs. By this point in her history, everyone has come to accept her. She’s good at her job, and she’s the only doctor for a long ways around.

As is usual in small-town series, Alexa has gathered a little group of irregulars around her, people who help (and sometimes hinder) her unofficial investigations. Her nurse Nancy, the two boys who do chores around her house, Rob and Artie, and most especially Nicholas Forsyth, a London barrister who unexpectedly inherited the local title and is now the Earl of Dunsford, to both his delight and dismay.

This case involves Nicholas’ household more directly than is usual. His snobbish mother has come to the estate with a very special and very secretive guest. The intent is that Queen Victoria’s visit to the remote village should be a secret, but when the medium that the Queen consults turns up dead, it turns out that everyone in the village either already knows that Her Royal Highness is at Dunsford, or they find out pretty quickly.

There are secrets within secrets. Someone says they saw the Queen scrabbling around the cemetery where the late medium was found dead. The local Constable saw Nicholas mother searching that same ground for some equally unknown reason.

A village man confesses to the murder, but it is obvious that he didn’t commit it. Alexandra, who also unofficially serves as coroner, finds herself in the middle of a case that has two suspects who can’t be named, and one victim that all too many people believe consorted with evil spirits, or at least could raise the dead.

None of the possible clues make much sense. And nothing is as it seems.

Escape Rating A-: I had no idea whodunnit at the end, and I didn’t even care. I got completely wrapped up in Alexandra’s world and the people who inhabit it, so much so that I bought the other three books in the series so that I can go back and visit them again soon.

Alexa carries the story, and it was easy to like her and empathize with her. She is a career woman at a time when women were not supposed to have careers, and she values her independence and the respect she receives as a doctor. At the same time, she has become very good at maneuvering her way around people who simply cannot accept that she is a trained physician, and she gets her job done anyway, even treating the extremely reluctant.

She also has a great way of using her position to get her into places that she otherwise would not be able to go. Busybodies get shown the door, but doctors get in to treat their patients, even when the patients don’t want to be treated.

Because so much of this case involves secrets within Dunsford House very ineffectively kept by a titled Lady, Alexa needs to use her professional ability to treat the ill older woman as a way of getting into the house to discover where the secrets are being kept.

That Alexa is much better at managing Nicholas’ spoiled mother than Nicholas is does not bode well for the romance he wishes would blossom between them, but I suspect that is an entirely other story.

The kickoff to the mystery, Queen Victoria’s visit to the village to consult a medium, is based in history. Victoria never stopped mourning Prince Albert, and the rise of spiritualism in Britain and America can be traced to her desire to communicate to her late husband.

And, of course, a lot of the mediums were exposed as charlatans. While the truth of this dead medium’s talents are never ascertained, a part of this mystery does revolve around fraudulent seances.

Including the one conducted by Alexa’s nurse along with a couple of the more credulous women in the community. The scene of Alexa, along with Nicholas and the two boys, sneaking around her own house to spy on a seance that none of them believe in was hilarious. It also showed the depths of the relationships that Alexa has with all of her friends and coworkers.

And there are more than a few scenes where Alexa’s dog Zack steals the show.

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of MEDIUM DEAD.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert

last night at the blue angel by rebecca rotertFormat read: ebook borrowed from the Library
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Historical fiction
Length: 328 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: July 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s Chicago jazz scene, a highly ambitious and stylish literary debut that combines the atmosphere and period detail of Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility with the emotional depth and drama of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, about a talented but troubled singer, her precocious ten-year-old daughter, and their heartbreaking relationship.

It is the early 1960s, and Chicago is a city of uneasy tensions—segregation, sexual experimentation, free love, the Cold War—but it is also home to one of the country’s most vibrant jazz scenes. Naomi Hill, a singer at the Blue Angel club, has been poised on the brink of stardom for nearly ten years. Finally, her big break arrives—the cover of Look magazine. But success has come at enormous personal cost. Beautiful and magnetic, Naomi is a fiercely ambitious yet extremely self-destructive woman whose charms are irresistible and dangerous for those around her. No one knows this better than Sophia, her clever ten-year-old daughter.

For Sophia, Naomi is the center of her universe. As the only child of a single, unconventional mother, growing up in an adult world, Sophia has seen things beyond her years and her understanding. Unsettled by her uncertain home life, she harbors the terrible fear that the world could end at any moment, and compulsively keeps a running list of practical objects she will need to reinvent once nuclear catastrophe strikes. Her one constant is Jim, the photographer who is her best friend, surrogate father, and protector. But Jim is deeply in love with Naomi—a situation that adds to Sophia’s anxiety.

Told from the alternating perspectives of Sophia and Naomi, their powerful and wrenching story unfolds in layers, revealing Sophia’s struggle for her mother’s love with Naomi’s desperate journey to stardom and the colorful cadre of close friends who shaped her along the way.

Sophisticated yet poignant, Last Night at the Blue Angel is an unforgettable tale about what happens when our passion for the life we want is at sharp odds with the life we have. It is a story ripe with surprising twists and revelations, and an ending that is bound to break your heart.

My Review:

There were points in this story when I wavered between the knowledge that it was centered around Naomi Hill’s very last night at the Blue Angel, and the unfolding story of what happened last night (and last week and last month) at the Blue Angel.

There’s a sense that every night brings the same set of crises and triumphs to Naomi’s life and career, at least as it is viewed from the perspective of her 11-year-old daughter Sophia.

While this is in Chicago in the mid-1960’s, it doesn’t feel like the wider world of the city. Admittedly, the early 60s were not the best time in the life of the city, but also, Naomi and Sophia’s world is a very insular one. It’s their small neighborhood around the club, and the collection of friends that they have turned into a family-of-choice.

The story in the present day is told through Sophia’s eyes. She is 11, but in the tight little world created around her mother’s career as a possibly has been but also wannabe famous jazz singer, Sophia is the only child in a world of adults. As all the adults around her enable Naomi, Sophia has become a little adult herself. Her knowledge of the outside world is a child’s knowledge, but her ability to manage her mother’s mood swings, drinking and general using of people becomes more adult by the day. It’s a survival mechanism that has turned her into a little adult much too early.

Interwoven with Sophia’s perspective of the weeks and months leading to Naomi’s last night and last performance at the Blue Angel, we see Naomi’s version of how things got to be the way that they are. It is Naomi’s story, and possibly the one she tells herself, of how she has gathered the collection of people who surround her in 1965. It’s how Naomi Hutnik of Soldier, Kansas became Naomi Hill of Chicago, and all the people she either dragged along with her or pulled into the gravity of her orbit along the way.

Some of it may be objectively true, but it feels as though it’s the way that Naomi has decided to remember her own story of country girl moves to the city to strike it big – even though it takes years, and everyone around her has nearly given up hope.

Sophia, on the other hand, is better off (for certain very unusual definitions of better off) when her mother is still struggling and needs her. When Naomi finally ascends to the stratosphere, she leaves her old life behind – including Sophia.

Even though it is the help and support of the circle she drew in, and casts aside, that finally allows her to become a star.

Escape Rating B+: It is easy to get caught up in Sophia’s story. On the one hand, not a lot happens, until it suddenly does, but at the same time, her young/old perspective reveals a lot about the way she lives, the way her mother is, and what life is like for a child in the years when fear of the bomb was still real.

Sophia lives an unpredictable life of ups and downs – of being the most important person in her mother’s world, and a burden that weighs Naomi down – sometimes in the same day. Everything in Naomi’s world serves Naomi’s art, which means that everyone revolves around attempting to keep Naomi stable and making sure that she gets to the club and sings her heart out.

It’s possible that Naomi doesn’t have much heart left.

It’s certain that the instability of her life makes Sophia fear that it can all disappear in an instant. She projects that fear into her fear of the bomb, but it’s more about the people she loves and the life she knows. That her mother regularly disappears in the emotional sense means that Sophia isn’t wrong to be afraid.

The fascinating part of the story revolves around Naomi’s origin story. Absolutely nothing is as it seems, and no one is quite who they present themselves to be. These truths are revealed slowly and carefully, as Naomi tells her story and constructs the world around her one person at a time. And it all comes together just at the same time it all falls apart.

This is a story about one woman who defied the expectations of her time and gender, but it is also about her equally unconventional daughter, who is already defying the very different social conventions of hers.

If this story sounds appealing, I think you might also enjoy 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie Helene Bertino. The time and place are different but the elements of a young girl telling the story of a jazz club feel similar. As I read Blue Angel I couldn’t stop thinking of the Cat’s Pajamas, both about little girls with big stories to tell.

TLC

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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Review: Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann + Giveaway

bite at first sight by brooklyn annFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal historical romance
Series: Scandals with Bite #3
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: April 7, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.

Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?

My Review:

220px-Love_at_first_biteAs I finished up Bite at First Sight with a smile on my face, I found myself making a mental connection between the phrase, “love at first sight”, the title of the very tongue-in-cheek vampire romance movie, Love at First Bite, and finishing with the title of this third book in Brooklyn Ann’s Scandals with Bite series, Bite at First Sight.

The phrases and titles blend together in a kind of word game where you change or remove one word and get from A to B to C. And it all fits!

The amount of slightly campy humor that was injected into Love at First Bite fits right in with the Scandals with Bite series, even though this latest entry is a bit darker than the earlier pieces of fanged, fluffy fun in the series.

This one needed to be just a bit darker, so it works. I’ve also just realized that the story is a play on the “Beauty and the Beast” trope, and the darker tone works well for that, too.

This series uses the tried-and-true convention of matching an unconventional heroine with an even more unconventional hero, or possibly vice versa.

Cassandra Burton’s unconventionality is tied up into what she does, while for Rafe Villar is it part of what he is. The author definitely makes it work.

Cassandra was ahead of her time. She doesn’t merely want to become a physician, she is actively preparing herself for that role, in spite of a society that laughs at a woman who wants to go to medical school. (It’s the early 19th century, society laughs (and actively forbids) women from stepping out side a set of preconceived and limiting roles).

Like most of the would-be doctors in that era, her only way of studying human anatomy from the inside is to dissect corpses. Therefore, like many doctors of her era, Cassandra is forced into becoming an occasional graverobber.

bite me your grace by brooklyn annAnd that’s where Rafe comes into the story. After the events in Bite Me, Your Grace (reviewed here) and One Bite Per Night (likewise here) Rafe is now the interim Lord Vampire of London. There have been recent scuffles between vampires and hunters in London, and there are all to many vampires who believe that someone is disinterring recent graves in order to find more of their kind.

Rafe finds Cassandra in the midst of her body-snatching quest, only to discover two things – she’s not after his (or any) vampires and she’s one of the few people he can’t mesmerize. She’s immune to his power. But by the time he figures that out, it’s too late – he’s revealed that vampires exist, and that puts her under vampire house arrest until the mysterious Elders tell him what to do with her.

This is a kind of torture for both of them. Cassandra and Rafe have met before – Cassandra was one of Angelica Ashton’s friends long before Angelica became the Duchess of Burnrath (and a vampire herself). Rafe was Ian Ashton’s second-in-command during that rather messy courtship.

Cassandra has always been fascinated with Rafe, not because he’s quintessentially tall, dark and handsome, but because he isn’t. Rafe was horribly burned, and the doctor in Cassandra wants to repair the damage. He’s also quite striking, although handsome wouldn’t be the right word. Cassandra, a widow, has some other ideas of what Rafe could do to, or with, her that she tries not to reveal.

She just plain fascinates him, but he assumes that she couldn’t possibly be interested in someone as scarred and disfigured as he is.

Of course, they are both wrong, but it takes a long house arrest and a lot of shared danger for them to finally figure that out. When they do, it’s almost too late. Rafe’s enemies are using his tolerance for the all-too-human Cassandra as an excuse to stage a coup. And if the conspiracies don’t bring Rafe down, the Elders he has disobeyed just might.

Escape Rating A-: This series just keeps getting better. So much so that I really hope the author continues to explore this world where vampires meet the Regency. It’s a lot of fun.

I said that this book was darker than the first two, which definitely had a higher froth quotient. It’s darker because both protagonists have more pain and darkness is their own histories, and because the conspiracies and potential coup provide an underlying layer of dark deeds and betrayal that color the narrative.

Rafe is terribly scarred. He fought off a vampire hunter who attacked him during his daysleep, and was so intent on killing the crazed bastard that he followed the man outside into the sun to finish him off. The price was a scarred face and more importantly, a withered and dysfunctional left arm. People, including other vampires, see Rafe as crippled. Rafe seems to think that the scars only reflect his internal darkness. He sees pity or revulsion in people’s eyes, and he turns away, first and with rudeness, so that he doesn’t have to face them.

Cassandra wants to be a doctor, but in the society in which she lives, even her intellectual pursuits are frowned upon. She is used to hiding who she really is and what she really wants, or only associating with people who sympathize and understand. That she is a widow loosens some of the social strictures, but not enough. She is under scrutiny at every moment. In Rafe, she sees a personal and professional challenge. She wants to see if his arm can be repaired. She longs to discover if the hot dreams she has about him mean that he might possibly show her some of what she missed in her loveless marriage.

While they separately spend a lot of mental energy trying to stave off their mutual attraction, the reasons why they do so make sense. He neither believes in love, nor that anyone could possibly love his scarred self. Cassandra’s experience of what married life is like for a woman make her shy of shackling herself to anyone. Also she knows what Rafe is and can see that they have no future.

The political in-fighting in Rafe’s new dominion keeps the suspense level high. Cassandra does distract him, and he is new to the job. Also, he’s just plain new at the idea of managing anyone other than himself, and makes a whole lot of “new leader” mistakes. The underlying sense of privilege and prejudice that empower the leaders of the so-called revolution are properly disgusting. Their use of propaganda and whisper campaigning seems all too modern. They are good enough at being bad to be a serious threat to Rafe’s and Cassandra’s lives.

Cassandra finds a sphere in which she can finally be who she really is, providing she lives long enough to enjoy it. But Rafe is the one who really grows and changes during the story. He has to reach beyond his self-imposed isolation to discover that he has friends who will stand by him at any cost, and that he is capable of both inspiring loyalty and feeling it in return.

If the combination of paranormal and historical romance sounds like fun, this book proves that it really, really can be. Even better, this story can stand on its own, although once you’ve read it you’ll want to go diving into the previous books for the background.

~~~~~~TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Sourcebooks Casablanca is generously giving away 3 Scandals that Bite Book Bundles to lucky commenters on the tour. Just fill out the Rafflecopter to be entered!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.
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The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-19-15

Sunday Post

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who participated in my Blogo-Birthday celebration for their suggestions. I very much appreciate the kind words, and will take the suggestions seriously. I know Reading Reality needs a makeover, and I’m on a waiting list to get that done. (I actually CAN carry a tune in a bucket, but I can’t draw a bath. My graphic and artistic skills are seriously limited, so I need help!)

On the more directly bookish front, I was surprised when I looked at next week’s schedule and saw that all my books are blog tour books next week. When I was in school, even though I loved to read, I hated to read anything that was assigned. I guess that because I assigned these to myself, it doesn’t feel quite the same. And of course I only sign up for tours when I really think I’m going to like the book. It usually works out that way.

Current Giveaways:

$25 Gift card + ebook copy of Ivory Ghosts by Caitlin O’Connell

Winner Announcements:

The winners of the $10 bookish prizes in my Blogo-Birthday Celebration are: Jennifer K., Ann S., Michelle L. and Amyc.

bookseller by cynthia swansonBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
A Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
B Review: One Bite Per Night by Brooklyn Ann
B+ Review: BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google by John Palfrey
B Review: Ivory Ghosts by Caitlin O’Connell + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (131)

 

 

bite at first sight by brooklyn annComing Next Week:

Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann (blog tour review)
Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (blog tour review)
Medium Dead by Paula Paul (blog tour review)
Seduced by Sunday by Catherine Bybee (blog tour review)
Officer Elvis by Gary Gusick (blog tour review)

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