The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-30-13

Sunday Post

In honor of this Sunday’s Post falling on the last day of the month, we bring you an oldie, but a very, very goodie…

Another Month Ends: 

     All Targets Met
     All Systems Working
     All Customers Satisfied
     All Staff Eager and Enthusiastic
     All Pigs Fed and Ready to Fly

I’m still at the American Library Association Conference in Chicago, so we’ll move right into this week’s recap and preview of coming events.

Winner Announcement:

Doctor Who Who-ology by Mark CavanThe winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card in the SFR Brigade 2nd Midsummer Blog Hop is Misty Rios. For the complete list of Grand Prize Winners check out the SFR Brigade.

Current Giveaway:

Winner’s Choice of Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole (First Doctor) or Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris (Fourth Doctor) or Who-ology. BBC Books is shipping this one internationally.

Assassin's Gambit by Amy RabyBlog Recap:

B Review: The Tower by Jean Johnson
B Review: The Seduction of Esther by Jennifer Wilck + Tourwide Giveaway
B Review: Shadow People by James Swain
B- Review: Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole + Giveaway
A- Review: Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby
Bewitching Book Tours Sizzling Summer Giveaway
Calling All Real-Life Heroines! Harlequin’s More Than Words Awards 2014

Garden of Stones by Mark BarnesComing Up This Week:

Along the Watchtower by David Litwack (blog tour review and giveaway)
The Garden of Stones by Mark Barnes (review)
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare (review)
The Dragon Healer by Bianca D’Arc (review)


Calling All Real-Life Heroines! Harlequin’s More Than Words Awards 2014


Each year, the Harlequin More Than Words award is given to three women who have worked hard to change people’s lives for the better. Inspired by their accomplishments, Harlequin donates $15,000 to each winner’s charity of choice and then pairs each winner with a bestselling Harlequin author who turns her story into a novella that’s released to the public as a free e-book.

Nominations for the 2014 awards are open and will be open until August 9th. To nominate someone you know who is making a difference in the world, or to nominate yourself, you need to submit a few sentences on the nominee, the charity she’s involved in, what inspires her and how she’s inspiring others. The nomination form is available at

After the nominations are closed in August, the entrants are narrowed down to 5 finalists and the public votes for 3 winners (in November). Then, winners are announced in December, and honored through the $15,000 donation, the novella written about them and feature coverage on Harlequin’s site! It’s a great program to honor all of the women who spend their time and energy doing things for others and might not be getting the recognition they deserve!

As a bonus, you can check out the 3 ebooks about the 2012 winners – available for free!

The books are:

  • good neighbors by Sheila RobertsGood Neighbors by Sheila Roberts (inspired by Sally Spencer, who manages Youth Assisting Youth, a mentoring program that rescues at-risk children)
  • just joe by Carla CassidyJust Joe by Carla Cassidy (inspired by Helen McGovern, who oversees Emergency Food Network, a food bank that serves all Pierce County (WA) residents, including those with health restrictions)
  • light this candle by Cindy DeesLight This Candle by Cindy Dees (inspired by Mindy Atwood, who runs Patches of Light, a nonprofit organization where anonymous angels pay the rent for parents of desperately ill children)

Download them for free from Harlequin, from Amazon (Kindle-friendly versions), or from Barnes & Noble (Nook-friendly versions).

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Review: Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby

Assassin's Gambit by Amy RabyFormat read: print book borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: Hearts and Thrones, #1
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Signet
Date Released: April 2, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Vitala Salonius, champion of the warlike game of Caturanga, is as deadly as she is beautiful. She’s a trained assassin for the resistance, and her true play is for ultimate power. Using her charm and wit, she plans to seduce her way into the emperor’s bed and deal him one final, fatal blow, sparking a battle of succession that could change the face of the empire.

As the ruler of a country on the brink of war and the son of a deposed emperor, Lucien must constantly be wary of an attempt on his life. But he’s drawn to the stunning Caturanga player visiting the palace. Vitala may be able to distract him from his woes for a while—and fulfill other needs, as well.

Lucien’s quick mind and considerable skills awaken unexpected desires in Vitala, weakening her resolve to finish her mission. An assassin cannot fall for her prey, but Vitala’s gut is telling her to protect this sexy, sensitive man. Now she must decide where her heart and loyalties lie and navigate the dangerous war of politics before her gambit causes her to lose both Lucien and her heart for good.…

My Review:

Poison Study by Maria V. SnyderTake Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study and mix it with a bit of Guy Gavriel Kay’s classic Tigana, and throw in some of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera for spice. Or maybe there’s a bit of Robin LaFever’s Grave Mercy in there too?

Why those elements? It’s the training of the assassin that brings up Poison Study and Grave Mercy. In Tigana, the assassin is also sent to the emperor to save her downtrodden country, and also falls in love with her target. (Tigana is awesome, beautiful and heartbreaking, it is epic and wonderful, read it if you have not, bring tissues.)


Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayCodex Alera because Gaius Octavian and his empress Kitai are from the same kind of disparate backgrounds and forge the same type of alliance that Lucien and Vitala appear to be heading towards.

This makes for an incredibly heady story, an action-packed epic fantasy with an assassin heroine whose motives are never quite clear, not even to herself.

Vitala has spent ten years, more than half her life, studying the Emperor Lucien. She’s been studying Lucien since before he became the Emperor. Her job is to assassinate him and destabilize the Empire in the hopes that her downtrodden country can win its freedom in the ensuing chaos.

There’s only one problem with this plan; someone within Lucien’s government is also planning to assassinate him, and there won’t be any chaos whatsoever. Even worse, the evildoers who arranged the real coup will blame Lucien’s death on Vitala’s people, ensuring even more destruction.

At least, that’s what she tells herself when she rescues him instead of killing him.

But when she takes him to her people, in the belief that they can join forces, she discovers that she has just led a man she believes can save them all into a trap. So she goes rogue and rescues him again.

Is she right to put her trust in the man she was supposed to kill? Or has the assassin finally made a fatal mistake?

Escape Rating A-: Assassin’s Gambit blew me away. I’m glad I started it on a day off, because I finished it by toting it around the house all day until I finished it. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d been at work.

Vitala and Lucien are fascinating characters because their motives are not clear. Not just because Vitala starts out by thinking she’s going to kill Lucien, but because they spend most of the story uncertain whether they can trust each other. And uncertain whether they can trust themselves.

These are two very wounded people. Two people who have little, in Lucien’s case, or no, in Vitala’s case, experience of being loved for themselves, and lots of experience in being abused. Trust is hard and suspicion is easy. Their efforts at even a political alliance are constantly under attack from within their own camps.

This story is not just a fantasy take, but also a fantastic take on the enemies-into-lovers story. And so much more.

***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 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.

Review: The Outcast Prince by Shona Husk

The Outcast Prince by Shona HuskFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Court of Annwyn, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Number of pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

Caspian Mort can feel the history in anything he touches, a gift he inherited from his father, the Crown Prince of Annwyn. Devastated over his ex-wife’s infidelity, Caspian has withdrawn from human contact except when working as an antiques dealer.

While assessing the contents of the historic Callaway House he encounters the beautiful Lydia Callaway and senses that her home is haunted by a banished fairy. But what does the dangerous exile want? Unbeknownst to Lydia, she’s the owner of the last remaining portal to Annwyn—a mirror hidden somewhere in the house. To keep Lydia safe, Caspian will have to divulge the secrets of his heritage, and risk losing his heart again.

My Thoughts:

goblin kingLike Shona Husk’s previous Goblin King series, The Outcast Prince takes us back to the darker side of the fairy tales.Very much the grimmer side of Grimm’s. You know what I mean, the legends that say don’t eat or drink anything when you’re in the fairy kingdom or you’ll be stuck there.

In Shona Husk’s version of the tales, Disneyfication of what should be very powerful and scary magic has just taken away what used to be useful knowledge and defensive strategies. Fairies in this tale are not tiny, cute and helpful sprites. Well, not unless they chose to be. and not unless they’re bargaining for something. Like your soul.

Fairies are more like Niall Brigant, Sookie’s great-grandfather in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Immortal, otherworldly, and mostly coldly calculating. A being who is playing a long and convoluted political game where humans are beneath notice if they are lucky, or easily sacrificed pawns if they are not.

The machinations of the fairy court in The Outcast Prince seem a lot like those in Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series, Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey, or even the sheer bloody-minded backstabbing of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry series, without the indiscriminate sex.

I digress. Yes, I know. Frequently.

The outcast prince in the story is actually a half-blood fairy who was born in our world. It makes him a slightly magical person with some talent and a little more grace than he would otherwise have. Caspian Mort is also more handsome that he might naturally have been. (It clearly helps to have a fairy prince for a father).

And that’s the problem. His natural father was a real fairy prince who “glamoured” his mother into having sex with him. His already married mother. So even though dear old dad could have maintained that glamour and brought Caspian and his mother to the Fairy courts, he didn’t. He seems to have loved the woman just enough to let her be happy with her husband.

He’s loved his unacknowledged son enough to give him a literal fairy godmother and keep him safe by keeping him secret. Being the son of the prince would make Caspian a political target of forces he doesn’t have the power to defend himself against.

But fate forces everyone’s hand. A magical artifact is missing. One that could change the balance of power in the courts. The fairy gift that Caspian has manifests is psychometry; he can see the history of any object he touches. The object is lost in our world and Caspian is the only one who can find it.

Caspian’s reinvolvement in the world of the fae is our introduction to the dangerous kingdom. As he is drawn further in, we understand both why he is so reluctant, and what makes the fae so tempting to mortals and half-bloods alike.

Caspian is both compelled to become involved, and saved, by falling in love. His gift of psychometry has led him to the appraisal of one of the coolest historical houses ever, and the owner of the house is a woman he discovers that he might be able to tell the truth about himself.

She should run far away from him. When she stands by him, she grounds him to the human world. It might even be enough to save his soul.

Verdict: The love story between Caspian and Lydia develops slowly. Not that they don’t have heat together from the very beginning, but they are wary of involvement. He can’t reveal what he is, and she’s been burned by too many people who are just interested in the notorious history of her family. They both step out of their comfort zones to get close to get sexually involved with each other (and it’s hot!) but trusting each other emotionally is way more difficult.

The story works well in that they both have extremely unconventional family histories that are slowly revealed, not just to the reader, but also to themselves and to each other. There are multiple voyages of discovery that they share and it helps them understand and reach toward each other.

Husk’s version of fairy is dangerous and fascinating. The courts are in turmoil, and that turmoil is affecting our world. Caspian’s princely father is the heir to the throne, but he can’t inherit unless he marries. His father is ready for him to inherit, but his mother is scheming and backstabbing to prevent it. It is her traitorousness that causes, not just this story, but scores of plagues that have arisen in our world.

Caspian’s father can take over if he finds a woman worthy of being his queen. She must be human, because the fae are only fertile with humans. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t want to pick just anyone to end the current problem, because that’s what his father did. 500 years from now, give or take, he’s afraid the woman will just hate him the way his mother hates his father, and look how that ended up. Felan is hoping for a better way. Meanwhile, he schemes.

I enjoyed Husk’s introduction to the Courts of Annwyn and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.


I give  The Outcast Prince by Shona Husk 4 dark stars!

***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 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.

Review: Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole + Giveaway

Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens by Stephen ColeFormat read: paperback provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction
Series: Past Doctor Adventures #54, Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special Edition Books #1
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: BBC Books
Date Released: January 3, 2013 (reprint; originally published June 1, 2002)
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Deep in the heart of a hollowed-out moon the First Doctor finds a chilling secret: ten alien corpses, frozen in time at the moment of their death. They are the empire’s most wanted terrorists, and their discovery could end a war devastating the galaxy. But is the same force that killed them still lurking in the dark? And what are its plans for the people of Earth?

My Review:

November 23, 1963. The BBC premiered what they thought would be a children’s TV show about a mysterious time-traveling doctor and his companions. And the president of the United States had been assassinated in Dallas the day before. Not many people gave much of a damn about entertainment television that weekend, or much of that week. It turned out to be one of those times when the universe changed.

The Beeb repeated the premiere of that little TV show the following week. The irascible Doctor and his granddaughter stepped out of the TARDIS in a junkyard in London near Coal Hill School, and into science fiction and television history.

Fifty years later, BBC Books is re-releasing one of its tie-in novels in an anniversary edition for each of the eleven regenerations of the Doctor who have appeared, so far, in the history of the program. (The identity of the Twelfth Doctor will be announced shortly.)

Festival of Death by Jonathan MorrisI’ve already reviewed The Festival of Death, the Fourth Doctor story, but it seemed fitting to go back to the beginning and take a look at Ten Little Aliens, a First Doctor story. It started with him, after all.

Ten Little Aliens doesn’t seem like a typical Doctor Who story, especially to people who are used to the current incarnations of the Doctor. The story begins as a space-marine type story, more like Starship Troopers or some other space opera. The stars of this story are the space marines on a training exercise, not the Doctor and his companions, Ben and Polly.

The marines are there for a training exercise, and it’s an exercise that goes seriously wrong. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need the Doctor. But the First Doctor used his brain and very definitely not his brawn. It’s unusual to see the need to worry about the frailty of the Doctor and the need to stop for the old man to catch his breath. All the subsequent incarnations were younger and in better health than their original.

The marines don’t trust the Doctor and his companions. That’s pretty normal. The Doctor has a habit of dropping into sticky situations that get worse before they get better. But these space marines are training for an ongoing war, and this exercise was supposed to be on an uninhabited asteroid. It’s not just the Doctor that’s messed up the scenario, things are much more grisly than that.

Both the Doctor and the marines discover a tableau of ten dead aliens in stasis. But the bodies keep disappearing, and so do the marines. As the situation deteriorates, the asteroid turns out to be a spaceship on course for an interstellar incident.

Of course, they have a traitor in their midst. Just when they think things can’t get any worse, they get really, really ugly. The Doctor may be able to save them, but he may not be able to save them in time. Or from each other.

Escape Rating B-: It took me a long time to get into this one. Partly because the First Doctor is the one I’m least familiar with (except for the Eighth Doctor), and partly because the storytelling was so different from the usual.

This is a cross between a space opera/space marine training story and a kind of locked-room murder mystery. There actually do turn out to be timey-wimey bits. But the reason the murders happen has to do with the corruption of the human empire and their enemies, and more explanation would have helped. A lot.

The mystery, and the reason behind the murders, turned out to be not merely grim, but downright gory. It’s the kind of thing that got played for camp by the Second and Fourth Doctors, but was deadly serious this go around. This story was definitely not for the faint of heart, and possibly verges on horror at points.

There were also evil angel statues, but no blinking problem. This was written several years before the episode Blink, so it’s not the novel-writer’s fault that the angels in his story feel derivative. But they still do.

The Doctor does save the day, and then slips out as the celebration commences. This Doctor went for the mystery. The way that the military brotherhood included Ben, even across centuries and light-years, was kind of cool.

On the other hand, while the concept of the neural net was necessary to solve the problem, the choose-your-own-adventure method of writing it drove me a little nuts. Although not quite as nuts as the recent announcement that someone might have found a cache of lost Doctor Who episodes from the First Doctor era.

The non-fictional loss of those early episodes is even more dastardly than the fictional one in this First Doctor story.

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


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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 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.

Review: Shadow People by James Swain

Shadow People by James SwainFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Dark fantasy
Series: Peter Warlock, #2
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: June 11, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

In Shadow People, national bestselling author James Swain’s brilliant follow-up to Dark Magic, magician Peter Warlock has a dark secret. A psychic who peers into the future, he is able to use the information to alert the authorities to pending trouble.

During a séance Peter is confronted by a group of evil spirits called shadow people, beings who have the power to kidnap a person’s soul. Peter is taken to another plane, where he confronts a serial killer about to claim his next victim. It’s a harrowing encounter that Peter only barely manages to survive.

Peter soon realizes that the shadow people are connected to the serial killer, and that he is a member of the Order of Astrum, a group of evil psychics who murdered his parents years ago. He must find the serial killer in real time before he claims his next victim. To save many lives, Peter may have to tap into a legacy that he has always dreaded…and a power that may consume him.

My Review:

Peter Warlock is a magician, one like David Copperfield or Harry Houdini. He pulls rabbits out of hats and saws his assistant in half.

Except that Peter Warlock also has more than a bit in common with Harry Dresden, that other famous wizard (or warlock) of urban fantasy. Some of Peter Warlock’s stage tricks are all too real. Peter’s stage name, and stage persona, are a mask that he uses to hide some real magic.

Peter Warlock is a psychic. He reads minds. Sometimes he can see the future. Usually when something bad is barrelling down on New York City.

Dark magic by James SwainIn this second story about Peter Warlock and his friends, the Friday Night Psychics (see my review of Dark Magic for Peter’s first outing), a group of powerful and dangerous ghosts, called “shadow people” seem to be after Peter and his friends.

They keep kidnapping Peter and everyone close to him, just so they can drag their souls to the site of a future murder. Even worse it’s the latest in a long line of murders by a serial killer, and it seems that Peter and his friends are the killer’s next victims.

The killer is even more dangerous because he recognizes Peter’s power, even in his incorporeal state, AND knows how to harm him. The man isn’t just a murderer, he’s one of the many minions of Peter’s nemesis, the demonic Order of Astrum.

The only question is whether Peter can stop him before he kills again, all the while trying to fend off the misguided affections of a witch who is scrying (spying) on his every move and while he’s attempting to preserve his relationship with the only normal woman he has ever let into his life.

Dying might be easier, if only there literally wasn’t the devil to pay.

Escape Rating B: In my review of the first Peter Warlock book, Dark Magic, I did say that if there were further books in the series I would be a very happy reader. Color me happy.

The Peter Warlock series should probably be the dictionary definition for dark fantasy. It’s not quite urban fantasy, although it has a bit of that flavor. The setting is contemporary New York City, after all. But it’s a NYC in which magic works, albeit only for a select and secretive few. Very few people believe and it is all too easy for a practitioner to either end up in a psychiatric ward or become a government experiment. Neither outcome is desirable.

There are demons. It’s part of Peter’s past, and possibly future, that his parents were killed by a group that dedicated itself to evil, The Order of Astrum. A group that they once belonged to.

There is a dark side to the force, and its minions are everywhere. Part of the suspense in Shadow People is for Peter to determine exactly who serves whom. Who is truly evil, who is merely misguided, and who is trying to help him? Nothing is clear, everything is in shadow.

Peter is a fascinating character. I was utterly transfixed by his story in Dark Magic, but Shadow People spent too much time talking about his relationship issues and not enough time dealing with demons and magic. While I still felt compelled to finish the story as fast as I could turn the pages, it left too many of the larger issues unresolved.

In short, Shadow People has the feel of a middle book. It ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. There had better be a third book in this series!

***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 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.

Review: The Seduction of Esther by Jennifer Wilck + Giveaway

The Seduction of Esther by Jennifer WilckFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Length: 185 pages
Publisher: Rebel Ink Press
Date Released: May 31, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Samara Goldberg has a problem even the most beautiful singing voice can’t fix. She’s a walking disaster, especially when she’s around handsome men. To make matters worse, she’s in desperate need of someone to play the character of Mordecai for the Purim spiel she’s producing and the new congregant, Nathaniel Abramson, is a perfect fit. Nathaniel is a divorced dad who’s recovering from the biggest public scandal of his life. The last thing he needs is a relationship with the choir director at his new synagogue, who also happens to be playing the lead female role of Esther in the very play he’s been coerced into joining.

Woven around the Jewish holiday of Purim, The Seduction of Esther is a story of two people whose lives mirror the plot of the Purim story. Like Esther, who had to hide her Jewish identity from the King of Persia, Samara and Nathaniel are hiding key pieces of themselves. Evil Haman wanted to destroy the Jews, and the nasty Josh will do anything to keep Samara and Nathaniel apart. Will their love survive, like the Jewish people in Shushan, Persia, or will their fear keep them apart?

My Review:

Esther isn’t actually the one being seduced, Samara is the woman involved in this love triangle. And she’s not so much the seducee as the seducer. Or she would be if she could stop tripping over her own feet long enough.

Samara’s problem is that while she may have the voice of an angel, she has the hands of a klutz, derived from the Yiddish for clumsy person. Samara is extremely clumsy, especially when she is around someone she wants to impress, or people who make her nervous.

Purim spiel from WikipediaHer beautiful singing voice has made her the choir director at her Temple. She’s also in charge of pretty much anything musical, so she’s the natural person to write musical skits for happy celebrations and holidays like Purim.

There are really two triangles in this story. One involves Samara, her sister Miriam, and Josh. Sam and Josh have been friends for quite a while. Josh wants more and Sam simply doesn’t. It happens. Josh hopes that if he sticks around as a good friend, Sam will eventually see the light. This is not that kind of story. Sam’s sister Miriam would be perfect for Josh. Miriam, is, in fact, already perfect, which is kind of the problem. Josh wants to take Sam on as a project. He thinks he can “fix” her.

We wouldn’t have a story if there wasn’t a new man in the picture. The new guy in town (actually he’s the new guy at the Temple) is Nathan. He’s divorced and has custody of his teenaged daughter. The difference between Nathan and Josh is that Nathan is interested in Sam as she is, not as he wants her to be. His problem is that he doesn’t want to be the subject of gossip, because he’s already been there and done that with his ex.

And Josh, because he hasn’t gotten the message, decides to get in the middle in the hopes of snagging Sam for himself.

Meanwhile, the Purim skit that Sam has created still has to go on, with Sam, Josh and Nathan all playing lead roles that reflect their positions in Sam’s real-life drama. In the play, Sam, as Esther, saves Nathan and banishes Josh. Will life reflect art?

Escape Rating B: This is a lovely story. Even though it takes place in a big city, the tight-knit community of the Temple gives the story a small-town feel–everyone knows everyone and everybody gossips about everything.

This isn’t about good vs. evil. People, even Josh, had good intentions. But just because he thought he had Sam’s best interests at heart, didn’t mean that he really did. And both Nathan and Sam let their past with other people get in the way of a possible happy future. But people do that.

The story is set in the community of Jewish Temple around the Purim holiday. The author sprinkles in some Yiddish and some terms specific to the holiday or to the Temple, but she explains everything fully for those not familiar. Purim is a very fun holiday and this skit sounds like it would be hilarious to see performed. I’m sorry there’s no video!

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Jennifer will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card and chocolate to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour (international giveaway).

The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: 
***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 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.

Review: The Tower by Jean Johnson

The Tower by Jean JohnsonFormat read: print book borrowed from the Library
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Fantasy romance
Series: Guardians of Destiny, #1
Length: 385 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Date Released: May 7, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In a fertile valley undisrupted by the aether-shattering death of the old Aian Empire, the Tower and its Guardians have entertained generations of wealthy mirror-scrying mages while adventurers from around the world risk their lives for fortune and fame. But on the one day the Tower stood unguarded, an intruder tried to seize the magic powering the vast structure. Now, locked out of the Tower’s innermost chambers, Kerric Vo Mos must brave the deadly traps keeping trespassers at bay in order to reclaim control.

Unfortunately, Kerric wields a pen far better than a sword, and the way into the Tower’s sanctum is treacherous. Only the help of an experienced player like Myal the Mendhite can get him to where he must go. But mutual respect will not be enough. Passion must also be employed, along with armor and weapons, as they embark on a perilous quest past monsters, riddles, and other dangers that even the Tower’s most dedicated viewers have never seen before.

My Review:

The Sword by Jean JohnsonThe Tower is set in the same world as Jean Johnson’s very enjoyable fantasy romance series The Sons of Destiny. If you like fantasy romance, start with The Sword. They’re great fun.

And just like The Sons of Destiny series, The Guardians of Destiny series looks like it’s going to be eight books. The waiting game in between tends to be torture.

About The Tower itself…so far, the tie between series seems to be a loose tie. Same world, but not the same characters. There was a handoff at the beginning, and a conversation at the end, but in-depth previous knowledge was not required.

The story of The Tower is that it’s a tower of magic. I know that sounds redundant, but it’s pretty cool. It’s a tower that controls the magic for the surrounding region, and it uses its excess power in a surprising way.

It creates adventure runs, dungeon crawls a la Dungeons & Dragons, complete with treasures and puzzles. Even better, it broadcasts (magically, so they’re called scrycasts) the adventures of people running the dungeons.

Of course, a whole economy has grown up around the running of the Tower and the scrycasting.

But the heart of the Tower is a powerful magic fountain, and that requires a Master. The Master of the Tower is Kerric Vo Mos, and he takes his responsibility very seriously. Of course, where there’s a lot of power at stake, someone always wants to take it, and that’s where the story comes in.

Kerric takes one day a year to leave the Tower, and while he’s away, the security protocols are breached. With him on the outside the Tower has no master. He has to get back in and retake control. The only way to do that, is to run the adventure gauntlet himself. For that, he needs a partner.

And because the easiest, for very elastic definitions of the word “easy”, adventure run to the heart of the tower involves a trip through the passion-trapped Seraglio rooms, Kerric needs to run the gauntlet with a female partner who is not just a top-flight adventurer, but is also someone he might be willing to let into his heart. She also has to be a woman who has the chance of feeling the same way about him.

There’s not exactly time for a courtship to figure it out, either. The clock isn’t just ticking, it’s counting down to potential disaster.

It’s not a long list. The woman Kerric really wants to take with him on this most perilous quest is Myal the Mendhite, the woman the scrycasts call Myal the Magnificent.
Kerric has no idea whether she’s willing to help him. Most important, because his position as Master of the Tower has forced him to remain apart from the adventurers, he has no clue whether or not she might be interested in him.

A fact which doesn’t just matter for the purpose of saving the Tower. He’s always been interested in her. But he’s never believed that the statuesque and gorgeous adventurer could possibly be interested in him just for himself.

He has no clue that Myal has asked herself whether the powerful Master of the Tower could ever be interested in an adventurer who has no magic.

Escape Rating B: Reading The Tower is a bit like reading a D&D game but with more plot and including a love story — but also including the snarky back-chatter that makes D&D so much fun.

The story is about two people becoming a team by working through adversity. Myal and Kerric are acquainted, but their normal roles don’t give them much chance to interact. However, they do find each other attractive.

This is also the classic opposites attract scenario, and not just because Kerric is a mage and Myal is a warrior, although it’s nice to see the woman being the sword swinger for a change. Myal’s people are all tall, and Kerric is a head shorter than she is. Myal is taller than most people in the area around the Tower, but Kerric is a short man who has had to adjust to being shorter than average.

Also, Myal has given up her ability to have children in exchange for magical tattoos that enhance her fighting ability. Her people back home consider her flawed. The decision about being childless is handled within the story as a choice both of them have made and what their reasons are.

They don’t fall instantly in love the minute they start running the gauntlet of the tower. They grow to respect and like each other through working together. Love becomes part of the package as they realize how good they are together over the intense experience.

The Grove by Jean JohnsonWaiting for book 2, The Grove, is going to be torture.

***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 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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-23-13

Sunday Post

Today is pretty much nervous Sunday here at chez Reading Reality. Also frantic Sunday, both at the same time.

I’m having outpatient surgery tomorrow, to remove a kidney stone that has lodged itself somewhere unpleasant. The surgery itself sounds kind of cool. They’re going to blast the little beastie with lasers to break it up so it gets the hell out of Dodge. The problem is that “Dodge” in this instance is somewhere in my insides.

ALA Chicago Conference logoIf all goes well, and it should, on Thursday we’re off to the American Library Association Annual Conference. This year it’s in one of our old hometowns, Sweet Home Chicago.  Galen and I are looking forward to catching up with friends.

Speaking of catching up…

Winner Announcement:

The winner of the copy of A Beautiful Heist by Kim Foster is Pauline Baird Jones

SFR Brigade Midsummer Blog HopCurrent Giveaway:

The SFR Brigade 2nd Annual Midsummer Blog Hop has starships full of prizes to give away  including $150, $50 and $25 Amazon or B&N gift cards (winners’ choices) and a planet-sized ebook bundle filled with awesome SFR titles. I’m also giving away a $10 Amazon gift card here at Reading Reality.

Flirting With Disaster by Ruthie KnoxBlog Recap:

B+ Review: The Original 1982 by Lori Carson
B Review: The Look of Love by Bella Andre
A- Review: Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox
B+ Review The Cursed by Alyssa Day
2nd Annual SFR Brigade Midsummer Blog Hop
Stacking the Shelves (49)

Doctor Who Ten Little Aliens by Stephen ColeComing Up This Week:

The Tower by Jean Johnson (review)
The Seduction of Esther (blog tour review)
Shadow People by James Swain (review)
Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens (blog tour review and giveaway)
Assassin’s Gambit by Amy Raby (review)

Whatever you’re doing, or reading, this week, I hope it’s fantastic!