Review: The Descartes Legacy by Nina Croft

descartes legacy by nina croftFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Romantic suspense, Science Fiction Romance
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Edge
Date Released: September 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Lucas Grafton has spent the last ten years hunting the Conclave, a secret organization who took everything from him: his wife, his child, his very identity. Now he has a lead—an imminent terrorist attack on London—code-named Descartes.

Born with a genetic illness, Jenna Young has always known she was different. But the unexpected death of her father catapults her into a world of murder and terrorism she never expected. In order to stay alive, she must solve a twenty-five year old mystery—and her only ally a hard bitter man in search or retribution, her only clue the Descartes Highlands, an area on the near side of the moon.

Luke’s need for revenge collides with Jenna’s hunt for the past, and together they must stand against the Conclave. All the while uncovering the truth behind Jenna’s illness, a truth that will make Jenna question her very humanity.

My Review:

The Descartes Legacy takes a fairly standard romantic suspense story and enhances it with a bit of science fiction in order to create a “can’t stop reading” experience.

All the elements of romantic suspense are right there; heroine experiences a major life change event that makes her investigate something mysterious. Said investigation pushes the buttons of some very shady customers and heroine finds herself in serious jeapardy without knowing why. In swoops hero to save her life and help her with her investigation. Bad guys continue to pursue for nefarious reasons. Heroine makes life-changing discovery. Evildoers attempt to suppress heroine’s knowledge. After climactic fight, hero and heroine start new life together.

Just because something follows a formula, doesn’t mean that the author hasn’t taken the elements of that formula into new and interesting directions. In the case of The Descartes Legacy, those elements were born on the moon.


Jenna Young believes that she is dying. She believes that she has a genetic disease and that her father-the-doctor has been giving her medicine to keep the disease at bay. Then he dies suddenly and she’s running out of meds.

She thinks she’s sick, so she turns to another doctor to get the medication she needs. Her friend gets tortured and killed, and she has no idea why.

What she did makes perfect sense, based on what she believed. But what she believed isn’t true. Over the course of the story, Jenna discovers that nothing she believed about herself and her origins is true.

Her father didn’t just lie, he covered up his part in a world-spanning power-hungry organization called “The Conclave”. An organization whose genetic experimentation both created Jenna, and ordered her “termination” at age 4.

Jenna’s always known she was different. But as she is forced to dive into the murky politics of The Conclave, she discovers just how different she is.

And Jenna’s not the only one peering into the depths of the Conclave’s evil, nor is the death of her doctor-friend the only torture-and-murder to be laid at their door.

Lucas Grafton has been looking for revenge against that organization for ten years, since they murdered his wife and daughter. But Luke’s search for justice runs him headlong into Jenna’s need for the truth.

Luke starts out uncertain whether Jenna is an innocent bystander, a co-conspirator, or bait in a trap. Eventually he discovers that she is all three, but by then, he’s willing to sacrifice anything to keep her safe.

And she feels the same way about him.

Escape Rating A-: The story ends with a series of stunning revelations that make the reader yearn for more. It doesn’t feel so much that things have concluded as that there is a pause in the action. Jenna and Luke’s story isn’t over, and I want to know what happens next. Very, very much.

The science fictional elements in The Descartes Legacy are of the “laboratory” variety rather than the space ship type. It’s not just that Jenna was created through some very tricky genetic engineering, but it’s the source of some of her genetic material that pushes the story through the science fiction envelope.

The “Descartes” in the title is not a reference to Renaissance philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, at least not directly. It refers to the Descartes Highlands on the moon, and to Apollo 16’s mission there.

The Conclave is a many-headed, completely heartless beast of an organization. The plot that Jenna and Luke discover is chilling in its inhumanity. Discovering the nature of that plot and stopping it add to the breakneck pace of the story.

But this is also a romance, and that part of the story hinges on the chemistry between Jenna and Luke. For all the science fiction, their story together has a few too many times when Jenna is a drugged and helpless captive, waiting for Luke to rescue her. Considering the powers she discovers during the story, she gets kidnapped a bit often.

And there was definitely a touch of insta-love in their relationship. But the thriller and suspense elements still kept me racing to finish the story.

*This review originally appeared in the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-30-14

Sunday Post

Time passes so quickly. Reading Reality’s 3rd anniversary is this Friday. My birthday is Saturday, so this Friday I’m holding my annual Blogo-Birthday Celebration. By celebrate I mean giveaway! This year I’m planning to give away a gift card and some books from my recent collection. For international visitors, I’ll do a giveaway from Book Depository (I wish they did gift cards!!!)

But until Friday rolls around, here’s what else has been happening:

Current Giveaways:

The Accident by Chris Pavone (hardcover)
$25 B&N Gift card and an ecopy of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge courtesy of Sheila Roberts

Winner Announcements:

$10 Amazon Gift Card in the Leaping Leprechauns Blog Hop – Piroska B.

Accident by Chris PavoneBlog Recap:

B+ Review by Cass: A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
A+ Review: The Accident by Chris Pavone + Giveaway
C+ Review: Turned by Virna DePaul
B+ Review: The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts
Guest Post from Sheila Roberts about the REAL Icicle Falls + Giveaway
B+ Review: Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews
Stacking the Shelves (82)


Coming Next Week:

blogo birthday one dayThe Descartes Legacy by Nina Croft (review)
Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins (blog tour review)
Four Friends by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
Duke City Split by Max Austin (blog tour review
Fool for Books Giveaway Hop
Reading Reality’s 3rd Annual Blogo-Birthday

Stacking the Shelves (82)

Stacking the Shelves

This week, the stack is short. But while this is being posted, I’m going to be at the Emerald City ComiCon, trying not to pick up too much else!

For Review:
Bloodshifted (Edie Spence #5) by Cassie Alexander
Enemies at Home (Flavia Albia #2) by Lindsey Davis
Marked (Mindspace Investigation #3) by Alex Hughes
Ruin Me by Jamie Brenner
An Unwilling Accomplice (Bess Crawford #6) by Charles Todd

Archer’s Sin (Hearts and Thrones #2.5) by Amy Raby

Borrowed from the Library:
The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

Review: Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews

silent blade by ilona andrewsFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Science fiction romance
Series: Kinsmen #1
Length: 50 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: June 2, 2009
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Old hatreds die hard. Old love dies harder.

On Meli Galdes’ home planet, the struggle for power is a bloody, full-contact sport–in business and on the battlefield. For years her lethal skills have been a valuable asset in advancing her family’s interests. She’s more than earned her right to retire, but her kinsmen have one last favor to ask.

Kill the man who ruined her life.

Celino Carvanna’s razor-sharp business acumen–and skills with a blade–won him the freedom to do as he pleases. There’s only one thing he can’t seem to control–his reaction to the mysterious woman who tantalizes his senses. Her eyes alone set his blood simmering, stirring ridiculous adolescent fantasies about breasts and honey. With a few words she dissects his soul. Who is she? And how does she slide so easily under his well-guarded skin?

It’s almost too easy to draw Celino within the kill zone. Meli plans to revel in him. Drink him in. Wring every drop of pleasure out of every moment.

And when she’s sure he belongs to her, she will finally repay a decade’s worth of pain–in a single, brutal dose of reality.

My Review:

Revenge is a dish best served hot and with a side of passion cones.

Although the revenge that Meli Galdes plans and the revenge she actually gets are two different things.

Blame it on those passion cones, which are a dessert in the province of Dahlia on this futuristic world that Ilona Andrews has created for her Kinsmen series.

The future is a dangerous place. As envisioned in this series, the ability to survive interplanetary journeys and planet colonization was provided to certain families through genetic modification. Their descendants rule, through the inheritance of lethal talents and deadly implants.

Those with special abilities are Kinsmen. Survival of their families, and their family corporations, is considered the highest achievement–by any means necessary.

Meli Galdes was a casualty of two families desire for greatness. A daughter of the Galdes, she was contracted in marriage when she was 10 to the heir of the Carvanna family. Unfortunately for Meli, young Celino Carvanna saw their impending marriage as a fence around his freedom. As soon as he could, he disavowed the contract, leaving Meli unmarried but still bound. No one else would court her for fear of angering Carvanna should he decide to someday claim his bride.

So Meli chose to be disavowed by her family, so that she could do business for them in secret. Deadly business–we call it ‘wetwork’. As an “excise”, Meli became her family’s best and most deniable assassin.

When she tires of the game of death and the loneliness of her life, Meli retires. But her father asks her to take one last job–to kill the man who broke her heart, all those years ago. Killing the head of the Carvanna’s corporation will save the Galdes’ family business from ruin.

Meli gets close to Celino by turning herself into a woman he can’t resist. The problem for Meli is that it makes her the woman she once trained to be; the perfect partner for Celino.

So should she condemn her family by sparing her target, or kill the man she has come to love?

Escape Rating B+: This is too short! The world creation looks fascinating, but I want to see more of it. How did the families get this way? What other powers are available? How do they know how rare particular talents are?

Underneath the futuristic setting, Silent Blade is a second chance at love story. Meli and Celino missed it the first time around, because their six year age difference loomed large when they were 16 and 22 respectively, but is miniscule now that they are adults.

Celino was also a selfish asshat, because he could have set Meli free instead of leaving her in limbo. (On the other hand, selfish, 22 and privileged go hand-in-hand.) Celino had the world at his feet, and he didn’t think beyond his own desires.

Meli comes back into his life and makes him desire her. She is just what he is looking for, but doesn’t know it. She, on the other hand, knows perfectly well what she is setting up. She just doesn’t expect that her own emotions will be engaged. Again.

She can destroy him. She can even manage to destroy him in such a way that her family survives the crisis that started this mess. It takes her a long time to accomplish her mission without leaving dead bodies in her wake.

Even though she is left broken-hearted again, at least this time, she has company–a man who finally realizes that it is worth breaking his own chains.

*This review originally appeared in the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***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.

Guest Post from Sheila Roberts about the REAL Icicle Falls + Giveaway

cottage on juniper ridge by sheila robertsMy special guest today is Sheila Roberts, the author of the Icicle Falls series, including today’s featured review book, The Cottage on Juniper Ridge. Because this series is so lovely, and the town of Icicle Falls seems like such a marvelous place, I wanted to learn more about it, especially since it is based on a town very near my current homebase of Seattle.

Here’s Sheila to tell us all about her Icicle Falls and the real-life version you can visit!

The Real Icicle Falls
by Sheila Roberts

Readers often tell me that they wish my town of Icicle Falls was a real place. Well, here’s the good news. It is! Well, at least it’s based on one.

My imaginary town of Icicle Falls is based on the town of Leavenworth, Washington, one of my favorite places to visit. Granted Leavenworth doesn’t have it’s own chocolate factory like Icicle Falls does (and it probably doesn’t have some of the squirelly characters, either), but it has the wonderful views, the friendly people and the great spirit of determination. And, just like in Icicle Falls, the people of Leavenworth sure know how to celebrate a holiday. One of my favorite times to visit is during Christmas when they have their town tree-lighting ceremony. (And yes, Icicle Falls has one, too!)

Leavenworth_WashingtonLeavenworth is a popular destination town with a healthy economy but it wasn’t always so. In the early sixties, after The Great Northern Railway pulled out, choosing a different route through the mountains, this town nestled in the Cascades was in danger of becoming a ghost town. But the town leaders put their heads together and decided that, with its beautiful mountain setting, Leavenworth could be as charming as any alpine village. And they set about transforming the town from a typical western town into something truly special. Everyone pulled together to make this happen. “And we did it all without any government help,” says one of the older residents. In this day and age that’s really something to brag about.

In addition to changing the look of their shops and stores, the people of Leavenworth came up with a series of festivals designed to draw visitors. Today these festivals bring in over a million visitors a year.

I love the fact that a little imagination coupled with determination and hard work of the townspeople literally transformed this place. It’s a charming town filled with wonderful people, and I try to convey a little of their town spirit in my Icicle Falls books. I hope my characters are people that readers will enjoy and want to spend time with.
And, if you ever visit Washington I hope you’ll stop by Leavnworth, stay in one of its charming B & B’s, enjoy the scenery and the shopping and the great people who live there. I hope you’ll visit Icicle Falls, too!

Sheila RobertsAbout Sheila Roberts

Sheila Roberts is married and has three children. She lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have appeared in Readers Digest Condensed books and have been published in several languages. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her her novel The Nine Lives of Christmas has been optioned for film. When she’s not writing songs, hanging out with her girlfriends or trying to beat her husband at tennis, she can be found writing about those things dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate.

To learn more about Sheila, please visit her website or blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.



Sheila will be awarding a $25 B & N gift card and an eCopy of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a $25 B & N gift card to a randomly drawn host.

To enter, leave a comment on this post. For more chances to win, follow the other stops on Sheila’s tour.

Review: The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts

cottage on juniper ridge by sheila robertsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Series: Life in Icicle Falls #4
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

How to Change Your Life…

Can a book change your life? Yes, when it’s Simplicity, Muriel Sterling’s guide to plain living. In fact, it inspires Jen Heath to leave her stressful, overcommitted life in Seattle and move to Icicle Falls, where she rents a lovely little cottage on Juniper Ridge. And where she can enjoy simple pleasures—like joining the local book club—and complicated ones, like falling in love with her sexy landlord, Garrett Armstrong.

Her sister Toni is ready for a change, too. She’s got a teenage daughter who’s constantly texting her friends, a husband who’s more involved with his computer than he is with her, and a son who’s consumed by video games. Toni wants her family to grow closer—to return to a simpler way of life.

Other women in town, like Stacy Thomas, are also inspired to unload their excess stuff and some of the extra responsibilities they’ve taken on.

But as they all discover, sometimes life simply happens. It doesn’t always happen simply!

My Review:

This is a sweet treat of a book, and not just because all the characters discuss their problems with regular applications of Sweet Dreams Chocolate from the local chocolatier.

Speaking of Sweet Dreams Chocolate, it is terrific to see how all the lovely people who starred in the previous books in the Icicle Falls series, (Better Than Chocolate, Merry Ex-Mas and What She Wants) are doing now that they have their own HEAs.

Better than Chocolate by Sheila RobertsBut the main characters of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge are Jen Heath, who rents the titular cottage, her sister Toni, and local resident Stacy. They are each, in their various ways, influenced by Muriel Sterling’s latest book, Simplicity. (We also know Muriel from Better Than Chocolate, and why she needed to get some simplicity in her life.)

Jen reads Muriel’s book, and decides that it is time she got some of her own simplicity back. Her life in Seattle has become so busy with the drudgery of two jobs to pay for a condo she can’t afford that she hates her life. So she buys into the siren song of Muriel’s book to the point where she rents a cottage in Muriel’s home town of Icicle Falls and puts her condo in Seattle on the market.

Jen is reaching for a simpler life where she has time to do things she enjoys and kindle some new friendships. She wants to find the joy that she used to have.

What she finds is a hunky landlord who is also a firefighter. She falls into insta-lust, but he thinks she’s a complete flake for turning her life over so irresponsibly. He’s already been in love with one irresistible but irresponsible ditz, and he’s not interested in doing it again, even though he adores the child that came out of his impulsive first marriage.

Jen creates a new life for herself, and hopes that her landlord will eventually get the stick out of his ass and see that the sparks they generate could lead to a real relationship. Garrett, in turn, tries to force himself into a relationship with someone steady and solid. It takes him a long time to realize that the heart wants what it wants, and that looking for the fun in life does not necessarily make Jen selfish, childish or even remotely flakey.

While Jen is getting her new life together, her sister Toni is searching for someplace where her family can not just get away from it all, but disconnect from the electronic gizmos that are always distracting them from each other. It turns out that the little Washington town that her sister moved to on a whim may be the perfect place to find her family again.

Icicle Falls resident Stacy just needs to declutter her life. It takes a cosmic push for her to realize that she doesn’t own her stuff, she has so much stuff that it owns her. It takes a lot of effort, and some whole new ways of thinking, for Stacy to find a channel for her love of finding beautiful things.

Icicle Falls sustains and supports them all.

Escape Rating B+: Like all of the Icicle Falls series, The Cottage on Juniper Ridge is primarily a story about the supportiveness of strong friendships. In this case, the friends are the members of the Icicle Falls Book Club, a group of women who share books, chocolate, and a chance to unwind in a place where everyone understands what the others are going through. It’s their once-a-month break for some “me time” with the BFFs who will be there for them, no matter what.

Jen Heath comes in from the outside, but her shared love of books and the general friendliness of the town is enough to get her adopted by this tight-knit bunch of marvelous women. They help each other through whatever needs to be shared and/or listened to. We all need a group like this in our lives, but it’s hard to find!

The tying element of Muriel’s book, Simplicity, resonates with each of them differently. They are all over-worked or over-committed, and the book makes them stop and think about ways they can de-stress their lives, just a bit.

While it is the story of Jen’s journey of self-discovery that drives the book, Stacy’s story had a tremendous amount of resonance. It’s not just that she has been letting her hunt for beautiful bargains fill her empty nest, but how many memories she has invested in what to other people looks like “stuff”. At the same time, it was great in Stacy’s story to see a long-term marriage that is happy, where the husband is supportive and generally terrific and the couple feels lucky to be together.

Where so many stories ignore women who have achieved their happily ever after, in The Cottage at Juniper Ridge we see a whole range of experiences, from Jen’s search for true love to Toni’s need to reconnect to Stacy’s search for her own purpose within the context of a continuingly happy marriage.

Icicle Falls continues to be a marvelous place to visit, filled with people you’d love to meet. I can’t wait for the next book!

***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.

Review: Turned by Virna DePaul

turned by virna depaulFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Belladonna Agency #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Date Released: April 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Welcome to a mesmerizing world where vampires hide among humans. This centuries-old species has its own rules, code of conduct, and taboos. Only the FBI knows that vampires exist—and although the Bureau agrees to keep their secret, it also plots to give humans the upper hand.

Turning mortals into vampires is forbidden.

But there are creatures who refuse to play by the rules.

Ever since he was turned, FBI special agent Ty Duncan has had one mission: bring rogue vampires to justice. As a recruiter for Belladonna, a shadow agency formed to keep vampires in check, Ty must tap Ana Martin, a troubled ex–gang member and one of the few mortals who can infiltrate places that his kind and the law cannot. From their first encounter, Ty fights a hunger to make Ana his own.

When Ty claims to have information about Ana’s missing sister, Ana has no choice but to trust this captivating stranger who awakens her deepest desires. But as she and Ty climb the heights of pleasure and passion, an enemy is conspiring to destroy them both.

Can Ana help Ty find his humanity in a love that could heal them both, or will their passion lead them into a darkness impossible to escape?

My Review:

DEPAUL_Turned_BlogHop_21I picked this book up from NetGalley because I signed up for the Turned Blog Hop from Romance at Random last week. (The hop is still going on, so enter here!)

Turned introduces us to a slightly different version of the fanged ones. In this world, some vamps are born, and others are made, in other words, turned from human to vampire. There are lots of politics involved, because, well, immortal vampires make for convoluted politics. But in this case not all of the political complications are on the vampire side.

Ty Duncan is an FBI who was turned against his will by a bunch of rogue vampires. The rogues are rogues from their own laws, because in this world, the vampires don’t want to increase their population by turning humans. They just want to stay under the radar and not come out of the coffin.

The FBI not only knows that vampires exist, but they have been recruiting rogues to turn people for them. Some senior FBI officials see vampires as faster, stronger, better agents, and don’t even think that anyone who is a rogue is probably a rogue through and through.

So the FBI loses control of its vampire-makers, after the rogues turn two FBI agents, Ty and Peter, very much against their will (and with extra added torture and other collateral damage).

Now the FBI needs to track down the rogues and cover its ass with the Vampire Queen, who specifically told them not to turn anyone. In other words, the FBI has a good old-fashioned clusterfuck on its hands.

Especially when they find out that their former rogues are running a human blood slavery operation on the side. Just when they thought it couldn’t get much worse, it does.

So of course they create an even shadowier arm of the agency to track down the rogues and put a stop to the blood slavery. Let’s call this the creation of plausible deniability, although there is also a certain amount of “locking the barn door after the horse it out”.

That shadow-arm of the agency is called Belladonna, and the name is intended to mean both “beautiful woman” and “deadly nightshade”. Their intent is to recruit deadly women who can become agents and spies, whether they ever become vampires themselves or not.

Ty is instructed to recruit Ana Martin, for two reasons; she has already proven that she can be deadly when the situation demands it, and because the suspected leader of the blood slavery ring is a man who has been obsessed with Ana since he jumped her into a gang when they were teens.

Ana lets herself be recruited because the Belladonna Agency has promised her the one thing that she has been searching years for; contact with her long-lost sister. Both Ana and Ty try to hide their mutual ulterior motive, that they are attracted to each other with a need that neither of them can fight, no matter how much they both believe that they are not worthy of the other, and that any possible relationship is doomed from the start.

But nothing that Ana has believed all her life turns out to be true. Everyone betrays her, or has betrayed her, and more than once. Except Ty. No matter what happens, he tells her nothing but the truth, and not just because vampires are unable to lie.

Ana just has to learn to trust her feelings, and herself, before it’s too late.

Escape Rating C+: Because this is the first book in a series, there is a lot of setup and there are still some things that are unexplained. Vampire society looks complex (it generally is) but we don’t learn how things got this way or what the vampires are really up to.

We view what it is like to be a vampire from Ty’s perspective, and he’s both untrained and miserable about his turning. He hates himself and his life. He keeps trying to protect Ana from the monster that he feels he is, instead of letting her decide for herself. Too often, his way of protecting her is to push her away rather harshly, and she naturally reacts by pushing back, equally harshly.

Also, although this is a love story, it uses the insta-love trope. One gets the sense that Ty and Ana are fated mates, although that’s never explicitly said. But they have a stronger instant chemical reaction to each other that is more than just insta-lust. (And Peter has the same reactions to the Vampire Queen when he meets her).

If there is a fated-mate component, it would be better to know that, rather than have the story lead down that road and then NOT explain.

Ana is a very strong heroine. She’s made a good life for herself in spite of an extremely rough start, and she takes a beating, whether physical or emotional, and keeps moving forward. The other women introduced in the story as the rest of the team are definitely promising potential heroines as well. The prospect of reading their stories is one I’m looking forward to.

***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.

Review: The Accident by Chris Pavone + Giveaway

Accident by Chris PavoneFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Crown
Date Released: March 11, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through the explosive revelations about powerful people, as well as long-hidden secrets about her own past. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals with publication of The Accident, while always looking over his shoulder.

Over the course of one long, desperate, increasingly perilous day, these lives collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril. The rich cast of characters—in publishing and film, politics and espionage—are all forced to confront the consequences of their ambitions, the schisms between their ideal selves and the people they actually became.

The action rockets around Europe and across America, with an intricate web of duplicities stretching back a quarter-century to a dark winding road in upstate New York, where the shocking truth about the accident itself is buried.

Gripping, sophisticated, layered, and impossible to put down, The Accident proves once again that Chris Pavone is a true master of suspense.

My Review:

The Accident is a gripping, stunning page-turner about the cost of secrets that are too dangerous to be revealed; and about who gets to decide what those secrets are.

It’s also about the publishing industry, how the changes in the way that books are sold (and not sold) affects the immediate futures of the folks who used to be some of the more important cogs in the system, and who are increasingly seeing the careers that they loved disintermediated out of existence.

Writers are discovering that it is possible to have a lucrative career without either a New York publisher or an agent to negotiate rights and contracts with that no-longer-needed New York publisher. The agents and publishers are a dying breed.

Which doesn’t mean that one big blockbuster book can’t stave off economic disaster for an agent and a publisher, providing they can get the book to market. And providing that the story inside isn’t too hot for anyone to handle.

The Accident is a “story within a story”, because The Accident is the title of the book that gets delivered to agent Isabel Reed anonymously. The book will be a blockbuster, as the story it tells will topple both a worldwide media empire and expose that the CIA was complicit in exposing foreign officials to corruption charges for the financial gain of one of its operatives. That operative being the head of the aforementioned worldwide media empire.

Charlie Wolfe built up his Rupert Murdoch-type news and entertainment empire by getting the CIA’s permission to knock out his competition. Someone is determined to make sure that Charlie’s secrets are exposed before he runs for political office. Unfortunately for Charlie, the man he thought must be the author of “The Accident” has been dead for six months. Since he can’t find the author, he’ll settle for destroying all the copies. And the CIA agent he hires doesn’t seem to mind leaving a trail of bodies in place of the manuscripts.

Or is there anything about this book and the people involved with it as they seem?

Escape Rating A+: This story is the ultimate in break-neck pace suspense. The entire thing takes place in a single 24-hour period, from the point where Isabel Reed receives her copy of the manuscript, until the point where the race is over. Or is it?

Isabel knows that “The Accident” is a book that will not just revive her career as an agent, but give her the chance to start her own company–if she can hang on to it. She drags in her best friend and editor, trying to keep the circle of information as close as she can, but the secret is already out.

Every other person who touches the manuscript becomes collateral damage in the coverup.
It’s amazing that the conceit of the story being a single day works; we’re rocketed through events as Isabel figures out what she has, what it can do, and how much trouble the damn thing is. At the same time, we see events from ex-CIA agent Hayden Gray’s perspective, as he attempts to contain the damage that Isabel and the book will cause.

Neither of them wants to be in the positions they find themselves, but they can’t find a way to get out of the labyrinth. Or do they?

The end will keep you guessing long after you’ve finished The Accident.


The author is giving away a hardcover copy of The Accident to one lucky winner. To enter, just fill out the rafflecopter.

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.

Review: A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Murder of CrowsFormat read: ebook
Formats available: ebook, hardcover
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Others #2
Length: 448 pgs
Publisher: Roc
Date Released: March 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, AmazonBook Depository

After winning the trust of the terra indigene residing in the Lakeside Courtyard, Meg Corbyn has had trouble figuring out what it means to live among them. As a human, Meg should be barely tolerated prey, but her abilities as a cassandra sangue make her something more.

The appearance of two addictive drugs has sparked violence between the humans and the Others, resulting in the murders of both species in nearby cities. So when Meg has a dream about blood and black feathers in the snow, Simon Wolfgard—Lakeside’s shape-shifting leader—wonders whether their blood prophet dreamed of a past attack or of a future threat.

As the urge to speak prophecies strikes Meg more frequently, trouble finds its way inside the Courtyard. Now the Others and the handful of humans residing there must work together to stop the man bent on reclaiming their blood prophet—and stop the danger that threatens to destroy them all.

My Thoughts:

Anne Bishop is one of those authors I always enjoy, even though I can’t say I actually like anything she writes. She’s the authorial equivalent of Sharknado. Everything is so goddamn ridiculous that you absolutely must keep reading. Any second, in between the pretentious italics and Super Important Capitalizations, you’ll be graced with the book’s version of the chainsaw vs shark.

Which is what I got when reading Written in Red last year. The first entry in her new series, filled with all her old bad habits. I absolutely loved hating it, and expected to similarly enjoy whatever drinking game I could create from the wreckage to be found in Murder of Crows.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I truly liked this book. I can’t say it doesn’t suffer from Anne Bishop’s expected stylistic prose. But underneath the goth glitter, rampant italics of emphasis, and Grammar Slaughtering Capitalization To Show You How Important This Word Is – there is an extremely engaging story.

After much insight, I’ve deduced the source of the significant improvement in quality.

First, we are introduced to other blood prophets, which downgraded Meg from The Maryest of Mary Sues to just a powerful prophet who happened to have the strength of character to overcome the mental and physical restrictions both bred and socialized into her. When you learn what some of the other cassandra sangue are enduring, you realize Meg isn’t really all that special. Just damn lucky to have landed where she did.

Meg’s super special status in the Lakeside Courtyard was similarly addressed through the “exploding fluffballs” (as the Courtyard residents nicknamed their brand-new “human pack”). This human pack – an admitted anomaly in the country – provided assistance to the Lakeside Courtyard, much like Meg, and in return received the same protections afforded to Meg. A believable protagonist is key to any good story. Written in Red’s Meg was irritatingly unique. Murder of Crow’s Meg is a trailblazer for her people. Definitely different – but no Mary Sue.

Written in Red by Anne BishopIn addition to fixing the problems with Meg, Murder of Crows begins overwriting the pitiful excuse for world-building haphazardly scattered throughout Written in Red. There is a whole wide world out there, one where a “human pack” becomes a tourist attraction for rural Others, where shooting crows is illegal, and where storms ravage parts of the world that dared to attempt war with the Others thousands of years ago. As the Others interact more and more with humans, we begin to realize that the human population is not, as a whole, so inanely arrogant they think to subjugate a species capable of controlling the very elements, but rather just foolishly arrogant. While the Others remember the history of their interactions with humans – every town and country they’ve evicted, emptied, or outright disappeared for crimes committed against them or their land – the humans forget. Each generation needing to relearn the same lessons as the last.

This led to the final attention-grabbing improvement. Namely, the gore. Anne Bishop amped up the gore this time around, and all I can say is that I heartily approve. There’s really very little I can say without spoilers, but I applaud’s Anne’s decision to set aside her bizarre obsession with sexual sadism and instead go forward with non-sexual ways to horrify her readers. Kudos to you Ms. Bishop! You took human depravity to a different level. Keep this up and you’ll make an actual fan out of me yet.

Escape Rating: B+ for way better this time around. Though you probably do need to read the first installment to understand the interpersonal relationships. For which I apologize.

***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-23-14

Sunday Post

This was an interesting week at chez Reading Reality. Actually, last weekend was way more interesting.

FFX-X-2_HD_Remaster_NA_CoverCass was here in Seattle last weekend, so we got to write our dual review of Dancing with Dragons while sitting together. Doing it in the same place doubles both the time it takes and the snark produced! We had way too much fun.

But this week has also been the week that my favorite video game ever was re-released on HD. Once my copy of Final Fantasy X arrived, I didn’t get a lot done except play–right up until the PS3 totally died. Then it was back to the books!


Current Giveaways:

leprechaun blog hop$10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card in the Leaping Leprechauns & Frolicking Fairies Blog Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card from Victoria Pinder
$25 Gift Card, preview copies of Virna DePaul’s new titles courtesy of Romance at Random

Winner Announcements:

Paperback copy of Retribution by Anderson Harp won by Jo J.
Ebook copy of Good Together by CJ Carmichael won by Shamara C.
Ebook copy of Slam Dance with the Devil by Nico Rosso won by Erin F.

concealed in death by jd robbBlog Recap:

Leaping Leprechauns & Frolicking Fairies – The All Things Irish Blog Hop
B+ Review: Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb
C, C+ Dual Review: Dancing with Dragons by Lorenda Christensen
Turned Blog Hop
B- Review: The Zoastra Affair by Victoria Pinder + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (81)


Murder of CrowsComing Next Week:

A Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (review by Cass)
The Accident by Chris Pavone (blog tour review and giveaway)
Turned by Virna DePaul (review)
The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts (blog tour review)
Silent Blade by Ilona Andrews (review)