Sunday, October 15, 2017

Early Review of Killing Season (Killing Season #1-3) by Faye Kellerman

Title: Killing Season: A Thriller
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Crime
Format: Hardcover; 704 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 17, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062465937
ISBN-13: 978-0062465931
Author's Website:
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Three years ago the Vicksburg family experienced a loss no one should ever have to go through. They lost their oldest child, Ellen, to a brutal murder. Ellen was a pretty and popular girl whom everyone liked. She didn't do drugs, she didn't have a secret boyfriend, she got good grades, and stayed out of trouble. Her murder puzzled everyone. The family, understandably, took it hard, but her younger brother, by a year, Ben, perhaps took it the hardest. He vowed to find Ellen's killer and bring about justice. This is his story...
This is a serial read which means it's basically one book that is sold in three separate increments. I'm not a fan of serial reads because I once read one where the first two installments were awesome, but the last one made me hate the whole thing. Luckily, this is not that book. Also, the final and complete version, where all three sections are included, goes on sale this Tuesday. Yay!

I really enjoyed this story and hope it is the first of many involving Ben "Vicks" Vicksburg. I'd love for this to be the event which spurred him on to a career in crime fighting. Ben is a math whiz on a genius level who was enrolled in college calculus at the age of fourteen, the year his sister went missing. He has a knack for finding patterns and uses that skill to attempt to find his sister's killer. He feels that local law enforcement doesn't have enough resources to sufficiently dedicate to the finding his sister's murderer and he decides to take matters into his own hands. He does so by routinely combing through newspapers and searching the Internet for cases similar to his sister's attempting to find a link. He believes at least one other murder was committed by the person who killed his sister. That girl's body, however, has never been found and without some hard evidence linking the two cases detective Shanks, the officer assigned to Ellen's case, is unconvinced the two are related.

Since his sister's death, Ben, a once popular student, has become a recluse. He keeps to himself and spends his free time searching for clues to his sister's murderer. When he strikes up a friendship with Ro and confides in her what he's been up to for the past three years the two work together to solve the murder. Ro lost her sister to cancer around the same time Ben lost his and in some ways helping to solve Ben's sister's death is therapeutic for her. It's also beneficial for Ben because she slowly drags him out of his self imposed isolation.

I ended up giving this story 4 out of 5 roses. I enjoyed watching Ben and Ro slowly unravel the mystery behind his sister's death. I loved the underlying layers that needed to be delicately peeled back before everything could fall into place. I liked the suspense, twists, turns, roadblocks, and moments of 'Eureka!' when certain things were finally figured out. The only thing I didn't like was how the relationship between Ben and Ro quickly and rather epically spiraled downward at one point. I don't want to get into specifics, but it took away a little of the magic of the book for me. I really liked Ben and his dedication to his sister, and would truly hate to see this character get left behind never to be seen again. I implore the author to consider making him a permanent character in a series either as the lead detective or as a secondary character considered to be an expert in some field of criminology. I can't recall ever seeing a series begin with what inspired someone to become who they are later in life. I think this would be a unique and fun way to do so. It definitely would endear me to the character and get me hooked.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Early Review of The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendency #1) by K. Arsenault Rivera

Title: The Tiger's Daughter
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Their Bright Ascendency (Book 1)
Format: Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Tor Books (October 3, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0765392534
ISBN-13: 978-0765392534
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan of the book in exchange for an honest review.

For years the Hokkaran empire has been encroached upon by invading demons. Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, and empress, O-Shizuka may be the empire's only hope for survival. Born a month apart, they are rumored to be descended from the gods, and fated to be friends due to an Omen which presented itself in the form of two pine needles which rested upon each of the girls' forehead between their eyes shortly after their births. Their mothers were fierce warriors who bridged the gap between their cultures with their friendship. Shelfali and O-Shizuka's skills in warfare are believed to rival or surpass those of their mothers'.

This is their story as written in a love letter from one woman to the other.
The world that Ms. Rivera portrays is rich, beautiful, dangerous, and deadly. The tales told within were wonderful. The characters were interesting, diverse, and formidable. I probably would have loved the book if not for two very big things.

Firstly, I hated the letter format. This was a HUGE book with probably less than 1, at most, 2% of it written outside of this one huge letter. The first and last chapters and one, possibly two, other places jumped out of letter format to put us in the present time period that the book is set in. This, in my humble opinion, was a mistake because it keeps the reader from engaging with the story. It keeps us as outsiders looking in. There were several points where this drove me completely bonkers, and I had to disengage myself from the book. I just couldn't take it any more. We only get a one dimensional view and that just didn't work for me. There were letters written within the main letter which I'm guessing was the author's way of trying to get around the one dimensional viewpoint, but for me it was too much.

Secondly, I don't care what type of romance a book has, but if you are making the center of the book a love letter then you really need to kick infidelity to the curb. If you don't it isn't love because, in my humble opinion, unless you mistakenly think someone is dead, there was an official break-up, or the like, there's really no excuse. Especially when the transgressor isn't sorry and tries to justify it. Granted, there was an eight year separation, but for me you've automatically issued the kiss of death. So as a romance, at least for me, this one failed. Luckily, the main genre for this novel is fantasy. In fact, I didn't realize this one had a lesbian love story in it until about the forty percent mark. At that point there's really no mistaking it because a love scene is reminisced about. So while this one fails, in my humble opinion, as a love story, the fantasy portion is pretty enjoyable.

I really liked Shelfali, and how she had the ability to see the demons when no one else could. I felt her frustration at trying to convince others who did not believe in her ability that she had it, especially when it manifested at such an early age. The demons seemed like a more conscious version of zombies who could infect those around them if they came in contact with their blood. I particularly loved the tale of Shefali and O-Shizuka slaying a tiger at the tender age of eight and earning their names. Yet after all the tales and stories about these two friends, I didn't particularly care for O-Shizuka. Perhaps this is another result of the book's narrative for I really didn't feel I knew her.

Overall, I'm giving this one 2 1/2 out of 5 roses. I keep going back and forth between giving it 2 or 3 roses, but a 2 seems too low while a 3 seems too high. The author has a truly wonderful and creative imagination. I really liked the tales told within the letter, but this was a really long letter, and the second person narrative didn't draw me in. I don't mind stories with letters inside them, but making almost the whole book into a letter sadly didn't work for me.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Early Review of The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives #1) by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Title: The Bloodprint (The Khorasan Archives)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Khorasan Archives (Book 1)
Format: Paperback; 448 pages
Publisher: Harper Voyager (October 3, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062459198
ISBN-13: 978-0062459190
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes used will need to be checked against the final version as they are subject to change.

'There is no one but the One. And so the One commands...'

The land of Khorasan is slowly being overtaken piece by piece by a powerful and volatile group known as the Talisman. They are led by a man known as the One-Eyed Preacher.

'We live in the age of secrets and fear.
We live in the age of Ignorance.'

They began their campaign by taking control of the country's food supply by pillaging and razing villages, fields, libraries, etc. Then they started creating shortages. Finally, they determined who would live and who would die by controlling who would eat and who would starve.

'These were the days of the Talisman fist.
The fist that crushed everything to dust.'

Rumor has it that verses from the Bloodprint, the oldest written compilation of the Claim, is being sold letter by letter. The Claim is a magical text written in an ancient language whose verses, when spoken, have the power to make things happen. It's from the Claim that the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of talented and respected woman, gain their power. Arian, the First Oralist, knows more verses then anyone else as the verses of the ancient text have been passed down through the generations in her family. The actual text, however, hasn't been seen by human eyes for centuries leading some to believe it doesn't exist.

While the Talisman have left the Companions of Hira alone so far, it is only a matter of time before they will focus their attention on them. Women have been the victims of horrendous injustices at the hands of the Talisman. Any found to be unchaperoned are being sold into slavery.

Each of the Companions will be given a task/Audacy to preform. Arian has just been given hers...

"You will seek out the Bloodprint, where it may lead you. You alone have knowledge of its language, You alone can confirm its identity. And you will bring it to Hira."

This is the story of her Audacy.
I absolutely adored this story, but at the end, I was left with more questions than answers, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Ms. Khan has created a complex and intricate world that I have no doubt was fully conceived and formed in her mind, but is not so easy for us, the readers, to comprehend at first. I highly recommend reading the synopsis before starting in on this one. Coming into the story I felt a little lost and wondered if this could possibly be the second book of the series. Alas, it is not there is just a lot to take in and the author doesn't rely on info dumps to get us up to speed. We need to patiently wait for the bits and pieces of information to be dispensed as the story and world slowly unfolds before our very eyes.

From what I can gather, the Claim is a little like the Force in Star Wars, but also very different. It appears to interact with Arian which makes me want to equate her to a Jedi. Yet, I'm unsure if that's because she can read and speak its language or if there is another reason. As not everyone knows the language of the Bloodprint, it's unclear if only a select few can wield its power or if anyone who can speak its verses can invoke its power. At one point someone declares, "The Claim is powerful within her."  Whether this is because she knows so many of its verses or because she's sort of bonded with the Claim is unclear. Then there's the little matter of what happens towards the end. I don't want to give too much away, but it made me wonder if I needed to rethink all I thought I knew. Most likely I do.

What draws the reader into this book is the journey, or rather the Audacy (I assume the author made this word sound like oddessy on purpose), are all the trials and tribulations Arian and her fellow Companion, Sinnia, must face. Their mission is secret, and they must rely on their knowledge of ancient legends to get them to where they need to go and to carry out their mission. Hidden cities and pathways must be found, and puzzles and riddles must be solved before the Bloodprint can ultimately be found and retrieved.

There is a lot going on to capture one's interest and imagination in this one. At one point the High Companion announced, "A task will be assigned to each of you [Companions], and you will each fulfill your duty." It's unclear if the series will take up exactly where this one left off--with Arian as the main protagonist--or if in the next book a different Companion of Hira will take on another Audacy and be its focus. Either way, I'm hopefully we'll learn more of the inner workings of the Companions and the Claim.

To add a little intrigue into the mix, there is some question as to whether Ilea, the High Companion who heads the Council of Companions, can be trusted. She confides in no one and sends each of the Companions on secret missions for which they are sworn not to talk to any of the others about. Perhaps like the Jedi Masters who had good reasons to keep things from Anakin Skywalker, Ilea, herself, has a good reason to keep things from her fellow Companions. There is a chapter breaks from the rest and focuses primarily on Ilea. In it she states, "She [Arian] thinks she's been fighting a war, but she doesn't know the war has yet to begin," and "She knows nothing of the deeper forces at play." We'll have to wait and see whether Ilea is trustworthy or not, but she definitely has an agenda, the question what exactly is it?

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It captured my attention and kept me on my toes all while maintaining a fast pace. With secrets and hidden danger lurking around every corner, this one was an action-packed magical thrill ride of a read full of twists and turns. While it does throw a lot at you before you fully know what's going on, this is one instance where patience totally pays off. I recommend you read the synopsis, make  note of the glossary (in case you need some help), and  hold on tight. You're in for a real treat. I look forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing where this story takes us. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a SMILE rating--a lady always tries to be polite so a smile should suffice (ie no heat whatsoever)  While there is definitely something brewing between Arian and the Silver Mage, Arian refuses to act upon it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Early Review of A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred, #1) by Joanna Shupe

Title: A Daring Arrangement: The Four Hundred Series
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Four Hundred
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (October 31, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062678892
ISBN-13: 978-0062678898
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
She wants to find the most outrageous fiance so her father will ship her back to England.
He wants entrance into New York's polite society.
The plan is simple--they will pretend to be engaged until they each get what they desire.
Everything goes according to plan until a crazy little thing called love gets in the way...
This is the first book I've read by Ms. Shupe and I loved how refreshing it was. I don't think I've read a romance book that delved into the Gilded Age when America was first coming into its own. Lady Honora Parker is the only child of an Earl and he's shipped her to America in hopes she'll find a suitable husband after she botched up her chances in England. She, however, has plans to get back to the young painter who stole her heart. Her scheme is to make a deal with the most inappropriate suitor she can find in hopes her father will ship her back to England. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the man she picks ends up being much more than she ever expected.

Julius Hatcher is one of the richest self made men in New York. He's also comes with quite a scandalous reputation for being the "scourge on everything decent and upstanding in the city." He brashly spends outrageous sums of money on parties that are over the top and other equally frivolous things. He's handsome as sin and the gossip pages have printed many a story about his sordid affairs over the years. At face value he seems the perfect man to fill Nora's plan, but there's more to Julius than meets the eye. Plus, he has his own secret agenda.

Lady Honora 'Nora' Parker was young and desperate for attention when a young man hired to paint her portrait took advantage of her. She thinks herself worldly, but she's rather naive when it come to the opposite sex. She fancies herself in love, but doesn't know the first thing about it. Julius is nothing like anyone she's ever met. He believes in working hard and playing hard. He's also smart as they come and in Nora, he'll meet his match. For while she may at times seem irresponsible and impulsive, there's hidden depths to her character that he'll slowly begin to discover and come to admire.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. I love the time period and location that this story is set in, and hope the rest of the series follows suit. It's a time when huge fortunes were amassed in a short period of time. A time when the American dream was more attainable then any other time, but corruption was rampant. It was a fun, sweet, and charming romance that made me shake my head, laugh, and grin while keeping me glued to its pages. I adored watching these two fall in love. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Notes to keep you in the know:
The inspiration for one scene is this book came from the above picture of a party on horseback given by C. K. G. Billings in Sherry's ballroom, New York City, on March 28, 1903. The source of the photo is the Washington Post which published it on page 1 January 25, 1914. The Photo was take by Byron Company and is now part of the public domain.

Release Day Review of The Duke (Devil's Duke, #3) by Katharine Ashe

Title: The Duke: A Devil's Duke Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Devil's Duke (Book 3)
Format: Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Avon (September 26, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062641727
ISBN-13: 978-0062641724
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Once upon a time there was a young girl who dreamt up her perfect man, and when she grew up she found him only to discover he was a frog in disguise. Luckily, a man she thought to be a frog turned out to be a prince, er, duke, among men. This is their story.
This is the third book in the Devil's Duke series. It can be read as a standalone and you won't feel you missed anything. It is a rather unconventional romance because when Gabriel first meets Lady Amarantha Vale she's engaged to marry someone else. It will be another five years before they get their shot at a happily-ever-after.

I absolutely loved the relationship between Gabriel and Amarantha, but it took quite some time for these two to finally get together. Amarantha's first marriage was not a happy one and it left her not wishing to remarry. Gabriel still harbors bad feelings for Amarantha because she didn't wait for him. Then there was the little matter of Gabriel's cousin, Jonah, and what he did. If someone had done something like that to me I'd be furious with them. Yet Gabriel and Amarantha just sort of let bygones be bygones. I was rather surprised by this.

When we're first introduced to Amarantha she's young and optimistic about life. She wants to save the world and isn't afraid of hard work or about getting her hands dirty. Meeting Gabriel throws her for a loop. She, in turn, throws Gabriel for one too.

Gabriel has done things he isn't proud of. Amaratha makes him want to be a better man. I like how at the end we see just how profound an effect she's had on his life since their first meeting. After all she's gone through, Amarantha needs for Gabriel to prove himself to her. He does so with flying colors, but Amarantha's trust doesn't come easily. Too much has happened and she's a bit stubborn.

Overall, I gave this one 3 1/2 out of 5 roses. There was a whole lot of chemistry going on between Gabriel and Amarantha and I loved watching these two interact. While I felt there were was one too many hurdles in this couple's path, I enjoyed the story. The ending had a huge twist that kind of snuck up on me. There was so much going on that I hadn't foreseen, and I may need to go back and reread parts to find all the bread crumbs. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the Devil's Duke series:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Early Review of Chasing Christmas Eve (Heartbreaker Bay, #4) by Jill Shalvis

Title: Chasing Christmas Eve: A Heartbreaker Bay Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Heartbreaker Bay
Format: Hardcover; 272 pages
Publisher: Avon (September 26, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062697218
ISBN-13: 978-0062697219
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating.

Due to the fact that I read an ARC, any quotes will need to be checked against the final version as Advance Reader Copies are subject to change. 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Once upon a time a twenty-eight year old author lost her writing mojo so she decided to runaway from it all--her family, her publisher, her commitments--but nothing seemed to go the way she planned. She wanted to go to Aruba, Jamaica, or someplace exotic, but a late season hurricane kept that from happening. Then as she was going through security they took one look at her research material and lets just say homeland security was not too happy with her. Colbie had a lot of explaining to do. Finally, upon reaching her destination, she threw in the towel and told the cab driver to "surprise me" as that was what had been happening to her all day. She ended up in a place called Cow Hollow and immediately, or pretty close, got knocked into a fountain. Everything that possibly could go wrong did and then she met him and her luck seemed to change.

Sometimes in life you need to stop fighting the current and let it take you where it may.
This was a cute, sweet, funny, and sexy read, but what else would you expect from author Jill Shalvis? This was the fourth book in the Heartbreaker Bay series and this may be my favorite of the bunch. This one could be read as a standalone, but you'll enjoy the story more if you know the people surrounding the couple, so you may want to check out the previous books in the series first.

Colbie Albright is a smart young author whose first book is about to become a movie. She's a little leery of people and decides to keep her identity under wraps so when Spence assumes she hasn't yet published a book, she doesn't correct him. Ironically, she's not the only one who doesn't want her identity revealed.

Spencer Baldwin is young, rich, and smart as they come. He also has just been named one of San Francisco's most eligible bachelors. Since then he's been having women throw themselves at him, sending him gifts and naked pictures and making marriage proposals. His friends are very protective of him so they won't tell Colbie exactly who he is and Spence isn't about to volunteer the information. Since Colbie confesses she's just in town for a few weeks, he lets his guard down with her and, she in turn, lets hers down as well.

I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved how Colbie and Spencer were both private and passionate people who understood one another. They are both fiercely loyal and each has been a bit overly obsessive about their work in the past. I love how Colbie is able to distract Spencer from his work and how Spencer is able to make Colbie realize she sometimes needs to put herself first. The two seem to counterbalance one another and you could just picture them growing old and gray together. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the Hearbreaker Bay series:

Friday, September 22, 2017

Early Review of Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben

Title: Don't Let Go
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Format: Hardcover; 368 pages
Publisher: Dutton (September 26, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0525955119
ISBN-13: 978-0525955115
Author's Website:
Notes: I received an eARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Fifteen years ago Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas' twin brother Leo and Leo's girlfriend Diana, were tragically killed in a accident on the train tracks in Westbridge. No one knows exactly what happened--if they were in the middle of a game of chicken with the train that went terrible wrong, if they committed suicide, or if they were the victims of some seriously bad luck--all anyone truly knows is that they died way too young. Now, years later, the tragedy is being called into question as one of the couple's former classmate and friend is found murdered and another, who's been missing since shortly after the accident, becomes the prime suspect. As the killings of Leo's and Diana's former classmates/friends start to stack up, a connection between the tragedy and murders seems the most likely scenario leaving Nap to wonder what really happened on the night his life change irrevocably all those many years ago?
Harlan Coben is one of the few authors that can keep me guessing right up until the end as to who dunnit. His books are like a fusion of 3-D jigsaw puzzles with a series of connect the dots. You can't solve the puzzle until you've separated the information into groups, connected all the dots within each grouping, and have stacked all the relevant information in order before piecing together what ultimately happened. He also doesn't disclose one important piece of information until the very end which can ultimately make all the pieces fit together or, if excluded, make all the carefully collected clues and information come tumbling down like a Jenga tower. In a nutshell, his thrillers are nail biters that keep you guessing till the bitter end while throwing you for a last minute loop that leaves you thinking, "Oh, so that's what happened." I personally love that.

Nap is a very likable character whose life changed drastically when his brother died. Letting go of loved ones is never easy, but losing a sibling makes you view your own mortality much more clearly, and reevaluate what is important in your own life. It's part of the reason Nap became a cop. He's a good cop, but he isn't above bending the rules when the rules don't seem to work. This could one day get him into trouble, but he just doesn't see it. As the investigation into Rex Canton's death seems to have more and more links and ties to his brother's death, it's as if an old wound that never truly healed has been reopened. He's still haunted by his brother's death and still talks to him, even though it's five years since his passing, which, I believe, is part of Nap's coping mechanism.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. It captured and held my attention from the very start. I enjoyed the twists and turns, and the journey that led to the answer of what happened all those years ago. I admit I was totally off and was sad to find out what really happened. I liked how something Nap did years before is what ultimately led to the connection between the murders. I'd like to see more of this character, and find out how everything affected him in the long run. For fans of Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series, Myron makes a small appearance in this one, but if you haven't read any of the books in that series, you won't feel lost. I highly recommend this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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