Cover Reveal: Andromeda’s Fall by Abigail Owen

Andromeda’s Fall
by Abigail Owen
Designed by: Debbie Taylor (Website)

Series: Shadowcat Nation #1

Genre: Paranormal Romance (18+)

Giveaway: $20 Amazon G.C.

Andromeda Reynolds is being hunted. After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of a pack of wolf shifters, Andie has devoted her life to protecting her community of cougar shifters from a similar fate. But now, a greater threat lies within her own pack, and she must run. If she stays, Kyle Carstairs will force their mating, seeking the added political power their union would provide.

Andie would rather chew off her own foot than end up with Kyle. Though, knowing him, she won’t live long either way. Andie’s only hope of survival is to mate Jaxon Keller, the Alpha of the Keller Dare with which she is seeking asylum. But before she can get to him, Andie must first go through A.J., one of the Alpha’s Protectors. What Andie doesn’t realize is that A.J. has secrets of his own. All Andie knows is that the incredibly frustrating shifter insists on challenging her story, her skills, her trust…and her heart.

Award-winning author, Abigail Owen was born in Greeley, Colorado and raised in Austin, Texas. She now resides in Northern California with her husband and two adorable children who are the center of her universe.

Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. A fourth generation graduate of Texas A&M University, she attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by obtaining a degree in English Rhetoric/Technical Writing. However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.
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The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel

The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel(Cover picture courtesy of NetGalley.)

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

At first, I thought The Book of Ivy would be a guilty pleasure read.  I’m a sucker for the failed-assassin trope, I’ll admit.  What I didn’t really expect was that it would have as much depth as it did.

In her debut novel, Amy Engel has created some truly amazing characters.  Ivy is one of the more memorable characters I’ve read in a long, long time.  She’s brave and not afraid to stand up for herself, but at the same time she can be weak and vulnerable when it comes to her family.  Not only that, she also knows how to act: she can hide her feelings from those around her reasonably well.  But when Bishop starts to worm his way into her paranoid heart, she starts to question all that her family has told her about the current regime.  It’s not perfect, but maybe the Westfalls don’t have Ivy’s best interests at heart.

Bishop was more than your typical love interest as well.  He’s kind and patient, waiting for Ivy to come around rather than trying to force his affection on her once he falls in love with her.  He knows that she doesn’t trust him and instead of saying “I am trustworthy”, he demonstrates it.  Some of his actions are rather shocking to our sensibilities, but in the fairly brutal future they make sense.  To his credit, he did the right thing but he is also disgusted about what he did in that case.  That makes him a memorable character as well instead of just Generic Male Love Interest.

The world-building is excellent.  There’s not much I haven’t seen in post-apocalyptic/speculative fiction but The Book of Ivy manages to combine old tropes with Amy Engel’s new take on them.  She paints a realistic picture of a horrible world where the survival of the fittest is very, very true.  Even within their community, there is always danger lurking around the corner and dissent is punished severely.  I would like to know a little more about the founding of the community, but Amy Engel manages to explain all of the essential things in the course of the book.  So I’m looking forward to learning more, but I’m not desperately seeking information in order to actually understand the book.

The only place that I felt The Book of Ivy was shaky was the plot.  Not the pacing, which was excellent for a largely character-driven novel, but the plot itself.  It was fairly fast-paced and the way Ivy changes is very believable, but I was a little annoyed at the end.  Ivy did some counter-intuitive things in order to advance the plot at the end and set up the next book The Revolution of Ivy.  I get that she needed to finally meet the rebels on the other side of the fence, but it could have been done in a more believable fashion.  Still, it’s a first book and it didn’t make me mad or even anything more than slightly annoyed.

All considered, The Book of Ivy is an amazing debut that’s better than the books of more established authors.  It’s one of the better post-apocalyptic books that I’ve ever read in the YA genre and considering how many I’ve read, that’s saying something.  I can highly recommend picking it up when it releases on November 11.  I can almost guarantee that once you finish it, you’ll be like me and become extremely anxious for November 2015 when the next book releases.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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Forbidden by Amy Miles

Forbidden by Amy Miles(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Roseline Enescue didn’t ask to become an Immortal, to have all of the guests at her wedding slaughtered, or be forced into marriage with a man whose lust for blood would one day ignite the vampire legend. Willing to risk everything for a chance at a normal life, Roseline escapes to America. Terrified her husband Vladimir will find her, Roseline enrolls as a senior in Chicago’s elite Rosewood Prep school. Mingling with humans is the last place he would look for her. But her transition into the human world isn’t easy. Mortal men flock after her while cutthroat girls plot her demise. Yet Roseline remains relatively unfazed by the petty hysteria until she falters into the arms of Gabriel Marston, reluctant MVP quarterback, unwilling ladies man, and sensitive artist in hiding. Troubled by the bond that pulls her towards the mortal boy, Roseline tries to ignore him, but Gabriel is persistent. As their lives entwine, Roseline begins to realize that Gabriel is much more than he appears. His ability to toss a football the entire length of the field and grind concrete into dust pales in comparison to the glowing blue cross tattoo that mysteriously appears on his forearms. Despite the forbidden bond between them, Roseline can’t help wondering what Gabriel is: He’s not human. He’s not Immortal. So just what is he?

[Full disclosure: I requested and received this ebook through NetGalley as part of the 'Beautifully Unnatural' four book package.]

I thought the premise of this book sounded a little dumb, to be honest.  An immortal who just wants to be a teenager?  Meh.

And yet, after all the effort Amy Miles went to in order to develop her characters, I kind of get it.  Roseline was never allowed to be a child.  She was raised for marriage into another wealthy family from birth and was a child bride on her wedding day.  Add to that the fact she watched her entire family die before her eyes and that the blood of dead younger sister made her immortal and you’ve got a basic recipe for stunted growth.  Not to mention all the myriad tortures Dracula inflicts on her.  I think anyone would turn out with a lack of trust, not to mention an odd mix of maturity (because she had to deal with torture and politics) and immaturity (a response to being forced into said torture and politics).

From all this, you can definitely guess that Roseline is a pretty memorable character.  I still don’t quite buy the whole 300-year-old immortal falling for a teenage boy, but I’m willing to give Amy Miles a little leeway here after she semi-justified Roseline’s immaturity.  Gabriel is not bad in the beginning and I like how he actually develops into a character rather than just your typical love interest.  He won’t abandon Roseline, no matter how much she pushes him away in order to protect him.  Compared to other love interests, he also knows how to act and lie, which make him a far more compelling character than your usual guileless but oddly heroic male.

Even if the characterization was iffy in spots, the plot was not.  Even when it was ‘slow’ (i.e. there were no major events happening), there was still an element of tension throughout the novel that kept your attention.  I generally liked Roseline as a character so I was very invested in what happened to her, especially when she got the word that Dracula was going to go on a killing spree unless she returned to him.  She has trouble adjusting to high school life in America but she does find a lot of things to be happy about at the same time: Gabriel, finally being allowed to be herself and (again) the whole not being tortured thing.  Anyone would act a little irrationally after being denied freedom for centuries and then being given it back.

So overall, Forbidden at least had a solid plot and generally well-developed characters.  The world-building was okay and I expect we’ll see a little bit more of an explanation in the other two books of the trilogy.  For something I picked up as guilty pleasure, I actually found myself enjoying it on a more intellectual level.  And that’s why I’ll be reading the next book to find out what happens.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Amazon*     Barnes and Noble*     Goodreads

*Currently free on both Kindle and Nook!

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

 

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Spies, poison, and curses surround her…

Is there anyone she can trust?

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters, Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition.

Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick during the time of Elizabeth Woodville was queen has never been one of my favourite figures throughout history.  He seemed to go wherever the winds blew, betraying this cause and that to make sure his own blood got on the throne of England.  I’ve never liked historical figures like him, but I always pitied his daughters Anne and Isabel, who were nothing more than pawns in his schemes.  Married off to men much older than they, told to think and act certain ways depending on their family’s current alliance and such.

I was also reluctant to pick up The Kingmaker’s Daughter because the last Philippa Gregory book I just read was The Other Boleyn Girl, which I hate with a passion right now.  Still, I couldn’t resist the Cousins’ War series, not after loving The White Queen that featured Elizabeth Woodville.

What was interesting to me was seeing Elizabeth Woodville as the villain of the peace.  In this story, everyone sees her as an evil witch who curses anyone who gets in her way.  Why, she even kills her own brother-in-law.  Anne Neville, our novel’s main character, is predisposed to see Elizabeth as the enemy and a witch because in reality she probably did.  Gregory doesn’t make her out to be some sort of super-heroine that manipulates everyone around her either; she stays relatively true to historical fact and at the same time, tells a story of a woman who seized her own destiny only to realize its true cost.

Anne Neville is a three-dimensional character and not only that, she’s interesting.  She’s brought to court at a young age and has to stay in that viper’s nest for a little while.  It certainly makes an impression on her, but her naivete wins out when her father orchestrates a match that would make her sister Isabel Queen of England as well as later when her father does the same thing for her.  As she grows, though, losing her father and her first husband, Anne really realizes the cost of all these ambitions both morally, personally and politically.  Eventually she does get her dream, but it is a Pyrrhic victory.

I wouldn’t say that the plot of The Kingmaker’s Daughter is fast-paced by most standards, but it was interesting enough to keep me wanting to find out what happened to Anne.  Although I’ve never been fond of her as an historical figure, I like how Philippa Gregory went above and beyond in terms of effort so that she would shine as a person, not just as a political pawn.  Anne had a hard life, made only worse by the tragedies that occurred later on, so you can’t help but feel sorry for her and feel a vested interest in what happens to her next.

All in all, The Kingmaker’s Daughter was a pretty solid book.  The character of Elizabeth of York really shone through in the end as her star was rising so I honestly can’t wait to read her take on things in The White Princess.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Goodreads

 

Short Story: Merry Christmas, Henry by Aubrey Wynne

Merry Christmas, Henry by Aubrey Wynne(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Henry, a shy and talented artist, moonlights as a security guard at a museum and loses his heart to a beautiful, melancholy woman in a painting. As his obsession grows, he finds a kindred soul who helps him in his search for happiness. On Christmas Eve, Henry dares to take a chance on love and fulfill his dream.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook in conjunction with the review tour in exchange for an honest review.]

Normally I’m not in the mood for Christmas books until at least December 20th.  However, I put my grumbling aside about having to review a Christmas story while it’s still warm out and decided to take a chance on Aubrey Wynne’s short story.  The blurb sounded interesting enough, so I figured I’d give it a go.

You know, in the end I was not disappointed in the least.  Aubrey Wynne somehow managed to give me that warm and Christmassy feeling in the middle of October, which is certainly a testament to her writing skill.  Yes, Merry Christmas, Henry is your typical heartwarming semi-sappy story about Christmas and the magic surrounding it, but I still loved it.  It’s nice to read a story where the good guy gets what he deserves and life improves for him after having a hard life.

Henry is a pretty three dimensional character, especially considering the fact that this is a short story.  He’s a shy and retiring artist who passionately loves his work at the museum.  One day he becomes obsessed with a woman in an obscure painting in the back of the gallery and can’t get her out of his head.  He visits her, talks to her and generally thinks of her as real.  As Christmas approaches, the pull becomes stronger and stronger.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but let’s just say that anything can happen on Christmas Eve in Aubrey Wynne’s world.

The plot was fairly fast-paced since it was a short story, but at the same time I feel like I knew the main characters intimately.  There was no one-time info dump, but rather an organic growth of Henry’s sad backstory and the events leading up to his getting a job in the museum.  By the end, you really do feel like you know him intimately and Aubrey Wynne spins such a beautiful tale that you can’t help but cheer for the heartwarming ending.

In short, it’s the perfect Christmas story.  Even in October.

I give this short story 5/5 stars.

Amazon     Barnes and Noble*     Goodreads

*No link because B&N is stupidly telling me I don’t have permission to access the requested search.  I know: huh?

The Mad Reviewer is Open to Review Requests (Temporarily)

So for the first time since I closed my review requests almost two years ago, I’m reopening them for an extremely limited period of time.  I will probably be closing them down again by the end of the week (or once I’ve accepted 15-20 requests), so if you’re thinking of submitting you better do it today.

I’m not one to beat around the bush, so keep reading for my guidelines of what to submit, how to submit and some general caveats.

WHAT I ACCEPT

Here are the genres of books I accept:

  • YA
  • Middle Grade (limited)
  • Science Fiction/Speculative Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Contemporary/realistic fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Horror (limited)
  • Any combination of the above or other hybrid novels; if in doubt, send in the request anyway

Here are the genres of books I do not accept under any circumstances:

  • Erotica.  What you like to write may not necessarily be what I like to read.
  • Poetry.
  • Shameless slasher fiction.  I don’t need violence for violence’s sake.
  • Children’s books.  That genre hasn’t applied to me for several years and I don’t have children.

If your book includes any of the following elements, I am VERY likely to accept it:

  • Not-so-popular fantasy creatures.  Trolls, ogres, you know.  I like vampires and werewolves just fine, but I like non-typical fantasy.
  • Opera.  I love opera!
  • Characters with disabilities, particularly chronic pain.
  • Non-typical love triangles or no love triangles at all.
  • Ancient history, particularly Roman or Egyptian.  I love my historical fiction.

GUIDELINES FOR SUBMITTING

  1. Your book has to fit the criteria listed above in my genre-list.  If it sort of fits, then send in the request anyway.  At worst, I’ll just reject your submission but I also may pick it up to review.
  2. You must be able to provide me a .mobi copy of your book.  If you can’t, there is an option for paperback novels if you don’t mind shipping to Canada.  Personally, I prefer paperbacks but I do recognize that shipping costs can be prohibitive for self-published or small press authors.  I do not accept .epubs or .pdfs anymore.
  3. In your request you must give me the blurb of your book as well as the genre.
  4. You must also link to Amazon so that I can read an excerpt of your book before I choose to take it on.
  5. Please address me by name, either my actual name (Carrie) or by my blog name (The Mad Reviewer).  I am not Dear Sir/Madam and addressing me by name actually shows that you’ve read these guidelines.
  6. You may request reviews for one of your books at this time.  If I like it, in the future I will ask you for your other works.
  7. Anyone not following these criteria will be rejected immediately.

HOW TO SUBMIT

  1. Go over to the ‘Contact’ tab I have just below my banner here on my blog.
  2. Fill out the form with the required information: name and email address as well as the blurb, genre, why you think I’d like to read it and a link to Amazon of your book.
  3. Sit back and wait!

YOUR SUBMISSION

If your review request has been accepted:

  1. I will contact you within one week (seven days) asking you for a .mobi copy of your novel.  Or, if you’ve offered a paperback, with shipping information.
  2. Once I have finished your novel and written a draft of the review, I will send you a copy a week in advance of its publication.
  3. This may take one week or one year.  However, I will do my very best to get a review done.  If I choose not to review your book because I did not finish it once having accepted it, I will also inform you as soon as reasonably possible.

If your review request has been rejected:

  1. No hard feelings!  Maybe I exceeded my quota of “books I feel I can actually read and review at one time”.  Maybe your blurb didn’t really sound like my sort of thing.  Or maybe you’re on my blacklist for emailing me with a review request when my requests were closed, for attacking other reviewers or attacking me.  The third ‘maybe’ is the least likely.
  2. I will not contact you about it.  I’ve had far too many unpleasant experiences with personally contacting authors I’ve rejecting (see below).  I’m sorry; it’s not fair.  If you haven’t heard from me within seven days of sending in your request, it has been rejected.

FURTHER INFORMATION

I have been attacked by authors previously.  The most vicious one was the one that told me to kill myself.  So you’ll understand if I have no tolerance for crap from authors.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

If you treat me like crap, I am going to publicly call you out on it.

Now, you may be thinking that I seem like a very abrasive person and am likely to fly off the handle at any perceived slight.  That’s probably the farthest thing from the truth because believe me when I say that I’ve suppressed more bad author behaviour than I’ve revealed.  I don’t like doing it, but if you go so far as to threaten me or tell me to kill myself (and provide handy links on how to do it) I am not going to be intimidated by you and will go public to name you.

For the most part, though, I don’t want to do this.  Treat me with professional courtesy and I will absolutely do the same.  If you don’t like something I said in my review, you can address my criticism (politely) before it is published but you have absolutely no rights over my review.  If I don’t want to change it, then I won’t.  That’s simply the risk you’ll have to accept when you submit your novel or short story to me to review.

I am only accepting around 15-20 novels, so get your requests in.  If I have closed submissions, I will be announcing it here on my blog.  Better luck next time.

Discussion: Your Favourite Historical Figure(s)

This is a topic that comes up frequently amongst historical fiction lovers, but as a lover of historical fiction as well as an extremely amateur historian, I just can’t get enough of it.  My question for this week is: Who is/are your favourite historical figure(s)?  Why?

Here are some of my favourite historical figures:

  • Julius Caesar.  His mixture of cunning on the battlefield combined with his impressive political savvy make me really appreciate him as both a man and the legend that he became.  When you read about it, his life essentially reads like an epic movie and it’s just plain awesome (aside from the whole violent death part).  Having the guts to order around the pirates holding you captive and seemingly always fighting with the smaller force and winning is pretty impressive.
  • Hatshepsut.  I’ve always had a soft spot for strong female leaders throughout history, and the Iron Lady of Egypt is one of my absolute favourites.  She presided over a golden age with minimal military activity and a new resurgence in trade from her Punt expedition.  And she did all this in an extremely sexist society where she was never, ever meant to take the throne.  The more I read about her, the more I love her.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli.  This is probably not the most popular choice, but having read The Prince I can’t help but admire his cunning.  His political theories ring true throughout history; having a background in Roman history certainly didn’t hurt his credibility.  And he presents them in a very concise way without adding in too much fluff like many of his contemporaries.

I could go on and on, but that wouldn’t be fair.  Now it’s your turn to answer the question: who is/are your favourite historical figure(s)?  Why?  How did they come to be your favourite(s)?