Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review: King's Crusade by A.D. Starrling

King's Crusade 
by A.D. Starrling
Series:  Seventeen #2
Pub. Date:  Feb. 5, 2015
Publisher:  Self-Pub
Pages:  396
Format:  eBook
Source:  Purchased

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

The perfect immortal warrior. 
A set of stolen, priceless artifacts. 
An ancient sect determined to bring about the downfall of human civilization. 

The exciting, action-packed follow-up to Soul Meaning and the second installment in the supernatural thriller series, Seventeen. 

When a team of scientists unearth scriptures older than the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave in the Eastern Desert mountains in Egypt, a mystery lost to the tides of time is uncovered. Heading the expedition is Dimitri Reznak, the Head of the Crovir Immortal Culture & History Section. But the monumental discovery is spoiled by evidence of looting and half the priceless artifacts Reznak has been seeking for centuries have disappeared. 

Alexa King is a covert agent for the Crovir First Council. When she is approached by her godfather for a mission that could help elucidate the enigma of her lost past, she finds herself delving into the dangerous and shadowy world of secret religious societies. Assigned by Reznak to assist her is Zachary Jackson, a gifted human and Harvard archaeology professor. 

In their search for the missing artifacts, King and Jackson stumble upon the existence of a deadly sect whose origins are as mystifying as the relics they are searching for. From North Africa to the doors of Vatican City itself, they unveil a centuries-old plan that aims to shatter the very structure of civilized society. 

With the help of Reznak and a group of unexpected allies, King and Jackson must stop the enemy and uncover the astonishing truth behind the missing artifacts and King’s own unearthly origins before all is lost.

Most. Kickass. Heroine. Ever.

At a time when I have been getting aggravated to the Nth degree by whiny romance heroines who fight against their fate and treat people like dirt, I was absolutely elated to find this series by A.D. Starrling. I really enjoyed the first book, Soul Meaning, so I didn't know how I would feel about the main character switching in the second book. However, by the end of the first chapter, I could tell that I was going to love this book even more. Alexa was an absolutely fascinating character and I couldn't get enough of her. Hello - immortal warrior female reincarnated!?! She kicked major ass and didn't even worry about the taking names part. This book was just as action-packed as Soul Meaning, it just had a little more of The Da Vinci Code feel in that we are hot on the trail of the origins of the immortal races and there are esoteric and secret societies involved including Freemasons, mentions of the Illuminati, and the Rose Croix.

Our hero in this piece was Jackson, a Harvard professor who was extremely intelligent but still carried a mean uppercut. Jackson's exuberance for solving historical puzzles got me excited right along with him, and I loved seeing the romance slowly unfold between him and Alexa. (Don't worry guys - there is not enough romance for you to lose your man card by reading this one.) The romance was just enough for the story and was very tastefully done. There are some parts of the story which will likely squeeze a few tears out of the female readers (as happened w/ me).

We continued to have great secondary characters in this book - but my favorite by far was Yonten. I was really hoping that he would be the main character in The Warrior Monk. I can't say more w/o giving spoilers.

A.D. Starrling's books are well-written, researched and will keep the reader engaged from start to finish. I get the feeling that she is extremely intelligent and really gets into the details of her work. I am a huge fan, and would hope to see these books as movies one day.

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Seventeen Series

Review coming June 9

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: Braving Fate by Linsey Hall

Braving Fate
by Linsey Hall
Series:  Mythean Arcana #1
Pub. Date:  Nov. 10, 2014
Publisher:  Bonnie Doon Press
Pages:  345
Format:  eBook
Source:  Purchased

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

As chaos looms, a warrior queen is reborn
Bookish academic Diana Laughton has been having terrible dreams. Dreams of battle, dreams of blood... dreams so vivid she's living them day and night. When demons invade her quiet life, she wonders if she's going mad. Or if perhaps she's remembering a past life she had no idea existed...

In the midst of betrayal, he must protect her
Mythean Guardian Cadan Trinovante loved and betrayed Britain's warrior queen Boudica two millennia ago. Now he's tasked with protecting mortals whose lives affect the fate of humanity. His latest assignment is Boudica herself, reincarnated as a woman with no idea of her past or her fated future. Though in the irresistible form of Diana Laughton, it's possible Cadan has once again met his match...

To succumb to seduction could prove fatal
Thrown together in a shadowy world that exists alongside our own, Diana and Cadan must fight not only the demonic forces that want Diana dead, but a past and a passion that have lasted centuries. Their desire could be deadly. But as evil from the underworld unites against them, their only hope could be each other.

So this was an original storyline, you don't see many books that feature Boudica, Celtic Warrior Queen, especially as the main character. So I was excited for this story, as I am a big fan of mythology-based books.

The book starts off in Central England, AD 60, on the eve of the Roman conquest of Britain. This gives us the backstory so we know who our main characters will be. We get to see a little of Boudica to jog our memory as to who she was as I don't recall that we spent any amount of time learning about her when I was in school. (Though I did know who she was, so I must have learned it somewhere. The only other book I can remember her character appearing in was The White Mare, but I knew of her before I read that one.) As this is the first book of the series, it has some world building, but not overly much. Basically we learn the bare minimum about the characters we meet and the Praesidium, a university for the mytheans that is located at the base of Arthur's Seat in Scotland.

Okay so once we have our backstory, we jump ahead nearly 2,000 years and meet Cadan (again) who has been made an immortal mythean guard. He is a downtrodden soul, feeling like he failed his family and Boudica because he was unable to protect them during the war. I liked Cadan, but he used the word "lassie" way too much. It came off as weird when I don't recall that he spoke with any heavy Scottish/Irish dialect. Cadan is given a new assignment by Walter (head of the Praesidium?), to guard Boudica reincarnated while she completes the task for which she has been reincarnated. Boudica was reincarnated as Diana, but she does not have the knowledge of her prior life. This must be triggered by some event, which gives us the first part of the story. Then she must complete her task, and then she will die. Sounds fun, huh?

Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a reading slump while I was reading this one and it was not holding my attention. It took me 4 days to finish it, and that is unheard of for me. I am a 1 book per day type person. I just couldn't get swept up in the plot like I wanted to. I think part of the reason is that I really didn't care for Diana. She was hard-headed, reckless and bitchy. And once Diana was paired with Esha, a soulceress, the dislike grew even more. These two just rubbed me the wrong way. But I like the mythological theme, and the story was original, so I'm not gonna say that I didn't like it. I did - I just wish I could've focused on it a bit more.  This was the author's debut novel, so I think the series will get better as she goes along.

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Mythean Arcana Series

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: Highlander Redeemed by Laurin Wittig

Highlander Redeemed 
by Laurin Wittig
Series:  Guardians of the Targe #3
Pub. Date:  May 12, 2015
Publisher:  Montlake Romance
Pages:  272
Format:  eARC
Source:  Netgalley

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

Scotia MacAlpin may be only eighteen years old, but she’s no stranger to trouble. Her latest incident—which resulted in a death and forced her clan into battle—has made her an outcast among her exiled people. Scotia is tired of being ignored and overshadowed by her sister, a gifted Guardian of the Targe, and she’s become hell-bent on destroying the army out to capture the ancient Highland relic for their English king.

Duncan of Dunlairig has looked out for Scotia since she started to walk. She was as restless and reckless then as she is now—only the stakes have become higher and more perilous. While the rest of Clan MacAlpin ostracizes her, Duncan secretly helps Scotia become the warrior she yearns to be. But the real test of her skills may come when he needs her help—and her long-forgotten heart—in this thrilling and romantic Guardians of the Targe tale.

I kept putting off the reading of this book because I hated Scotia in the first two books. She was willful, stubborn, self-centered, reckless - you name a bad characteristic for a female heroine and she was it. So because I have encountered quite a few annoying heroines lately, I was not looking forward to another one. So I am quite surprised that I ended up rating this book the highest of the series. (Part of the reason could be that I listened to the first two books in audio and I just did not care for the narrator.)

So this installment of the Targe series focuses on the youngest sister, Scotia MacAlpin, and Duncan of Dunlairig. In the previous books, Scotia was either trysting or getting into major trouble to the point of costing a clansmen his life. I can't say that she was improved any in this book - she still refuses to accept responsibility for her actions. All she can think about is vengeance and fighting the English. I did feel bad for Scotia sometimes when her own clan shunned her, but I can't say she didn't deserve it. Duncan has always had the patience of a saint when it came to Scotia, but he has finally had it with her. However Duncan soon finds himself assigned to follow Scotia everywhere to make sure she stays out of trouble. I love the way that Duncan decides to distract her, and their training sessions together were nicely detailed and well-written.

The plot really comes to a head in this book, so we have more supernatural activity, more strategy and more fighting. I enjoyed all the action and plotting, which helped take the focus off Scotia's spoiled behavior. This was a nice culmination of the series, and I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I had read all the books instead of going the audio route.

I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Guardians of the Targe Series

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Kilts and Daggers by Victoria Roberts

Kilts and Daggers 
by Victoria Roberts
Series:  Highland Spies #2
Pub Date:  May 5, 2015
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pages:  320
Format:  eBook
Source:  Purchased

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

Ever since Lady Grace Walsingham discovered her uncle and sister are spies for the Crown, she has yearned for adventure. She's counting the days until she can leave barbaric Scotland behind, even if she must endure Highland captain Fagan Murray's company for weeks.

Fagan has a simple mission: escort the haughty Lady Grace back to England. But nothing is ever easy. The sharp-tongued woman needles him at every turn. But when a menacing threat follows them on their journey, Fagan's grudging tolerance for Grace turns to respect...and into a perilous attraction that could seal their fate. 

The second installment of the Highland Spies series continues with family members of the main characters from My Highland Spy. This story revolves around Grace, Ravenna's sister, and Fagan, the captain of the Sutherland guard. We met Grace briefly in book one - she is the spoiled and opinionated eldest of Ravenna's younger sisters. Fagan's charm and wit was a show stealer at times in the first book, and those characteristics continued to be displayed in Kilts and Daggers.

The action and danger in this book were fantastic. Mercenaries have been hired to abduct Grace due to her family connections, and Fagan is tasked with getting her home to England. Their perilous journey has many ups and downs, and their hate for each other turns to passion the longer they remain in each other's company. Fagan proves to be an honorable man and very set in those ways. He will do what his honor demands whether Grace wants him to or not. As for Grace, I didn't really care for her as a character. She was too naive, hard-headed and judgmental for me, and she said some hurtful things to Fagan. I got so tired of her self-righteous complaining! (This has nothing to do with the writing, but Grace is just one of those characters that I didn't get along with.) I was glad that we got to see more Ruairi and Ravenna in this book, and the antics between Kat and Torquil delighted me. Those were all favored characters (along with Angus and Fagan) from My Highland Spy.

Overall, Victoria Roberts continues to produce entertaining historical stories with the perfect mix of action, adventure and romance. I am always drawn to her books by her vibrant covers and I have never once been disappointed. I can't wait for Elizabeth and Ian's story to come out in 2016.

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Highland Spies Series

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