Dark Paradise by Angie Sandro

What’s that you said? Voodoo? Rural Louisiana? Murder mystery? Vengeful ghosts? Count me in!

Dark Paradise Front Cover (Forever Publishing)

Dark Paradise Front Cover (Forever Yours Publishing)

THE PLOT:  Mala LaCroix is the 20-year-old  daughter of a prostitute, possibly also the latest in a long line of witches that include her slave ancestors. Mala has been branded as trash her whole life thanks to her mother, but she wants to make something of herself…specifically as a member of law enforcement. But her life spirals out of control after she finds a dead body floating in the swamp and the girl’s ghost starts haunting her.

Landry Prince is the 21-year-old son of the local preacher. He’s a hard-drinking athlete who’s always had a crush on Mala, but never the courage to talk to her. When his sister is found dead, Landry isn’t sure if Mala’s really trying to help him find Lainey’s killer, or if she’s the murderer herself. And if’s she’s not, which of their friends or family was involved in her death? Will Mala and her mother survive the witch hunt? What does Lainey’s ghost really want?

MY TWO CENTS: I could not stop reading this book. The point of view trades off between Mala and Landry, written in present tense. Again, “New Adult” is not the genre/age group for me, and yet I rarely felt like I was reading anything other than a regular supernatural fiction novel. There wasn’t TOO much romance, but I did feel the love scenes were a weak spot. The only time I felt the plot slow down to an uncomfortable pace was during Mala and Landry’s biggest love scene.

Also, I appreciate that Mala is a strong, independent female, but I did feel like she spent a little too much time hurt or being “rescued.” Maybe making her vulnerable is supposed to make Mala sympathetic to the reader, but I was on her side from the start. Maybe it was just a starting point to show her gradual growth in the sequels as she gets stronger.

I don’t know WHAT to make of Landry. I don’t love him, but I think there’s still mystery to be unraveled in future books. The supporting cast were all interesting and diverse. The setting felt very authentic to me. It was only Mala and Landry’s relationship that seemed shaky, and that may be the author’s intent.

BOTTOM LINE: Enjoyed this book greatly and looking forward to its sequels, Dark Sacrifice and Dark Redemption, available later this year.

TEACUP RATING: Not a 5-cup book, but awfully close. Let’s say 4½ out of 5 teacups, with some beignets on the side.

ON SALE DATE: Dark Paradise will be available in paperback and eformats on July 1, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.



Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

I titled my Amazon review for this this ARC “Wars of the Roses for Game of Thrones Fans.”

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird Front Cover (Penguin Group USA)

Wars of the Roses: Stormbird Front Cover (Penguin Group USA)


THE PLOT: The book starts with the arrangement of the marriage of Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou, which includes the return of French territories Anjou and Maine to France. Surprisingly, Englishmen living in those areas aren’t wild about giving up their homes to the French, so lots of fighting ensues. In the meantime, Henry VI is mentally incapable of running a kingdom. The book only covers up until the Duke of York becomes protectorate, so this is all really preliminary setup for the actual Wars of the Roses.

MY TWO CENTS: Many of the current popular books on the Wars of the Roses are more romantic historical fiction, or told from women’s points of view. This first book in a new series is a lot more brutal…lots of battles, torture, and hangings. It’s also told from all male points of view with the exception of Margaret of Anjou. Narrators trade off, much as the Song of Ice and Fire books do, and include both real historical characters and purely fictional characters. (However, the writing is nowhere near as dense as the SOIAF books; it’s a much quicker read, and I don’t think the word “craven” has been used…but “boiled leather” has!)

BOTTOM LINE: Some of the scenes were a little too brutal for my taste, but overall, I found it an antidote to some of the other more romantic books. If you like fictionalized accounts of historical battles, you will probably enjoy this book. The next book in the series is titled “Trinity,” and I definitely have it on my “to read” list.

TEACUP RATING: A solid 4 out of 5 teacups. I like the writing, love the period covered, and ended up sympathizing with most of the main characters. I don’t love reading about torture, though. (Does anyone? Really?)

ON SALE DATE: This book will be available in the US in hardcover and eformats on July 8, 2014. I believe it went on sale earlier in other markets, such as the UK.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

This is the first book I’ve read by author Daisy Goodwin. I actually own The American Heiress, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

The Fortune Hunter Front Cover (St. Martin's Press)

The Fortune Hunter Front Cover (St. Martin’s Press)

THE PLOT: Charlotte Baird is an heiress in late 19th-century England. Her half-brother and his soon-to-be wife are her guardians, and they’re jealous of her fortune (which belonged to her mother not the father she shared with her brother). Charlotte is a fairly independent woman of the times, a budding photographer who doesn’t want to marry just anyone after her fortune. She meets Bay Middleton, one of her brother’s friends and an officer, and falls in love with him. Unfortunately, Bay is not a great guy. The story starts off with his married mistress retiring to the country to bear their child, then tries to soften him a bit with his honest attraction to Charlotte. Despite her family’s warnings, Charlotte becomes unofficially engaged to Bay. But then he ends up being hunting pilot for Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”) of Austria, and falls into instant, all-consuming lust with her. Their affair plays out against a backdrop of fox hunts, pouting nobility, and an important horse race.

MY TWO CENTS: The characters are wonderfully written. You can very easily see Charlotte’s relatives, Sissy’s entourage, and “Chicken” Hartopp. The reader is very easily drawn into the story, but I’m not sure it delivers in the end. Will Charlotte forgive Bay? Will she find someone better? Is Bay really any better than a fortune Hunter? Will he choose to remain the empress’s lapdog? Will he win the big race? I just wasn’t 100% on board with Charlotte’s choices and thought she deserved better than her eventual fate.

BOTTOM LINE: An easy, engaging read that keeps you thinking for a while after you finish it. Many of the characters were based on real people, but it reads like 100% fiction, which is fine.

TEACUP RATING: Between three-and-a-half and four out of five teacups. I’m not completely fulfilled by it, but I like Daisy Goodwin’s writing style, and I AM eager to go on to The American Heiress now.

ON SALE DATE: The Fortune Hunter will be released in hardcover and ebook formats on July 29, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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