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Early Review Thriller: The Doll by Taylor Stevens

The Doll by Taylor Stevens (Vanessa Michael Munroe #3)

Egalley thanks to Crown Publishing

Synopsis from Goodreads
“A heroine every bit as provocative as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander.” –The Dallas Morning News

   Haunted by a life of violence and as proficient with languages as she is with knives, Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and hunter, has built her life on a reputation for getting things done—dangerous and often not-quite-legal things. Born to missionary parents in lawless Africa, taken under the tutelage of gunrunners, and tortured by one of the jungle’s most brutal men, Munroe was forced to do whatever it took to stay alive.
   The ability to survive, fight, adapt, and blend has since taken her across the globe on behalf of corporations, heads of state, and the few private clients who can afford her unique brand of expertise, and these abilities have made her enemies.
   On a busy Dallas street, Munroe is kidnapped by an unseen opponent and thrust into an underground world where women and girls are merchandise and a shadowy figure known as The Doll Maker controls her every move. While trusted friends race to unravel where she is and why she was taken, everything pivots on one simple choice: Munroe must use her unique set of skills to deliver a high-profile young woman into the same nightmare that she once endured, or condemn to torture and certain death the one person she loves above all else.
   Driven by the violence that has made her what she is, cut off from help, and with attempts to escape predicted and prevented, Munroe will hunt for openings, for solutions, and a way to strike back at a man who holds all the cards. Because only one thing is certain: she cannot save everyone.
   In this high-octane thriller for fans of Lee Child, Stieg Larsson, and Robert Ludlum's Bourne trilogy, Vanessa Michael Munroe will have to fight fast, smart and furiously to overcome a dangerous nemesis and deliver her trademark brand of justice.

Release date: June 4th 2013.

 Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


* * *
 Breathtaking, gripping and keeping you on the edge of your seat, - which is what comes to mind when I think of Taylor Stevens' writing.

I've raved about The Informationist and The Innocent already, now it's time for The Doll which I enjoyed immensely. The book follows the same Vanessa Michael Munroe whose grip on sanity slips further and further away with each book.

Biography Review: The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda

The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women and Power in Renaissance Italy by Leonie Frieda

Review copy courtesy of HarperCollins

Synopsis from Goodreads
The book is one of drama on a grand scale, a Renaissance epic, as Christendom emerged from the shadows of the calamitous 14th century. The sweeping tale involves inspired and corrupt monarchs, the finest thinkers, the most brilliant artists, and the greatest beauties in Christendom.

Here is the story of eight of its most remarkable women, who are all joined by birth, marriage and friendship and who ruled for a time in place of their men-folk: Lucrezia Turnabuoni (Queen Mother of Florence, the power behind the Medici throne), Clarice Orsini (Roman princess, feudal wife), Beatrice d'Este (Golden Girl of the Renaissance), Caterina Sforza (Lioness of the Romagna), Isabella d'Este (the Acquisitive Marchesa), Giulia Farnese ('la bella', the family asset), Isabella d'Aragona (the Weeping Duchess) and Lucrezia Borgia (the Virtuous Fury). The men play a secondary role in this grand saga; whenever possible the action will be seen through the eyes our eight heroines.

These eight women experienced great riches, power and the warm smile of fortune, but they also knew banishment, poverty, the death of a husband or the loss of one or more of their children. As each of the chosen heroines comes to the fore in her turn, she is handed the baton by her 'sister' and Leonie Frieda recounts the role each woman played in the hundred-year drama that is THE DEADLY SISTERHOOD.

 Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


* * *
 You know what? I was really looking forward to this book because a) I love Renaissance b) I enjoy reading book about powerful women in history, but unfortunately The Deadly Sisterhood failed to deliver coherent and strong stories despite the massive research the author so obviously undertook.

Contemporary Fantasy Review: Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

borrowed from the library

Synopsis from Goodreads
A superb contemporary debut fantasy, a dreamlike yet visceral journey through a Faerie land like no other.

In the debut novel DREAMS AND SHADOWS, screenwriter and noted film critic C. Robert Cargill takes us beyond the veil, through the lives of Ewan and Colby, young men whose spirits have been enmeshed with the otherworld from a young age.

This brilliantly crafted narrative - part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Torro, part William Burroughs - follows the boys from their star-crossed adolescences to their haunted adulthoods. Cargill's tour-de-force takes us inside the Limestone Kingdom, a parallel universe where whisky swilling genies and foul mouthed wizards argue over the state of the metaphysical realm. Having left the spirit world and returned to the human world, Ewan and Colby discover that the creatures from this previous life have not forgotten them, and that fate can never be sidestepped.

With sensitivity and hopeful examination, Cargill illuminates a supernatural culture that all too eerily resembles our own. Set in a richly imagined and constructed world, complete with its own richly detailed history and mythology, DREAMS AND SHADOWS is a deeply engaging story about two extraordinary boys becoming men.

Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK | Fishpond


* * *
 It's an extremely beautiful, strange, terrifying and addictive read. I have a feeling that the author managed to grasp the essence of old fairy tales and distill it into this story.

I would call it a contemporary fantasy, because it's not what we're used to seeing in our urban fantasy, and it describes the life and destiny of two human boys.

The Postman Knock #30 or I Am Back!

Hello, peeps!
I'm back at last and trying to sort everything out - not enough time in the day.
How have you been?
I admit I didn't even look at my Google Reader or Twitter while I was away, it was a whirlwind.
Photos are not ready yet, because most of them were done by our friend Ben, who needs to send them to us first...

Thanks to all my friends for fantastic guest posts and reviews, I don't know what I would have done otherwise :) I'm in your debt, peeps.

Here is what I'VE READ:

10 books is pretty moderate, considering I had 3 weeks, right? In my defense I'll say that me and the hubby also watched 1st season of Supernatural :)
THE AGE OF ICE is a very long and pretty epic book about a man who lives through 3+ centuries, his  adventures, loss of everyone he loves and a truly fascinating retelling of major historical events. I really enjoyed this book. THE DEADLY SISTERHOOD disappointed me, mainly because it failed to create some sort of structure out of the lives described in it. It also failed to engage and was too chaotic for my liking. THE AGE OF MIRACLES is an amazing and very touching read. I'm glad Blodeuedd brought my attention to it. THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is lush, quirky read full of charming little details. If you are easily bored, this is not for you, but I loved it. A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL was way better than I expected, and I actually quite enjoyed its intense gripping plot. BLOOD AND SAND was pure guilty pleasure on my behalf, and of course I loved it. BORN OF ILLUSION is refreshing. I don't know about anyone else, but hours flew by when I was reading it. On the other hand, LEXICON like the previous book of Max Barry I've read, blew my mind. He gives you such massive food for thought, it's impossible not to love his writing. UGLIES was meh. I pretty much skimmed it, and I blame the oversaturation of the book market with exactly the same type of YA dystopia. At last, THE GATHERING DARK left me torn. I loved the world-building, but  disliked an unnecessary secondary love interest. Still, I'll be reading book #2 for sure.




This is it. 
Here is your complimentary music video as usual and have a lovely Sunday. Be good to each other.

Contemporary YA Guest Review: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles

Thanks to a wonderful Melliane from bilingual French-English paranormal and urban fantasy blog  Between Dreams and Reality who agreed to give me a hand and guest review here. As usual with Melliane, her review will be posted in English and French.
If you don't know her yet, come and say hello. You can also find and stalk this wonderful mademoiselle on Twitter .

Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles (Leaving Paradise #1)


Synopsis from Goodreads
Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as "criminal" and "freak." Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

 Amazon  US/UK | Amazon kindle US/UK | The Book Depository US/UK


* * *
I didn’t really know what to expect at the beginning of this book, but with all the wonderful reviews I read, I was really curious to discover it. Well, I was also a little anxious because I’m quite difficult with contemporary romances but this one was a nice surprise. Indeed, once started it was a really fast read (It took me nearly 2 hours to finish it).

Recommended Reads for This Summer: A Guest Post from My Personal Book Guru, Betsy

Hi, peeps!

Betsy found me through Goodreads over a year ago, and thanks god she did! She is an avid reader with very similar taste to mine in books, and a generous and wonderful person. We keep recommending reads to each other which otherwise we would not find, and it's because of Betsy I found many an amazing book, that's why I consider her my personal book guru. Lots of love, chica, and thanks for helping me out.

You can stalk Betsy on Goodreads.

Authors and series I think that everyone should check out this summer:

The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard by Jillian Stone is my favorite with just the right mix of sexy romance, mystery and action.

The Pride by  Shelly Laurenston is an epic, epic series of screwball sexy shapeshifters whose love and bickering know no bounds. It's erotic and hysterical all in one series.

Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne is an amazing and cool contribution to the UF world.

 Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett is charming and sexy. It features my most favorite teen: Jupiter.

LM Pruitt’s newest Winged Series is sexy, rough, compelling and difficult to put down. If you need more Archangels and Nalini Signh isn’t enough, don’t miss Winged.

The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan. These are currently my favorite teens in the UF world. I was not a YA UF fan but I am re-evaluating my position. Kami, Angela and Rusty are delicious, rich characters….and funny.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. Epic YA urban fantasy.

Deadwood series by Ann Charles is laugh out loud funny with a heroine in her thirties, single mom with 9 yr old twins, bad career, poor prospects and unparalleled curiosity. Great series when you need a break from all the supernatural action.

Ink: A Novel by Bob Garick

I have a penchant for Urban Fantasy and PNR with a bit of weird. This genre can be a bit…formulaic…repetitive?

 Ink broke out of that formula when Bob Garick took on the Nanowrimo – The National Novel Writing Month in which folks write 50,000 words in November.

The result is a weird, super-snarky book about a twenty-something woman.

Our dubious heroine further plagues the PNR formula with confused narration, bad information, a house-load of assumptions and that's not even the good stuff.

 Tracy's boring life turns a huge corner one day at her local coffee shop. Rather than meeting the possible jerk of her dreams she falls into a rabbit hole of thugs, gangsters, espionage and endless amounts of fear. Ooh, and "ink" takes on a complex role in this story and is really a mystery character of its own. Did I mention this is a funny book? 'Cause it is hysterical. The dance-off scene has to be one of the top two funniest scenes I have ever read. Garick captured a young woman's disillusioned, urban coffee house snark perfectly.

Smolder by Penelope Fletcher

I confess that this is not my first or even second series by Penelope Fletcher. I thoroughly enjoyed her Rae Wilder series and her Beautiful Damned series as well. Ms. Fletcher is a young writer with tremendous talent, ambitious goals and concepts and provides an original voice for her characters. I greatly admire the energy that her work contains, and her fresh narratives.

Smolder was a charming and empowering tale for young women as she deconstructs a fairy tale world of princes, dragons, tournaments and royal spoils, and the result is riveting.

The regal dragons in this book live in a brutal world (fighting is to the death and using killing your intended's family as bait is a standard practice) which is on the cusp of evolving out of their Dark Ages.

Of course, our heroine, Marina, is just the push it needs. Ms. Fletcher’s ensemble of characters was extremely well drawn, and caricature was used for comic relief as in the case of Nicholai.

The fairy tale genre is turned upside down as women must battle in the field, in the wild and to the death to get their mates, and ultimately serve as their protectors. I enjoyed that Ms. Fletcher explored both sides of the "you are my mate and it is fate" view of insta-love and played it against "you are so good to me, make me feel great and we might have something here". Friendships, loyalty, kindness, love and grace all come into play and I loved it.

The Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk. 

There are nine books in the Allie Beckstrom series, and the beauty of the series is that it's finished and that you do not need to wait another year for the next installment…ahh, instant gratification. The books set a noirish stage in dark, drizzling Portland Oregon, and Allie’s lonely world is blown wide open by love, betrayal, family secrets, invasions, epic battles and strange, strange magic.

Nine books were not enough, but I have to tell you that this series did it RIGHT! The final book was the strongest one and tied up a lot of ends in a sad but also very satisfying way. I LOVED this series.

Karina tells me that my reviews are emotional, and I think it's true because I really reflect on how a book or series makes me feel. I consider how effectively the author makes you feel emotions as well as the environment of their characters. This series makes you experience a great deal of fear, joy, friendship, loss, passion and confusion. You also feel cold, wet, tired and sore…right along with Allie, Zayvion, Shame, Terric and my favorite sidekick, Stone.

There was a bit of ebb and flow in the series. Books three through five involved a lot of world building, character development and reveals but they necessarily established the conflicts and relationships that are critical to the conclusion. Folks, trust me, they were setting the stage, and it is worth it.

The final two books were especially strong and rocked my world. I rate them at 10/10. The great news is that this was not a series meandering along waiting for someone to put it out of its misery.

It had a vision, and by book eight you were in the thick of it and there were payoffs to a reader left, right and center... The magic dazzled me (typically I can find abstract netherworld phosphorescence a bit meh), but here I was on the edge of my seat, practically cheering, then crying and then holding my breath.

At some point I realized that this was not just Allie Beckstrom's story. She had the most AMAZING friends, colleagues, minions, co-workers and side-kicks in the UF world. I wanted all the characters to stay with me all the time (except that they have a lot of trouble and violence, so if we could just cut that part out...) I spent 50% of this darn series worried about the goshdarn gargoyle, Stone. I was going to start a letter writing campaign if things didn't work out for him.

Anyway, this is my list of reccs, and I'm sticking by it. Enjoy!

Karina: You see what I mean about Betsy? She always does recommend me something that I would never heard of otherwise, and I also learned to listen to her when she raves about a book. 
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In case of zombie apocalypse

Hey, guys! I feel like I should say this just in case :)
If you'd like to sponsor a fellow book addict who sometimes can't sleep at night worrying that she won't have enough books to read if internet goes down in the event of zombie apocalypse (I'm convinced it's one of the top five ways to go for human race) you can donate through Paypal to olivesandacorns at gmail dot com or buy a book through any of the links provided with my reviews which will send me a small percentage from the sale. All proceeds will go towards my enormous TBR. I will also shelter you on the remote farm in Portugal when zombie apocalypse starts provided you survive getting there. There will be books, yay?
Thank you! Love you all

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