Monday, August 3, 2015

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Behind every mask is a real man. 

Two men joined by blood but separated by murder: Thomas, the rebellious doctor and heir to the vast Wayne empire, and Bruce, his son, whose life is forever altered when he witnesses the brutal death of his parents.

The slaying of Thomas and Martha Wayne is the torturous point on which Bruce turns to become the mysterious crusader Batman—the genesis of a simple mugging gone horribly wrong. The Dark Knight's file on the case has long been closed, the foundations of Bruce Wayne's secret life secure. But these foundations are shaken when an unexpected guest invades the grounds of Wayne Manor, raising questions about the event that ended the lives of the mother he loved and the father he worshipped, and sparked his unquenchable drive to protect and avenge.

To discover his true family history, Batman must face down old foes, confront his only confidant, invade the evil heart of Arkham Asylum, and shoulder the terrible new burden of a dark legacy.

Review: In the past year or so, I've been getting really into reading Batman comics/graphic novels, so I was really excited to check out a novel based around the iconic character. Wayne of Gotham goes back and forth between a young Thomas Wayne and his grown up son, Bruce Wayne. Bruce uses the death of his parents to propel him into a life of fighting crime as the caped crusader, Batman. However, Wayne of Gotham plays with this idea by showing a side to Thomas and Martha Wayne that other versions of Batman seemingly do not.

In Bruce's mind, his parents were wonderful people who were killed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But what if there is more to the story? What if there are people out there who know more about his parents than Bruce does? Wayne of Gotham is an interesting look into the past of the Waynes' and I really enjoyed this alternative history. It gives a new perspective on Bruce's parents and his reason for even becoming Batman, which is fascinating.

Before you start thinking that the Wayne family are corrupt or evil, that's not the case. They have secrets and they do things that are not quite right, but it's not out of maliciousness. Since the story goes back and forth between perspectives, readers are able to see what Thomas was thinking in the past and then how it affects Bruce as he slowly relearns his family's history. Both perspectives are in third person point of view, but you still get their thoughts and feelings about their situations, so it's almost as good as first person.

Wayne of Gotham is perfect for any Batman fan in your life - so check it out!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting to Know (1): Random Blogger Facts

First off, I don't have a button for this as I still don't know how to do if anyone knows of someone (or can do it themselves) that can make a cute button for this new feature, that would be awesome. Plus, I have some other features that I said I would do or have done in the past and I promise I'm going to try and bring those back more - break things up between all the reviews, etc.

Getting to Know or GTK depending on how much room you want to give the title.

The idea behind Getting to Know is to share at least one fact about yourself once a week (or hopefully once a week!) I know a lot of people have round up type posts on Saturday or Sunday, so you can add this there if you like.

I think it's fun to get to know the blogger behind the blog, so feel free to share whatever you wish! It doesn't have to be anything terribly personal. The fact can be something from your childhood, it can be something that pertains to your previous week, whatever! I hope my facts will give you some idea of what to go with. If you decide to take part in this, please let me know and feel free to leave a link in the comments!

Getting to Know (GTK) Number 1: When I was younger, I used to read some of the Harry Potter books out loud to my dad. He wanted to read them but never really read much, so I decided to read them aloud as I had already read and loved them. If he fell asleep, I'd go back to whatever he remembered and continue on! We got through about two or three of them, I believe.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blog Tour/Giveaway: Miss Mabel's School for Girls + The Network Series

Welcome to my tour stop for The Network Series by Katie Cross!  The Network Series is a young adult fantasy and the tour runs July 27 – August 7 with reviews only. Check out the tour page for more information.

About Miss Mabel's School for Girls:
MMSFG 2 for NookNever Underestimate the Power of a Determined Witch. Letum Wood is a forest of fog and deadfall, home to the quietly famous Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, a place where young witches learn the art of magic.Sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe has inherited a deadly curse. Determined to break free before it kills her, she enrolls in the respected school to confront the cunning witch who cast the curse: Miss Mabel.Bianca finds herself faced with dark magic she didn’t expect, with lessons more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Will Bianca have the courage to save herself from the curse, or will Miss Mabel’s sinister plan be too powerful?Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is the first novel in The Network Series, an exciting new fantasy collection. A gripping tale about the struggle to survive, it will take you to a new place and time, one you’ll never want to leave.
About Antebellum Awakening:
Antebellum_FC_FNL_72Never underestimate the power of a volatile witch.Still reeling in the wake of her mother’s death, sixteen-year-old Bianca Monroe is forced to move to Chatham Castle. Not even the sudden appearance of ancient dragons in haunted Letum Wood nor her two best friends can distract her from the strength of her deep, dark rage.Her grief puts her magical powers into chaos, endangering any witch around her. She has six months left to destroy the curse that will kill her and fulfill her contract with the most cunning enemy of all: her former teacher Miss Mabel.Bianca must make a choice: learn to control her restless powers, or let the powers control her.Antebellum Awakening is the second book in the thrilling new fantasy collection The Network Series. It’s a haunting tale about tragedy, loss, and the power of moving on.
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes


The Isadora Interviews blurb:
TII 2 for Amazon (1)Isadora is a quiet, old witch living alone in the fog-strewn forest of Letum Wood. Her magical power is great, but her foresight is even greater.As a Watcher, Isadora has the ability to see into the heart of every witch she meets, a talent that makes her the perfect guardian of the prestigious Miss Mabel’s School for Girls.Any witch that wants to enter the school must first pass an interview with Isadora. No secret insecurity or sinister motivation can be hidden from a Watcher, as four teenage girls will soon find out.Join Leda, Camille, Michelle, and Priscilla, as they each encounter Isadora in their quest to join Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. It’s a collection of short stories that fans of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls can’t afford to miss.


About the Author: 
Katie Cross grew up in the mountains of Idaho, where she still loves to play when she gets the chance.If she’s not writing, you can find her traveling, working as a pediatric nurse, trail running with her husband and two dogs, or curled up with a book and a cup of chai.

Author links: 

Lauren's Thoughts: I want to thank Katie Cross and CBB Promotions for allowing me to take part in this book tour. I have had Miss Mabel's School for Girls on my wish list for a long time now, and it was great to get the chance to read it. I love books that deal with witches/wizards and magic, and it was so much fun delving into the world of Bianca and the other girls at Miss Mabel's School. It was a fascinating book, with some very memorable characters. Bianca is a determined, strong young girl and you can't help but root for her and you fall just as easily in love with her friends, Camille and Leda.

Miss Mabel is quite a mystery and I'm curious to learn more about her in the series. I hope to have my review of the second book in the series soon, but I was only able to get through the first book for this post. I'm sorry for the delay on that, but I'm sure I'll love all the books after the great start I had with Miss Mabel's School for Girls. This is definitely a book for a wide audience. It's a fantasy novel that doesn't feel overly confusing or perplexing, so many contemporary fans are sure to appreciate it too!


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins

Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Tara is gorgeous, affluent, and forty. She lives in an impeccably restored Russian Hill mansion in San Francisco. Once a widow, twice divorced, she’s a woman with a past she prefers keeping to herself.

Enter Cavin Lattimore. He’s handsome, kind, charming, and the surgeon assigned to Tara following a ski accident in Lake Tahoe. In the weeks it takes her to recover, Cavin sweeps her off her feet and their relationship blossoms into something Tara had never imagined possible. But then she begins to notice some strange things: a van parked outside her home at odd times, a break-in, threatening text messages and emails. She also starts to notice cracks in Cavin’s seemingly perfect personality, like the suppressed rage his conniving teenage son brings out in him, and the discovery that Cavin hired a detective to investigate her immediately after they met.

Now on crutches and housebound, Tara finds herself dependent on the new man in her life—perhaps too much so. She’s handling rocky relationships with her sister and best friend, who are envious of her glamour and freedom; her prickly brother-in-law, who is intimidated by her wealth and power; and her estranged mother. However perfect Tara’s life appears, things are beginning to get messy.

Review: Before reading Love Lies Beneath, the only novel I'd read by Hopkins was Triangles, her first foray into adult fiction. What I apparently missed when reading the summary for Love Lies Beneath is that the book is in prose - therefore, it's not in Hopkins' signature verse, like Triangles was and her many YA novels. This was a bit off-putting at first, as I really wanted to read a novel in verse, but I was soon swept into the story. There are poems spread throughout the book though, which was a nice touch.

At any rate, Love Lies Beneath is definitely a psychological thriller in a way, but it never really felt daunting. Depending on what you want out of the book, this can be a positive or a negative. I didn't mind it so much, but the book did feel a bit long for not having much of a suspenseful build up. There are many events that take place in the novel that make you wonder or feel a bit suspicious, but I never really thought of the book as overly suspenseful.

What I really loved about the book was the ending because it does take the reader in a direction you probably won't guess. If you do, good for you, but you won't know for sure until the end, so I think it should still be a bit of a shock. Overall, I enjoyed the novel and the situations that Tara is placed in by Hopkins. It was a bit of a longer read than necessarily needed, but the ultimate conclusion did leave me satisfied!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Penn's Woodland by David Connor

Penn's Woodland by David Connor

Review by Lauren

source: copy from netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Years ago, Penn's lover was attacked in the woods, and most think Penn is to blame—including Penn. Ever since, he's been a prisoner in his home and his mind. When world renowned architect Ewan Parish arrives to construct a secure, enclosed walkway through those woods, Penn is surprised, suspicious, and also fearful.

Ewan finds himself intrigued by the mysterious, reclusive Penn, his journals, and the beautiful artwork he's drawn, which Ewan recreates in the walkway's iron scrollwork. Determined to free Penn, Ewan sets out to unravel the mystery that has resulted in Penn's imprisonment by his family and conscience all these years...

Review: Penn's Woodland is a historical fiction M/M novel about Pennsylvania and Ewan. When I first started reading the book, I didn't realize it was historical fiction, but I soon got used to the way the story was told and how the people spoke. Pennsylvania - or Penn- has been locked in his room for eight years by his older sister, Georgia. The town they live in believe Penn to be a monster, someone who attacked another man in the woods when he was 18 years old. At the time, the fact that Penn likes men is another issue against him as it's not seen as natural.

Georgia has Ewan, a Scottish man, come to build an elaborate gate around the property and woods they live on, seemingly so that Penn would be able to leave his room every now and then. It doesn't take long for Ewan to become interested in Penn and he finds ways to communicate with him. The romantic aspect moved a bit fast, seeing as how Ewan starts out engaged to a French woman. Looking past this though, it was nice to see someone treat Penn with respect. Ewan promises to find answers for Penn about the past though, as Penn is afraid he really is a monster on the inside.

Penn's Woodland almost felt like a novella, but I read it on my Kindle, so it's difficult to determine the length. Regardless, it was a very interesting story that took an unsuspecting turn near the end. I won't go into detail, as not to spoil the story, but let's just say it was quite horrific in a way. I liked the twist though!

Overall, this was a good read. There are some sexual scenes, but I feel like the historical language kind of blurs the nature of it a bit so it's not overly explicit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rooks and Romanticide by J. I. Radke

Rooks and Romanticide by J.I. Radke

Review by Lauren

Source: copy sent for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: In an alternate world, Romeo and Juliet are gunslingers. Verona gives way to a steampunk Victorian London. The victims of turf wars are dumped in an alley they call Lovers’ Lane, and the moment the son of his family's enemy touches his face, Cain's revenge is poisoned by love. Fate would have it no other way.

Levi Ruslaniv is the heir to the Ruslaniv family gang, but ridiculous ancient feuds do not interest him. Cain Dietrich’s vengeful hatred for the Ruslaniv family is rooted deep, since he believes the Ruslanivs arranged for the murder of his parents. But his encounter with Levi pierces him deeper than hatred ever could. 

With bullets and blazes of glory, schemes, spies, and pack mentalities, loyalty runs as deep in the veins as passion or revenge, and there is only one way to end the fighting. From the start it was inevitable—a bloodstained fate for children with bloodstained hands, and the streets of New London will never be the same.

Review: This is a fascinating alternate world and retelling of Romeo and Juliet. In this version of the classic tale, the feuding families help rule over New London and have been fighting and causing much bloodshed for years. Levi Ruslaniv's face is hidden from all but his family and close friends. People know that Lord Ruslaniv has two sons but most could not identify them, including the Dietrich family. This family is ruled by Cain Dietrich, whose parents were brutally murdered three years before. Not knowing his enemies' face allows Levi to get close to Cain, but it's not long before the two of them are fighting feelings for one another.

Levi keeps his true identity a secret from Cain, but he also refuses to use his closeness to the Earl for any type of revenge, even though his gang, BLACK, is curious as to why not. As for Cain, he thinks he's hired a rogue gunslinger, one who can go between New London and share information. Unfortunately, nothing can stay a secret for too long.

The romance between Levi and Cain is passionate and intense. Readers realize that Levi can't hide for long, though, and so it's always full of suspense when the two get together. The writing has a slight historical feel to the words, which creates a realistic sense to the time. It also keeps the romantic moments in the book from becoming too erotic or gratuitous. The attraction between Levi and Cain is an important part of the story, but it's not the only thing. As these two families are enemies, it means readers cannot see a happy future. It means that there will continue to be bloodshed and violence throughout New London. Cain is desperate for revenge on those who killed his parents and imprisoned him for almost a year. Levi understands Cain's pain, but he also has loyalty to his own family.

I enjoyed seeing the pattern of Romeo and Juliet take place in this novel, without it being too overly predictable. Instead, it's a matter of events occurring and realizing it's influenced by the original text. Rooks and Romanticide is a suspenseful, passionate, and exciting read. I would recommend it to many and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I'm curious to see what Radke writes next.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Author Guest Post: J. I. Radke

 Guest Post by J. I. Radke, author of Rooks and Romanticide

There’s no avoiding it—Romeo and Juliet is a classic. The forbidden love/star-crossed lovers theme is one that occurs time and time again, whether in the traditional Shakespearean sense or in new relevant fashion. And of course there’s reboots like the movie Romeo + Juliet that take the old tale for a fun spin. I like to think it’s because the themes and emotions in Romeo/Juliet are intrinsic parts of the human experience—love and desperation, logic versus passion, secrecy and loyalty. To name a few. I never really had a plan, as a writer, to try my hand at reinventing the classic play. It just sort of happened in a huge collision of inexperienced research. What I mean is… Okay. Here we go!

I love literature in its every form—that includes manga (you know, the “backwards” Japanese visual novels)—and one manga that I absolutely adore and will never stop obsessing over is Kuroshitsuji (黒執事, or Black Butler.) ROOKS AND ROMANTICIDE at its youngest stage was…yes…fanfiction for this series. I was seventeen and I’d wanted to do something different, something new, and I thought it would be fun to reinvent Romeo/Juliet in a Victorian-type setting. What it became was more of an “alternate universe” Victorian London, and the gunslinger idea entered when I adapted the gang mentality of Romeo/Juliet’s fighting families to the era. From there, it just developed into this amalgamation, this almost-steampunk sort of culture, and became this great platform on which to explore the two houses hating each other and to build Cain and Levi’s relationship safe from that hatred. Mind, that was only the humble beginnings of ROOKS. It’s been five years since then and I like to think ROOKS has distinguished itself from its early days… ;)

For whatever reason going mad over organization, I went back to Romeo/Juliet and formed my own outline around the play’s actual skeleton. Scene by scene, act by act. I wanted to parallel it as far as plot movement, while tweaking it into something equally unique. I even structured the story itself like a play—parts are labeled “acts” and chapters labeled “scenes.” 

I hope the parallels come through both as throwbacks to the original play and as their own reinvented scenes. I won’t spoil anything, but I think it’s safe to say readers can expect certain turns of events just knowing how Romeo/Juliet plays out—even though there is a lot that is exclusive to ROOKS. 

One of the greatest places of inspiration from Romeo/Juliet was in the characterization of Levi and Cain. Knowing Romeo/Juliet, looking through it again, and building my own world for the retelling really made me stop and think about just what Romeo as a character and as a character mold stands for. What he wants. How that translates to Levi’s character. Same with Juliet and Cain. In fact, I feel like some traits of Romeo can be found in Cain at times, and Juliet in Levi, but that was what was so fun about borrowing and breaking the traditional: really getting to dig deep into the meaning and thoughts and feelings of two of literature’s most famous figures, and revitalize them. 

Same goes for the feud between the families, too, to be honest. It was a lot of wondering what loyalty meant, or what sort of void it might be filling. It was a lot of exploring grief and grudges, and sort of deconstructing the issues at the core of the classic play. Or maybe it was more about finding new meanings at the core of the play. In Romeo/Juliet, a lot of outside forces threaten the young Montague and Capulet—unwanted marriage, murder, feuding families. In ROOKS, it’s more about internal forces. And that was really pleasing to discover.  

I could go on and on about how reinventing the “classic love story” with two men was a lot of fun… ;) But to me the difference here is not because of that; it’s because Cain and Levi are, to put it simply, not Romeo and Juliet. While their situations and struggles are inspired by Romeo and Juliet, their story is still all their own. Realistically, it did bring some new conflicts with which to play, like dealing with homosexuality in a Victorian setting—and with the sons of noblemen well known to the public eye, all that jazz I love so much to talk about. ;D 

It was really fun being able to pluck key phrases and moments out of the classic play and put them into ROOKS in a new way—script/play dialogue is so very different from novel dialogue, after all. 

And I guess I’ll end with that. Here’s a tidbit!


“A name, what is a name?” Levi sighed. There was no catch to this. He’d always gone by his middle name, anyway, and surely the Earl would never make the connection to his formal first name should he speak it.
He said, “A rose would smell the same if called anything else, wouldn’t it? Names are as dangerous as the guns we wave. With a man’s name you hold so much power over him—but if you should need a name for me, you can call me Levi—and I swear by the moon above in the sky—”
“Oh God, who are you? Romeo?” The Earl’s voice was thick with disgust, but his eyes danced.
Levi was slightly offended. He’d thought that had been a grand play of words.
“The moon is powerful,” he insisted, offering the Earl a frank frown. The Earl’s expression didn’t waver. He returned the stare, stubborn and smug in his austerity. Levi sighed. “What do you suggest I swear by, then?”
“Your life.”

About the Author:

J. I. Radke goes by a variety of handles and pseudonyms, most commonly "themissinglenk" and/or "white silver and mercury."

Once upon a time he wanted to be a marine biologist because of sharks. That lasted a year or so. Now he is an English/Creative Writing and History double major (emphasis on 18th/19th c. Western Europe, Classic mythology, and the history/psychology/theory of masculinity and sexuality), minoring in Russian Studies.

Radke writes ghost stories, romance novels, transgressive fiction, and "fanfic" that's sometimes all of that in one. He doesn't favor polemics, but he does believe in passionate speeches, discussions, and intellectual debates (best ones after midnight under the stars). He also believes in ghost hunting, swimming in coves with bioluminescent algae, zodiac/Tarot/moon cycles, sushi, Phad Thai, and pizza. He doesn't do quite as well with Ferris wheels.

Born in New Jersey but raised all over the U.S., Seattle is home to Radke.

Maybe one of these days he'll embellish this bio with a very clever quote from some respected historical figure or another.