Book Review: Vampire Royals (Books 1-3) by Leigh Walker

About the Books:

Book 1: The Pageant

The Pageant (Vampire Royals #1)

Who’s the fairest of them all?
Young women from every settlement in the land are being handpicked to enter The Pageant, a beauty contest reminiscent of Miss Universe from the old days. Gwyneth West’s social-climbing mother wants her to compete, by Gwyn isn’t so sure…
The Pageant is government-sponsored. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen, participation is mandatory. Aggressive competition is allowed, even encouraged.

And then there’s the prize…
The winner of The Pageant gets a marriage proposal from Dallas Black, otherwise known as The Dark Prince. Dallas is the son of King Black, who won the last world war and now governs the new settlements. The Royal Family is mysterious. Rumor has it they don’t sleep. Rumor has it they eschew the sun.
Rumor has it they’re immortal.
When Gwyn is thrust into The Pageant, she fights to survive the competitive nature of the other contestants.
But even if wins…can she survive a vampire fiancé?

 

Book 2: The Gala

The Gala (Vampire Royals #2)

 

FOUR WEEKS. TWENTY CONTESTANTS. ONE PRINCE.

The Pageant is almost over, and Gwyneth West knows she can win—except the prince is a vampire, and some of the other contestants are turning out to be quite beastly.

What do you do when the person you love…might want to eat you alive?

Struggling to hold onto her position in the palace, Gwyn knows her vampire prince could slip through her fingers in an instant. And when human rebels threaten to storm the vampire royals once more, Gwyn finds herself caught between two worlds: her people, and the vampire she loves.

Leigh Walker writes action packed futuristic sci-fi, sweet romantic vampire novels, and stories that capture your heart and then make it race.

 

Book 3: The Finale

The Finale (Vampire Royals #3)

A ROYAL WEDDING IS COMING…BUT WHICH CONTESTANT WILL BE THE BRIDE?

Gwyneth West’s a finalist in The Pageant, the dating competition that’s gripping the settlements. Down to the final week, the dashing Prince Dallas Black will choose one young woman as his fiancé.
One small issue: Gwyneth’s a human and the prince is a vampire. What’s worse? Gwyneth’s family are sworn rebels, out to take back the settlements and overthrow the crown. What’s worse than that? Gwyn’s own rebel brother is a prisoner in the castle dungeons, but the king and queen don’t know his true identity.
Gwyneth and Dallas want to show the settlements that vampires and humans can live together in peace. But as their differences threaten to tear them apart, Gwyneth discovers her love puts the prince at risk.
How do you choose between love and duty?

 

My Thoughts:

This series is very similar to ‘The Selection’ series. However, there are some differences including the fact that the Prince and his family are Vampires. The author starts this off as rumors which are later shown as the truth. The concept of vampires and humans living side by side and co-existing is a strong idea that both the Prince and Gwyn, the heroine of the story, share. The story is indeed fun to read, following the very cliched concept of a competition to find the best suitor for the Prince. However, the idea behind this is to find a way to unite all the settlements and to bring peace while trying to keep the rebel groups at bay.

The synopsis of the story promises aggressive competition, but nothing about the story is aggressive. The story centers on the chemistry between the Prince and Gwyn, giving us only minor glimpses of the interactions with the other contestants. To keep in line with the contest, there are some sections of the story devoted to etiquette training and history of the kingdom and the settlements. However, there is not a lot of character development for the other girls in the story and this takes away from the main theme of the contest.

The story then continues into the two other books, focusing on the Prince’s interaction with the girls, bringing it down to the top four contestants and his relationship with his parents. Each girl is unique in her own way and it is wonderful to read about their rivalries but also about how they come together in the end. We are also provided some insight into Gwyn’s background and her family and her relationship with the King and Queen. The love and understanding that develops between her and the prince is beautiful to read about.

Overall, this series is fun and enjoyable especially for those who love the idea of vampires and human’s together, though there is not a lot of focus on the supernatural aspect of the characters. The books are short and easy to read. They can each be read in one sitting and are a good stress free read!

Book Review: Prism (The Color Alchemist #1) by Nina Walker

About the Book:

Prism (The Color Alchemist, #1)

What if color held the secrets to powerful magic?

Forced to move into the palace, Jessa begins training as a Color Alchemist under the direction of the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Lucas. As an alchemist, Jessa must capture and harness the color of living things. Every color has a unique purpose, except red. Red is the untapped magic no one can access—until Jessa.

Prince Lucas is running out of time. His mother is deathly ill and healing magic hasn’t worked. When Lucas suspects someone is using alchemy to control her, he sets out to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

PRISM is the first installment of a unique young adult romantic fantasy series where a dystopian world with a Victorian flair meets the dynamic magic of color!

My Thoughts:

Prism by author Nina Walker introduces the reader to an intriguing concept of magic and magical abilities and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The story is well-written and fast paced, keeping the reader hooked until the very end.

We are introduced to Jessa, who accidently discovers that she is a color alchemist and tries to hide the truth from everyone. Once discovered, we come to know that she might be very powerful and is brought to the palace for training. The author introduces us to a dystopian world where the King rules the New Colony and a certain order is established. Anyone who shows an inclination towards Color Alchemy is brought to the Palace at a very young age and then undergoes rigorous training to join the Guardians of Color (GC).

Jessa faces a lot of push back from everyone at the palace including the other alchemists as she is already sixteen. It seems to be quite late for her to be here. There are many interesting characters including Sasha and Reed who are not easy to get a read on. The reader will not know what anyone’s intentions are until the very end. But, one thing is clear, Jessa is special and an asset to the King for whatever plan he has up his sleeve.

In addition, we are introduced to the Prince, who seems to have a different view of things than his father and is trying to find a way to save his mother who is quite ill. Add into the mix some chemistry between the two main characters and the author provides us with the perfect recipe for a book filled with magic, romance and a wonderfully new concept of magic drawn from colors!

The story will draw the reader in until the very end and is not without some well placed twists and turns. With everyone having their own agenda, what happens to the story and all the characters remains to be seen. This book is well worth the read and I am looking forward to finishing the series!

Book Review: The Tech by Mark Ravine

About the Book:

The Tech

Alexandra has just taken charge of her new team, a motley crew of screw-ups at the Arizona Field Office, the latest in a series of forgettable assignments. With a history of rebelling against authority and blunt speaking, she vows to change her ways and make this assignment work.

Within minutes of her taking charge, she is drawn into a bank robbery case. She leads her new team to catch the robbers but discovers that there is much more to the case than meets the eye. The very next day three girls go missing. Before they could be trafficked out of the country, she races against time to rescue them. Soon, she begins to realize that all the cases coming her way are mysteriously connected. As she unravels the threads of a massive conspiracy, she discovers that a secret organization with immense power and authority is behind these horrific crimes. Forces within the FBI thwart her every move to discover the truth. Helping her navigate this maze is the shadowy Michael Patterson. But can she trust him? Can she trust anyone? Soon, witnesses disappear, suspects are killed, with her life and the lives of her team in lethal danger. Will she come out of this alive? Will she uncover and expose this cabal? As time starts running out, Alexandra Cassidy has to evade indictment and defy death in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

My Thoughts:

I would like to thank Dawn Hill Publications for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Mark Ravine brings to us an action packed thriller that follows an FBI team as they solve cases and try to take down a group of bad guys.  The plot idea is brilliant and quite interesting. I enjoyed the different characters and how they come together to work as a team. There is a lot happening in the story with varying plot lines, each case leading to another.

However, I found the book to be quite long and some parts rather dull. There wasn’t a lot of detail about the cases or the view of how the bad guys pull of what they do. The focus is on the FBI team and their additional technology expert Mike who is an expert with AI. Mike could have been an interesting character, but he just comes off as a know-it-all who seems to push the team in the direction he wants to solve the cases. It does raise a lot of questions in the mind of the reader as to who the actual team leader is.

The twist at the end and the truth about Mike is quite interesting and I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the parts of the story where the team tries to work through the cases and find out who at the FBI might be trying to stop them. With some editing and re-wording, the book can be so much better as the plot is quite strong and interesting. I did enjoy this debut novel by the author, but it was a little too long for me.

I would recommend this book for fans of action-thrillers, but be prepared to spend some time on it.

Book Tour Finale: JORDAN’S DELIVERANCE by Allen Steadham

[53][Banner%2B-%2BJordan%2527s%2BDeliverance.png]
On Tour with [54]Prism Book Tours

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you’ll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

[55]Launch – Author Interview

What inspired you to write JORDAN’S DELIVERANCE?

It is the third and final book in the Jordan of Algoran Christian Science-Fantasy series. I started work on the series in 2015 with a basic premise: God is not limited to Earth. He reigns over the whole universe. So, He is able to reach Jordan, even when she and her mother are abducted and taken to another world. I decided to carry this idea throughout the series and to its conclusion.

[56]Bookstagram Tour
(With its own giveaway – ends 10/25/20.)

[57]Rincón de Joss – Excerpt

The Observance Torch was the same as any other torch, but it was adorned with red jula crystals, reinforced with twine, and its top was dipped in animal fat and dusted with crushed dry jikpal leaves which made the flames take on a violet shade. When the Observance Torch was lit, it told the villagers passing by her hut not to enter, since the Chieftess was seeking wisdom and guidance from the Father of Spirits whom she called God.

[58]Christy’s Cozy Corners – Guest Post

Part of Jordan’s Deliverance is set on Earth in the early 2070s. Before I wrote those scenes, I had to ask myself a few important questions:
1. How much could Earth change in fifty years?
2. What kind of technological advances might occur in that time?
3. Would Jordan even recognize her (fictional) hometown of Chase Creek, Colorado?
4. Would people speak any differently or use different jargon? . . .

[59]Uplifting Reads – Excerpt

“You are taking a big risk acting this way,” Commander Imbador warned. “Getting that pardon will take even longer.”

“I am the only one who has the information you need. I think that justifies the risk,” Zeetra countered, her frown transforming to a smile. She put her hands behind her head, locking her fingers as she leaned back against the bed confidently. “And right now, I have nothing but time.”

[60]Adventures of a Travelers Wife – Interview and Review

How did you dream up this world and all its details?

I had to start from scratch. Originally, I was imagining this as purely a fantasy tale. But it soon became clear that this was going to mostly take place on an alien world called Algoran. I tried to envision another world, as diverse in land, sea, and people as any other world. I made it clear from the beginning that this was an Earth-like world or else the main character, Jordan, and her mother would not have been able to survive, much less thrive.

In keeping with the fantasy concept, however, I did not want a lot of advanced technology. I wanted this world to be a contrast to Earth, to picture life without our modern conveniences while depicting the beauty and dangers of nature. Growing up in a major Texas city, it was an enjoyable challenge to flesh out a world the complete opposite of what I knew. I had to do a lot of research to understand different regions and climates.

“Whew, what a way to begin a series! Jordan pulled me in from the beginning and made me so curious about her as a person and how Allen Steadham would mold her as a character. . . . The plot was also really good and hooked me from the first page . . . I totally enjoyed this story and definitely recommend it if you are willing to take a leap into a world not quite our own. 5 out of 5 stars for the great character build up, faith interwoven themes, and for leaving me wanting more.” – Jordan’s World

[61]Hallie Reads – Excerpt

Jordan hadn’t felt the rush of the vortex in decades. It had grabbed her like a thing alive and thrashed her about in its clutches, shifting violently in a torrent of motion as lights flashed all around her. When it finally released her, she was barely coherent enough to land on her feet and run to a stop. Then she heard something approaching. Whatever it was, it was big and so close, it was almost on top of her.

I cannot get out of the way in time!

[62]Rockin’ Book Reviews – Reviews

This is a very intriguing story. There is a lot of mystery and adventure throughout. It’s an interesting new world for Jordan and it’s impressive how well she adjusted to her new surroundings. . . . The characters are awesome. They are all well-developed and it is easy to feel their emotions. – Jordan’s World

It was fun to continue to follow Jordan and her old and new friends. There is so much adventure in this story. You get to meet new tribes of people on their planet of Algoran. . . . The story flows well from chapter to chapter and is easy to follow along.” – Jordan’s Arrow

A great continuation of Jordan on Algoran. Watching Jordan and her family grow and strengthen is a great treat. So many new and wonderful characters that you get to know . . . I think this is a great story and recommend it to teen to adult readers. – Jordan’s Deliverance

[63]Candrel’s Crafts, Cooks, and Characters – Interview

4.) To which character did you best relate?

The main character, Jordan. There are many enjoyable characters in the series, but it’s centered around Jordan for a reason: we follow her life, the ups and downs, joys and losses. We get to see her grow as a woman. She’s not perfect, she makes some big mistakes along the way, but she has a good heart. She’s the most relatable character, in my opinion.

[64]Wishful Endings – Guest Post

I make no secret that I’m a Star Trek fan, going all the way back to The Original Series. I watched it in syndication in the 1970s as a child. From 2005 to 2015, I only read Star Trek novels. So here are my top ten influences from the TV, movies, and books. . .

[65]Splashes of Joy – Excerpt

Instead, she took in a deep breath and was grateful something had actually happened. She grabbed the sapphire-hued javelin with both hands, pulling it close to her chest. A new fire burned in her gaze.

“I am the granddaughter of Snow and Fire! I will protect you and look after your needs,” she declared. “Give me your trust and I shall not disappoint you. I will also consult with my torkomm and the village elders. All will be well.”

[66]Bookworm Lisa – Review

“. . . this story is about growing and becoming. Jordan has difficult decisions and knows that there is a deity who watches over her, even though she is far away from home. She learns for herself where her home is and whom she can believe in.

I am intrigued at what future endeavors and adventures await Jordan and her friends.” – Jordan’s World

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post…

[Jordan%2527s%2BDeliverance-Final.jpg]
Jordan’s Deliverance
(Jordan of Algoran #3)
By Allen Steadham
Christian Science Fiction, Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 330 Pages
October 13, 2020 by Ambassador International

The Onchei are back.
And trouble looms…

The Onchei want to learn what happened to their brethren on Algoran from the only survivor, Zeetra. Yet they learn instead she has broken the Onchei’s highest law: never intermarry or have children with another race. For this, she now faces execution.

Jordan SnowFire fears the Onchei will blame the Mokta and seek retribution soon. Only an ancient heirloom, which contains the ultimate Onchei knowledge, can save the Mokta…except it’s on Earth, a world she hasn’t seen in decades.

Jordan sends her son, Arrow, and her friend’s daughter, Maska, to rescue Zeetra while she travels back to Earth to seek the Onchei artifact. What tie is there between a thousand-year-old object and Jordan’s ancestors? Could this explain why she and her mother were originally abducted and brought to Algoran?

In the skies of Algoran, a final confrontation looms between the Onchei and the Mokta. And on Earth, Jordan finds more than she could have possibly imagined…

(Affiliate links included.)
[67]Goodreads | [68]Amazon | [69]Barnes & Noble | [70]Christianbook

Other Books in the Series

[71][Jordan%2527s%2BWorld%2Bbk%2B1.jpg] [72][Jordan%2527s%2BWorld%2Bbk%2B2.jpg]
(Linked to Amazon affiliate links.)

About the Author

[Allen%2BSteadham.png]

Allen Steadham created comic books and webcomics before he started writing novels. He has been married to his wife, Angel, since 1995 and they have two sons and a daughter. When not writing stories, Allen and his wife are singers, songwriters, and musicians. They have been in a Christian band together since 1997. They live in Central Texas.

[73]Website | [74]Goodreads | [75]BookBub | [76]Facebook | [77]Twitter | [78]Instagram

Tour Giveaway

[Giveaway%2B-%2BJordan%2527s%2BDeliverance.jpg]

– One winner will receive signed print copies of the entire Jordan of Algoran series (US only)
– One winner will receive ebook copies of the entire Jordan of Algoran series (open internationally)
– Ends October 29, 2020

[79]ENTER HERE

[80]Grab Our Button!

Book Blitz: In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe (Millionaire Foe Quartet # 2) by Aarti V Raman

She Hates Him But She’s In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe

Releasing on 25th October
About the Book:

When the songbird owes the business tycoon…

Former gangster, Devansh Thackeray has finally managed to carve the life he’s always aspired to.
Building a chain of seven-star hotels all over the world, a reputation for being an honest businessman…and all the women he could ask for.
Ansh’s life is perfect. Or so he thinks.
Because he is about to hit by a lightning bolt from the past that’ll make him question everything he’s worked so hard for.
And her name is Kahini Palekar.
Kahini’s life is a nightmare.
She works three jobs to pay off the loan sharks circling her.
But, Kahini doesn’t mind because she also gets to do the only thing she’s always wanted to do.
Sing.
Even if it is at a shady nightclub in the backstreets of Goa, the beach paradise of India.
Kahini’s day of reckoning arrives when Ansh arrives back in her life, right when she’s almost assaulted by the manager of the nightclub.
Ansh offers both salvation from her debt and a chance to sing at the most exclusive wedding of the decade.
But there’s just one catch.
Kahini hates Ansh’s living guts and blames him for the destruction of her life.
Even though he was the boy she once recklessly gave her heart to.
Can Ansh get to the bottom of the problems plaguing Kahini or will this songbird fly away again after repaying her debt to him?
Meet the Millionaire Foes – rising from ruin through ruthless ambition, these self-made tycoons have everything. Except, the heart of the one woman who means everything.

The Millionaire Foe Quartet series contains four steamy romances set around the world, each of which can be read as a standalone.

Read an Excerpt from In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe (Millionaire Foe Quartet # 2)

Ansh entered the bar when the lights had dimmed, already in a foul mood from the altercation he’d had outside Grungy’s.
The term “bar” was a loose translation for what the seedy confines really were. It was set in a shady part of Calangute Beach, where the locals lived. It was not the area the posh, firang tourists frequented. The air here smelled of brine and fish and cheap liquor.
The smell of the ocean was everywhere.
It was, after all, Goa the beach paradise of India.
And to everyone who came here, it promised nothing but a good time.
The patrons of Grungy’s, the small-time bar that operated till four in the morning during season, had that look about them. They were local men, embittered and looking for cheap thrills. And some willing victim to provide that for them.
Ansh knew the type. They resented the tourists for showing up and flinging their foreign currency around and expecting their silly demands of room temperature water and late-night cruises to be catered to.
And they really resented needing the silly tourists and their foreign currency too.
A classic catch-22.
But, tonight, these patrons, and that was a loose term too for what the customers of Grungy’s were, were not looking for foreign currency or cheap thrills.
They were all gathered on the rickety tables that the bar owner had graciously provided and murmuring amongst themselves while the poorly-named stage was being set up.
She was the main act tonight.
Ansh frowned and sank deeper into his chair while the bar-back set him up with a glass of the local feni – a local toddy made from fermented coconut water and rum. He frowned deeper when he saw the lipstick mark around the edge of the shot glass and gingerly cleaned the lip with his monogrammed handkerchief.
Places like these reminded Devansh Thackeray of his squalid past.
He couldn’t stand them anymore.
Then, the spotlight hit the stage. The band struck a chord and a woman in black walked up to the mike.
Ansh sat up straighter.
Was she going to start stripping or something? He hadn’t heard the best things about these places on the wharf and this one didn’t have a stellar reputation either.
And, what the hell was she doing here anyway?
He’d sent her plenty of funds seven years ago, deposited in the account her brother had set up for both of them when he had turned eighteen.
Kahini had enough money to keep her in style, because he’d instructed the company’s bankers to always replenish the funds in that account should the need ever arise. The need had never risen, to the best of his knowledge. Even though he knew the money would never bring back her dead brother.
So, was she doing this for kicks?
Some poor little rich kid slumming it thing that all the society madams were doing these days?
He honestly had no idea. And that ate at his insides, like the strength of the feni he’d gingerly taken a sip out of.
Ansh had come here to find out what the hell she’d been up to the last seven years. Since the last time he’d seen her and she’d flung bitter, accusing words at him.

About the Author:

Hi, I’m Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal. I have been a former journalist, editor, and even a sometime-teacher before I plunged into my dream job. That of being a full-time writer.
In fact, my three favorite words are ‘happily ever after.’
This comes in handy as I primarily write bestselling contemporary romantic women’s fiction, which is all about living happily, after going through some hard times.
My more notable works include the Geeks of Caltech and Royals of Stellangård series, Something Old, Something New, More Than You Want, and The Perfect Fake among others. My chicklit family drama, The Worst Daughter Ever, has been picked up for screen adaptation.
I always love to hang with you, my dear reader friend. I’ve created Writer Gal’s Reader Pals on Facebook for this reason and I hope to see you there.
If not, I’m there on all social media as @aartivraman but I’m most active on Instagram.
Aarti on the Web:
Newsletter * Facebook * Instagram * Twitter * Facebook Group

Book Review: The Pigeon Whisperer by Motaz H Matar

About the Book:

The Pigeon Whisperer

With war ravaging his home in Syria, Dabbour, an introverted, 25-year-old pigeon herder, flees to Berlin with Yasser, his childhood friend. Dabbour is trying to learn the ropes in this new country; while trying to learn German he’s fallen for his German teacher, Zara. One day in a Berlin train station, Dabbour sees a wayward, injured pigeon on the railway tracks; without thinking he jumps to save it, causing chaos and almost getting himself killed. For this, he is arrested by the police – and he realizes how much he misses home and his birds. Yasser asks Dabbour to use his talents as a pigeon whisperer to steal stray pigeons and train them to transport drugs. Dabbour agrees, then realizes it was a big mistake. Dabbour sinks further and further into the world of crime and drug-smuggling, jeopardizing his residency status in Germany. Dabbour is forced to choose between his loyalty to his new family – the drug ring – and doing the right thing. Will love be his ultimate salvation?

My Thoughts:

I was provided with a copy of the book by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

The pigeon whisperer follows Dabbour’s journey as he flees to Berlin from war-ridden Syria. This book is moving in so many ways, it brings out many emotions and makes the reader pause and think. This is a story of wanting to belong, trying to hold on to an idea of self that a person has, trying to find one’s identity and place in a new country. The author brings about a contrast in view between Dabbour and his friend Yasser. As the story progresses, we see how Dabbour is drawn into a world of crime and drug-smuggling, using his talents as a pigeon whisperer, how he tries to fight against his role in this world and the role Yasser plays in convincing him.

In this story, we meet only a few characters. They are present to give us some perspective on the story and to bring out a diversity. We have Anna, a German police officer and Zara, the German teacher, who represent the people who are native to the country. Correspondingly, we meet Mr. Salim, a fellow Syrian who has been in Germany for over twenty years and who takes an interest in Dabbour and tries to look out for him.

The story is fast paced and well-crafted, raising points that we may have contemplated at different points in our lives: What does it take to belong? How far can one go for the things or people they love? What does it take to do the right thing? and many more. These questions are very pertinent and hit very close to home.

This book is well worth the read and I strongly recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

My Thoughts:

The Beautiful has to be one of the most talked about books! I was quite intrigued by the book cover and premise that I had to pick it up! It is a dark and sultry romance with murder, mystery and thrills all thrown into the mix!

At first, it took some time to get into the book and understand the context and setting. We are introduced to Celine, our main protagonist, a very strong-willed woman who keeps her own council and is not afraid to speak up. At first we see her struggling to conform to the rules of the convent where she has been taken in in New Orleans, having fled from Paris. However, she catches the eye of first Odette and then Sèbastien Saint Germain, all part of a group simply known as Le Cour des Lions. Little does she know that she has stepped into a completely different world, shrouded in darkness and surrounded by the dead, quite literally!

A very well written tale, the setting of New Orleans is very well described, especially the streets and nightlife. The characters are intriguing and well developed. At times, I must admit to getting a little annoyed with Celine, but it was not enough to pull me away from the book. As we are introduced to the creatures of the underworld and Celine starts to discover the existence of the paranormal, a series of murders leads to questions of motive and who the real target is. Not to be left out, Celine tries to conduct her own investigation having the feeling that she is indeed a target.

The developing romance between Celine and Sèbastien is both natural and forbidden and is interesting to see develop. The courtship (a suitable word for the time in which the story is set) is not without it’s problems and when murder and mayhem are thrown into the mix, we have all the ingredients for an entertaining story! The story is a roller-coaster of a ride as we navigate the sub-plots and various supporting characters who add such flavor to the story!

Though there were some ups and downs with the story, it is definitely worth the read!

In Conversation with Author Smita Bhattacharya

I had the wonderful opportunity to pre-read Smita Bhattacharya’s upcoming novel. In addition, I have been lucky to collaborate with her on an interview.

Read on to know more about Smita and her upcoming novel Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney?

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Threw-Draco-Chimney-Nandkarnis-Misadventures-ebook/dp/B08FR4JL3J

The two previous books in the series are

Kiss of Salt: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SB4MIn 2M6

The Secret Angels: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZMR9MB4

Tell us a little about yourself

Author of cosy and psychological thriller mysteries, management consultant, coffee lover, gipsy-in-my-head, living in Mumbai for over 15 years, have travelled to over 40 countries, about 30 of them solo. I have about five published books and counting. I have too many stories to tell, and not enough time.

From where do you draw inspiration for the books you write?

There is no straight path, no direct answer; different books have had different birth stories. It could be piece of gossip someone told me over lunch; I might make a different ending to it, and give a whole new spin to the story. Or it could be a movie I watched and thought about a side character; how interesting she might be if she were to be the main one and what kind of a life might she have. I endure the joys of an overactive imagination. I say endure, because I never sleep well. I have so many stories in my head all the time.

Which book(s) are you currently reading?

I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I intend to also take it on my vacation to Goa soon. Yes! Finally! The lockdown eases and we can live as normal people. I am loving this book. It is engrossing, warm, and witty, and a welcome break from the sort of dark books I usually read.

Which is your favourite genre?

I like psychological mind twisters and atmospheric cosy mysteries. They are my ‘go-to’ books, i.e. when I don’t want to focus too much and want the pages to simply turn. I’m specifically fond of British and European fiction thrillers. Something about the dark dreariness of the surroundings, a trickle of blood on the snow, the brooding actors, languages I can’t follow, fascinate me. A few of my favourite authors in this genre are Tana French, Henning Mankell, and Andrea Camilleri. I know most people love fast action, gun fights, and sharp dialogues, but I love soaking in the rolling hills, empty streets, and a small town vibe. ‘Atmospheric’ is the word to describe the kind of books I like. I feel like I’m wrapped in a blanket, drinking a warm cup of coffee during Christmas when I read them.

Who is your favourite author?

That’s a tricky question because I doubt anyone has ONE favourite author. But if I have to mention someone whom I admire because he has managed to blend in good writing with a genre that’s otherwise difficult to master i.e. horror—yes, you guessed it right, it’s going to be Stephen King. He has been churning good content, never losing his touch, rarely getting boring. I think he has the pulse of the market and so, does very well in it. He is an inspiration for authors who aspire to be mass market, and yet, want to be taken seriously.

On the other hand, I have evergreen favourites, those whose books I cherish and will remember all my life. Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Donna Tartt, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Chimamanda Adichie. Most recently, I was impressed with ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller and ‘Where the Crawdads sing’ by Delia Owens. I love a mix of authors and genres as you can see, and I can go on and on listing them because I read voraciously.

If you had to pick one book to take away with you on vacation, what would it be?

To reread? One in the Harry Potter series. Or maybe Calvin and Hobbes. Or Agatha Christie.

To read for the first time? If it’s a global location, I try and buy local fiction, if possible local crime fiction. I have shelves filled with books from all around the world, inscribed with postcards and notes from book keepers and store owners. Sometimes, traveler friends.

With reference to your new book, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? How did you get the idea for the plot?

I don’t know how. I am serious! It all just came together. I wanted a story that referenced the strange eyelets on the roofs of Sibiu—they were everywhere, and they looked so eerie, just as if eyes were following me around. I was also fascinated by the gypsies in Romania. Did you know these nomadic people landed in Romania during the seventh century and they came from Punjab (India)? In addition, I knew Romania had loads of old stories and legends. Of course, you’ve heard of Dracula. So, I decided to mix everything: crazy legends, unfounded rumours, gypsies, eclectic local characters, and the beauty of its villages and towns. A true potboiler of a story!

Why did you decide to focus on Draco in the title of the book?

Naming a book is a tough task, I suppose somewhat like naming a baby: you fear you can never get it perfectly right, and once you’ve given it, it’s stuck for life. Draco is a distinctly Romanian name, and it would be easy to guess where the book is based. Also, a question in the title always piques my interest and that’s what I wanted to do.

Did the town of Sibiu inspire the plot for the book? If so, how?

I already had the basic plot in mind. The town embraced it into its arms and gave it a shape of its own. As I roamed the streets or wrote in my Bed&Breakfast, I could almost imagine Darya walking on the cobbled streets, staring in wonder at the eyelets on the roofs, wondering why they came about.

What did you like the most about Sibiu and why?

Sibiu is a ‘big-small’ city. I had read a lot about it, and when I landed there, I had 6 days to kill, and, so I thought to myself, why not here? Darya could well have come to Sibiu and stayed for her break, as I had myself had come for my sabbatical.

Sibiu is a Romanian city from the 12th century built by the German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. It is located in central Transylvania and has a population of around 400,000. Despite the flurry of tourism after being designated European Capital of Culture in 2007, it has retained much of its old world charm and grandeur. In 2008, it was designated Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live. It has great people, lovely food, and many many things to see and do. And you will not have tourist feet trampling your own as you explore.

Moreover, the Romanians are extraordinary people: blunt, warm, garrulous. Their inimitable personalities and rich culture and traditions added a whole different flavour to Draco’s story.

Where did you get the inspiration for the main protagonist of the series: Darya Nandkarni?

Three years ago, I wondered why there were not too many books with normal female leads in them. What I mean is, the women in the books I read were usually tragic, struggling, or getting over some difficulties, or simpering women waiting for a glance from a hard-hearted (but rich!) man. I wanted to create a normal female lead, like you and I, who did not have to have suffered in their lives and could do fun things. Hence, was born a series and a couple of standalone books, with strong-willed women, who are imperfect and gutsy, not waiting for a man to rescue them, using their cleverness and wit to navigate through their life and its many mysteries.

Do you base any of your characters on people you know? Would you like to give an example, if yes?

I often always do that, but never one hundred per cent. I am guilty is using names of my friends, and selecting their quirky mannerisms, but never replicating any one whole. I think all authors are guilty of being inspired by their near and dear ones, and also their selves. Some parts of Darya are definitely me. Some parts of Alina and Irina are my girlfriends. I often also replicate my real-life situations in my books, because ‘Fact is stranger than fiction’ has not been vainly said.

What about your other books, where did you draw inspiration for them?

My very popular mystery ‘Dead to Them’ was inspired by my workplace. The first of the Darya Nandkarni series – Kiss of Salt – was inspired by my many trips to Goa. ‘The Secret Angels’ is based in Chapel Road in Bandra, a lane I find fascinating and close to where I live in Mumbai. And Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? is based on superstitions and old stories, the kind I read and heard in my trip to Romania. Inspiration can come from random comments, unfinished stories, a book or a movie watched accidentally. One merely needs to pay attention, use one’s imagination, and have the will to write.

What is an average writing day like for you?

I write every day, even if it’s for 30 minutes. I write for at least 3 to 4 hours on weekends. Creating is a lot of fun, but getting out a good book is continuous effort and dedication. A lot of discipline! Rewriting and revision takes up a lot of time and that’s where it becomes a bit of a grind. Don’t even get me started on the marketing aspect of it. In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is this: writing is a lot of fun and I can do it every day. I have too many stories in my head and not enough time to jot it down. But if only writing was enough, and we didn’t have to do all the peripherals.

What message would you like to share with your readers?

You have everything. You are enough. If you have a dream, you have everything to do it already within you.

Book Review: Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? by Smita Bhattacharya

A huge thank you to Smita Bhattacharya, author of the books in the Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Series, for reaching out to me and introducing me to her wonderfully eccentric character, Darya.

Read on to know my thoughts on her upcoming novel in the series, to be released in November 2020.

The review is my own honest opinion of the book.

About the Book:

Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? (Darya Nandkarni's Misadventures #3)

Sibiu, Romania. 1947.

A boy’s dead body is discovered in the chimney of an abandoned farmhouse.

Sixty years later, more bodies are discovered in the same place.

Who did it then? Who is doing it now?

Can it be the same killer, or is it another, inspired by the first?

A backpacker is missing. Impressed by Darya’s past exploits, the owner of the missing boy’s hostel tasks Darya to look for him.

After some digging, Darya leads the police to an old farmhouse. They find the backpacker’s two-week-old dead body wedged inside the chimney. Along with two others.

The locals think it is the devil’s work. Darya knows not to trust local superstitions, of which there are many. But the crime is so diabolical, so unique, it begs the question: who could be doing this?

Darya needs to find out urgently before she is forced to leave Sibiu. And as she races to solve the mystery, she has to make sure she doesn’t let new friendships or the town’s insidious secrets get in her way.

The book’s Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Threw-Draco-Chimney-Nandkarnis-Misadventures-ebook/dp/B08FR4JL3J

The book’s Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55024921-who-threw-draco-down-the-chimney

My Thoughts:

This is the third book in the series based on the eccentric character of Darya Nandkarni. Darya is a an accidental and amateur detective who seems to find her way towards mysteries or do they find her? That is a question for the reader to ponder!

Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? is a very well-crafted mystery filled with the right amount of intrigue in a wonderful setting. Smita introduces the reader to the town of Sibiu in Romania. It is easy to imagine the town even without visiting it thanks to the detailed descriptions and precise explanations of the setting, the people, their mannerisms and lives! She paints a wonderful picture that draws the reader in and would even make the reader want to visit and explore this place!

What sets the book apart are the characters. Each one is shrouded in mystery, suspicious, hiding something and anyone could be guilty! I also enjoyed reading about how they band together and support one another. They are also welcoming and make outsiders feel very much as home. At every point, the reader is forced to pause and wonder at the involvement of each character in the death of the backpacker. It is not clear until the very end with an unexpected twist.

I particularly enjoyed how Smita weaves the past and present, narrating the story in two timelines: one in the weeks leading up to the particular incident that kickstarts Darya’s involvement in the investigation; the second in the present day when Darya is explaining the outcome of her investigation and discussing her findings. A lot of research seems to have gone into the plot line which is well represented through this book.

Smita handles the story and characters very well, with detailed descriptions and a steady pace that takes the reader until the very end. The story can be read as a stand-alone one even though there are some minor references to cases that Darya solved previously and to her family.

This is a must read for everyone who enjoys mysteries set in unique places and with wonderful twists and turns!

Grand Finale Book Blitz: HER SURPRISE ENGAGEMENT by Cari Lynn Webb

Her Surprise Engagement
(City by the Bay Stories #6)
By Cari Lynn Webb
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 Pages
July 1, 2020 by Harlequin Heartwarming

A football star and a single mom…

Teach each other to trust again

To impress the executives buying her app, Nichole Moore enlists the help of old friend and pro quarterback Chase Jacobs. A pretend marriage is the perfect ruse: Chase’s celebrity status will impress the executives, while likable, hardworking Nichole could fix his fading career. But as their fake relationship plays out under the glare of the public eye, Nichole realizes her feelings might be the real deal…

(Affiliate links included.)
Other Books in the Series

About the Author

Cari Lynn Webb lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughters and assorted four-legged family members. She’s been blessed to see the power of true love in her grandparent’s 70 year marriage and her parent’s marriage of over 50 years. She knows love isn’t always sweet and perfect, it can be challenging, complicated and risky. But she believes happily-ever-afters are worth fighting for. She loves to connect with readers. Visit her at her website.

Tour Giveaway

One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card and the Return of the Blackwell Brothers Continuity Series with a book tote bag. (5 Print Books & tote bag to US Residents only, E-copies to anyone outside the US).

Ends July 22, 2020

Grab Our Button!