Cover reveal: Topaz Reign by Teresa Richards

Topaz ReignCheck out this beautiful new cover for Topaz Reign, sequel to YA novel Emerald Bound by Teresa Richards! Topaz Reign will be available at the beginning of October, so stay tuned!

Topaz Reign

Fairy tales are simply tales, told and re-told, but changed over time.

It has been four months since Maggie learned the dark truth behind the tale of the Princess and the Pea and freed Princess Lindy from the cursed Emerald. Lindy is now back in the past where she belongs, queen of her tiny Scandinavian country, and Maggie is a fully reformed ex-stalker. 

Except… she can’t stop doing internet searches on Lindy and her country.  

One morning, Maggie wakes to find history turned on its head. Apparently, you can’t destroy a centuries-old curse without consequence. In order to prevent the changes in history from wiping out the present, Maggie resurrects her stalking gene and learns that fairy tales don’t stay dead for long. 

Or at all. 

Back in 1623, Lindy is juggling a threat to her family, a handsome new guard she’s not supposed to have feelings for, and a cursed Topaz with ties to the tale of Thumbelina. When past and present collide, Lindy and Maggie are brought together again, and another of Andersen’s tales turns from twisted fiction to chilling fact. 

Author Bio

Teresa Richards writes YA, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, got a degree in Speech Pathology from Brigham Young University, then moved to the greater New York area for a little adventure. Now she’s settled somewhere between coasts with her husband and five kids, and has realized that writing is her passion. When Teresa’s not writing, she can be found chasing after one of her littles, driving one of her teens around, or hiding in the house with a treat she’s not planning to share. She is represented by Mallory Brown of Triada Literary Agency. You can connect with Teresa on twitter @BYUtm33,  Facebook  @AuthorTeresaRichards, and Instagram @authorteresarichards.

Check out the first book, Emerald Bound, on Amazon.

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Book review: The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down

Shields Down Digital Front-smallerI have finally finished The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down! This historical fiction novel by Jillian Bald can be found on Book Club Reading List. Now, I say “finally” because I have been diligently working on it for the better part of a month. It is quite long, but very entertaining!

Synopsis

Resi is a girl from Greece whose father arranges her marriage to a Croatian baron’s son to keep the peace after a trading deal goes awry. Betrothed from a young age, Resi is unsure of her future. She doesn’t want to marry a stranger and live far from her family in a foreign land. When she is finally sent for to fulfill the marriage contract, she moves to Croatia with her best friend Ruby to keep her company. Her new husband, Baron Mauro Baric, is not what she expected. The House of Baric: Shields Down explores their first two years of marriage, getting to know each other and discovering they might actually like each other. The reader gets to know a colorful cast of characters and becomes immersed in 17th-century life in Croatia.

Strengths

If you love historical fiction, this book is for you! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Historical fiction is my favorite way to learn history. I cannot get through dry history books; I literally fall asleep every time. But historical fiction? Sign me up! I love learning about the past, what life was like, how things were different from the world I live in today, and historical fiction teaches history by immersing the reader in that period. The House of Baric did a great job at fully depicting its world, 17th-century Croatia, a time and place I have never learned much about. Bravo to Jillian Bald for the sheer amount of research I’m sure she did to accurately write in such a setting.

The writing is very strong, descriptive and sophisticated. It was long, but easy to read.

I very much enjoyed the characters and getting in each of their heads. I loved Resi and thought she was very brave in accepting the terms of her marriage and making the best of it. She is a very intelligent woman with a strong spine who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or others she thinks are being mistreated.

Weaknesses

The main problem I had with this book is that I didn’t feel like as much was accomplished during the story as should have been, given how long it was. It is definitely a slow-moving, descriptive book, which is fine, but there were events that I kept expecting to get to only to have the plot derailed by something else. For example, we learn early on that Resi has been communicating with her favorite brother, a mercenary who has not gotten along well with Mauro in past years. Her brother will be in the area and wants to come for a visit. Naturally, I expected this highly anticipated event would cover at least a portion of the rest of the book. Instead, unexpected visitors show up at the Baric household, then Mauro’s ship is confiscated by the government, there’s a ball and a camp out on the beach… All entertaining parts of the book, but then Part One ends just as Resi’s brother shows up. I guess that’s meant to be motivation to read the next book in the series, but I’m a little annoyed that I was waiting for the confrontation with the brother for so long and didn’t even get to read it.

Conclusion

This is definitely a book for all historical fiction lovers! I wish I could go on a Mediterranean cruise or something now. Lounge on the beach, gaze into crystal clear waters, and curl up with a good book. Doesn’t that sound amazing? This book put me in that mood! It is a little on the long side and definitely has passages that could be trimmed down, but The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down is a quality, worthwhile read. Be prepared to take your time to savor all it has to offer.

4 out of 5 stars

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Contact the author on Book Club Reading List

Buy the book on Amazon

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Book Review: Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu

Four ways to pharaoh KhufuJust finished Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu! This adventure tale is by Alexander Marmer and can be found on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

Michael has dreamed of visiting the Egyptian pyramids since he was a child. On his first day in the country touring the Great Pyramid, he meets a dying German engineer who claims to have been poisoned. After giving Michael a business card for his daughter and a small notebook, his last words are “find four ways.” Michael begins an adventure beyond his wildest dreams, attempting to recover a stolen ancient stele, decode the dying man’s final words, and find the final resting place of the great Pharaoh Khufu. He is accompanied by the German’s daughter, Anna, and together they try to unravel the mystery surrounding her father’s death.

Strengths

This was a very well-written (and well-edited) book. That’s not to say I didn’t find a few typos, but obvious care went into the writing and research of this book. There is SO much fascinating history about Egypt and the pyramids included in this story! I learned more than I thought I’d ever know about Egypt in a single read.

The story line was exciting and full of action. I liked the main characters, Michael and Anna, and enjoyed going on the adventure with them.

Weaknesses

The main weakness for me–which may not be seen as a weakness by someone else–was simply the length of this book. Clocking in at 363 pages, I feel like the same story could be told at two-thirds the length. There were times when I simply couldn’t keep up with the complicated theories the characters uncovered about the pyramids. You almost need a larger base of knowledge about Egypt before starting the book to fully appreciate everything. The extent of my knowledge about Egypt comes from middle and high school history classes, so I’d say it’s pretty limited. By having such complicated and intricate sub-plots, the audience can become bored or feel alienated for not understanding.

Conclusion

It’s obvious an incredible amount of time and thought went into researching for this book. The characters go on a great adventure, survive car chases and murder attempts, recover an ancient artifact, and discover long-held secrets. I love the journey Michael goes on–he’s definitely my favorite character. My girly side wished there was a little more romance to the story; it’s totally set up for Michael and Anna to fall in love, but nothing really happens except mention that they steal glances at each other. And I wish the story was condensed a bit, more focused. I think this is a book that fans of crime fiction or books like The DaVinci Code would love. If that sounds like you go check this one out!!

4 out of 5 stars

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Contact the author on Book Club Reading List.

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Book Review: Guarding Shakespeare

guarding-shakespeare-coverJust finished the noir novella “Guarding Shakespeare” by Quintin Peterson, found on Book Club Reading List!

Synopsis

Lt. Norman Blalock has worked at the Folger Library guarding priceless Shakespearean artifacts for 25 years. Shortly after being passed up for promotion yet again, Norman is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: steal a small, virtually unknown artifact in exchange for enough money to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Why should he be loyal to employers who systematically underestimate his abilities? Could he really pull off the heist of a lifetime?

Strengths

I love the idea for this novella! It’s like Ocean’s 11 meets National Treasure with a dash of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Norman lives a lonely life–estranged from his adult children, single, deceased parents, and has lived with a distrust of others his entire life, making it hard for him to be close with anyone. So when Kavitha, a young, gorgeous British woman, comes around representing her employer and offering Norman incomprehensibly large amounts of money to do a job, I was cautiously hopeful that she might be the solution to his loneliness. I think Guarding Shakespeare does a great job at making the reader care about its characters, particularly Norman. I was very much invested in his outcome, worried he would be double-crossed but hopeful that everything would work out  in the end.

“When the truth is too painful, we choose to live a lie. Norman chose to live the lie for now.” (pg 89)

If that quote doesn’t make you want to root for Norman, I don’t know what will!!

A cool thing about this story is the amount of historical trivia it contains. Any history buff will enjoy this book! I’m thinking the author, Quintin Peterson, is either a history enthusiast himself or did tons of research to write this story. Probably both.

Weaknesses

I think the biggest weakness for me was the flow and writing style of this novella. While the content was great, descriptions of locations, people, and historical events are described in extremely long run-on sentences. When sentences are too long, my eyes skip ahead and I miss out on information, making me confused and have to back-track to try and catch up. Here is one example of a run-on sentence that was hard to follow, right at the beginning of the story:

“Lt. Blalock, clean-shaven, tall, dark, and trim, wearing a fresh uniform consisting of navy blue slacks riding just right on the tops of spit-shined combat boots, a heavily starched white shirt choked by a navy blue necktie, and a navy blue commando sweater bearing on each sleeve blue, yellow and white circular Folger Shakespeare Library Police shoulder patches embroidered with Shakespeare’s family crest and a shiny gold metal badge and matching name tag on either side of its half-bust circumference, was hiding in the storage/elevator service room on the Gamma Deck of the Folger’s underground complex, evading detection by a fellow officer with a K-9 conducting a random interior security sweep.” (pg 4)

Whew!! What a mouthful! Why not just say Lt. Blalock was hiding from an officer doing a security sweep, then state in separate sentences what he was wearing and how he looked? I think that would be easier for reader comprehension.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed the idea behind the story and the main characters Norman and Kavitha. I think Norman is very easy to relate to; he has flaws and seems like a normal person, making me emotionally invested in his well-being. I also enjoyed the bits of historical trivia. Unfortunately, the run-on sentences and lengthy descriptions interrupted the flow so much that I had a hard time following the story in places. I wanted more of the dialogue between Norman and Kavitha, more of Norman’s history with his father, more suspenseful action scenes, and less lengthy descriptions of history or what a character is wearing. The core of a really great story is there; with a little editing it could really shine!

3 stars

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Book the author on Book Club Reading List

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