2012 Book 236: CITY OF DARK MAGIC Review

City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
ISBN: 9780143122685
ISBN: 9781101603062 (ebook)
ASIN: B008EXNMSM (Kindle edition) 
Publication date: November 27, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

Sarah Weston is a doctoral student enamored with all things Beethoven. When she is offered the opportunity of a lifetime to spend the summer in Prague overseeing the Beethoven collection at the newly minted Lobkowicz Palace Museum, she briefly hesitates before accepting. Sarah is a little wary of the scope of her job, but knows she’ll never have another opportunity like this in her lifetime. She is not only in the same room with musical manuscripts written by Beethoven, but she is walking in his footsteps as she wanders around the palace. Sarah also finds it hard to believe that Dr. Sherbatsky, her mentor, could have committed suicide while conducting such prestigious work on the Beethoven manuscripts.

The more Sarah reveals the more confused and wary she becomes. What does Dr. Sherbatsky’s death have to do with Luigi and the Lobkowicz family? Can she trust Nicolas Pertusato, the little person that claims to be four hundred years old? She is attracted to Max Lobkowicz Anderson, the current Prince, but he’s keeping secrets from her so can she trust him? How is current intrigue linked to the mysteries of the past and Beethoven? 

City of Dark Magic isn’t about magic per se, but it does weave alchemy, the magic of science and beauty of music along with history into the story. There are obvious dark elements at play in the background but these are the obvious machinations of influential people craving more power. Sarah Weston is the focal point of the story as she has the knowledge of music and the innate ability to “walk through time” to see events from the past. Of course this ability is greatly enhanced by an alchemical drug . . . apparently the same drug that Beethoven had used to help him “hear” better. The authors have carefully crafted a story that incorporates historical tidbits and the wonders of the city of Prague into a modern story. It isn’t possible to separate the past from the present and that seems to be the underlying theme to this story. Sarah wants to gain better understanding of Beethoven and his art and this only possible through careful study of his past. Max wants to protect the past and better understand all facets of his family’s history, good and bad.

It took me awhile to become engrossed in the story, but once I did I found it hard to set this book aside. I rather enjoyed seeing Sarah evolve as an amateur sleuth and the constant surprises wrought by her discoveries. The cast of characters includes an eleven-year-old blind, musical prodigy (Pollina) that sees more than people realize, the four hundred year old dwarf that simply desires an end to his life, the current Lobkowicz Prince on a quest to locate and protect the Golden Fleece, a power hungry Lobkowicz cousin and US senator, and a host of various scholars. The more the authors reveal, the more mysteries there are to uncover. City of Dark Magic provides the reader with murders, international intrigue, historical intrigue, and a bit of romance. Although I did enjoy reading City of Dark Magic and liked all of the characters and settings, I found the sex scenes to be somewhat extraneous and felt they added nothing to the story. I look forward to reading the sequel and can only hope that many of the characters, especially Pollina and Nicolas, make a return.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free via NetGalley and ShelfAwareness Pro. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Guest post: Author Janiera Eldridge

Books Are Great to Write . . . After The First Few Chapters 
by Janiera Eldridge

Writing a book is never easy however, what a lot of people don’t know is that the hardest part of writing a book is braving the first few chapters. You’d think it would be the easiest part of writing a book. The ideas are fresh in your mind, the characters are fresh, there is a blank page just waiting to be filled! That is all good and well but the problem usually comes in when you start thinking about how you want to start your story.

Starting a new book is like going on a blind date. You might know a little about your new novel but you’re still nervous about how those first few times you spend with that novel is going to go. I always have a hard time trying to figure out what character I’m going to write about first. The first character to be introduced in a new novel is usually the character the author is going to spend the most time with. First impressions are everything so, whatever you say in the first few pages of your book about your main character will remain in the mind of the reader for the entire book. 

There’s also a lot of pressure to write an exciting opening for your novel. As a reader I know that the first few chapters of your novel are what determine if people want to continue reading your book or not. The first chapter is the most important because while it serves as a base for the entire novel it has to be exciting at the same time. I used to dread the first few lines of writing my book but there are some really cool and easy ticks you can use to draw a reader into your book:

  • Open your book with dialogue.
  • Open your book with a question.
  • Open your book with a shocking event.

I always feel better after writing the first few pages of my book. I don’t outline my books before I write them but some people say that can also help make the first few chapters less daunting. My books seem to write themselves so after the first few chapters the manuscript gains a rhythm of its own and it is smooth sailing from there. Until you have to come up with an acceptable ending which is an entirely new story all by itself! 

What are some techniques you’ve read in the opening lines of a novel that have pulled you in?

About the author:

Janiera Eldridge loves feeding her book addiction and putting all her crazy stories on paper. When she is not immersed in the world of fiction, she is working as an entertainment freelance writer.

Janiera also enjoys connecting with other authors and supporting their work on her book blog Books & Beauty.

Connect with her: 

Blog     |     Twitter     |     Facebook     |     Pinterest     |     Goodreads

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Gratitude Giveaway Winner

The Gratitude Giveaways hop has finished. Once again I offer a huge “thank you” to Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for organizing this hop. 

The winner of this giveaway is Beverly A. Congratulations Beverly! Beverly will be receiving a $25 Amazon gift card and a reading journal.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that stopped by and participated in this giveaway hop.

Happy reading!

Guest Post: Author Natasha Deen

Enough is Enough – Natasha Deen

When I was a kid, they showed us the four food groups and said to be healthy, we had to eat from each category. I figured I had this knocked, especially the grain part. I loved bread, but then they came and said it couldn’t be white bread. To be healthy, it had to be brown.

I don’t like brown bread, but okay, I changed over.

Then they said my 60% loaves weren’t good enough, it should be 100%.

So I changed.

Then they said it that wasn’t good enough, it had to whole grain and just when I was getting used to the choppy texture, they said multi-grain…then sprouted grain.

At this point, I thought, enough is enough. If I keep going with this, pretty soon I’m going to be fighting the cows for the grass in the pasture. Sometimes I feel this way with the writing.

I get an idea, an intriguing “what if” and I start to write, but even as I put pen to paper (and later, keys to screen), I hear those voices, whispering, “Not good enough. It has to have a tighter plot, deeper characters.”

Never mind that it’s my first draft, never mind that my goal is just to get the ideas on the page, all I hear is “not good enough,” and I have to stop, to remind myself that writing, like life, is about the effort, not the outcome.

My first draft isn’t my last draft. There’ll be edits and deletions, rewrites and write agains, but that’s okay because that’s life, too. We try, we fail, we try harder. Forget about processed grain, whole wheat versus whole grain, and let the words flow, the sentences come. There’ll be time later to talk about good and better, but right now, it’s me and the page and the idea, and that’s good enough for me.

About the author:

There was only one thing Natasha wanted to be when she grew up: a superhero. Sadly, this goal was made moot when she realized that being a klutz was not, in fact, a super power, and her super-weakness for anything bright and shiny meant that a magpie with self-control could easily defeat her in a battle of wills.  So, she turned to writing as a way to unleash her inner superhero.  She doesn’t get to live on a secret space station orbiting the earth (and thank goodness because she gets motion sick on a merry-go-round), but she still get to wear leotards, a cape and say things like, “STAND ASIDE! THIS IS A JOB FOR WRITING-GIRL!” 

Visit her at www.natashadeen.com, and find her on Facebook, Goodreads,  and Twitter 

Angel Maker, True Grime 2 by Natasha Deen
ISBN:  9780986741951
Publisher:  Blueberry Hill Press
Publication Date:  August 2012

About the book:

For the last two years, human Aponi Runningbear has been training to be part of Grime, the magical police division tasked with protecting humanity from SOAP terrorists. But things aren’t going well. She’s barely keeping up with her studies, failing the physical component, and her Generalized Anxiety Disorder is making her bad days even worse. When her team is given the chance to find a missing coworker and stop SOAP from producing a DNA-altering drug that’s killing humans, Aponi grabs hold of the chance to show she’s meant for Grime. But as the investigation heats up, she’s forced to deal with the tormentor from her past, dead bodies, and the certainty that SOAP’s going to win this battle. Humanity’s dying, Grime’s in trouble, and she’s failing…does a foster kid really have what it takes to save the world and herself?

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Also available at:

Smashwords     |     Createspace     |     BookDepository.com

2012 Book 199: BLACK FRIDAYS Review

Black Fridays by Michael Sears
ISBN: 9780399158667
ISBN: 9781101600221 (ebook)
ASIN: B007T8G3WU (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B009CMOB5C (Audiobook) 
Publication date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Putnam Adult

Sometimes a man can be redeemed. But not in the way he expects.

Jason Stafford is a former Wall Street hotshot who made some bad moves, paid the price with two years in prison, and is now trying to put his life back together. He’s unemployable, until an investment firm asks him to look into possible problems left by a junior trader who died recently in an accident. What he discovers is big – there are problems, all right, the kind that get you killed.

But it’s not his only concern. Stafford has another quest as well: to reclaim his five-year-old son, “the Kid,” from his unstable ex-wife, and then learn just what it means to make a life with him. The things Stafford discovers about himself in the process are every bit as gripping as his investigation, and when the two threads of his life come together – the results are unforgettable.

Black Fridays begins with Jason Stafford’s release from prison. He returns to New York City and hopes to start a new life with his ex-wife and child. Unfortunately Jason’s ex has not gone along with the game plan. Jason had patiently explained to Angie that they needed to get a divorce and transfer assets from his name to hers in an effort to protect her and retain money before he was indicted. He thought she understood that the divorce was only a ruse and they would get back together once his legal issues were finalized. Unfortunately Angie is a high-maintenance alcoholic that only thinks of herself and she has left New York and returned to Louisiana and her family. So Jason returns to an empty apartment, initially purchased as an investment. His life is on hold as he is on parole for three years and cannot leave the five boroughs of New York without permission from his parole officer. This doesn’t stop Jason from leaving New York and going to Louisiana to get his son, Jason Jr. or the Kid.

The Kid suffers from autism and requires special care. Jason knows that he’s facing an uphill struggle in his efforts to provide the best care possible for the Kid. He also knows that the Kid needs a very strict regimented life in order to handle life. Jason quickly gets used to “beige” and “black” days and the food quirks of the Kid. In a few short weeks Jason and the Kid have made a bond and a life that works for them.

Jason is prohibited from returning to trading and he knows that it may be difficult to obtain gainful employment. But Jason’s knowledge base and his imprisonment history have made him the perfect man to investigate the history of a deceased junior trader at an investment firm. Little does Jason know that this “investigation” is placing not only his life, but his son’s life, in peril. Sometimes accidents are not what they seem and Jason is finding out that there have been too many accidents associated with people at this particular investment firm. Not only does Jason have to contend with co-workers that won’t reveal anything useful, but he also has the FBI pushing him into a corner, as well as his ex-wife and her bid to take their son away again.

Black Fridays is a thriller that provides some insight into dealing with autism and behind the scenes looks at the trading world. The title is an obvious play on the historical “black Fridays” seen as a result of Wall Street trading as well as the Kid’s required black clothing on Fridays. Jason isn’t really an “any man” even though he doesn’t come from a privileged background. Prior to his arrest, Jason was living a life that many of us may not be able to comprehend with multiple residences, extravagant and luxurious purchases. Jason struggles to build a new life for himself and for his son, while struggling to understand the bond market and what has been happening at the investment firm. Jason’s desire for his ex-wife’s return fizzles out quickly after learning about her remarriage and one night of sex with Wanda (a co-worker to a magician friend). All of the characters presented are highly believable (thanks in part to reality TV in presenting the lifestyles of the rich, famous and infamous). I found the parts of the story that dealt with trading and bond discussions to drag just a bit, but the knowledge presented was necessary in order to understand the story. The portions of the story dealing with Jason and the Kid were at times comical and others sad. Black Fridays provides the reader with trading fraud, blackmail, murder, parental kidnapping, battery, family bonding, and a hint of romance. Mr. Sears has provided a story that quickly gripped me and had me rooting for Jason and the Kid until the end. I found Black Fridays to be a relatively fast read and one that I can recommend for thriller readers looking for something just a little bit different.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Gratitude Giveaways Hop

I have a lot to be grateful for this year, and one thing I’m very grateful for are my wonderful blog readers and visitors. I’m also very grateful to Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer for once again organizing the Gratitude Giveaways Hop. 

To show my appreciation, The Book Diva’s Reads is offering a reading journal and a $25 Amazon.com gift card. The reading journal features pages to record information on your favorite books, as well as lists of Pulitzer Prize Winners, Man Booker Prize Winners, National Book Award Winners, and a host of other prize lists (lists include space to note current and future winners).

To enter, please visit my giveaway page and use the Rafflecopter form (comments do not count as an entry). Limit one entry per person/email address, GFC following is required. This giveaway is open internationally.

This giveaway hop will run from 12:01 AM ET on Thursday, November 15, 2012 through 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, November 25, 2012. The winner will be announced on Monday, November 26, 2012.

Guest Post: Author Abigail Keam


     Every author has to take that first step towards writing. Most do not realize that writing is only part of the journey towards a successful career. There are many other elements that you must conquer before you will be successful.

     What is meant by a successful career? Each writer must determine that for her/his self, but for me it is a good piece of writing that I am proud to put my John Hancock on and is subsequently followed by a paycheck.  

      How does one get ready? The tricks are the same as in any career path and being a writer is no different.

Get Rid Of Negativity In Your Life.

     Don’t worry about having doubts about your talent. Everyone does and it is a natural fear.  

     I am talking about people who are negative about your writing. Many of them are friends and family. Stop talking about your writing. Quit giving them ammo.  If they really get you down, just don’t hang around them anymore. Be around people who are positive and have a “can do” attitude about life.  

      I didn’t mention my first book to anyone until it was published. I did that to protect myself from any negative forces that might have distracted me from my goal.

Be Reasonable.

     You may be the greatest writer in the world, but that doesn’t mean readers are going to fall over when they read your material or that you even are published in the first place. There are many great writers, who are competing with each other for a publishing deal and shelf space in stores. Remember—writing is a business like any other business. It may be that your book is wonderful but not what is selling at the moment. That doesn’t mean it is not going to happen for you.  Keep your ego in check.

When A Door Closes, Go Around It.

      If you can’t find a publisher, then publish yourself. It is an investment in your future but you must work very hard to get a return on your dollar. Writing that book is only part of the adventure. Now you must build a devoted fan base by marketing your product, which is your book and yourself. Yes, you are part of the marketing package. Marketing your book can be a full time job in itself, but if you do it right, it will make selling your book easier.

I have given you the three most important steps towards a career in writing—positive thinking, keeping your ego in check and alternate solutions. Now go for it!         

About the author:

Abigail Keam is an award-winning author who writes the Josiah Reynolds mystery series about a beekeeper turned sleuth.

Death By A HoneyBee won the 2010 Gold Medal Award for Women’s Lit from Reader’s Favorite and was a Finalist of the USA BOOK NEWS-Best Books of 2011. 
Death By Drowning won the 2011 Gold Medal Award for Best Mystery Sleuth and also was placed on the USA BOOK NEWS-Best Books of 2011. Death by Bourbon is her newest book.

Ms. Keam is also an award-winning beekeeper who lives on the Kentucky River in a metal house with her husband and various critters.

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Book Excerpt: DEATH BY BOURBON by Abigail Keam

Death By Bourbon by Abigail Keam
ISBN:  9780615651590 (Paperback)
ASIN:  B0098BMV54 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Worker Bee Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2012

Life takes a dramatic turn for Josiah when she witnesses a death at an engagement party for guess who . . . Matt. Matt? Yes Matt.

Charming socialite Addison DeWitt falls into a fit after taking a sip of bourbon. That would be upsetting enough, but Josiah is sure it is murder. However, no one will believe her except for Lady Elsmere and Meriah Caldwell, the famous mystery writer. The three of them conspire to bring the murderer to justice. It turns out that the suspect is always three steps ahead of them. 

To make matters worse, Josiah’s daughter, Asa, decides to move to London, Franklin leaves town and Jake starts singing a different tune. Josiah doubts her ability to meet the future alone. Maybe it’s time to sell the Butterfly and move to Florida with the rest of the old folks.


Chapter 18

    I kept thinking about Doreen’s ring. It sort of rang a bell with me. No pun intended.

   On a hunch, I pulled out my books on Renaissance paintings and looked in the glossaries for mention of the notorious Borgia family.  Finally I found a reference to Dosso Dossi for his painting Portrait Of A Youth painted in 1514. Flipping to the correct page, there was the picture of a golden-haired youth dressed in dour clothing, almost like a Puritan’s of the seventeenth century instead of the flamboyant, rich clothing of Rome during the flowering of the Renaissance. It was also hard to tell if the youth was male or female even though the print stated that person was Lucrezia Borgia.

    I had seen several portraits of Lucrezia during my travels to Italy and this person did resemble that young girl.  

    Lucrezia Borgia was the illegitimate daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander VI. The corrupt political and sexual machinations of Pope Alexander VI, which included the famous Chestnut Ball at the Vatican, are said to have laid the groundwork for the Reformation in 1520. Among the many juicy accusations against the Borgia family was incest between father and daughter, orgies and most particularly – political assassinations by poison. Nice family, huh.

    It was rumored that Lucrezia did her fair share of poisoning by use of a special ring with a secret compartment filled with poison, which she used on selected guests during dinner.  

    And, looking at the portrait I saw a ring on her finger – a large gold bauble just like Doreen was wearing. Was Doreen’s copy of Lucrezia Borgia’s ring hollow too? Did it have a special compartment?

    That’s what I needed to find out. I drummed the desk. Now how could I get that ring off Doreen’s finger to see?   

    I would figure a way.

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BONUS:  Free through November 15, 2012 on Amazon – Death by Honeybee by Abigail Keam; get your copy today!


Mark your calendars…WaterBrook Multnomah and Compassion International will be hosting a live webcast with best-selling author and inspirational speaker Nick Vujicic on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 11 AM ET (9 AM MT). 

Webcast URL: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/unstoppablelive/

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Novel Crossing

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for something new and different to read. If you are seeking something slightly different, then checkout this new website: http://www.novelcrossing.com, dedicated to Christian fiction. I know, not everyone is Christian (I’m not), but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy reading some great faith-based books by some wonderful authors. 

What is Novel Crossing exactly? “Novel Crossing is a website for Christian fiction lovers. It’s like Facebook meets Goodreads meets your favorite Christian fiction blogs…all in one place! Whether you’re into romance, Amish fiction, mystery, action, sci-fi, historical fiction or any other genre…Novel Crossing is your new trusted source for ALL Christian fiction across ALL publishers!”

Take a look at this videos where author’s are asked “What inspires you?”

I hope you’ll take a moment to visit Novel Crossing and if you do, you may just find your next great read.