Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Three by Jay Posey

Title: Three
Author: Jay Posey
Series: N/A
Genre: Post Apocalyptic?
Release Date: 30 July 2013

The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.

But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantel of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise.

DNF at 21%.

I just can't anymore.

Some reasons I quit:

1. I have no idea what's going on. What kind of world this is, how it got this way; what kind of people these are, how they got this way. Where it is, when it is, how it is....I've got nothing. This is best as I can figure it.

We're in some vague science-fiction world; maybe earth, maybe some place else. Weirs populate the outside (and it took until 18%ish to get a name/idea of what they were). FYI: They're zombie like creatures with glowing blue eyes that track based on a multitude of things, including characters 'linking (I'll get to that). I have no idea how they came about though. Because of the weirs, humanity has closed themselves up in cities that are locked up tight after dark - apparently the weirs only come out at night? And it's got to be full dark, none of this partial-dusk, mostly dark crap. Also, they apparently communicate with screams and/or screeches.

The characters have some sort of 'link to a central 'net? They can link and find out their global positioning, have access to internal time, get information, and track based on use of this. I don't know why, or how this came about.

There are weird drugs (chems) that people can take to become super strong/fast/smart - but they become addictive to the point where you need them to function later.

2. Characters act in ways that are inconsistent with the world-building.

Enter Three. He's a mercenary? I guess. That was what I imagined him to be considering he was claiming a bounty on someone when we first meet him (unless that's him in the prologue - but I don't really know who that was to be honest). Then he randomly decides to save this woman and child. Next, he continues to help them for a really long time, protecting them despite the woman being an ungrateful person who berates and yells at him for not doing enough (apparently). Also, I have no idea why the mother was in the bar with her son when she first meets Three, and asks him for help. Obvious authorial hand here.

Additionally, Three can kick weir ass. Yet, the rest of humanity can't band together to find the weir and fight them or eliminate them. They're all weak cowards, I guess.

3. Characters that piss me off.

Enter Cass. Previously mentioned mother. She's a quint (the previously mentioned chem) addict with a special son (you know the type - the ONE). She alternates between helpless, bitchy, ungrateful and downright mean. Not to mention that she apparently can't really do anything for herself, and allowed herself AND HER SON to get into a very shady dealing. Though now she is on the run, so at least I can give her that for getting her kid out of it - though he is SEVEN so it took her long enough.

About the time she slapped her son because he wasn't able to find the way out to save them, yes, she needed her son to save himself and her, I lost all interest in her as a character and pretty much came to hate her.

And that pretty much ended my ability to read this. I was going to keep trying to go, but when my whole weekend went by without me picking up my Kindle because I just couldn't make myself. Time to just stop.

I do think this has potential, and that it's probably going to work great for others. It just isn't working for me.

Perhaps I'll come back to it at some point. Right now I doubt it, though.

Grade: DNF

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Rises
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 6
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 30 July 2013

Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…

I highly, highly recommend avoiding all spoilers for this book. Read it fresh. I promise there aren’t spoilers in my review below. However, because I talk about the book and hint at things that happen, I wanted to give warning here.

Once upon a time, I’d never read anything by Ilona Andrews. I lived in the dark, badgered by my good friend (thank you Kat!!) constantly as she tried to get me to pick up Magic Bites. I don’t even remember what my problem was - why I didn’t pick up this book as soon as I knew about it. I think I thought it just wasn’t for me. If I wasn’t so very wrong that would be funny.

Then, one day, I was looking at my beautiful bookshelf full of books I needed to read and Magic Bites called out louder than the rest. I picked it up, laid down on my bed, and turned to the first page. I sat at a table in my shadowy kitchen, staring down a bottle of Boone’s Farm Hard Lemonade, when a magic fluctuation hit...

Several hours later I surfaced to the real world again; reluctant to leave behind Kate, Derek, Curran, and even Saiman. Luckily, the next three books were out and I immediately downloaded them, and any novellas I could find, to my Kindle. And ordered them in paper to be shipped to me... The next several days were spent in a magic-induced reading high from this series. Immediately upon finishing Magic Bleeds I started the series from the beginning. Diving back into this world, spending time with the characters I couldn’t yet let go of, and eagerly, impatiently, awaited Magic Slays.

I’m here to say, the magic definitely isn’t waning on this series. Ilona Andrews continues to be one of the best in the Urban Fantasy genre. They’ve proved time and again they have excellent world–building skills as they show us an Atlanta ravaged by the effects of magic and technology fluctuating, and Kate’s struggles through it. Relationships are complex and nuanced; the slow build of Kate and Curran’s relationship is just one of the things that make them my favorite literary couple, ever.

So when, Jenny was kind enough to send me her ARC to read I was ecstatic! I may have jumped and skipped and floated back to the house after getting the package, and squealed when I opened it. I immediately cracked it open and started reading. I recommend flipping to the end and starting with An Ill-Advised Rescue (if you haven’t already read it on their website) which is a fully-contained short story that relates to the beginning of Magic Rises; also, it’s just more awesome times with Kate.

In Magic Rises Ilona Andrews takes everything a step further - expanding the world over the Black Sea, and pushing these characters I’ve come to love so much to the very edge of their abilities to endure. This book was an emotional roller-coaster for me. I was up, I was down; I cried, I laughed, I screamed, I cheered. My heart broke, and was put back together.

If I had the ability to jump into the pages of this book and kick some people’s asses, I would have. I wanted to kill some characters. Slap others upside the head; hug and comfort if possible. It’s not an exaggeration to say this book will put you through the emotional wringer. Not only are Kate and Curran fighting for the medicine to save the shapeshifter children from going loup - emotional enough in and of itself - Ilona Andrews puts everything on the line, shaking it up and pulling us through the other side. Not remotely in the same shape we started.

I won’t say a lot about the main story line, except to say that it blew me away. I wasn’t sure how I was going to stay interested - dealing with packs I’d never heard of and didn’t know. Lucky for me, and for Kate and Curran, a contingent from the Pack traveled with them. The help and support was very much needed, and I enjoyed seeing how Kate’s begun to integrate from her solitary existence to being an alpha, the alpha female of the Pack. She started out working alone, relying on no one; having no friends, no lovers, no one she trusted. In Magic Rises you can see how much things have changed for Kate. She’s relying on others, emotionally involved in their survival, and doing everything she can to help those under her care - no matter the cost.

The cost has the potential to be very high in Magic Rises. Even knowing they’re walking into a trap, Kate and Curran don’t begin to contemplate the possibilities of how dangerous this deal is. To their lives, yes, but also to everything they hold dear. Their relationship is tested, hard, in this book. And I can easily say that I wanted to kick Curran’s ass more than once. I was devastated for Kate, I felt her pain and I hated to see her hurt.

There are shocks and twists, plots and schemes, danger and kick-ass fights. There are also quiet moments full of love and friendship. You may finish this book unable to look at some characters the way you did before starting, or find others mean more than you than you ever realized - I know I did. The plot, which I worried about when I first started, moved along nicely with a lot of action - there was one fight scene that had me fanning myself, it was so hot. As always, there’s plenty of witty banter between Kate and ... well, everyone. Even while my heart was being torn out, slowly, they still had the ability to make me laugh.

Magic Rises is right up there with Magic Strikes for my favorite book in this series, and catapulted the Kate Daniels series to my favorite ever (past the Fevers - yes, I know, I was shocked too)! It’s a fantastic addition to the series, the world, and the genre. Magic Rises is a game-changer, shaking everything up and showing, yet again, that Ilona Andrews are the best.

I read late into the night, staying up until I finished it - at 1AM. Sleep wasn’t important to me, and I’ll lay money on you not thinking so either. If you’re waiting for this book as impatiently as I was, you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t started this series - are you in for a treat. Go! Grab Magic Bites and dive in! You can thank me later.

Grade: A+

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: Vampirella Strikes by Tom Sniegoski and Johnny D.

Title: Vampirella Strikes TPB
Author: Tom Sniegoski and Johnny D. (Illustrator)
Series: Vampirella Strikes, 1-6
Genre: Graphic Novel
Release Date: 20 August 2013

For years, the raven-haired heroine Vampirella has hunted the world's supernatural threats, all the while fighting back her own bloodthirsty nature. After a night out in Boston leads to particularly brutal violence, she seeks comfort in her Brownstone home... but discovers the most unexpected surprise of all. Angels have been sent to her by God - and they come asking for help! Enter Janus, a former soldier in the legion of Heaven, who skirts the line between the damned and divine. Only a fallen angel can navigate Vampirella through the seedy, demon-run underworld, where she hopes to find the source of an addictive, body-altering drug derived from archangel blood. Will Vampirella's mission redeem her... or will she uncover secrets so shocking that their discovery will damn her forever?

It's been a long time since I've picked up a graphic novel and read it, beginning to end. Years. But there was a time when I read them all the time. When I was in the comic book store buying something at least once a week. I still have boxes of them - all lovingly backboarded and sheathed. When I saw this trade-paperback on NetGalley, I requested it instantly; for a couple of reasons. 1: I used to love reading Vampirella. She was awesome. Kick ass, a little dark, and not ready to give into it completely. Yeah, yeah, she has the skimpy outfit - just look at it up there, a little ridiculous to fight in, but she never required anyone else to save her. She did the saving. And 2: that cover is done by Michael Turner. I just love his art. I got addicted to him back when he created Witchblade. He passed in 2008, and I still gravitate towards his art anytime I see it. Honestly, I didn't even read the blurb before I requested it. It was Vampirella with a Michael Turner cover. Sold.

Then I started reading it, and the demons and angels showed up. I have to admit I was a little trepidatious about it - because I've been watching Supernatural for *years*. And the demon/angel angle that series has going on keeps me engrossed even when I'm not loving the show. Let me pull myself back on topic though.

The Plot: Even though this is a "complete" 6-comic book story, it felt more like a beginning. The really, truly interesting twists didn't happen until near the end. That's when I really got pulled in and wanted to see what happened. Up until then it was a lot of go here, fight that, kill them, get hurt, move on. Okay, really, but there's just not a lot there to talk about.

The Art: I mostly liked the art. It was a bit more...understated than what I've seen a lot of. The scenes were set darkly, and it reminded me of a really grim scene. Which made sense considering the subject matter of the story. But, yeah there's a 'but', there were some panels that were downright baffling. I had to look at them for several minutes before I could determine what I was looking at exactly. Too close to the subject, weird angles, not distinguishable characters (all the men began to look alike at the end. I still had no idea who did what where in the last few pages). And then there was the one scene that made me cringe - a full page no less - looking up from between Vampirella's legs when she's in her skimpy fighting outfit. Tits and ass would have been the least of my complaints. I just don't feel like I need to see her vagina right there in my face - even if it is covered with something like bikini bottoms. However, it was one page out of 178, and I pushed it out of my mind and moved on to enjoy the rest of the book.

Overall, this is a good addition to the Vampirella story-verse. Though I'd love to see a little more about what happens with the characters that were the impetus for the entire story. They just weren't explored enough for my liking - I hope there's more about them at some point.

Grade: C+/B- - Hard to choose. I enjoyed it a great deal, but it did have its issues.

Buy Here at Dynamite

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch


Title: Stone Guardian
Series: Entwined Realms, Book 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Release Date: 15 July 2013

Gryphons flying past skyscrapers? Wizards battling it out in coffeehouses? Women riding motorcycles with large swords strapped to their backs? All normal sights since the Great Collision happened twenty-six years ago.

Well, not normal for everyone. Larissa Miller may have been born after the Great Collision, but as a history teacher who lives in the human-only city, she has never come into contact with any other race or species, nor has she wanted to. Her life is as ordinary as it gets - that is, until one day she walks out of her apartment and is attacked by a mob of Zombies, only to be saved by a Gargoyle.

Gargoyles trust no one outside their Clan, but due to a cryptic prophecy, Terak, Leader of the Gargoyles, has been watching over the human woman for months. While he can find no reason why the woman has been singled out, something about her stirs every protective instinct within him. When the attack confirms that the threats against her exist and are real, he convinces Larissa that though their races have never been allies, the best chance of discovering why she has been brought into his world is by working together.

In the course of their investigation Terak becomes entranced by his little human. But when he discovers why Necromancers want her and the great reward that awaits him if he betrays her, he must choose between the welfare of his Clan and not only Larissa’s life, but the fate of this New Realm as well.

**Warning** Spoilers ahead!!
Pretty minor, but they do exist (all because I couldn't figure out how to make the spoiler function work just yet...I will get it yet.)

I requested this book because - Gargoyles, I mean c'mon! I love gargoyles. Granted, my love may have something to do with the cartoon that I loved to watch as a kid, but whatever. Still, Gargoyles, made me request this instantly.

I'm really glad I did. I expected smexy times with some paranormal thrown in; what I got was so much more than that. I was happily surprised by a story that took off running - with a bang! Almost literally. The story starts with the worlds colliding. The human realm and what comes to be known as the 'New Realm'. In the New Realm there is magic, beings of fantasy and myth, and a whole lot of trouble brewing. Earthquakes are shaking the world; orcs appear from nowhere decimating police forces, and there just might be a dragon flying around!

On this day, at this moment, Larissa Miller is born. Losing her mother to the chaos of complications during the Great Collision, Larissa has been protected and cossetted most of her life. Kept in the human-only city, away from all beings from the new realm; away from the ability to learn about them without guilt.

Terak is Mennak, leader, of his clan of Gargoyles. When he's told by the Oracle that a human female is important to the future of his Clan and she must be protected for three months, he takes the guarding somewhat begrudgingly. And just when he thinks it's all been for naught, zombies come shuffling out of the shadows to attack!

The world-building in this book was AWESOME. I loved all the different beings, to name a few: Orcs, Necromancers (who are vampires generally), controlling zombies; there are gargoyles (of course), mages, wizards, werewolves, warriors, trolls, giants, elves, wraiths, shadows and at least one oracle! I feel like I should be ending with "...and a partridge in a pear tree!!" I loved it. The really nice thing was that the world-building was smooth and intricate. So many creatures, and yet it wasn't haphazard. There were reasons, division, order to the chaos - though there was plenty of chaos too! We only get a glimpse of a lot of it, because Larissa is just getting involved, but what we do see is tantalizingly great.

Okay, here's where I've got to admit it: I didn't love Larissa at first. Well, I'm not sure if I love her yet - but I have come to like her a lot more than I did in the beginning. She started out incredibly passive, letting her father's disapproval determine how she was going to live her life...as an adult. Eh, I just wasn't into that. And there were reasons - I get that, I still didn't love it. Added to the top of that she let herself believe in the absoluteness of the guards that supposedly kept out the magical beings. She's forced to realize her mistake when she's suddenly attacked by beings she doesn't recognize which shouldn't be there. On the other hand, the nice thing is that she does realize it [[spoiler]]unlike many other characters I could name[[/spoiler]]. She learns; and I've got to respect that. [[spoiler]] here is that one moment where I wanted to scream at her near the end, but I understood too. *sigh* Trust, baby, trust.[[/spoiler]] I was still rooting for her by the end of the book. Not only was she being smart, she was being brave and strong; I can see the potential in her for a lot more.

Terak was pretty awesome. He's protective and possessive, but he doesn't need to have Larissa under his thumb. Not only that, but he constantly shows her, and tells her, how great she is. He builds her up so she can stand on her own. Not only with him, but all the time. Unfortunately, though he's beginning to love Larissa there are ... obstacles. [[spoiler]]And I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of how the biggest obstacle was removed. [[spoiler]] ust the other woman always be conniving, lying, cheating, or a traitor??[[/spoiler]][[/spoiler]] But the gradual way they fell in love tugged at my heart. I liked seeing them become friends - respect each other, and see it gradually become more to both their notice. *sighs happily* Did I mention he's a virgin? Yup, he is.

This book flat out made me smile, laugh, gasp and be shocked throughout my reading of it. The action was nearly non-stop; the characters had great chemistry with each other; quite frankly, I need more. More of the world, more of the characters, and definitely more Fallon... [[spoiler]] his woman kicks ass chops them up with her big-ass sword and thinks about coming back for names later. I *love* her.[[/spoiler]]

I was going to mention the few issues while reading, but I'm not sure I want to bring them up. Eh. Okay here's a spoiler with them: [[spoiler]] Disclaimer: I'm hooked on grammar. I can't help it, I love the English language and these kinds of things just stand out to me. I notice them in my favorite author's books too. And there were some very minor grammar and editing issues here. A few times I'd have to read a sentence a couple of times to figure the meaning; sometimes there was a wrong word used in place of another (homonym mix-ups). But even though grammar is one of my hot-button issues, I couldn't hold it against this book. I just flat out enjoyed it. I did want to add because it did pull me out of the story a few times, but in the end it just didn't matter that much.[[/spoiler]]

Long story short: I can't wait to see what Danielle Monsch has in store next!! [[spoiler]]Please let it be Fallon's book - I need it!!![[/spoiler]]

Grade: B

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Alice in Wonderland by Raven Gregory & Robert Gill

Title: Alice in Wonderland (TPB)
Author: Raven Gregory
Illustrator: Robert Gill
Colors: Jason Embury
Collects: Alice in Wonder #1 - #6
Release Date: 30 October 2012

Decades ago, a girl named Alice was sacrificed into the horror-filled realm of Wonderland but her terrifying and awe-inspiring experiences there have been shrouded in mystery.

The one thing known is that her time spent in a world full of insanity left her a broken adult. However, her courageous will to survive is what ultimately saved humanity. Now the story of Alice’s visit into Wonderland is fully revealed and the truth of the terror will be told in full!

I saw this on NetGalley and had to give it a try. There are so many great artistic possibilities with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland story. And I have to say that the author and illustrator really took advantage of that. The episodic nature of Alice's travels in Wonderland is really interesting - there's never a dull moment and you really get to see a lot of the characters that fascinate so many of us.

The Jabberwocky plays a huge role in this, and in fact the ending leaves you a little bit hanging as to what ultimately happens to him. He's the reason that Alice is brought to Wonderland though, sacrificed really. Which is an interesting spin on the falling down the rabbit hole. She follows a white rabbit for a little while, gets lost in the land of dreams, and ends up in Wonderland. As the prisoner of the Jabberwocky she must tell him stories of her world. Years and years and years pass this way, and eventually Alice grows up (and apparently out of her clothes...)

When she gets the chance to escape she takes it. But the saying: Out of the frying pan, into the fire, never was so applicable. I loved some of the spins they took on the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, March Hare etc. The illustrations of them were all superb, and intriguing to look at. The Queen of Hearts, Queen of Spades, and Gravity herself were very interesting here. I'd definitely like to see more of their stories.

Unfortunately, the part that seemed to suffer the most was Alice herself. She was a bit of a cipher; with no real personality, merely jumping from one insane situation to the next. I would have liked to see a bit more character development from her. And maybe have her wearing some more clothes occasionally. On the one hand, I get it, but on the other - honestly, she doesn't need to be half naked to be appealing.

I did really appreciate the use of the panels, and pages to tell part of the story. At one point - which doesn't work so well digitally - the pages rotate around as Gravity starts messing with this. It really brought the story to me, I thought. Also, the fonts and speech bubbles used for the characters were unique to each one, and it made it very easy to determine who was speaking.

I enjoyed this graphic novel - Alice could have used a bit more personality, and I definitely felt like I was missing things (obviously based on the editor's notes placed occasionally throughout the text), but all in all it was a good, fun, and different read. I liked this unique look at Wonderland. And I think I'll be looking for more of the Grimm's Fairy Tales comics.

Grade: B-

Awesome Giveaway: Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Wanted to boost the signal on this giveaway! This is, probably, my favorite series. It's such a fantastic urban fantasy world, with great characters and strong plots.

Check out the READING ORDER

Here's the description of the world the series takes place in (from Ilona Andrew's webiste)

The world has suffered a magic apocalypse. We pushed the technological progress too far, and now magic returned with a vengeance. It comes in waves, without warning, and vanishes as suddenly as it appears. When magic is up, planes drop out of the sky, cars stall, electricity dies. When magic is down, guns work and spells fail.

It’s a volatile, screwed-up world. Magic feeds on technology, gnawing down on skyscrappers until most of them topple and fall, leaving only skeletal husks behind. Monsters prowl the ruined streets, werebears and werehyenas stalk their prey; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds.

In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight. But sometimes even trained killers make friends and fall in love, and when the universe tries to kick them in the face, they kick back.
I can't say enough good things about this series. My good friend, Jenny, at Fiction Frenzy is having an International Giveaway of the 6th book in the Kate Daniels Series: Magic Rises!

Go here to enter!!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Camelot Series by Ruthie Knox Part 2

I devoured this entire series, one after the other, last week. Incredibly enjoyable all around, you can read my reviews of the first two books here. Now, it's time for my two favorite books in the series.

Camelot Series
Author: Ruthie Knox
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Title: Flirting with Disaster
Book: 2
Release Date: 10 June 2013

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

This book was so much fun to read! Katie's a woman I found it so easy to relate to - she wasn't quite sure what she wanted out of life, or even who she wanted to be; she just knew that she needed more than what she'd had. So Katie pushed herself, trying new things, being 'her best self' and attempting to change her life by changing her attitude towards it. It was really refreshing to read about a heroine that knew she had to start with herself in order to make herself happy. When she gets paired up with Sean she can't figure out why he hates her so much - enough that he won't even speak to her. Her memories from school are fond, so what happened. Katie's got some of the same insecurities as nearly every female I've ever talked to. The nice thing was that she didn't let them own her, at least not for long. Her previous history had allowed her to learn to deal with what she was feeling, get past it, and make the best of nearly any situation.

Sean doesn't hate Katie, but he won't talk around her anyway. He worked years to get past the stutter that haunted him throughout school. Ten minutes around Katie though, and it's back and getting worse. He can't stand the thought of letting her hear him unable to control his own words. When he finally has to talk, it sets up some of the sexiest chemistry I've read about in a good long while. Plus, Sean's a geek, a hacker, and smart as all hell. He has Star Wars posters in his old room at home, disappears into his hacking and programming for days on end, and loves to solve real-world puzzles. I could not get enough of Sean! He makes a few mistakes with Katie, but he makes up for them so beautifully.

We first see a glimpse of Sean, and Katie, in Along Came Trouble. Sean's taken a temporary job for Caleb's security while he's home to deal with his mother's estate. Camelot's not a happy place for him, memories attempt to suffocate while he's there, so he spends as much time as possible avoiding what needs to be done and distracting himself with the work...and Katie.

Katie and Sean are perfect for each other. They, as corny as it sounds, complete each other. And I really loved the idea of the high-school geek ending up with his crush. I couldn't stop myself from grinning throughout this whole book. As they spend more time with each other, things really heat up and I have to say...Ruthie Knox writes some of the best sex scenes I've read. Not only are they sexy, but the emotions of the characters come through really well.

There's a minor mystery going on in this book, and while I felt it was interesting enough to drive the story along - mainly in bringing Katie and Sean together and making them interact - it wasn't the focus of the book. That was Katie and Sean's relationship and how they were going to make it work; if they were going to make it work.

I could gush about this book forever, but it's going to devolve into this: READ THIS BOOK! Go on now, pick it up. I'd be willing to bet you won't regret it.

Grade: A

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Sony | Goodreads

Title: Making It Last
Book: 2.5 (novella follow up to How to Misbehave)
Release Date: 15 July 2013

A hotel bar. A sexy stranger. A night of passion. There’s a part of Amber Mazzara that wants those things, wants to have a moment — just one — where life isn’t a complicated tangle of house and husband and kids and careers. Then, after a long, exhausting “vacation” with her family, her husband surprises her with a gift: a few days on the beach . . . alone.

Only she won’t be alone long, because a handsome man just bought her a drink. He’s cool, he’s confident, and he wants to take Amber to bed and keep her there for days. Lucky for them both, he’s her husband. He’s only got a few days in Jamaica to make her wildest desires come true, but if he can pull it off, there’s reason to believe that this fantasy can last a lifetime.
When I read How to Misbehave, I loved Amber and Tony and really wanted to see them make it. Throughout the other two, full-length novels in the Camelot series we've seen glimpses of them. Married, with kids and a dog. But that's about all we got. I was ecstatic when I saw there was going to be a follow-up novella.

This book ripped my guts out, over and over and over again. It had me near tears for the entire first 65%. You might wonder how that's a good thing, but the book totally paid off.

Amber and Tony's marriage is going along quite like a lot of people's, I imagine. They have kids, responsibilities, Tony's working a lot to make up for the down construction-housing market, Amber's last baby just started school so now she's home alone...and she doesn't quite remember who she is. After nearly 10 years of putting everyone else first, never thinking of herself, she's not even sure where to start to get herself back. And it doesn't help that Tony's so caught up in his job, and his brother who seems to be spiraling out of control, that he doesn't really try to help Amber. He takes for granted that his marriage is the one part of his life he doesn't need to worry about, because Amber'll be fine.

When they are getting ready to leave Jamaica and Tony sees Amber wiping tears he decides to give her some time to relax and have a real vacation. Amber doesn't know what to say, so she accepts it. After he's gone the thought that runs through her mind is that she wanted to spend time with him, not alone.

I can't even get into what all is in this book, because I think I might start crying again. This book shows that marriages are work. It's not all a fairy-tale after the HEA at the end of the book. People have to put in the time and care and love to a relationship, commit to each other and pulling through tough patches, and make sure they talk about what they need and want.

I loved this book. Loved it, so much. It was heart-wrenching, beautiful, real, and incredibly romantic. A man goes back to Jamaica to save his marriage - will he be in time?

Grade: A

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Ruthie Knox has easily become one of my favorite authors from my reading this series. She's going on my auto-buy list, and I can't wait to read the rest of the books she has out now. I'd highly recommend this series to anyone that enjoys contemporary romances. You can't go wrong here!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Camelot Series by Ruthie Knox Part 1

I've been hearing about Ruthie Knox for quite a while now. Many trusted friends and bloggers were raving about how good her books are, so I started buying them. But then they just sat on my Kindle for far too long. My first book by Ms. Knox was Big Boy, a short novella in the Strangers on Trains multi-author series. I liked it, enjoyed her writing ability, but it I didn't love it.

Then a friend convinced me to start reading this series, and I'm so glad she did. Ruthie Knox is now on my short list of favorite authors.

Camelot Series
Author: Ruthie Knox
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Title: How to Misbehave
Book 0.5
Release Date: 28 January 2013

What woman can resist a hot man in a hard hat? Beloved author Ruthie Knox kicks off her new Camelot series with this deliciously sexy original novella, in which a good girl learns how to misbehave . . . with all her heart.

As program director for the Camelot Community Center, Amber Clark knows how to keep her cool. That is, until a sudden tornado warning forces her to take shelter in a darkened basement with a hunk of man whose sex appeal green lights her every fantasy. With a voice that would melt chocolate, he asks her if she is okay. Now she's hot all over and wondering: How does a girl make a move?

Building contractor Tony Mazzara was just looking to escape nature's fury. Instead, he finds himself all tangled up with lovely Amber. Sweet and sexy, she's ready to unleash her wild side. Their mutual desire reaches a fever pitch and creates a storm of its own--unexpected, powerful, and unforgettable. But is it bigger than Tony can handle? Can he let go of painful memories and let the force of this remarkable woman show him a future he never dreamed existed?
At just a 121 pages, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this story couldn't really get off the starting line. I know I wasn't expecting too much, and yet Ms. Knox deftly shows two characters that are easy to relate to, and fun to read about. Amber was unsure how to show Tony that she was attracted to him, interested in him; thinking he wasn't into her. Tony was doing his best to punish himself for the rest of his life, believing Amber is worth so much better than him.

When the tornado siren goes off forcing them into the basement, in the dark, Amber and Tony are pushed into a kind of intimacy that destroys boundaries. Tony needs Amber and her sexy distraction is just the thing to show her he's not as uninterested in her as he seems. Their chemistry burned hot in that basement, and I was rooting for them. I really enjoyed this quick look at how Amber and Tony met, how they both gave something the other needed.

In such a short book I didn't expect such a range of emotions, but Ms. Knox had me near tears at one point, and smiling and laughing the next.

Really good introduction to this series. The only, and I do mean only, drawback is that the story ends just days into their relationship. While I had no doubts they were going to make it, I would have liked to see more. Imagine how ecstatic it made me to hear that there was going to be a follow-up novella at the end of the series, Making It Last.

Grade: B

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Title: Along Came Trouble
Book 1
Release Date:

An accomplished lawyer and driven single mother, Ellen Callahan isn’t looking for any help. She’s doing just fine on  her own. So Ellen’s more than a little peeved when her  brother, an international pop star, hires a security guard to protect her from a prying press that will stop at nothing to dig up dirt on him. But when the tanned and toned Caleb Clark shows up at her door, Ellen might just have to plead the fifth.

Back home after a deployment in Iraq and looking for work as a civilian, Caleb signs on as Ellen’s bodyguard. After combat in the hot desert sun, this job should be a breeze. But guarding the willful beauty is harder than he imagined—and Caleb can’t resist the temptation to mix business with pleasure. With their desires growing more undeniable by the day, Ellen and Caleb give in to an evening of steamy passion. But will they ever be able to share more than just a one-night stand?

The first full-length novel in the Camelot series is about Amber's (from How to Misbehave) brother, Caleb. He's recently gotten out of the military and returned home for good. He's spent the time since starting up his security business in and around his home town of Camelot, Ohio. Suddenly a job that will put him on the map comes along - musician Jamie Callahan wants security for his sister and the women he loved - and left. Reporters are hounding them, and it's now Caleb's job to keep them safe until the interest dies down.

What he didn't count on is Jamie's sister being so damn stubborn, or resistant to some help, and a few changes. He also didn't expect the blindingly hot attraction between them.

Ellen's past has made her incredibly resistant to relying on anyone but herself. She doesn't let anyone past her boundaries, and isn't willing to get involved in a relationship with Caleb, no matter how attracted she is. Then she comes up with the perfect solution - a no-strings attached fling. She definitely doesn't expect Caleb to keep negotiating with her every step along the way.

I love Caleb. He's a fantastic hero. Strong, sexy, smart, determined, caring, kind, generous, protective, and willing to do anything for someone else - including hurt himself. He's family orientated, stubborn about helping those he loves, and really just wants Ellen to give them a chance. He knows what he's up against and is willing to do just about anything to get her to acknowledge they might be good together. I just could not get enough of him.

I also loved the side romance between Ellen's brother and her neighbor - Carly. While a bit cheesy, it was sweet and funny. I was really hoping I could get more of their relationship, and time together. How they met originally, how they're continuing in their relationship. The scenes that I did get just made me want even more.

My problem with this book was Ellen. I completely understood her reluctance, her issues, but it just went on too long for me. She went past what was reasonable and became absolutely unreasonable, and it made me want to shake some sense into her. Especially since Caleb was being so incredibly understanding and nice about it all. There's a moment at the end where Jamie says something that was eminently satisfying for me. I was glad that she, and by extension everyone else, realized just how far past normal levels she was pushing all this. And she nearly came to it on her own, which was a huge relief. Unfortunately, even with that moment her issues had continued on just a bit too long for me, and it detracted from my enjoyment a bit.

Even still, I enjoyed this story, and I'll probably still re-read it just to read more about Caleb, Jamie and Carly. And I finished really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Grade: B-

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: Forceful Negotiations by Eden Connor

Title: Forceful Negotiations
Author: Eden Connor
Series: Carmine Club, Book 1
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: 22 April 2013

Why would a former beauty queen and ex-wife of a billionaire become a pimp? Sending the demigod of lust, Eros, to find out why Willa Davis Seachrist is running a secret sex club seems like the solution to Saint Peter’s problems.

Teague Tillis comes to Carmine House in search of a man to make her fantasies come true. When former prosecutor Cam Calloway wins the bid for Teague, her fantasy challenges everything he believes, but if he can't satisfy her, conniving Willa will offer her to his nemesis.

Welcome to Carmine Club. The cost to join is a price you've already paid.

**Rape Trigger Warning** (Content warning taken from beginning of book): This book contains graphic scenes depicting consensual rape fantasies and public sex acts.

To elaborate a bit, this book is about one woman's rape fantasy, and her struggle with accepting that's how she likes sex; and the conflict an upstanding do-right guy has with fulfilling it and not losing himself in the process. To be fair the author did offer a warning, but I don't read those things at the beginning. I dive into the books. So I missed this one. I wanted to be sure that other readers knew about it before getting it.

Frankly, that's the least of my problems with this book. And I'll apologize now as this is ends up being a bit rant-y. It hit a LOT of hot-buttons for me though.

I read this book for two reasons; 1) I was hoping for a interesting take on Eros - god of desire and attraction, and 2) I wanted a sexy, quick story centered around a sex club devoted to women's desires (for a change). And also the third reason of being egged on by my friends (I'm looking at you Anna & Cory!!)

**Spoilers ahead!!** I'll tag them, but I have to quote sections of the book to show what I'm talking about.

Let us start with the good stuff. Um... There were no grammatical errors. That seems harsh, but it's the best thing I can say about this book. We were just not a match.

So, I guess onto my problems.

1. Writing: It was awkward, full of too many adjectives, repetitiveness and hyperbole. There were also several times I had to read sections over and over to try and make sense of them, and I never succeeded.

No well-dressed businessman loitered at the side entrance to her building, lying in wait to force her into a conversation she didn't want to have. Reaching behind her neck, she clawed at the hood of her track jacket, yanking it over her head. The side street was littered with slow-moving cars and puddles left by a fast-moving rain shower. Pausing on the center line between lanes, Teague cursed and raised a middle finger when a truck sporting oversized tires threw dirty water on her tennis shoes. Cold water sloshing around her toes spurred her dash across the final lane.

Awkward phrasing, no? Some more examples from further in the book.

In the next paragraph her heart stops when someone surprises her, and they have a FIVE sentence conversation before her "heart stuttered back to life." If your heart is stopping for the time it takes to say five sentences between two people, you might have bigger issues than this book is letting on about. By the way - as much of a workout as her heart gets by stuttering, racing, pounding, pulsing...etc - I'm surprised she didn't have a heart-attack.

Well, okay, there was one other thing I liked - especially right when I first read it. (It was later ruined.) This is Willa talking - owner of the sex club that auctions off the women to men that will then fulfill their fantasy.

"From the cradle we're taught our goal should be to please men. ... We learn to do whatever the men in our lives need us to do. ... I wasn't struck as much by what had changed for women in two hundred and fifty-three years as I was by what has not. Rich or poor, women still have to scrimp in one important regard. Sexual satisfaction. Too damn many of us live in sexual poverty, Teague.

"By the time we're ready for a relationship with a man, we're already conditioned to deny the most essential part of ourselves. The sexual part, the inner goddess that wants to be fucked exactly the way we need. We're taught to be ashamed of our needs, even to be ashamed of having any, whereas men can speak freely about their wants an no one thinks twice about it. ...

"One day I had an epiphany. What if I could use my money and this estate to offer women their chance to explore their fantasies in a safe, consensual environment? Sex clubs aren't a new concept, but most cater to men. Why not create a club where our fantasies are the ones being honored?"

Yes! Exactly what I was hoping for when I picked up the book! That made me happy, and look back on the previous 19% of the book a little more pleasantly.

Unfortunately for me it didn't continue in this vein. Before I get to the rest of my problems, here are a few more awkward phrases from the rest of the book.

1. Her handwriting was as jumbled as her nerves. p.21
2. To the left, a second building nestled against the main house like a lover. p.21
3. Iron urns lined the drive behind the house, cuddling boxwood topiaries coaxed into corkscrew shapes. p.21
4. ...svelte grandmother clock... p.25
5. ...smoothing her side-swept bangs in a way that made Teague think of a cat perfecting its fur... p.27
6. Curt's paw curled over hers... p.37
And this last one - is this a curse people actually say? I've never heard it before. Cam's the one saying it and he's from Chicago, which is near me.
7. "Jesus jumped-up pretty boy Christ."

2. The characters. Teague's kind of a bitch. She thinks about one of the women she meets as a "wren," another as a "peacock." And she continues to call the one a "wren" throughout the book. I'll give that she does consider one woman her friend, but we never really see her interacting with her. We're just vaguely told that they're good friends. She lumps men together as greedy, inconsiderate, messy idiots. A particularly lovely quote from Teague's thoughts (about Willa - who is divorced and whom she knows absolutely nothing about.)

How much pain could Willa suffer, when her divorce settlement was rumored to be close to a billion dollars?
I'm not even going to bother saying anything to that.

Cam's not much better. He's willing to do whatever to get ahead - and not in a sexy way. For example, he drinks bourbon, which he hates, when he goes to the club (at his boss's behest) because that's 'what they drink in the south.' Heaven forbid his boss realize he likes some other liquor. I couldn't help thinking that he was selling himself out every time he turned around. He even bids $3,500 at this sex auction to impress his boss; knowing that he has that money earmarked for getting a condo. Yeah, that's sexy - prostituting yourself out for something you're not sure you can afford, or want, because your boss is watching. Attractive.

Here's a lovely quote from his POV, after reading Teague's fantasy:
Disgust soured his stomach. What kind of insane asylum are these people running?

3. The misandry of men (yes, instead of a bunch of misogyny there's the subtle contempt and underlying message that men are idiots and led around by their penises) and the patronization of women. I touched on how men are portrayed a bit above, but here's some direct quotes that just pissed me off. And right after that fabulous speech by Willa about how women deserve to have their fantasies satisfied, too. *sigh*


Willa speaking again:
"Men must compete in order to tap into that head space where we need them on our club weekends. We want them feeling manly and confident. Competitive. Think of the auction as sexual theater, designed to provoke these feelings. ...

"We need their testosterone pumping. The auction sets that up nicely. You'll strip and be handcuffed to one of our luggage carts. ... Male members will be allowed to touch you with their hands or mouths any way they see fit prior to the bidding, short of penetration. They have to compete with each other for that right. ... You'll be masked, unable to see."

Okay, so men just need to be shown a woman they have to compete for and it'll throw them all into cave-man mode so they can fulfill her fantasy? I just don't like the implication there. Maybe I'm expecting too much or something though? Whatever, it didn't work for me.

So I wondered, what's in it for the men? Other than getting to have sex with a woman...why would they spend insane amounts of money to bid on fulfilling a fantasy - that's UNKNOWN to them - of a women. Well, lucky for me, this was asked...
"Willa's stroke of genius was designin' the auction so if one man fails, he knows others are waiting in the wings, ready to succeed. Peer pressure..."
Great. Let's shame some guy into doing something he may not be comfortable with. Carrying on that thought.
..."It's essential to a man's self-image to see that look of admiration and satisfaction in a woman's eyes after sex and know he put it there..."
Um. No it's not. If it were you wouldn't have this little club, because guys all over the place would be dying to pleasure a woman's greatest fantasies. Logical fallacy here. Again, carrying on:
"...Whatever it is, Teague, be sure you write it down completely. There's no creature less well-equipped to guess what a woman wants than a man."
Okay, well this is just patronizing all the way around. No one is equipped to guess what anyone else wants. That's why frank discussions about desires, needs and wants is necessary to most relationships.

Patronization of women, you ask?
It's not that hard for us men to get off, but women, ah, they're marvelously complex little creatures...
(emphasis mine) To be fair to the book here, the guy saying this is kind of an asshole - at least I think he's meant to be portrayed as that. It's Cam's boss, which makes me respect Cam even less that he's so eager to please this guy! Anyway. Next..

Teague's "friend" setting her up to meet with the people trying to strong-arm her out of her building (she's been avoiding them):
"...only reason I don't feel bad about doin' this is because I believe she needs to let that place go so she can move on."
Because of course men know best for us little 'ole women. [/sarcasm]

4. The complete derailment of the idea that women can be sexually free. This is the one that put the nail in the coffin of this book for me.

"What if she's happy without a man? (Eros asked Peter)
"Woman was made for the comfort and companionship of man. She cannot find true contentment without true love."
Now that wouldn't be so bad if the book subverted this message, but it seems to reinforce it.

His attention was drawn back to the blonde. Perhaps her soft-colored mask gaver her the improbably air of innocence, even though she was spread and being fondled.
"Innocent" women (even in appearance only) are apparently the only ones worthy of attention and true love...

...Zach was almost certain Jane was the club's architect. If a virgin was in charge, making decisions based on only what she read in her Human Sexuality textbooks, he wanted to know now, so he could talk Will into stopping the auctions.
Yup. Because there have been SO many complaints that she obviously doesn't know what the fuck she's doing. Mind you, immediately after this he starts seducing her (while she says and does nothing - just letting him do it, so she's completely passive in it all - ugh).

Those are the big ones for me. But there's also the weird world-building, and an Eros that acts more like a whiny, irresponsible child. And the sex that wasn't that sexy, but felt incredibly stilted. And finally ***spoiler***

the way that Cam used sex, and Teague's rape fantasy to get her to negotiate with her about selling her building...

So not okay with that.

Then they're all happy-ever-after, and the story abruptly ends.

That ended up a bit longer than I meant, but this book really bothered me a lot. Maybe it'll work better for you...
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