Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Title: Trial by Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
Series: Worldwalker Trilogy, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: 2 September 2014
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review

Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

I requested this book because: WITCHES. SALEM WITCHES. It beckons to me like a siren in the sea. I can't resist. I can't fight. So, I didn't even bother. I'd never read Josephine Angelini before and I had no idea what to expect. I hoped the book would be good, but I wasn't about to let my expectations get too high. I've been burned before.

And then I met Lily. Lily of the horrible allergies, unpopular at school yet comfortable (mostly) in her own skin. She's confident and sure of herself. She knows that she deserves respect - and she demands it. The opinions of those that don't matter to her, quite simply don't really concern her. She gives credit where it's due, and blame as well. Even if that's on herself. She takes responsibility for her actions and isn't afraid to do difficult things to uphold her convictions. What a breath of fresh air. I loved Lily immediately. I related to her. She feels so incredibly real. How many times do you meet a heroine - especially in young adult - where she is wronged by a guy and she just writes his behavior off? Too many to count, I know. So when Lily told Tristan off, ended their friendship, and walked away from him - all within the first ten percent of the book - I nearly cheered. Trust me, he deserved it. Jerk. This is all when she's just a sick girl who thinks that soon she'll be living in a plastic bubble, unable to go to school, to keep her safe from the world that's trying to kill her. Still she knows she deserves better than what that mrphprh is trying to do to her.

Then she gets to the other Salem. The one where witches and magic fuel everything instead of using the natural resources as we do. Science there is far behind our world's because witches can do everything scientists do, and they do it intuitively, without the need for extra equipment. Seeing into an atom, into the quarks? No problem. Get a witch. They control everything, from the creation of food parts, the harvesting of vegetables and the distribution of electricity. Alternatively, there's the fact that instead of billions of residents...there's only thirteen cities in this world. Everything else is the Wild, overrun with magically engineered super-beasts, an experiment gone horribly wrong, that are completely out of control and hunt humans that dare to go out of the walled cities. At the very top of this power structure is the head witch, Lillian - Lily's double, her other self and the one who brought her to this world - killing all scientists, hanging and executing at will. No one understands why she's doing this. It all started about a year ago, but she's not to be deterred. She'll kill every last person that disagrees.

I've got to talk about Lillian for a moment. First, let me give you a bit of her introduction:

Yes, fire has teeth, and it chews at you like a living, breathing animal. It even roars like an animal. When you're in its mouth, you have to fight for air. Fire, like a lion, likes to suffocate its prey. [...]

I remember what I must do, even if it makes me the villain of my own story. Most importantly, I remember that the good of the many really does outweigh the good of the few. Even if one of those few is me. [...]

This girl I'm about to steal has no concept of loss. She doesn't understand the difference between infatuation and love. That's a good thing. I don't want her broken like me. I want her wounded, yes, but stronger for it. There comes a day when every girl loses the stars in her eyes. And then she can see clearly.

This is Lily's day.
**emphasis mine**

Holy. Crap. Making herself the villain of her own story. What reasons could she have for this? Why must she be the villain? Why does she need Lily? All of these questions, and more, were coursing through my mind, begging to be answered. And as I got to know Lillian, and her world, I began to see, to understand, a little bit more. Lillian is one of the best villains I've read in a good long time.

Though there are more than a few other characters in the book that I, at turns, loved, hated, despised, or was rooting for, there's only one other one that I'm going to take the time to talk about now. Because, like Lily, instead of being a one-note character that follows every annoying convention out there, Rowan defied my expectations time and time again. When he's helping Lily get feeling back in her legs and she gets embarrassed, jerking away from him, he flat out tells her that she only has to tell him to stop, and he always will. Then he goes and apologizes to her for being a jerk when they first met (and he thought she was Lillian). He APOLOGIZED. Flat out, no excuses or anything. Just "I'm sorry I was so horrible to you when we first met." I need more heroes like Rowan. A little cynical and guarded with his heart, but compassionate, kind, caring, willing to compromise, apologize, help, listen to reason, cautious, willing to give due where it's deserved, and never strong-arm someone into doing it 'his way.' Plus he totally kicks ass and is smart. Yes, I definitely need more.

You may, or may not, know that characters are what I live for. Give me excellent characters and I'll overlook a lot of flaws in the world or plot. Lucky me, I didn't have to overlook anything here. Second to characters only is the world. Create a fantasy world that I can get lost in, that makes sense and I can understand, and I'm all in. One different decision, piled on another different decision perhaps, and another and another, and then there's this world that's so vastly different from ours and yet contains so many of the same people, and is somewhat eerily similar. Who would you be in this different world? Who should you be if you show up there?

And here we hit on the most amazing, to me, thing about my reading of this book. Not only did Josephine Angelini create relatable, fascinating characters that I want to root for; then put them in a world that is so similar and yet so different than ours, a world that makes sense and follows rules, just different from our rules; but she created a story that made me think. Who would I be if I showed up in this world? Would I hold to my convictions? What are the limits of holding to those convictions? Is there a line in the sand? And - even more important - when you have unimaginable power, how do you decide where that line is? What would you do for those you love? If you could stop a horrible event from happening, should you? Would you? What if the cost is someone's life? Multiple someone's? What if stopping this event meant saving hundreds of thousands? What if you're not even sure this event will occur?

I liked how one way wasn't necessarily better than another. That there are pros and cons to each different path. Though there's a definite 'green' leaning in this book, it doesn't paint our world as intrinsically worse for the industrial revolution and discoveries that we've made. Though Lillian's alternate world hasn't polluted the skies and waters, doesn't make hers necessarily better. There's a lot of dichotomies to examine and explore here. I'm really looking forward to more of that. And I think Lily's going to have to find the path that's a bit better than either of the current alternatives - but that's a story for the sequels, I think.

My mind went down a thousand different paths, to a thousand different ends. At times I would pause and simply think about the ramifications of actions. When a book can do that, can absorb me so utterly and yet captivate my mind so completely with ramifications in my life here, it's sure to end up on my 'Best of...' list.

Every once in a while, if a reader is lucky, a book comes along that so completely blows away their expectations, wholly enthralling, enchanting, and - yes, I'll say it - bewitching, that they finish it and want to dive directly back in, that they're not even sure how to manage the wait until the sequel. Trial by Fire was that book for me.

Grade: A

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Freebie Alert: Dangerous Destiny by Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann

Suzanne Brockmann is beloved by so many of my friends, and I've had her Troubleshooters series on my to-read list for a long, long time. When I saw she, and her daughter, had a new series coming out, I requested them immediately! I'm really looking forward to diving into this new world.

Title: Dangerous Destiny
Author: Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann
Series: Night Sky, Book 0.5
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Release Date: 26 August 2014

On August 26th, ONLY, Dangerous Destiny - the prequel to Night Sky will be available FREE at the following locations:

Amazon | BN | kobo | Goodreads

See how it all begins...

In this pulse-pounding prequel to the Night Sky series by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann, Skylar has her first brush with Destiny. She's about to meet a boy who will change her life—and a girl who wants to end it.

I know her.
Know her from inside the dreams. Inside those terrible, murderous, bloody dreams. I've heard her-screaming, her voice mixing in an awful chorus with all those other girls. Little girls.

Please, God.
That's what one of the little girls keeps saying, in the dream that is not just a dream. Please, God.
But I know better. There's no escaping this fate. This is destiny.
I must kill Skylar.

Skylar Reid is the new girl at school. Her mom just moved them to Florida—aka The Land of the Living Dead where the average age of her new neighbors was seventy-five—to start over. Skylar is not a fan of the change or her total lack of friends. Until she meets Calvin, a funny, sarcastic boy who doesn't let being in a wheelchair stop him from verbally shredding their preppy classmates. Skylar's just about to decide her new school's not a total loss when an odd girl wearing an oversized trench coat in the murderous Southern heat declares, "You're one of us." And then tries to kill her.

Dangerous Destiny is the prequel to Night Sky:

Title: Night Sky
Author: Suzanne Brockmann and Melanie Brockmann
Series: Night Sky, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Release Date: 7 October 2014

In Night Sky, sixteen-year-old Skylar Reid is thrown into a strange world when she discovers that she has unique telekinetic and telepathic powers. After Sasha, the child she babysits, is kidnapped and believed to be murdered, Sky and her best friend Calvin are approached by Dana, a mysterious girl who has super-abilities similar to Sky’s. With the help of Dana and her sidekick Milo, the four teens — two from the rich part of town, and two living hand-to-mouth on the streets — embark on a quest to discover who killed Sasha, and to bring the killers to justice.

With Dana as Skylar’s surly and life-toughened mentor, Sky attempts to harness her powers to aid them in their quest. Complicating an already complex relationship with the older girl, Sky starts to fall for the dangerously handsome and enigmatic Milo–and begins to suspect that the attraction is mutual. But then Sky realizes that Sasha might still be alive, and the unlikely foursome’s mission becomes one of search and rescue, pitting the heroic teens against a very deadly enemy.

Night Sky is the first book in a YA trilogy set in the same dark future as Suzanne Brockmann’s Born to Darkness, a New York Times bestselling hardcover, published last year as the first installment in her Fighting Destiny series. Night Sky has the same mix of suspense, romance, humor, and the paranormal, and deals with many of the same themes, including society’s relentless exploitation and devaluation of females, and the empowerment that comes when women and girls recognize their strength and intellect, and stand up, fight back, and save the day.

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Review: Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

Title: Shifting Shadows
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson World, Anthology
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 2 September 2014

Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger...

A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends...

Includes the new stories...
“Roses in Winter”

...and reader favorites
“Fairy Gifts”
“Alpha and Omega”
“Seeing Eye”
“The Star of David”
“In Red, with Pearls”

Most of these stories have been out for a while, but - for some reason - I've had a hard time getting them and reading them. Nearly all of them were new to me when I picked up the book this time. Even if you have read all the previously published short stories, this anthology is definitely worth picking up for the four new novellas. "Roses in Winter" is my favorite of the four, but all of them were fantastic.

These stories are organized in the chronological order in which they occur within the Mercy Thompson world and, though they can nearly all be read whenever, my organization-orientated mind appreciated that. Also, at the beginning of each story Patricia Briggs gives a little blurb on the history of the story, why it was written, and where it occurs in the overall storyline. It's a fun little insight into the mind of the writer. Now, onto the individual stories (as they appear in the book)...

**Note: This review got a LOT longer than I anticipated. TL;DR (too-long; didn't-read) summary is: This is a fantastic collection of stories set in the Mercy Thompson world. Many beloved characters make an appearance, and some even get to take center stage. The new stories are - by far - my favorite, because they don't feel as if they're under length guidelines (like some of the previously published in other anthology stories do). Highly recommended for fans of the Mercy Thompson world. For anyone new to this series, I think you can read them and enjoy them on their own, but most of them will have greater significance within the greater context of the world.**

Silver: Takes place many years before the events in Moon Called - thousands (maybe?)...

This is the story of how Samuel and Arianna first meet. They meet again in Silver Borne, but that's many, many years later. As you can imagine, especially if you've read the novels in this series, this is an incredibly heart-wrenching story. Fans of the series have been asking for this story for years, even knowing how much it was likely to hurt. It opens, right off the bat, with Samuel mourning his wife and children and though there's some small slices of happiness and hope, it ends in almost as sad of a place. Even as much as it broke my heart, I loved seeing this early beginning of Samuel, Bran, and especially Arianna. It fills in some of the history of beloved characters and gives more depth and insight into all three of them.

Fairy Gifts: Takes place before Moon Called.

This is a story that's set in the Mercy Thompson world, but with completely new characters. Here were have Thomas, a young Chinese man living in Butte, Montana with his father before he's made a vampire. For many years he serves his father without choice, until chance leads him to Maggie, a fae trapped in the mines. Their meeting is short, but has long lasting implications. I enjoyed reading from Thomas' point-of-view. He's an interesting, and intelligent, character. Maggie was less developed, as most of her time was off-screen, but she intrigued me as well. The only downside to this novella is its length. Being a rather short story and having completely new characters means there isn't as much time to become attached and invested in the characters. Then there's the rather abrupt ending. More abrupt than I'm used to from even Patricia Briggs. Despite this, I'm hoping we see Maggie and Thomas again sometime.

Gray: Takes place before Moon Called.

Another story that has completely new characters. Elyna is a vampire returning home to Chicago. She purchases her old apartment specifically because of the 'haunted' reputation it has, hoping to reconnect with the one that's still there. This story worked a bit better for me than the previous one with new characters. Despite never having met Elyna before I got a good feel for her character, her history and her pain. She's a strong and honorable vampire, just trying to live her life in as much peace as she can manage.

As Stefan is probably the only honorable vampire we've met in the novels of this series it was nice to get a glimpse of some more vampires - Thomas and Elyna - that are "good" people. I liked them. They do what they have to do and live as they must, but they've got values that they won't compromise on.

Seeing Eye: Takes place one year before Moon Called.

I loved Tom and Moira when we met them in Hunting Ground. The white witch that's more powerful than she seems always intrigued me. I wondered what her history was, and here we get that. This is the story of how Tom and Moira meet. Tom's brother has been taken by what Tom believes is a coven of witches. This leads him to asking Moira for help. Despite knowing this is seriously dangerous to herself, Moira feels an obligation to help - after all the coven is led by someone who was once very, very close to her. I won't say too much more in case you, like me, haven't read this yet. But the story is interesting, dangerous, and fun. Seeing Tom and Moira's connection bud made me smile. Again, it ended a bit abruptly, but I as I knew these characters, and we see them again, it didn't bother me quite as much.

Alpha and Omega: Takes place during Moon Called.

This is the novella that started Anna and Charles story. In Moon Called there are some discoveries that lead to Chicago. Here, we learn that Anna's right in the mix of that story. When she calls the Marrok to report the shady stuff going on, she's instructed to pick up his 'investigator' at the airport. Enter Charles, more alpha than Anna thinks she can deal with. But as his wolf is, in his words, more interested in courting her than showing dominance, they're in for one interesting ride.

I've reviewed this story elsewhere, so I won't go into it all again. I will say that after I got done re-reading this novella, here, I had to struggle to not go immediately into Cry Wolf to get more of Anna and Charles. They are so perfect together, and I love seeing them both grow as their relationship deepens throughout their entire series.

The Star of David: Takes place the Christmas after "most" of the events in Moon Called.

David Christiansen makes a brief, but pivotal, appearance in Moon Called. I didn't get a very good feel for him in that story except to know that his history was tragic and he'd created his own future out of it. Here we get to see him reconnect with a part of his family he thought forever lost to him. David's honorable and carries his guilt with him, always. I liked that he was able to get some forgiveness from those that mean the most to him. I also really loved meeting Devonte. We hear, in the books, about how there are more than just witches, wolves, and vampires in this world....it's interesting to see them make appearance, too. This whole story was incredibly poignant and I loved the sweet, emotional and happy ending.

Roses in Winter: Takes place between Bone Crossed and Silver Borne.

Easily my favorite story in the bunch, "Roses in Winter" is told from Asil's point-of-view and gives us an update on the little girl that Mercy sends to the Marrok in Blood Bound, Kara. I've been wanting an update on Kara ever since she was first mentioned. I hoped, against hope, that she'd not only survive but thrive. Here we get to see the beginning of her struggle to learn a new way.

Asil came to Aspen Creek, and has been waiting thirteen years, for the Marrok to kill him. And despite thinking he doesn't have enough control anymore, we begin to see how wrong he is here. When he takes young Kara under his wing, trying to help her get control of her shifting, he develops a bond he never expected.

I love Asil. I've always thought more of him than he has himself, and I liked seeing this softer side to him - a side that we only occasionally glimpse in the novels. The Moor has got quite a reputation, well deserved and earned, but here we get the side so few people are privy to. Patricia Briggs has been dropping not-so-subtle hints for a while about Asil and another character. I really hope they have a future together, because they're perfect for one another.

It's also always interesting to see beloved characters from a whole new character's point-of-view. Asil has, sometimes laugh-out-loud, funny observances of Bran, Charles and others.

This story is a beautiful mix of humourous, poignant, and exciting. I'm always impressed by how Patricia Briggs manages to make me hurt for characters I've just met. One of the things I've always loved about this series is that the author doesn't shy from showing the darker side of immortality. Sometimes forever is too long, and loss is too much. Though it makes me so incredibly sad, it also makes me appreciate the happiness that does happen exponentially more.

In Red, with Pearls: Takes place between Silver Borne and River Marked.

Werewolf Warren and his boyfriend Kyle have long been favorite characters in Mercy's world. Warren's just gotten his private investigator license and is working - mostly - for Kyle's law firm. While waiting for Kyle to get done with a consult, Warren comes face to face with a missing woman who has been turned into a zombie. One that's apparently after Kyle!

I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this story. There's a good bit of mystery woven throughout, and solid investigative work done by Warren. It shows a different side than we usually get to see through Mercy's eyes. I, also, was pleased to see the depth that was added to Kyle and Warren's relationship.

The story does end a bit quickly, rushing through the resolution of the mystery and denoument, however Warren isn't one to 'play with his prey,' in his words, so it makes sense, too. This is the one short-story I'd previously read (besides "Alpha and Omega" which was sold in e-format individually making it easy and inexpensive to get), and I enjoyed it as much on a re-read as I did the first time.

Redemption: Takes place between Frost Burned and Night Broken.

I was *not* expecting a story from Ben's point-of-view! Ever since he first appeared as the snarky, dangerous, somewhat broken, man, I've loved him - despite Mercy's own misgivings - and wanted to know more. Every time he's appeared since, I grew to love him more.

Here we get to see him becoming the person he is. Ben's had a horrible history, and is ... more than a bit of a misogynst. I know, I know, how can I love a character that's clearly hateful towards women? Well, the truth is that I'm not sure. But it's also that he's never had - prior to being in Adam's pack - any examples of women who weren't the "bitches" he calls them. It makes it hard to hate him. I want him to get healthy and better, and we get to see the small-steps continuation of that here.

When a woman at Ben's work, a woman that he doesn't even like because she's weak and "snivelling," get targeted by the office asshole, Ben isn't sure why he constantly makes moves to intervene. He doesn't do it nicely, in true Ben fashion, but he does it. His confusion, the ensuing discussion with Adam, and his growth here made me nearly cheer. I love this path he's on. It's slow, as most real change and growth is, but it's steady and solid.

There's also some funny moments here when Ben's taken a bet to give up swearing. One character tells him to avoid adjectives while he's attempting this. His speech at the end, and his coworker's thoughts on it, had me grinning like crazy. I can't wait to see more of Ben, and maybe one day for him to get his own HEA.

Hollow: Takes place after Night Broken.

A new Mercy short story! As Patricia Briggs puts it, what would a Mercy world anthology be with a Mercy story? Mercy's always had a knack for getting herself into trouble. Despite taking precautions and being smart about things, her desire to help people that ask it of her always leads to her getting in a bit deeper than she would like to be.

When a woman shows up at Mercy's (demolished) garage asking for help, Mercy knows it's not her mechanicking skills the woman needs. A ghost. Of course. And when the referral came from a trusted friend, Mercy feels the need to go check it out. Taking Zach - and can I say how happy it made me to see him settling in a bit better with the pack?! - she heads a couple of hours out to see what she can do.

This is a short, quick mystery that's pretty easy to see what's going on. But I liked seeing the romance between two new characters, as well as how Mercy deals with this ghost. It's not like normal ghosts, and Mercy's still learning how to control her own gifts. Because Mercy's not afraid to ask for help and rely on friends, we get an update on Gary, as well as Samuel and Arianna.

This story made me more anxious for the next Mercy book just so I can spend more time with her, Adam and everyone else I love so much.

Outtakes: I wasn't expecting to get some deleted/outtake scenes from the Mercy Thompson books, so this was a nice treat when I got to the end of the stories!

From Silver Borne, it takes place near the end of this novel and is from Arianna's point-of-view. Patricia Briggs notes that her husband thought, since she included the beginning of Samuel and Arianna's relationship in "Silver" and that it ends on a rather sad note, she should include something to remind readers that they do get their happily-ever-after. A sweet scene that shows them reconnecting, and gives even more history between them. I loved seeing this, and am really hoping that we'll get more from these two in the future.

From Night Broken, again it takes place near the end when Mercy's recovering and is from Adam's point-of-view. We all know Mercy ends nearly every book recovering from some horrible injury or another, and the same is true in Night Broken. I really loved seeing how Adam thinks of her, and how in love with her he is. They're so perfect together and it's nice - always - to get the calm moments after the storm with the characters I love.

Shifting Shadows is a fabulous collection of short stories and novellas in the Mercy Thompson world. Patricia Briggs writing is so beautiful and pulls me so completely into the world she's sharing that I never want to leave. I know I'll be revisiting this anthology many times in the future, and I can't wait for Dead Heat, the next Alpha and Omega novel with Anna and Charles coming out in Spring 2015!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Mist by Susan Krinard

Title: Mist
Author: Susan Krinard
Series: Midgard, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 16 July 2013
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review

Mist lives a normal life. She has a normal job, a normal boyfriend, and a normal apartment in San Francisco. She never thinks about her past if she can help it.

She survived. That’s the end of it.

But then a snowy winter descends upon San Francisco. In June. And in quick succession, Mist is attacked by a frost giant in a public park and runs into an elf disguised as a homeless person on the streets...and then the man Mist believed was her mortal boyfriend reveals himself to be the trickster god, Loki, alive and well after all these years.

Mist’s normal world is falling apart. But thankfully, Mist isn’t quite so normal herself. She’s a Valkyrie, and she’s going to need all her skill to thwart Loki’s schemes and save modern Earth from the ravages of a battle of the gods.

I wanted to love this book. There isn't enough fantasy, or urban fantasy, that deals with Norse mythology. There's such a wealth of history to draw on with the Norse gods, and since it's my heritage I'm always anxious to see it used more. I had high hopes. Mist both did and didn't live up to those hopes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost

Title: The Beautiful Ashes
Author: Jeaniene Frost
Series: Broken Destiny, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 26 August 2014

In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. And the one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who's bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn't mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn't: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side and Adrian on the other. And nothing but ashes in between...

The Beautiful Ashes opens right in the thick of things. Ivy is traveling to find her sister, who has been missing for a couple of weeks. She's determined to find her, and being all alone in the world the cost doesn't matter. To be honest, I found Ivy a little contradictory - and I think I mean that in a good way. She would feel like this eminently strong character one moment, and then like she was going to break the next. It's believable that that's how one would react to what she's dealing with, but at the same time I rolled my eyes a few times. Finding out her hallucinations are real and out to get her ... I'd be more than a little freaked.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: On the Scent by Angela Campbell

Title: On the Scent
Author: Angela Campbell
Series: Psychic Detective, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 25 July 2013
Source: Borrowed

Hannah Dawson has a big problem: she’s just become the unexpected owner of a snarky cat, a loveable but not-so-bright dog... and their $10 million fortune!

Which would be awesome if it hadn’t made her the target of every wacko in the metro Atlanta area. Now Hannah and her famous pets need protecting and there’s only one man who can help them...

Enter Zachary Collins: ex-TV star of ‘The Psychic Detective’ and street-wise private investigator – all 6 foot blue-eyed gorgeousness!

Only Zach’s got secrets of his own – not least that he finds his new client irresistibly hot. The more time he spends keeping Hannah out of harm’s way, the more he’s tempted to give in to the attraction... even if it means breaking all his own rules.

On the Scent was a pleasant surprise, a sweet romance between a smart heroine and a capable hero. Things didn't always go exactly as I expected, which was I was very grateful for - especially when the secret trope came up in the story. I was worried it'd be handled one way, but - thankfully - Angela Campbell handled it in a totally believable and perfect way.

Hannah's a completely "average" woman. She's a nurse who likes to help people, and conversely isn't really sure she even likes people anymore. She loves her pets, and trusts her gut even when she's not sure she should. And when extreme circumstances come up, she handles them calmly with brains and guts. She doesn't mind thinking outside the box, but wants all the facts, too. I liked her. Zach did, too, and it's easy to see why.

Zach is a struggling businessman - trying to keep his investigative firm in the black and forget the guilt he feels over some of his past. He's honorable. There's really no other way to put it. He tries to do the right thing, by everyone, no matter what. He takes on more guilt than he actually deserves and really cares about the people he's trying to help.

Put these two together and there was a sweet, comforting romance that budded. It wasn't all lust - though there was plenty of attraction there too - but I felt like Hannah and Zach actually liked each other. They talked and, through their actions, showed the kind of people they were. It's a good basis for a relationship.

There were a lot of good things in this novel, including the realism of how everything was handled. You may think that's a little weird to say when you're dealing with a psychic detective, but everything was handled logically. If someone was doped with ketamine, they acted like it and didn't recover unnaturally quick. Someone gets shot? They can't charge into the fray and save the day, they struggle to remain on their feet. And, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I loved the thoughts of the animals. The sarcasm and dry threats of the cat, along with the happy, not-a-care-in-the-world thoughts of the dog made me smile a more than a few times.

There were a few things that didn't work so well for me, like the secrets and drama surrounding telling them. This didn't used to be one of my hot-button issues, but I think it's become one. I get so tense waiting for the shoe to drop and then the not-talking thing to happen that it can almost ruin the story for me. Luckily, Angela Campbell mostly didn't do that, but because I kept waiting for it to happen it did take some of my enjoyment of the story away. The suspense part of it was also kind of ... tacked on, I guess. I'd say this is a light-suspense romance.

I'm glad I read On the Scent and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Grade: C+

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

If you don't already know, Nalini Singh is one of my all-time favorite authors. Time and time again she delivers the best in paranormal romance - and now she's going to deliver on a rock-star, contemporary romance!!

I'm ecstatic to be able to be a part of the cover reveal here today!

Be sure to check out the GIVEAWAY at the bottom!!!

Title: Rock Addiction
Author: Nalini Singh
Series: Rock Kiss, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 9 September 2014

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: Untimed by Andy Gavin

Title: Untimed
Author: Andy Gavin
Series: , Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Science-Fiction
Release Date: 19 December 2012
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review

Charlie’s the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, even his own mother can’t remember his name. And girls? The invisible man gets more dates.

As if that weren’t enough, when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don’t take him seriously.

Still, this isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s this girl, another time traveler, who not only remembers his name, but might even like him! Unfortunately, Yvaine carries more than her share of baggage: like a baby boy and at least two ex-boyfriends! One’s famous, the other’s murderous, and Charlie doesn’t know who is the bigger problem.

When one kills the other — and the other is nineteen year-old Ben Franklin — things get really crazy. Can their relationship survive? Can the future? Charlie and Yvaine are time travelers, they can fix this — theoretically — but the rules are complicated and the stakes are history as we know it.

And there's one more wrinkle: he can only travel into the past, and she can only travel into the future!

Look at that cover! How could I resist requesting this to review? Time and time again I've been burned by a pretty cover, but - fortunately - that wasn't the case here. Untimed is both better than expected, and a bit disappointing. I'll try to get into both reasons here.

I read, first and foremost, for characters. Interesting characters will make me beg for more, for the story to never end. And that's where we run into my main issue with Untimed. Every character in this story felt like a ... placeholder, for lack of a better word. There was nothing particularly memorable about any of them. Charlie is a typical fifteen year old boy, one who thinks about sex a lot (in some pretty ridiculous circumstances). The only thing remarkable about him is that he can travel in time. I will definitely give points to Andy Gavin for making Charlie feel like a stereotypical teenager, because he definitely does - complete with the over-inflated sense of superiority and rightness. But though I wanted to smack Charlie sometimes, I mostly just used him to experience the story through.

Yvaine, likewise, is almost as boring. Though she's got a lot more experience than a lot of authors give female characters it still makes her almost a caricature. She's sexually forward (Yay for no slut shaming!), smart-talking, tough, and capable. While I liked her, I got SO irritated with her speech. I'm not a fan of the Scottish dialect being written out, in most cases, and there were 63 uses of 'dinna,' among various others. By 5% into the book I knew this was going to irritate me.

I have some other minor, nit-picky things, that I almost feel bad for bringing up - but they took me out of the story!! You can't learn to fence from a movie, regardless if it was The Princess Bride or not. I admit, I laughed at the ridiculousness there. CPR requires 30 chest compressions per 2 breaths, not 10 and 10 - and this frustrates me beyond belief because I wish everyone knew CPR. Then there's the weird moment when they end up in Shanghai (and remember that traveller changes them to make them fit in) and their hair changes to "Asian"-style (what the hell is that?) but they still have white features. I admit this bugged me more than a little bit, and I'm still not sure what to make of it.

Onto the good! And there is plenty of good. The world is fascinating. Time travel is handled in an interesting and easily understandable way. Actions have consequences, but 'time' makes up for a lot of things too. I will say that some of it seemed mighty convenient, but after his iPhone turned into a paper notebook when he travelled back 200 years, I decided to go with it.

The thing that's got me most interested though is the Tick-Tocks and the Regulator. Supposedly the Regulator was the first of the time-travellers, and he died in the Time-War....anyway, he died, but not before he was able to write a bunch of encrypted pages for future travellers to find.

Time War, anyone? (picture copyright by Aaron Gittoes)

My image of the Tick-Tocks (also from Doctor Who - The Girl in the Fireplace)

So the Tick-Tocks are trying to work against the travellers - for what reason we're not quite sure. Are they trying to mess up the future by adjusting, ever so slightly, things in the past? Or are they trying to set right the changes made by other travellers? These are the questions that are flying through my mind as we travel with Charlie and Yvaine.

I was fascinated not only by the alternate histories and contemporary times that Gavin creates - which are imaginative and detailed - but also by the very real histories that he uses and doesn't flinch from. From teen-pregnancy, drinking, drugs, and slavery, Gavin doesn't flinch from showing the ofttimes harsher and dirtier side of humanity. Some of these topics are barely touched on, but it's clear that the themes are important and consequences of actions and decisions are a main thread in this world.

And then we get to the end, rocketing through time and space, and hit "To be continued..." like a brick wall! I have to say this was the most disappointing thing to me because I had no idea going into this book that it wasn't a stand-alone novel. I've emailed the author to find out any other information I can, because there's nothing on Goodreads, the author's website, or anywhere else I've been able to find.

I've been waiting until I get my review written to decide how I'm going to grade this. The things that Gavin does well, he does really well - and you can definitely see his videogame programmer roots at work in the action and intense world created here - but I really would like some characters that I can grab onto and root for. Right now they're kind of like ciphers. Here's hoping they grow up in the sequel(s).

Grade: C+

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Dreams
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 4.5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1 June 2011
Source: Bought

Magic Dreams originally appeared in the anthology Hexed.

From New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews comes a tale of darkness, desire, and werecats.

Alpha Pack leader Jim Shrapshire has always been the strong, silent type. But something has come over him--a magic force currently residing in one of the Pack's headquarters. Were-tigress Dali Harimau has always wished she could get Jim's attention--but now he needs her help.

Stricken with a magic-sickness, Jim needs Dali's flair for magic. And to save him, she must challenge a powerful, dark being to a battle of wits.

What I really enjoy about these novellas that focus on other characters in the Kate Daniels' world is that we get to see things from a new point-of-view. It becomes obvious that Kate isn't always the most ... reliable narrator. There are things that she simply doesn't, and can't, take into account because she doesn't know everything. Not only do we get expanded views of Atlanta, but also of dynamics between characters, and different viewpoints of characters that we may have thought we knew.

I admit I first read this novella and didn't love Dali. I liked her, but I was frustrated with how she would put people in danger driving on the roads. Willfully endangering others is not a way to my heart. What I learned here is that that view might be overstating things a bit. Dali's capable of driving, and doing so safely even if she is considered legally blind. She's definitely got some things she's been trying to work through, but she's an awesome character that isn't going to let anything get her down for long.

I also really loved seeing Jim through her eyes. We've seen him many times through Kate's eyes, but it's something different when you see him as one who is in love with him does. Jim's still gruff, and alpha; he's definitely in charge and stubborn, but I also had my appreciation of his reliability and steadfastness, and his deep core of honor, increased exponentially.

Ilona Andrews wove this story around Asian culture and mythologies. I really enjoyed their magical take on this culture. I don't want to say too much about it, because I enjoyed the mystery of what was going on, and how Dali investigated and figured out what was going on - which was very different from Kate's way of doing it - was intriguing.

There was also a new character that was introduced that I'm supremely interested in! He shows up again later, and I can't wait to see more of him!!

Grade: A-

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Review: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole

Title: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night
Author: Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark, Book 4
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 24 September 2007
Source: Bought

This seductive paranormal series continues with a brutal Highland werewolf and an exquisite young witch, adversaries with a blood vendetta between them.

Her breathless kiss haunts him...

Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae clan was nearly destroyed when he lost the one woman meant for him. The ruthless warrior grew even colder, never taking another to his bed—until a smoldering encounter with his enemy, Mariketa the Awaited, reawakens his darkest desires. When sinister forces unite against her, the Highlander finds himself using all his strength and skill to keep her alive.

His slow, hot touch is irresistible...

Temporarily stripped of her powers, Mari is forced to take refuge with her sworn adversary. It's rumored that no one can tempt Bowen's hardened heart, but soon passion burns between them. Though a future together is impossible, she fears he has no intention of letting her go.

No deed is too wicked for her seduction...

If they defeat the evil that surrounds them, can Mari deny Bowen when he demands her body and soul—or will she risk everything for her fierce protector?

Book 1: The Warlord Wants Forever
Book 2: A Hunger Like No Other
Book 3: No Rest for the Wicked

I'm finding it incredibly hard to review these books, because I keep wanting to repeat the same praises that I've previously voiced. Kresley Cole just keeps upping her game in this series, each one better than the last!

The world and the characters are as enthralling and immersive as anything I've read. As I've talked extensively about the world in previous reviews, I think I'll just focus on the characters here - and they're worth focusing on. Though Wicked Deeds is just the fourth book in a series now fifteen books long, it's still my second favorite one. All because of Mariketa and Bowen.

Mari is a young witch, not even frozen into her immortality yet, when she decides to enter the Hie - an incredibly dangerous competition. And she holds her own, right up until she meets Bowen. And even though he traps her I'd say she definitely did the worse damage by cursing him with the inability to heal. Despite what that may make you think, Mari's powers are ... volatile. She doesn't have a good control over them, and is still figuring out how to make them work. Despite, or because, of all of this Mari's a complicated girl. She's at once utterly charming and smart, funny and brave, and also utterly sick of being second best. She has a bit of a (understandable) inferiority complex that pops up occasionally - when actions of others and events lead to it. But she's not afraid to fight for what she believes she deserves, and what she wants. Plus she kicks Bowen's ass, repeatedly.

Bowen's been living as a half-dead Lykae for almost two centuries; ever since his mate died - fleeing from him. Having entered the Hie to retrieve his mate, he's destroyed when he loses to Sebastian. And even he begins to question why he doesn't take those final steps to oblivion. When he's retrieved and finds out that Mari's been trapped for several weeks now, and that she's not even immortal yet, Bowen sets out to get her. Despite what he says it's not just the fact that there's an imminent threat if she doesn't call in by a certain time. Bowen feels compelled to get her out. So with grievous injuries, that won't heal, he rushes to her. Ever since I first met Bowen I knew that he was loyal, strong, brave and committed. But I loved seeing this other side of him; here he was funny and charming, joking with Mari at every turn, and loving when she teased him in return.

Though Bowen is obviously conflicted, having lost his mate nearly 200 years ago he's not sure how he can feel that Mari is his mate now, he consistently (minus a few screw ups) treats Mari fabulously. He's learning throughout this, and overcoming more than a few prejudices, but watching him fall in love with Mari - not just because of the Instinct, but because of who she is - is beautiful and sweet. Their interactions made me laugh and grin, and occasionally tear up.

I remember loving this book so much on my first read, and this re-read made me love it even more. It's definitely a favorite of mine.

Grade: A+

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Review: No Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole

Title: No Rest for the Wicked
Author: Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark, Book 3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 31 October 2006
Source: Bought

A vampire soldier weary of life...

Centuries ago, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire—a nightmare in his mind—against his will. Burdened with hatred and alone for ages, he sees little reason to live. Until an exquisite, fey creature comes to kill him, inadvertently saving him instead.

A valkyrie assassin dispatched to destroy him...

When Kaderin the Cold Hearted lost her two beloved sisters to a vampire attack long ago, a benevolent force deadened her sorrow—accidentally extinguishing all of her emotions. Yet whenever she encounters Sebastian, her feelings—particularly lust—emerge multiplied. For the first time, she's unable to complete a kill.

Competitors in a legendary hunt...

The prize of the month-long contest is powerful enough to change history, and Kaderin will do anything to win it for her sisters. Wanting only to win her, forever, Sebastian competes as well, taking every opportunity—as they travel to ancient tombs and through catacombs, seeking relics around the world—to use her new feelings to seduce her. But when forced to choose between the vampire she's falling for and reuniting her family, how can Kaderin live without either?

Book 1: The Warlord Wants Forever
Book 2: A Hunger Like No Other

Here's the book that hooked me on this series. It had depth that the novella, The Warlord Wants Forever necessarily lacked and the characters are FANTASTIC - without any of the 'coming into her own' of the heroine like in A Hunger Like No Other. It also included everything I love about the world, and as an added bonus: the Talisman's Hie - an Amazing Race type event, on supernatural steroids.

Kaderin hasn't felt a thing, not the sorrow that was tearing her apart, not joy, hate, love, regret...nothing, for nearly a thousand years. After she lost her sisters blood sisters (triplets they were) her emotions were shut off. She never felt the lack, she simply dedicated herself to eradicating vampires. I loved Kaderin. She wasn't sure about anything when her feelings started coming back, not sure exactly how to deal with the onslaught (and I loved how it was initially shown to return) of emotions racing through her. But her personality shines through. Kaderin kicks ass, first, second, and third. But she's also got this beautiful understanding and kindness and compassion that shows through. She sees the beauty in, what others would deem, ugly and dangerous things - showing that she knows there's reason and right for everything to exist and thrive. All of that doesn't mean that she is willing to sacrifice herself for someone not completely and utterly hers, but she will give everything in her for one she loves.

Bastian, and I just have to say how much I love that name, it's one of my favorites, is my favorite type of hero. He's intelligent - a scholar in his human life - and mostly beta. He wants to woo his Katya, winning her heart and having her want him for himself. He's not terribly experienced in relationships, and is a bit shy - at first. I love, love, love that even though Bastian desperately wants to push further with Kaderin he respects women too much to do so. He won't go where he's not wanted, and Kaderin keeps pushing him away. So he continues trying to bargain with her, and coax her to him. His leverage may not always be strictly gentlemanly, but I love that he knows when to push and when to back off. I also really, really love that - despite there being lust and 'fated mates' between them - Kaderin and Bastian admit several times throughout the novel that it isn't love...yet.

Watching them fall in love is an immensely satisfying, joyous thing.

I've already talked, probably at length, about the world in which this takes place. I'll only continue to reiterate that it's one of the most detailed, complex, in-depth worlds I've ever encountered. Kresley Cole continues to blow my mind with the way she weaves in multiple storylines and keep track of a labyrinthine time-line.

The secondary characters are all interesting - I want to know ALL their stories. I won't even list them all here because there's too many. Fortunately it seems like Cole is in no hurry to stop writing in this series, and as I continue to love them, and the stakes continue to raise, I can't be more grateful.

One of the new things in this novel is the Talisman's Hie. A race for immortals around the world to retrieve difficult objects of different power. All to gain points to be able to go for the final round. I loved this. I can't even explain how much. The competition, the characters competing against - and sometimes helping - each other, and the different locations it takes us to.

Fortunately it seems like Cole is in no hurry to stop writing in this series, and as I continue to love them, and the stakes continue to raise, I can't be more grateful. Next up: Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night. I'm so excited to read about Bowen again!

Grade: B+

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Hard Magic by Laura Anne Gilman

Title: Hard Magic
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigators, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1 May 2010
Source: Bought

Welcome to P.U.P.I.—Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations

A handpicked team trained to solve crimes the regular police can't touch—crimes of magic.

My name's Bonnie Torres. Recent college grad, magic user and severely unemployed. Until I got a call out of nowhere to interview for a job I hadn't applied for. It smelled fishy, but the brutal truth was I needed the work—so off I went.

Two days later I'm a PUPI—me and Nick, Sharon, Nifty and Pietr. Five twentysomethings, thrown into an entirely new career in forensic magic.

The first job we get is a doozy: proving that the deaths of two Talents were murder, not suicide. Worse, there are high-profile people who want us to close up shop and go away. We're sniffing out things they'd rather keep buried.

Looks as if this job is gonna get interesting. The only problem is, we're making it up as we go along...

I always find it hardest to write the reviews for the books that were 'okay,' but not fantastic or horrible. Those middle of the road books, with nothing that really stands out to me as either totally offensive or as beautifully brilliant. Which doesn't mean it's a bad book, not at all. There's potential here - and as I already have the second book to read I'll definitely be giving it a shot.

One of the things that I did love, immediately, is that the heroine - Bonnie - is bisexual. And it's a complete non-issue. She is, it doesn't matter, whatever. That was refreshing and nice. I liked that she could like women and men and no one cared one way or the other. Bonnie herself was somewhat of a rare character type. She wasn't exceptional, she wasn't bratty, she wasn't trying to prove something to everyone she ever met - beyond the stuff that we're all trying to prove to our mentors and the world. She was kind and cared, she has a subtle sense of humor, and she wants (and works) to stand on her own, but doesn't turn down help when it can help.

The downside of all that is that Bonnie is a bit bland. And despite the fact that I enjoy sex, and think about it frequently, and enjoy appreciating a fine form (male or female)...well, Bonnie thought about it way too much and at completely inappropriate times; like when interviewing a person-of-interest in their investigation. I did appreciate that she realizes it, is sort of reprimanded for it, and vows to not do it again. But it still irritated me a bit.

Bland is something I feel like I can say about the writing, too. There was nothing that really sticks with me. The magic in the world honestly kind of confuses me. It seems that anything can be done as long as someone wanted to really think about how to do it. There doesn't seem to be a lot of repercussions to using the 'current' - as they call it - except that some other Talent (magically inclined person) might take offense at it. I like my magic to have some more costs, I guess. I like my world a bit darker and more difficult.

The secondary characters that make up the rest of P.U.P.I are, sometimes, much more interesting than Bonnie. From Ian and his mysterious disagreement with Council to the rest of the teams abilities - I found Pietr the most interesting actually. I'd really love to know more about him. Benjamin, the other of the bosses, seems to have interesting connections that I would really like explored. Though I find it a little creepy the (possibly historical) connection he has with Bonnie, especially considering her sometime thoughts about him.

The mystery itself is interesting, in a CSI kind of way. There's a lot of learning here as this is a brand new type of magic being done. So we get to see them developing how they're going to go forward in their investigations, and learning to work with each other. I definitely enjoy the team aspect here the most.

If you're looking for a lighter urban fantasy, you can't go wrong picking this up. It's a nice start to a series, with a cast of characters that are definitely interesting enough to want to read more.

Grade: C

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Cover Reveal: The Elementalists by C. Sharp

Title: The Elementalists
Author: C. Sharp
Series: Tipping Point Prophecy, Book 1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Release Date: 28 November 2014

And here's the cover!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

DNF Review: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

Title: Alias Hook
Author: Lisa Jensen
Genre: Fantasy / Fairy-Tale Retelling
Release Date: 8 July 2014
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review

The flip-side of Peter Pan, the historical fantasy, Alias Hook, is a time-traveling love story about male and female, love and war, and the delicate art of growing up.

Captain James Benjamin Hook is a grown man stranded in a world run by a capricious 11-year-old boy. Once an embittered warrior with a grudge against the world, now Hook is trapped forever in a pointless war he can never win against the boy tyrant, Pan, and his magical allies.

When a grown woman dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of all the boy's rules, she may be the key to Hook's redemption—maybe even his release—if they can unravel the curse that binds him there before Pan can capture her and drag Hook back into their neverending game.

But nothing is won in the Neverland without the forfeit of something else. And the price of Hook's freedom may be more than he can bear to pay.

The problem here is two-fold.

Nothing at all happened for the first 20% of the book. So I read, and read, and read about Hook and his past (Oh, woe is me), and how he was wronged by every woman he ever met, or about how he was always about his own image - at the expense of anyone that got in the way.

I should know by now to expect nothing but treachery from a woman.

I've known it all my life. Why should this woman be different than all the others?

Never mind that you left your fiancee to go pirating. Or that after being captured and freed, you found a woman who engaged you mentally and physically and you left her, too, for your bloodlust. But of course, these women betrayed you.

Women are relegated to the Mary or Whore route. He speaks of attempting to pillage the Indians for their women. He talks of the fairies that try to beguile them with their lusty bodies. They're all temptresses out to get him.

Anyway, that's a whole 'nother rant.

My problems were the damn HUGE blocks of text, listing out every single thing in the damn room, or his wardrobe, or whatever. I struggled not to skim, to just to get something going on. I was so BORED.

Then there's Hook himself. There's no hero in Neverland, is what I can take away from this. There's Pan - the tyrant - who won't let Hook die and go to his peace; because afterall, who else would Pan fight? Then there's Hook, who wasn't a much better person in life. And has carried his rage here for over 200 years.

I'm quite sure that the arrival of Parrish, a woman, is supposed to be the catalyst to his change and I'm kind of curious how they're going to defeat (or escape) Pan...but not enough to keep reading.

Unfortunately, this book just didn't work for me. The long passages of introspection by Hook were too much for me to continue to read.

Grade: DNF at 35%

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Review: Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Bleeds
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 4
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 25 May 2010
Source: Bought

Kate Daniels cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to deal with-especially if they involve Atlanta's shapeshifting community.

And now there's a new player in town-a foe that may be too much for even Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family.

This series has some of the shortest blurbs I've ever read. After the end of Magic Strikes, I was so eager to start this book. It seemed like finally everything we'd been waiting for between Curran and Kate was going to happen.

And then I sat, alongside Kate, as it all came shattering down. Curran didn't show. Curran didn't take her call. Kate was hurt, and devastated, and then she got mad. I was right there with her.

It's hard to talk about this book without a lot of spoilers. The plot - again - is tightly written and the pacing is spot on. I could hardly catch my breath while I read. Everyone got in on the action here - the Masters of the Dead, the shapeshifters, the Order and the Guild - no one was safe.

And then there's the villain. So utterly perfect, and terrifying. The stakes keeping getting ramped up, and the opponents keep getting more difficult to deal with. Ilona Andrews is doing a superb job of ratcheting up the suspense in the lead up to what we all know has to come eventually for Kate; the thing she's been training her whole life for.

Though I didn't get the payout I wanted at the beginning of Magic Bleeds, I definitely got satisfaction. Watching Kate and Curran circle each other, tease each other, and go through their own mating ritual made me grin, laugh out loud, and so incredibly happy when they finally figured out how to make it work.

The final showdown, I can't even begin to talk about, but it had me on the edge of my seat. Then when it was done, they went and ripped my heart out, stomped on it a couple of times, and handed me back the mushy remains.

Magic Bleeds proves that Ilona Andrews is in top form. These books just get better on re-reads, and I love going back to visit with all of the beloved characters.

Grade: A

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

DNF Review: Reckless by Skye Jordan

Title: Reckless
Author: Skye Jordan
Series: Renegades, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Release Date: 23 August 2013
Source: From publisher in exchange for an honest review

A couture wedding dress designer to the rich and famous, Lexi LaCroix's image means everything. Raised on the wrong side of the tracks, her years of polish and hard work are finally about to pay off. But crossing paths with a sexier-than-sin, bad-boy biker who makes her realize how much living she's sacrificed for her success, one touch is all it takes to threaten her carefully choreographed life.

Jax Chamberlin has been screwed over by gorgeous gold-diggers one too many times. Though he runs his own stunt company, all of America knows his Hollywood face even years after he's given up acting. Finding a woman who doesn't plan to use him as a stepping stone to success is virtually impossible, so when the charming and mysterious Lexi offers him a chance at a totally anonymous hook-up during an out of town trip, Jax accepts. Only Lexi is more sextacular than charming, and Jax wants more. Lots more.

But Lexi's got a major hang-up over his renegade lifestyle. And if she finds out his connections could catapult her to the top of her career, he's afraid the fantasy woman he's falling for might just end up like all the rest.

Warning: This novel contains uber-hot sexual encounters. For safety's sake, read along with pitcher of ice-water. Or...wine...

Where to start?

I'm not sure what I went into this expecting. I hadn't even remembered what the blurb was about - my bad for not getting to it sooner - but I went into this completely blind. Unfortunately, that meant that Lexi and Jax had to make me love them on their own, from the start.

We first meet Jax where he's talking to an (apparent) ex, thinking incredibly nasty thoughts of her. We find out that she's screwed him out of a job and that's why he feels so negatively towards her. But when she offers to get him the job back if he'll just get back in her bed and he CONSIDERS it....not a good first impression.

My first impression of Lexi isn't much better. She sees the truck that Jax is in, and immediately thinks of the truck that she knows "exactly what kind of guys drove those trucks." Apparently, only sexy guys can now own big trucks. Mmm-hmm. I'll have to remember that.

For their meet-cute, Lexi uses a beta app that her friend designed to sell to the NSA (don't ask) and gets Jax's phone number. She proceeds to text him, anonymously, making it very clear that she's watching him, can see him, and is paying attention to him but not letting him know who she is. He, apparently, is fine with this because the flirting and sexting begin.

Don't get me wrong, the texts were my favorite part of the book to that point. They were both cute and sexy, and it was clear that they had a lot of chemistry. Their senses of humor worked well off of each other - and they both dropped their emotional baggage to flirt. I really enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, we got back to the emotional baggage. Lexi can't get involved with anyone that could cause a scandal - apparently her Hollywood and/or rich clients won't appreciate her having any scandals....because they never do. Right. Anyway, she's all paranoid about her reputation, but she's attracted to the 'rough' Jax. He's got a leather motorcycle jacket (of a brand I've never heard of...so sue me), and work boots, and a tattoo. He's got to be 'lesser' right? Yep. But she can do a little anonymous sex.

Jax, on the other hand, alternates between 'She doesn't think I'm good enough for her,' and 'She's using me to get to my connections.' I still can't figure out how those two insecurities can coexist in his mind, but there you have it. He floats from one insecure moment to the next and there's nothing less sexy to me than insecurity. As the blurb states Jax is a famous Hollywood actor, retired and now doing stunts. He's easily recognizable - instantly by fans, as proven in one scene. His co-star that he is filming with is of the Brad Pitt type celebrity. Apparently Jax is of the same level.

Want to know where I lost all believability in this book? It wasn't Lexi's friend designing phone apps for the government. It wasn't the harmless hacking, or a top fashion designer taking on two interns that haven't graduated from the fashion design school. It wasn't even the fact that Lexi apparently could design better after Jax gave her an orgasm.

It was the fact that Lexi, who makes her living selling haute couture wedding dresses to the rich and famous in Los Angeles, has NO IDEA who Jax or his co-star are. Even after hearing the co-star's name, even after finally seeing Jax's face. Nothing. No recognition at all. How? How does that happen? You live and work there. You sell expensive dresses and you don't know your (possible) clientele? You've never thought maybe you should know the people you're trying to sell to?

Argh! I'm still so frustrated by this.

Before all that I'd happily been reading for the smexy times. They were pretty good smexy times - with a few things that pulled me out of the moment, but I feel like I've complained enough. Suffice it to say that when the sexy times had me laughing out loud I knew it was time to stop because there was nothing left to keep me invested.

I do have the second book in the series already, and the writing and sexiness were pretty good, so I'm sure I'll try it to see if some different characters work better for me.

Grade: DNF (at 51%)

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Review: Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Mourns
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 3.5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1 September 2009
Source: Bought

Andrea Nash of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid - with an assist from her friend, Kate Daniels - tries to figure out why the giant three-headed dog who guards the gates of Hades is sniffing around Atlanta.

* Originally published in the anthology, Must Love Hellhounds *

Well, damn.

How many of these did I skip reviewing last time?

Okay, here goes. This is just a novella - about Andrea and Raphael. And after the intense flirting (and thing) that happened in Magic Strikes between them, it's about damn time!

I always liked Andrea. She's strong, competent, level-headed, and willing to fight for what she believes. She sticks to her promises, and her ground - no matter what. And I can trust her. I know for a fact she will never, ever betray Kate. What I learned in this book is that she's also scarred, and scared. She needs Raphael just as much as he needs her.

Raphael's been chasing Andrea, with no encouragement, for six months. It's more than obvious that he's smitten with her, and it's more than just - in Andrea's words: TWT-IHFB (That Weird Thing I Haven't Fucked Before). Personally, I don't find Raphael sexy, even if Kate, Andrea and the rest of the world does, but I have to admit that I love his personality. He's loyal, committed, a smart-ass, and kicks butt ... in human form quite frequently. Plus he's a smart businessman. What more could a woman want?

When Cerberus shows up, I knew I was going to love this. Greek mythology was one of my first interests in ancient history - and the myth that's central to this story is still one of my favorites. I like how Ilona Andrews weaves in the mythologies of so many different cultures to this series, paying homage and making them their own all at the same time.

Though Andrea and Raphael will never be as interesting to me as Kate and Curran, this is a good novella that gives you more insight to some of these great characters of the Post-Shift world.

Grade: B-

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Title: Magic Strikes
Author: Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 31 March 2009

When magic strikes and Atlanta goes to pieces, it’s a job for Kate Daniels...

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate's werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games—an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament—she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta's shapeshifting community...

Apparently, I've never written a review of this book - though I've read it at least a couple dozen times. In fact, I distinctly remember the last re-read I did I had plans to review ALL the books in the series.

Then I hit this book, with its humor that keeps me laughing all the damn time, and the suspense that keeps me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails. And that ending! Good lord. *fans self* How could I be expected to write a review??

But I'm going to try. I don't want to spoil anything so I'm pretty much going to devolve into fangirl squealing from here on out. Fair warning.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this book is absolutely, mind-blowingly ... PERFECT. Every time I read it I can't stop. The humor that's on nearly every page makes me struggle against updating all the time, quoting it all. I laugh and grin like an idiot throughout damn near this entire book. You should see the looks I've gotten from perfect strangers. There are the moments when I'm ready to break into tears though. The struggle and dangers are very real in this world, and sometimes not everyone makes it.

By now, I've come to love not only Kate and Curran, but everyone else in this messed up Post-Shift Atlanta. Derek, Julie, Jim, Raphael, Andrea and even Saiman. Then there's the new characters we meet, some that made me laugh, and one that made me freeze up in fear. I still get shivers when I read his entrance and introduction to Kate. The point is that I'm totally invested in these people, I feel like I'm fighting right there alongside them, struggling to survive - and more, fighting to live.

The plot in Magic Strikes is one of the most interesting, tightly written, and beautifully executed I've seen. Every single thing has significance - you may not realize it at the time, but it's there. Each moment leading to a shattering conclusion where my heart's in my throat and I cheer when it's all over.

I've thought about including some of my favorite quotes, but we'd be here all day.

You know those things where people want you to name five desert-island-keepers? You know, the five books that you'd take with you to read and re-read with no other books available? I can never pick. Asking me to pick favorite books - narrowing them down - is so hard it's painful to me. But I can easily say that Magic Strikes would be one of them.

Grade: A+

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Interview: Suzy Vitello, Author of The Empress Chronicles

Today, I'm excited to host my first, ever, author interview! And I get to interview Suzy Vitello, who has a fabulous looking new book coming out called The Empress Chronicles! Check out the cover reveal to be posted simultaneously on my blog this morning!!

Now, onto the interview:

Cover Reveal: The Empress Chronicles by Suzy Vitello

Title: The Empress Chronicles
Author: Suzy Vitello
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal (Historical and Contemporary)
Release Date: 4 September 2014

And now, the cover!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review: Play by Play by Kate Donovan

Title: Play by Play
Author: Kate Donovan
Series: Playmakers, Book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 9 September 2013
Source: Beyond the Page Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Former college football star Jake Dublin’s wildly popular sports blog also details his personal life. And lately it’s all about Sophie, the pretty young woman who just moved into his apartment building. His readers know her only as “Elevator Girl,” and they’re all rooting for Jake to score.

The blog posts and banter with his followers are all in good fun, and he fully intends to come clean with the woman he’s wooing and wowing. That is, until she confides that she grew up in a house full of jocks and even dated a few. Her verdict? Never again!

Jake knows he needs to confess. But somewhere along the line he fell in love with Sophie and can’t stand the thought of losing her. So he procrastinates, and blogs, and digs himself deeper into a hole, until it all leads to a showdown that’s so nail-biting, not even the best play-by-play guy could ever have seen it coming.

I could have sworn I'd read something by Kate Donovan at some point before, but Goodreads tells me no. This is a novella (my Kindle says the story ends on page 65 of 86) that's fairly nicely put together - surprising, as novellas are usually a hard sell for me. It doesn't feel too long, or too short, though I do wish I had gotten to know Sophie, the heroine, a bit better.

For the most part Sophie just came off as a very talkative person - almost to the point of being a nervous talker. The contrivance of Jake not telling her was nearly as much her fault as it was his. At some point he should have just taken her shoulders and said it, but honestly, she should have stopped interrupting him and saying he could tell her later, too! After a while, I have to admit, it got old and I just wanted it to come out.

Of course, eventually it does; in the worst way possible. That heads into spoilery territory so I'll leave it there. Onto our hero...

Jake is adorable! I loved him from the start. He's got this great sense of humor that comes through in his thoughts and writings. His blog posts were lots of fun to read, and the comments were just as much. Another surprise for me, because I usually don't like tactics like that in books. Also, though there's a lot of suggestion, everything fades to black.

Again, color me surprised, because I liked it that way. It fit the story that was being told. I like when authors tell the story as it's meant to be told.

Play by Play is a cute, funny - made me laugh-out-loud more than once - and sweet romance. Kate Donovan has definitely put herself on my radar with this quick, fun book. I'll be looking for more from her. Apparently, there's actually a sequel that was just released - a full length novel - called Playing for Keeps. I think I'll go grab it.

Grade: B-

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