Red Hot Books
Romance and Urban Fantasy Reviews
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Review: A Lady's Lesson in Scandal
Only, when she arrives at the home of Lord Rushden, she doesn't find her father. He's been dead for months. Instead, she finds his heir.... a distant cousin. The new lord proposes a shocking idea. If she marries him, he'll help her establish her claim to her inheritance. In exchange, she'll help him shore up his empty coffers. What choice does she have, but to agree?
From here, the story reminds me a little of My Fair Lady, as Rushden tries to help transform Nell from a guttersnipe into a genteel aristocrat. But we get the added bonus of a little sexual heat. Nell and Rushden share a fiery attraction, which travels the course from tension, to action, to tender feelings. Nell's life begins to transform itself into a fairy tale, but she can't let go of the lessons learned in the slums; she can't trust that her happiness will last.
I enjoyed watching Nell drop her defenses as she fell for Rushden. And I definitely enjoyed their love scenes. There are bumps along the road as they try to reach their happy ending, but the obstacles are worth it. Perhaps what's most refreshing is how Nell manages to make it through the story with her character intact... her changes are merely superficial, except for her newfound ability to trust in the man she loves. 4 stars.
*ARC Provided by Pocket Books
A Lady's Lesson in Scandalby Meredith DuranRelease Date: June 28, 2011Publisher: Pocket Books
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
To say the real Johnny is stand-offish would be an understatement. He is gruff, even rude to Emm. But when she goes into a fugue state right in front of him, he brings her into his home to help her out... beginning a dialogue between them. Emm is going dark, as she calls it, more and more. And every time, she is back in Johnny's past. She is becoming more invested in him --in his life and in his bed. She has trouble separating her growing feelings for the Johnny in her mind with the Johnny who is present in her real-life. This is especially true, when she finally breaks down the barriers he places between them and they become a real couple.
"I haven't been this excited about an erection since my first boy-girl party in the eighth grade..."
"I made it through dinner without embarrasing myself, although everytime he wiped his mouth I wanted my cunt to be the napkin."
Of course, aside from the whole time travel element, the biggest thing going on in the book is the sex. And wow! We're talking hot. I'm not a big fan of using the "c-word" to refer to lady-bits, but even that didn't cut in to the megga-watt hot factor going on in this book. Believe me, by the time it was over, I was ready to have sex with Johnny and I don't much care whether it was the 24 year-old version or the 57 year-old one.
I'll definitely read more Megan Hart in the future. And I'll never look at the word "hooah" the same way. 4 1/2 stars.
*ARC Provided by NetGalley
Collideby Megan HartRelease Date: June 21, 2011Publisher: Spice
Monday, June 27, 2011
Rant: True Blood
Then season two came and the bastardization began. Layfayette is alive (the one and only change I was ever on board with)... Jessica is born. The unnamed maenad gets a name and an extended storyline that nearly overshadows the trip to Dallas. There's the epic fail of the Fellowship of the Sun side-plot and changes involved with making Godric into Eric's maker. Season 3 gives us the gift of Joe Mangianello and I can forgive the show creators almost anything after that. Except maybe the train wreck that they turned Russell into. Or the terrible miscasting of Claudine and Hadley.
But here we are at season four. And I've been waiting, poised between excitement and fear for the adaptation of my favorite book in the series. Only to get the horrific, steaming pile of shit that I witnessed last night. In two episodes, there was nary a shred of storyline that can be reconciled with Dead to the World. In fact, it felt like Alan Ball was giving a huge middle finger to Charlaine Harris fans, making it essentially impossible for the story to mirror future books.
Here are my top 10 complaints:
1. Faerie. This was wrong in so many ways, I don't even know where to start. Lumieres. Ugly fae. Grandpa EARL? This knocks out the whole Niall storyline and indicates (by Barry's presence) that Sookie's telepathy is linked to her being fae.
2. A year has passed.
3. Jason sold Sookie's house.
4. Tara is suddenly a lesbian.
5. Sam is in a shifter support group that has a soft spot for horses. (Who the hell are these people?)
6. Sam's stupid brother is still around.
7. Arlene thinks she has a devil baby.
8. Here's a big one. Bill kills Sophie-Ann. Knocking out huge storyline potential from future books. So much of the upcoming story should have been tied up in Sophie Ann, from Sookie's trip to New Orleans, to the vampire conference, to Mr. Cataliades, Andre, Sigebert & Wybert... All just wiped out with this one plot device.
9. Bill is King. (Seriously... I knew they weren't going to send him to Peru, but this utterly changes the dynamic between him and Eric forever.)
10. The witches don't want to have sex with Eric. Instead of some all powerful, evil witches, we've got an old lady who misses her dead bird and a bunch of dabblers. It's all wrong.
Review: Spell Bound
The story picks up right where Waking the Witch left off. Savannah is without her powers and she believes it's because she offered to exchange them to right one of the wrongs in the last book. She and Adam investigate and, sure enough, little Kayla and her grandmother have been reunited. But now what? There are witch-hunters still after Savannah and despite her feelings in a moment of weakness, she needs her powers. She and Adam work to figure out how to restore them while sniffing out the witch-hunters and foiling their murderous plans.
Spell Boundby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: July 26, 2011Publisher: Dutton Books
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Review: Waking the Witch
So when Paige and Lucas go on vacation, Savannah jumps at the chance to take the lead on her very own case. The tip comes from Jesse, a half-demon contact of Lucas' -- and it takes Savannah to a small town to investigate a trio of human murders with a link to the occult. She joins forces with an off-duty cop named Michael, whose sister was one of the victims. I liked him right away. (**spoilers**) So when Armstrong killed him off, I was crushed. I knew he wasn't going to be Savannah's HEA, but I really hated to see him die.
There's a wide range of suspects: from the strange commune of girls living with a creepy therapist... to the adulterous boyfriend of one of the victims. Links to the supernatural keep popping up, but Savannah can't quite put her finger on how they're tied to the case. Savannah's a tough girl, as we are reminded more than once, but she could have helped herself a lot by reaching out and being honest with her family and friends. It was frustrating to keep watching her make this mistake. The story would have gone very differently if she weren't so bent on proving herself.
Adam shows up in the second half of the book. We don't get a romance between him and Savannah, but the groundwork is there. I'm hoping they'll pursue it in the next book, which is also a Savannah story. The resolution here on the murder/mystery was a huge surprise for me and while that storyline did wrap up, the ending is a pretty big cliffhanger. I enjoyed the book, but I wish we would have had more crossover with the other characters from the previous books. 4 stars.
Waking the Witchby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: July 27, 2010Publisher: Dutton Books
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Review: Counterfeit Magic
I really enjoyed this novella. I’m used to reading stories even much shorter than this one with this series, as Armstrong has created several internet offerings and two anthologies. I was prepared for the length and not disappointed by it. Like many others, I pre-ordered it, knowing that it was darn near impossible at the time to get your hands on Angelic, the last limited release novella. You don’t have to read this one to continue on with the series. And you don’t have to have read the previous books to understand what’s going on. But honestly, this was written for those of us who were already Otherworld fans. A bonus offering. One with a fast, interesting story –and a surprising emotional punch. 4 stars.
Counterfeit Magicby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: November 30, 2010Publisher: Subterranean Press
It was all very satisfying.... kind of like coming home after the departure of Living With the Dead. I love that Elena is finally embracing her feelings for Clay and accepting who she is. I really enjoy watching them as a couple... their fire, their commitment... just everything. It was also great fun to meet new werewolves who could expand the Pack. 5 stars.
Frostbittenby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: September 29, 2009Publisher: Bantam Books
Friday, June 24, 2011
Review: Living With the Dead
Investigating the case is Detective John Finnley. Finn's a necromancer, though he doesn't even really know what that means. He only knows that he occasionally sees ghosts... a skill that helps him believe Robyn is innocent, not only of her client's murder but other deaths that are piling up in her wake. The ghosts of the victims help lead his way, and so does (eventually) the ghost of Robyn's husband.
There's a lot going on here. In addition to all the stuff with Robyn, Finn & Adele, we can't forget about Hope and Karl. Their relationship is at a crossroads. And Hope has a lot of uncertainty about her future. And in the end, we see that the major developments in this book and the previous ones are intertwined, perhaps in some greater purpose, or bigger picture. I find that very intriguing. It was a solid installment... it just felt... off. And I missed the romance. 4 stars.
Living With the Deadby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: October 21, 2008Publisher: Bantam Books
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Review: Personal Demon
Hope makes fast friends with the gang. In fact, she gets extra-friendly with one of the men, Jaz. But that budding relationship is short-lived, when Karl returns. The two of them are unable to fight their feelings any longer and they finally become a couple. In the meantime, members of the gang start disappearing and dying. And the threat extends itself to members of the Cortez family, forcing Lucas into a role in the cabal that he has spent his life avoiding.
The big reveal behind the mystery was quite a surprise... and making it an even greater feat, it still made sense and worked inside the confines of pre-existing world-building. Kudos to Kelley Armstrong. There are some pretty substantial developments for Lucas and Paige, so this is a pretty important book. But it was missing something... maybe I just couldn't get invested enough in Hope. Almost 4 stars.
Personal Demonby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: March 5, 2008Publisher: Bantam Books
Otherworld: Short Stories and Novellas
"Truth & Consequences" (free online story) - narrator: Elena - This story takes us inside Elena's life, not long before the events of Bitten. She is working for the pack, tracking down a man who says he has proof werewolves exist. Elena is forced to kill him to protect the pack. It's a decision that will ultimately drive her away from Stonehaven and set the wheels in motion for the first novel.
"Territorial" (free online story) - narrator: Karl - As this story begins, Karl is working a mark to steal her necklace. But his mind quickly turns to reminiscing about his past and his father. In flashback, we learn how his father died: killed by Malcolm -- and why Karl believes it was hit fault. As the tale draws to a close, we see how his path crosses with Daniel Santos, laying the groundwork for their evil plan in Bitten.
"Escape" (free online story) - narrator: Eve - We didn't get a chance to meet Eve in the supernatural holding cells of Stolen. She was already dead. But here we get her perspective. We learn why Savannah was home they day of their kidnapping and the events that led them to their captivity. And we watch as Eve works to free herself and her daughter from the facility. It looks like she was on the right track... until a guard kills her.
"Adventurer" (free online story) - narrator: Kenneth - If you're asking yourself, "Who the heck is Kenneth?' -- don't feel bad. I couldn't remember either. He's the shaman in the interracial council with Paige, Adam, Cassandra and co. In this story, we get to see the council members from his perspective --and see the quiet contribution he makes.
"Bargain" (free online story) - narrator: Xavier - This story sets-up Xavier's approach to Elena in Broken. It seems that his desire to make her an ally came before the job to retrieve the From Hell letter. He actually looked for a way to need her help to cultivate her as a contact and perhaps, by extension, he could cozy up to Lucas through their connection with the interracial council. Xavier's been having trouble with a cabal lately and some well placed contacts could make all the difference...
"Chaotic" (Dates from Hell) - narrator: Hope- Hope is a half-demon who gets off on chaos. That's given her a lot of trouble following the straight and narrow. So when Tristan approached her to serve as an agent for the supernatural interracial council, she didn't hesitate to say yes. She doesn't realize, though, that she is on the job the night she goes on a blind date at a museum gala. But she can't help but follow the threads of tension she feels coming from one of the exhibits. It turns out to be werewolf Karl Marsten, there stealing some jewels. Her first thought is that he's the bad guy and she has to stop him. But she finds out quickly that it's really her boss who is evil and he is after Karl for petty vengeance. Hope doesn't work for the council at all... She's just a pawn in his schemes. Hope and Karl grow closer as they work to escape Tristan and his henchmen. And there is one really hot scene they have while in hiding that I may have read two or three times. All in all, it's a pretty solid story. And while you don't have to read it, it lays the foundation for future books that feature Hope and Karl.
"Framed" (free online story) - narrator: Nick - We've heard a lot about Nick, but always from Elena or Clay's perspectives. Here, get a glimpse into his mind as someone tries to frame him for murder. He wakes up one morning, with no memory of the night before, and finds a dead woman in his bed. It turns out to be a blackmail scheme. A man wants Nick to seduce his estranged wife and take pictures. It seems she has a thing for werewolf romance novels, so Nick brushes up on the stories to set up his seduction. But he draws the line once he realizes the sex is supposed to take place while he's in wolf-form. So he finds a creative solution to the problem and is proud that he manages to handle the whole thing without help.
"Twilight" (Many Bloody Returns) - narrator: Cassandra - I think Cassandra may be my least favorite character in the Otherworld series, so this story didn't do much for me. Basically, we already know that she is getting closer and closer to her final death. Now it's time for her annual kill, but she is having a lot of trouble forcing herself to do it. She's been putting it off and putting it off... and Aaron is worried that she won't do it all. But what he doesn't realize is that it's not just a mental problem, but a physical one for her as well. Obviously, in the end, she makes the kill, but it leaves you wondering if she'll be able to do it next time.
"Stalked" (My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon) - narrator: Clay - It's really important to Clay that his honeymoon with Elena is just right. She didn't have the wedding of her dreams. He ruined that idea 18 years ago when he turned her into a werewolf. But, the honeymoon... he wants to make that perfect for her. Only, a mutt is stalking them. Clay tries to hide it from Elena, but that doesn't quite work out. The good news is... taking down the mutt together may be the highlight of their trip.
"Chivalrous" (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2) - narrator: Reese - Of all the short stories, this is one of the two I haven't actually read. I just couldn't bring myself to part with the 30-bucks it would cost for this anthology. And it took me forever to even find a decent blurb telling me what it was about. But I finally found some info from a review on Locus Online. Paraphrasing, it basically says that Reese is an Australian mutt, who is attending college when he rescues a young woman from being raped. It turns out she is the local Alpha's daughter sent to insinuate herself into his life. He doesn't find that out until after he falls for her. So then he must decide whether to protect the woman he loves or his family, still threatened by her father. --If you're asking yourself what an Aussie wolf has to do with anything, Reese becomes part of the current cast of characters in the novel Frostbitten. This is his backstory.
"The Ungrateful Dead" (Blood Lite) - narrator: Jamie - There's an obnoxious ghost demanding help from Jamie. She's all ready to banish him, but decides to grant his request to open his cousin's coffin. Savannah comes along on the adventure. And they both get a big surprise when they lift the lid and a zombie comes out. It seems that the pair tried to harrass another necromancer into bringing them back to life and the necro tried to teach them a lesson with the zombie trick. You think they would have learned that lesson, but they keep pushing Jamie, until they push her a bit too far. (This had some pretty good one liners in it. A couple made me laugh out loud.)
"Zen and the Art of Vampirism" (A Fantasy Medley) - narrator: Zoe - Zoe didn't make a huge impression on me when we met her in Broken, so I wasn't too disappointed that I never got a chance to read this one. From the reviews I have found, the story is about some young vamps who decide they want to take over Zoe's territory in Toronto. She turns the tables on them and they hightail it out of town.
"Learning Curve" (Evolve) - narrator: Zoe - This may be the shortest of all the short stories. Wannabe vampire hunters are stalking Zoe. Somebody's been watching too much Buffy.
"Lucifer's Daughter" (Blood Lite 2) - narrator: Hope - Karl and Hope are at a bash thrown by Hope's mom back at the museum where they met. Karl accidentally unleashes a demon, who recognizes Hope for who she is. Hope and Karl manage to contain him, but it's no easy feat. And this has quite a dramatic ending (*spoilers*) as Karl asks Hope to marry him.
"From Russia with Love" (13) - narrator: Elena - As the drama comes to a close in 13, Elena and Clay travel to Russia where the rest of the pack has been staying with the twins. After a surprise visit from Xavier, Jeremy passes over the reigns, making Elena the new Alpha of the pack. It's a great ending, as we see the series come completely full circle.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Review: Seduction & Scandal
I had a bit of a hard time getting into the Templar stuff, but there was a lot of sexy in the story to keep my interest in the interim. The tension between Isabella and Black is fantastic and it was a great payoff, albeit in increments. And did I mention that Isabella is also a lady novelist? Her seductive story is interspersed throughout the book and I sure did enjoy it. Obviously, there are parallels between her longing for Black with the characters in her book and it all wraps up nicely in the end.
*ARC Provided by NetGalley
Publisher: HQN Books
Review: Tales of the Otherworld
"Birthright" - narrator: Logan - As Logan reaches his 18th birthday, he receives a note from the father he never knew. It's Jeremy's name and address. Curious, Logan investigates. Of course, Clay thinks he's a mutt, there to challenge the Alpha. But once it's clear that Logan has no idea what's going on, Jeremy breaks the news about his supernatural heritage.
"Beginnings" - narrators: Clay & Elena - This is it. The short story that rules all other short stories in the Otherworld universe: the story of how Clay and Elena fell in love. It's not really short... well over 100 pages... and it is everything I could have wanted. Clay is in Toronto, on a short-term professorship and Elena is a student wanting to take his class. He instantly finds a kinship in her; an outcast, set apart by an alien childhood. It's so great watching them fall for each other; and the story is made stronger by alternating between Clay and Elena's own perspectives. It's so hard not to feel sorry for Clay, as he struggles with his love for Elena, while he has to hide what he is. From Bitten, we know the years of hardship they will have to endure in the wake of his actions, making their love story all the more bittersweet. We also see how Logan and Elena become friends; and get insight into more of Elena's horrible childhood. No Clay and Elena fan should miss this one. It is epic.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Dark Days Chat with Jocelynn Drake
Before I go, I want to acknowledge that we were supposed to do a phone chat with Jocelynn over the weekend but we canceled with very little notice. She was so very gracious and understanding. She's a very classy lady and fabulous author.
Thank you so much, Jocelynn, for taking the time to chat with me! I can't wait to see what everyone else thinks of Burn the Night!
Midsummer's Eve Giveaway
Monday, June 20, 2011
Review: Men of the Otherworld
"Infusion" - narrator: Malcolm - This is the story of Jeremy's conception. We've known from the beginning that he is different and special. This gives us a little insight into why. We meet his Japanese mother and learn that she approached Malcolm on purpose, to infuse his werewolf blood into her own supernatural bloodline. This is also our first look at Malcolm and we get an idea of what a jerk he is... although the true breadth of that isn't seen until later stories.
"Savage" - narrator: Clay - This is the meatiest story in the bunch. Here Clay tells us the story of how he became a werewolf and how Jeremy took him into the Pack. We see firsthand the events that turn Clay into the man we know... why he cares so little for human conventions, why he is so loyal to Jeremy, and even how he became friends with Nick. We get the oft-mentioned "guinea pig" story and see the events that turned Clay and Daniel into enemies... a pivotal development that lays the foundation for Bitten. The story also gives insight into Jeremy and his early relationships with both his father and the other members of the Pack. It's definitely a switch from the reverence the other wolves hold for him now. This is a great story and it's worth getting the book, even for this novella alone.
"Ascension" - narrator: Clay - This story feels almost like an extension of the one before. It picks up with Clay at 11 years old and shows, through his perspective, Jeremy's rise to pack Alpha. It's a process that spans more than a decade. In that time, we see how Clay becomes the Pack enforcer; how he gained the reputation as a psychotic killer; even what's in those pictures of his dirty-work that we've heard reference to. The story shows how the Pack has come to be in its current form and why its numbers have dwindled... and most importantly, how Malcolm was finally defeated. Really good stuff.
"Kitsunegari" - narrator: Jeremy - In "Infusion," we learned that Jeremy came from a line of supernatural women, but it's in this story, we finally find out what they were. Jeremy is with Jamie, attending one of her shows, when he is lured away by an Asian woman. She tries to seduce him, but with no luck. Jeremy is able to eventually determine that she is one of an ancient race of fox-shifter deities and they want Jeremy to help them repopulate, since he is descended from the worshippers infused with their powers. This was probably the least thrilling of the four stories, though I did like the little bit of backstory Jeremy gives about how and when he started falling for Jamie.
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories... and wouldn't hesitate to recommend the collection to any Otherworld fan. 5 stars.
Men of the Otherworldby Kelley ArmstrongRelease Date: January 27, 2009Publisher: Bantam Books
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Review: Hit List
But for the most part, I liked the book. The Edward-Anita dynamic is fantastic and it's interesting to see how his character is softening towards her. The development with Olaf was unexpected but very cool, in my opinion. And I'm glad to see the Mother of Darkness storyline finally put to bed... I hope. We'll see if the next book can hold up to the same quality, when Anita's regular dozen guys are all around and waiting to be serviced. 4 stars.
Hit Listby Laurell K HamiltonRelease Date: June 7, 2011Publisher: Berkley