Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: Lord of Wicked Intentions

Reviewed by Jen
 
I have to say that I have liked all three installments of the Lost Lords of Pembrook.  And while this book wasn't my favorite of the three, I still enjoyed it.  As with the books featuring his brothers, Rafe's story delivers on the recurring elements of a tortured hero and a love that helps him find peace and redemption.

Rafe is the youngest Easton brother, the one who was left behind in a workhouse after his uncle killed his father.  His life there --and later, on the streets-- has turned him into a very hard man.  He never got over his brothers' desertion and as a result, he has never allowed himself to care for anyone since.  Add to that a severe aversion to being touched and he's not exactly a knight in shining armor.

He meets Evelyn when her jerkwad of a half-brother tried to auction her off to be a mistress for a nobleman.  Rafe's not in the market for a mistress, but he is drawn to Eve and he can't bear the thought of her belonging to someone else.  So he takes her for his own.

When Eve's brother set up the party that night, she thought he was trying to find her a husband.  It wasn't until she was delivered to Rafe's door that she found out what was intended for her.  And then she had a choice to make: give up her virtue or be turned out on the streets.

Before you get too mad at Rafe, know he never forces himself on her. He's not a fraction of the monster he thinks he is. Generally, I am all over the tortured hero with an underdeveloped sense of self-worth.  And it wasn't that I disliked him, it's just there were times he was little too emo.  On top of that, I wasn't really satisfied with explanation on the touching thing.  I don't want to give it away, but his reaction seemed like it was perhaps an issue of a sexual nature.  For what it turned out to be, claustrophobia would have been a more reasonable reaction than an aversion to hugs, sheets, or clothing.

All that being said, I did enjoy watching his losing battle with himself as he fought not to fall in love with Eve. How he lies to himself about his feelings from the very beginning.  It's easy to see why he connects with Eve.  He empathizes with her plight; he knows what it's like to be left with only horrible choices to survive. Yet she doesn't break. In fact, she becomes someone he can lean on. (The sexy times are really good too.)

We're treated to time spent with the couples from the previous books, which I liked. But this can easily work as a standalone.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Lord of Wicked Intentions
by Lorraine Heath
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Avon

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: One for the Wicked

Reviewed by Jen
 
Karina Cooper wraps up her Dark Mission series in grand fashion with this final installment.  It's a romance, yes, but it's more than that.  Cooper brings back all the characters and couples of previous stories to wrap up the overall arc involving the mission, the church, the witches, and the genetic puzzle that's been causing so many to die.

But let's start with the love story.  Our hero is Shawn, a member of the resistance.  His life's mission is to destroy the man who killed his parents: Laurence Lauderdale, head of the Order.  Now he has his chance to get even. The resistance is planning to kidnap Lauderdale's daughter Kayleigh, hoping the brilliant doctor can help them with the cure to what's causing the witches/ missionaries to degenerate.  Instead, Shawn uses the opportunity to snatch her for his own gains.

Before the kidnapping, though, Shawn masquerades as Kayleigh's bodyguard.  And despite the hatred he bears for her family, there is a sizzling connection between them.  There are even a few, er, physical interludes.  But when the chips fall, Shawn goes forward with his plan.

Kayleigh feels understandably betrayed when her sexy bodyguard goes from kissing her to taking her prisoner.  The two of them go round and round, from passion to fury and back again. The sexual tension is always right there, simmering at the surface.  Sometimes, I questioned how Kayleigh could keep wanting him, the way he runs hot and cold with her.  But no matter how often he pushes her away, she keep giving in when he pulls her back.

The bigger arc explodes when Kayleigh's dad sets his master plan in motion.  Not only must Kayleigh and Shawn end up working together to save New Seattle, but they are also joined by Silas and Jessie, Naomi and Phin, Caleb and Juliet, Parker and Simon, & Danny and Jonas.  Each has a part to play in averting another apocalypse.  It's kind of epic, and I am glad that Cooper didn't rush the climax.  It was, however, difficult at times to remember all of the people and threads from the previous books.  Even one, admittedly, left me scratching my head when the book was over. (If you catch the subtle nod to May's parentage, I bow down to your excellent memory and attention to detail.)

All that being said, you may want to even consider a series re-read before you start this one.  (Don't forget Before the Witches either.) Part of me wishes I had done that.  By the same token, if you are a new reader, you could probably still catch on to the romance, but the rest will leave you majorly confused.  I suggest you start the series at the beginning for maximum enjoyment.

Overall, it wasn't my favorite romance in the series, but it was definitely a worthy end to the Dark Mission saga.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Avon


Click to purchase: Amazon
One for the Wicked
by Karina Cooper
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Avon

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: The Man Within

Reviewed by Jen
 
If you liked the first book in the Breeds series, you'll like this second installment... maybe a little bit more.  The formula is the same, but now the characters and world-building are familiar.  On top of that, we've got a second-chance-at-love story, giving us a reason for the connection between our hero and heroine.

Taber and Roni have had something between them for more than a decade.  She was only 11 when he found her alone and terrified in the woods.  And ever since, he has made it his mission to protect her.  As they grew up, their feelings for each other grew into something more than friendship.  Finally, they were going to act on their attraction, when someone came between them.

Without getting into the particulars, I'll tell you Taber marked Roni, but they never sealed the deal.  Each thought they had been rejected by the other, and they went their separate ways.  It's now more than a year later. Taber and his fellow Pride-mates have gone public, and now the world can recognize the mark he left on Roni, making her a target.  They must reunite for him to protect her.

There is much angst to be found here.  Roni is still hurting over what she thinks is Taber's rejection. But now, with his kiss, she has gone into heat for him.  Her body wants him more than ever, but her heart rebels.

There were a couple of times I took pause on the issue of consent here.  I did a little in the last book, too, to be honest.  Roni really has no choice about whether she will be with Taber sexually.  We're told that in her heart of hearts, she really does want him, and I acknowledge that.  But it did bother me that he willfully took her choices away.  At least in the last book, Callan didn't know what he was doing.  Taber did.

That aside, the sex is hot (though a bit over-the-top with all the creaming and clenching of the lady bits and spasming of the womb) -- it's also quite frequent.  I felt there was a little more character development this time around and I did believe in the emotional connection between Roni and Taber.

I'm still a bit annoyed that Lora Leigh is teasing me on the Sherra book.  It seems we won't get her story until book 4.  Maybe I'll skip ahead.

Rating: B


Click to purchase: Amazon
The Man Within
by Lora Leigh
Release Date: October 28, 2004
Publisher: Ellora's Cave

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Wolf's Desire

Reviewed by Shelly
 
This is the first time I’ve read anything by Ambrielle Kirk and I’m kinda bummed that I’ve not read her work before now. I must admit my expectations were low because the multicultural/IR PNR stories that I’ve read in the last year have left me disillusioned about whether the genre is getting quality stories.

The fourth in the Caedmon Wolves series, this story is about widow Keira Ellis and bodyguard Aiden Price. I’ve not read any of the other stories in the series, so I’m not sure of either the timeline of this one in relation to those or the appearance of these characters in any of the other stories. In desperate need for protection, Keira’s attorney hires Aiden to protect her after a series of home break-ins and oral threats. Aiden is a wolf in the Caedmon pack and as a bodyguard he’s never failed in his duties. Once these two meet, things (in and out of the bedroom) heat up quickly and stay that way.

There’s not a lot of back story, so other than titles, the other characters were just fillers. I think this series would be best if the stories are read in order because I would have like to know more about Keira and Aiden and the other characters.

This is a pretty quick read, the page count is 151 in ePub format. That kept my attention. The intrigue and mystery surrounding Keira made me wonder if she’s all human or if she’s got a little ‘Other’ in her. And Aiden – he seems to be a stand up kind of guy who just got hit in the face with meeting this mate. That was a very cute scene. The sex was good but my interest in the characters wasn’t as much as I wanted. This was an okay read for me.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Wolf's Desire
by Ambrielle Kirk
Release Date: March 31, 2013

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: Blood Roses

Reviewed by Jen
 
I had a really hard time getting through this book. I liked the premise and I found the world building intriguing, but the romance did not work for me at all.

It all starts when Leila gets a call from her sister, Alisha, begging for help. Alisha says she is being held by vampires. She needs Leila to bring her ancient spellbook to vampiretown (Blackthorne) and use her magic to save a dying vamp. It goes against everything she believes, but Leila agrees, for her sister's sake.

It's dangerous for any human in Blackthorne, but it's even worse for Leila. She's not only a witch, but a serryn, a rare woman whose blood is toxic to their kind. Unfortunately, Caleb, brother to the dying vamp, figures out her secret. And it only goes downhill for Leila from there.

Despite her deep seeded aversion to vampires, Leila is attracted to Caleb. An attraction he mercilessly exploits. Caleb is convinced Leila is a killer, as most serryns are. He puts her through the wringer, with test after test to prove her "true nature." Most of these tests involve sex.

I had big issues here. Yes, ultimately Leila wanted Caleb, but at the same time, she really had no choice but to sleep with him. Not exactly non-con, but a little too close for my comfort. Add to that, Caleb lies to her, jerks her around, and threatens to kill her and her sisters throughout the book. I kept waiting for things to get better, for him to be redeemed, but it never really happened. And for the life of me, I cannot understand how Leila could fall for him under such circumstances.

I almost put the book down a few times... I was just so unhappy with Caleb's treatment of Leila, but the world building was interesting and I figured the payoff would be worth it. But it wasn't. The ending is terrible. Things aren't really resolved and even calling it a HFN is a stretch.

The dynamic of the relationship was very off putting to me. The balance of power, virtually non existent. I can only watch my heroine get kicked when she's down so many times before you can just count me out.

Rating: D+

*ARC provided by author for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
Blood Roses
by Lindsay Pryor
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Bookouture

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: Rules of Entanglement

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Gina Maxwell is turning out a nice series that focuses on the softer (not too soft) side of MMA fighters. I enjoyed the first one enough that I gleefully looked forward to the next story. Feisty District Attorney Vanessa McGregor is in Hawaii to help with the arrangements of her best friend’s wedding. She’s on a mission to make this the best wedding Lucie could have, and nothing will make her deviate from that mission – not even Lucie’s own brother. Best laid plans, right? Living la vida loca in Hawaii, MMA fighter Jackson ‘Jax’ Maris is only concerned about two things – training for fighting and surfing. Right from the start, I wanted to stand up and applaud Vanessa’s treatment of playboy Jax.

Vanessa is as spirited as she was in the first book and I was thrilled to see she wasn’t watered down in the least. She’s got a no nonsense personality that’s genuine and leaves no room for misinterpretation, especially when it comes to her unbreakable rules about life. It was good to see that her friendship with Lucie remained strong. I can’t stand it when the supposed best friend is relegated to the back burner, almost to the point of non-existence.

When Jax made his first appearance, I was for sure that this tool was going to make me verra verra upset and I loved loved loved that Maxwell didn’t allow Vanessa to fall for his charm, good looks and the general crap coming out of his mouth. Yeah, she thinks he’s sinfully good looking, but that doesn’t mean that she’s going to bow down and fall for his blatant disrespect of her time. Let the games begin!

Now when things settle down and Jax realizes that he’s not dealing with one of his typical vapid hangers-on, the chemistry and the heat between these two is absolutely smokingly delicious. It came across really well, even with the short time frame of their relationship. I’m not a destination kinda gal but the Hawaii setting isn’t distracting from the storyline and brings up a question that I never got answered – if Lucie and Vanessa are best friends and have been since college, how come Vanessa never met Jax before? Just sayin’.

The secondary characters were entertaining and I hope to catch up with them in the next book, especially Vanessa’s sister. That should make an interesting tale if Maxwell goes in that direction.

Overall, I enjoyed Vanessa and Jax. Revisiting Lucie and Reid was splendid and I would definitely recommend picking up this story. You don’t have to read the first book to understand this one, but it would make the story more enjoyable if you did.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Entangled


Click to purchase: Amazon
Rules of Entanglement
by Gina L Maxwell
Release Date: March 31, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: Diana's Hound

Reviewed by Jen
 
I continue to be impressed with this super-sexy and gritty series.  If you're unfamiliar with the Bloodhound books, they center around a breed of engineered shifters in a kind of alternative- western- historical world with a little bit of a steampunk vibe.  If that sounds kind of schizophrenic, it's not... it really works. Of course, it helps that is has some smokin-hot sex in there too.

We met Diana in Archer's book.  She is an anomoly among the Bloodhounds --A-- because she is a woman and --B-- because she wasn't turned by the Bloodhound Guild. Instead, she was attacked by a rogue hound and survived, changed.  She was taken in by the inventor of the Bloodhound alchemy, though she didn't know it at the time.  Now that he is gone, she is working with Nate, hoping to understand his research.

Nate has been a part of the series from the beginning. I must admit, it was little hard for me to see him as a love interest at first. After all, he was introduced as a father-type figure to Satira... a man in his 60's.  Now that the vampire-Bloodhound hybrid thing he's got going on has changed his physiology, he looks young again. But in my head, Nate = old dude.  However, that all went out of the window when the sexual vibe kicked on.

Nate and Diana want each other.  He's fighting it because of the age difference and because of what he is.  But once they go undercover together to figure out who is selling hounds to the vampires, that reticence gets harder to hold onto.  Especially when they spend the New Moon together.  For new readers, the new moon means "wild, passionate, crazy sex for three days." (*fans self*) In other words... one of the highlights of every book.

If it sounds like I am fixating on the sex, maybe I am I'm not.  But that isn't all the book has to offer.  I liked Diana. She has survived so much and still remains strong and whole and willing to love again.  Nate is a dumbass once or twice, but for the most part, he respects both sides of Diana and only wants what's best for her.  We get some advancement in the overall series arc.  And... dammit, the sex is really hot.

Just read it.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Diana's Hound
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: Hot Blooded

Reviewed by Jen
 
It's an action-packed ride in this second installment of the Jessica McClain series. The story begins with our heroine chomping at the bit to save her mate and things do not slow down once between the first page and the last.

First off, let me say that if you haven't read Full Blooded, I urge you start there.  This book is a continuation of that one --and while this has a self-contained mission, it all hinges on the events of the first installment.  There is a little bit of backstory mixed in, but not much.

Basically, the entire book is about Jessica's journey to rescue Rourke from the clutches of the evil Goddess Selene, who kidnapped him.  She takes along her brother and one other wolf --along with her human nemesis and general PITA Ray-- plus two vampire guides names Eamon and Naomi.  Their path is full of traps and landmines laid out by Selene.  As Jess overcomes one after another, she (and we) learn more about her strengths as a Lycan, and what that means in relation to the prophecies about her.

I like Jess. She is very powerful, but is determined to hold on to her humanity.  She not only wants to do the right thing, she puts her money where her mouth is, even when it's hard.  But the real highlight of the book for me was Naomi. She was not what I expected and I grew to really like her.  And Ray... well, I think there is more to Ray than meets the eye somehow. (I could be totally off-base on that, but time will tell.)

Here's the thing, though.  I liked the book, but didn't love it the way some of my fellow reviewers did.  It's well written; the pacing is good; the world-building is solid.  But I don't feel an emotional connection to the characters. I like them.  But I don't feel their feelings. Yes, I know Jess wants to get Rourke back, and thinking about him makes her wolf run in circles, but I don't feel a crushing weight or fear of a life without him.  (Frankly, their time together as mates lasted about as long as a sneeze, so maybe that has something to do with it.) It's not just about Rourke, though. It's deep feeling for anything, everything.  Her thoughts and feelings are intellectually conveyed to me, but it's missing that intangible thing that makes me feel like I am not only inside Jessica's head, but her heart.

It is a good read, though. It kept me interested and invested in how it would all play out.  And Amanda Carlson does a great job laying the groundwork for the next battle ahead.  It looks like another exciting ride.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hot Blooded
by Amanda Carlson
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Orbit

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Eternity Cure

Reviewed by Jen
 
OK guys. This is not light reading.  But it is captivating, entertaining, thought-provoking, and heart-wrenching reading.  It's a trade off I'll take any day of the week.

The story picks up just a few months after the ending of The Immortal Rules.  (And this is the part where I tell you not to read this book unless you read that one first.)  Allie has left her ragtag band of human travelers safely in Eden and now she is on the hunt for her maker, Kanin, and the sadistic Sarren who holds him captive.  Her blood bond to Kanin draws her toward him, leading her through a string of trials and unlikely reunions along the way.  Ultimately, she discovers Sarren's plans are much, much worse than the simple torture he is forcing Kanin to endure.  Allie must find him --and stop him-- or lose those she holds most dear.

I know, I know... I'm not giving much away. But one of the best things about this book is the way the plot unfolds. It's unpredictable, but never erratic.  By that, I mean Julie Kagawa made me excited to turn the page (or in some cases, terrified to turn the page.)  Allie's journey tests her in so many ways.  She is not only challenged intellectually and physically, but over and over she must respond to situations that force her to define the kind of monster she wants to be.

I think Allison is a great heroine, in part because of her internal struggle.  It's not always easy to live her ideals.  She has all those powerful emotions like wrath, heartbreak, and a need for vengeance that drive weaker people to abandon their principles. It's how she responds through her emotions that defines her.

Again, the world-building is effortlessly fantastic. I was completely sucked in.  It was almost like it's own character in the book: this dark, gritty, hopeless, soul-sucking world.  There are no info-dumps or overly complicated explanations.  It just is.  And it's that bleak every-man for himself setting that contrasts so remarkably against the characters who fight to be something more... to rise above it.

I would be remiss if I didn't warn you about two things.  One: There is a heart-stopping, punch in the gut scene that will leave you reeling.  At least, it did for me.  (It also made me cry.)  And two: there is a big old hairy cliffhanger that will have you counting the days until book 3 hits the shelves... which, by the way, won't be until Fall 2014.  As I sobbed on Twitter, Julie Kagawa reached out to comfort me with this response: "Your tears feed my muse." What a gifted, yet totally evil author.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Harlequin Teen

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Eternity Cure
by Julie Kagawa
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Tempest

Reviewed by Jen
 
I must say, I am impressed.  Kelly Meding has written a book about a gay male superhero, that manages to treat the lead character like any other hero in any other book.  It's not about the fact that he is gay, yet she doesn't shy away from it. He has a love interest and a romance that receives no more and no less attention than main characters have in previous books.  It's not a m/m romance.  It's just an urban fantasy with a romantic subplot.  It shouldn't be a big deal, but as I read it, I realized just what a rare find it is.

This is book three in the Meta-Wars series and it picks up a few months after Changeling.  These books are complicated and nowhere is that more obvious than when Meding attempts to bring everyone up to speed in the early chapters.  I did read the first two books and even I had to sit and think about it for a minute.  I shudder to think about how confusing it would be for a new reader.  With that in mind, I say, start with Trance if you haven't read these books already.

Anyway, as public opinion continues to sour on the Metas, Ethan (Tempest) volunteers to take a trip to Manhattan to track down a band of rogue Banes.  If there is any hope for some of the Metas living on the prison island to be freed, everyone needs to be accounted for.  Among the group of rogues is his father, who killed his mother years ago. He can't pass up the chance to see the man face-to-face for the first time.  Joining him on the trip is Aaron, one of the Changelings we met in the last book.

A ton of stuff is going on here. From Ethan's search for his dad, to getting to know the Metas on the island... from a brand-new threat to our superheroes to a romance for Ethan.  It's action-packed and hard to put down.  Meding does a great job of getting us inside Ethan's head... showing us so much of what he has been through. But she also made me feel like I knew Aaron for the first time.  I never thought I would be able see him beyond his previous actions, yet as Ethan fell for him, I found myself seeing the Changeling in a new light.

If you're wondering about the sex... it is off-page. But this has never been a series about sex.  There is, however, a few kissing and build up scenes that were just enough to satisfy me.

The new villains give the storyline an interesting twist and I am interested to see how it all plays out in future books.  I will definitely keep reading --and holding out hope that Meding finally "fixes" poor Noah and Dahlia.  That whole thing still really bothers me.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Pocket Books


Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest
by Kelly Meding
Release Date: April 22, 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
 

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: Tempting the Beast

Reviewed by Jen
 
I think I have found my new guilty pleasure read. This book was totally over the top, borderline porny, campy... and yet, I totally enjoyed it.

Our heroine is Marinus, a journalist who works with her father and seven brothers for some kind of publication that is never explained. (The brothers also apparently have other professions, which I didn't entirely get, either, but lets just go with it...). Anyhoo, the family is investigating Callan Lyons, a genetic experiment created by a blend of human and lion DNA. Before she died, his mother sent them proof of his background, hoping they could help protect him against the powerful scientists and soldiers trying to get him under their thumbs.

Marinus is drawn to Callan before they even meet, and he is all too aware of the beautiful woman stalking him. It starts as a game of cat and mouse between them, but at a certain point they can no longer deny the attraction between them. In fact, they realize it's not just lust drawing them together, but a biological imperative.

That's when the sexual element goes into overdrive. Marinus goes from virgin to porn star in 10 seconds flat. Every few minutes, we're treated to a description of the state of her vagina. It's often weeping, frothing, clenching, creaming... or my personal favorite... making a silent plea for satisfaction. The sex is frequent, varied and descriptive. These two literally can't get enough. Oh. And did I mention that Callan has a penis barb? Scary as it sounds, it apparently makes for super awesome orgasms.

So basically, the story follows the progression of their mating frenzy and struggle for dominance over each other. This, as Marinus tries to get Callan to go public with his hybrid brethren... and some folks are trying to kill them. Not deep, not progressive. But a fun ride regardless, especially if you just embrace the cheese factor.

And apparently, there are like 1000 books in this series, so I can enjoy them for a long time to come. Bring on Sherra's book. That's got to be next, right???

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempting the Beast
by Lora Leigh
Release Date: November 24, 2003
Publisher: Ellora's Cave

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Cupid's Test

Reviewed by Shelly
 
This is a pretty short and fun read (about 22 pages or so) from a new to me author. Cupid is being tested by the Tooth Fairy to see if he can really make people fall in love.

Coming from two very different backgrounds Jay and Lilly are the chosen two for the test. If this story was longer, I’m pretty sure I would have liked it a lot more than I did. Both Jay and Lilly are feeling the stress of work and each have decided that the best thing to do is to go away for a long weekend. Circumstances (or is it Cupid?) force them two together and things take off from there.

There are several moments where I thought this story was going to get a little deeper in the rationale for both Jay and Lilly’s fundamental beliefs, but it didn’t and I was disappointed. I can’t give away too much because it’s a short read. I’ll admit that the start was great but I’m not a fan of introducing a mindset that leaves me, the audience, with the impression that one character has done all of the capitulating.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B-

*Book provided by author for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
Cupid's Test
by Megan Grooms
Release Date: February 2013

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Cowboys & Vampires

Reviewed by Jen
 
This first installment in the Venom Valley world is a genre bending, entertaining ride.   It's male/ male romance against the backdrop of old west meets vampire with a bit of necromancy thrown in. How could I NOT give it a try?

With the death of his adopted mother, Josh learns the hard way that he can raise the dead.  And once they're reanimated, only a shot to the head can put them back down. Unfortunately, a witness caught him putting a bullet in one of the zombies, turning him into a wanted man.  Knowing no one will believe his story about a walking corpse, he goes on the run.

Dex is Josh's best friend and the object of his fantasies. He's also a lawman, and once that witness I told you about comes forward, he must scramble to find Josh to get answers.  Dex adores his friend and has no idea that he shares the attraction.  (Once they meet back up, however, nothing is left to the imagination.)

In the meantime, there's a vampire plaguing the town of Belkin's Pass and targeting the local brothel.  He is intrigued by Josh and ends up pursuing him as well.  (That leads us to a fabulous face off of vampires vs zombies... but I digress.)   There's a lot going on in a novella sized story, with at least three POVs, plenty of action, and sexual situations, both real and imagined.

I enjoyed the book overall. It was different. I liked the mishmash of genres that usually steer clear of each other. But I'll admit that some of my enjoyment was in the slight campiness of it all.  I liked the main characters, though I never felt like we got to know them deeply.  I felt like Dex and Josh jumped in the sack really fast after years of never revealing their feelings to one another.  And there is still a lot we don't know... specifically about Josh's past and side character Glory's spirit lover.

There are multiple sort-of hypothetical sex scenes... kind of imagined sex scenarios in the characters' heads.  They would think about the dirty things they would do to each other --or wanted to do.  One such scene would have been more than enough, IMO.  The actual sex scenes were good and satisfying, though I was amused at how many different euphemisms I read for a... er, back channel.

Be warned: this story is not self-contained.  There is a gnarly cliffhanger at the end.  But the good news for folks who want to keep reading: this is a re-release of book one in the series... and book two has already been written. Bait will also be re-released under a new title, Stakes & Spurs, though I'm not sure on the date.

Rating: B

*Book provided by publisher for review

Cowboys & Vampires
by Hank Edwards
Release Date: April 17, 2013
Publisher: Wilde City

 

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: Chasing Mrs. Right

Reviewed by Allison
 
Ian didn't want a Welcome Home party. He wasn't ready and he didn't know half the people in the club anyway. After 10 years active duty, there are things you can't unsee. And those things mess with a man. But, as he fled the scene, he bumped into a miracle on legs (sexy ones at that.) The woman he ran into and subsequently patched up had a unique talent - she brought him peace. A simple touch could calm his anxiety like nothing before.  He knew she was special and he had to keep her in his arms longer. A one night stand is a good start...

The strange but beautiful man that ran Roxanne over and proceeded to bandage her scrape, lit her on fire like never before. He made her feel things she never thought she would.  He made her want. Best thing to do for a commitment-phobe like herself? Get him out of her system. All she needed was just one night. Love would only lead to pain and hatred anyway, but lust on the other hand was fun. And her plan was working magically...until he said his name and she realized that she was in bed with her best friend's older brother.

Ian and Roxanne had a LOT of growing to do. They both had inner demons to fight: his, a product of war and hers, a product of a very selfish and unhappy mother. Even though Ian was dealing with "almost PTSD" (even though I'm not sure that you can almost have something like that) he came around to the idea of he and Roxanne a lot quicker than she did. She did her best to push him away, convinced that it would only lead to tears and heartbreak. He seduced her into spending more time with him and then won her heart by opening up, trusting her, and needing her. It was hard at times to watch someone push the best thing in their life away so fervently, but I was also glad that they didn't get over such huge fears so quickly either. I think the "I love you" came a bit too quickly, but it certainly wasn't easily which made up for part of it. Still, through all the misunderstandings, Ian and Roxanne are a couple you root for and pray they see the light, so they can be the gooey happy couple hiding in the corner pawing at each other at parties.

This was a good follow up to the first book in Ms. Robert's series, Wrong Bed, Right Guy. I really enjoyed visiting with our first couple since Ian is Elle's brother, we get a glimpse life after their "HEA". These stories are solidly entertaining reads, very spicy, and my favorite part - the MAN chases the WOMAN! Pretty refreshing change of roles in romance.  I love that she tells us that not all men are afraid of commitment, nor are all women ready to hop into marriage at every turn! I'll definitely be tuning in for the next chapter to see who Nathan (also introduced in Book 1) is bringing to Elle's wedding!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Chasing Mrs. Right
by Katee Robert
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Love of My (Other) Life

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Don’t be fooled by the cover, I have no idea what the cover even has to do with the story. When I first started reading I was reminded of The Time Travelers Wife. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t even get past the first three chapters of that story; surprisingly this is a far sight better story to me. Tessa Barnum is a 30-something divorcee, existing without a direction. Her co-op apartment is two years behind in fees and she’s working part-time hours with the elderly. Painting... the one passion she has... was diminished by her increasing frustrations with her ex-husband and her art instructor. One day while minding her own business and running late to her part time job, Tessa is approached by a disheveled Brian Tennyson who claims that they’re married ‘in his world’.

There were a lot of things that I liked about this story, but the pacing wasn’t one of them. I thought it was a bit slow in the beginning and Tessa was a bit too old to be so adrift in her life. Also, I’m not sure about that whole parallel universe concept thingie and the way it blends into a romance story, because I’ve rarely seen that work out with an HEA that was, in fact, happy. What I did like was the witty dialogue and the development of the two main characters. Even though the story takes place in a few days, Slatton was able to develop a redeeming story that was interesting to read.

Tessa is quite the hot mess when we meet her – she’s got a good heart but she feels, rightfully so, beaten down by the choices she’s made. Then, Brian comes in with his far-fetched pick up line. It’s rightfully hard for Tessa to believe Brian’s fantastical story and the way he makes her feel. (If she had, this review would not be so kind.) He’s got her doing things that she wouldn’t normally do, but there’s such an inherent connection there that leaves Tessa not knowing which way is up.

Brian, on the other hand, reminds me of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, just absolutely 100% nerd until he gets passionate about something. Then he becomes even nerdier. The tech talk was a little distracting until I just started treating it as if I’m watching Star Trek. The chemistry between Brian and Tessa was well done and even though the time frame was short the sex scenes were believable, especially when Brian ‘reads’ Tessa’s sexual state – that actually had me laughing out loud.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Parvati Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Love of My (Other) Life
by Traci Slatton
Release Date: January 31, 2013
Publisher: Parvati Press

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: Werewolves Be Damned

Reviewed by Jen
 
Nexi thought she was just a regular human woman.  She didn't even know supernatural creatures existed... until werewolves attacked her home and killed her parents. That's when her life changed forever.  The Guardians who arrived on the scene filled her in on the missing pieces.  Not only are there paranormal beings; she is one, herself.

Nexi is actually part Guardian, part witch.  When her mother was killed, her father opted to bind her abilities and have her raised in the human world.  But once the secret is exposed, Nexi opts to embrace her true heritage --her gifts and her magic-- so she can wreak vengeance on the wolves who killed the couple who raised her.

Kyden is one of the Guardians who rushed to save Nexi that fateful night. And ever since, he has been drawn to her iron will and take-no-prisoners attitude.  When the opportunity arises for him to train her, he jumps at the chance. Suddenly, their cantankerous relationship turns into something more fiery.

As Nexi trains and gets stronger, we learn about some malevolent force rallying supernaturals to great violence.  Nexi's parents were only the beginning. She must work with Kyden to figure out who is behind it all --and why it feels like it all has something to do with her.

I had mixed feelings about the book. I thought the world-building was interesting and I liked the premise.  Stacey Kennedy does a good job setting up the Otherworld and its various factions.  I found some of the secondary characters intriguing and I'd like to see more of them... (Valor, anyone?)  The sexual tension between Nexi and Kyden is hot... and though it took forever for them to seal the deal, the sex is pretty good.

However, I never felt a deep connection to the main character.  Nexi seems kind of one-note throughout the book: revenge at all costs... which eventually morphs into the two-notes of revenge at all costs plus I love Kyden.  I know there is more to her than that; and I would have liked to see it. On top of that, I felt like her relationship with Kyden progressed really fast, making the depth of their connection hard for me to believe entirely.  In fact, a lot of things seemed to develop quickly or easily, like Nexi's ability to accept the supernatural; her ability to fight; and her friendships and connections to other members of the Otherworld.

There were obviously some sexual developments that happened between Nexi and Kyden off-page, which were alluded to when we jumped from their initial contact to even more intimate terrain. And while we're talking sex... I never got a satisfying explanation on why Nexi was a 25 year-old virgin.  She's hot and there's nothing apparently wrong with her; plus she doesn't have any moral or religious reasons we know of.  I just don't buy it.

Overall, I found the book a pretty good read.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.  I'm curious if future books in the series will continue to focus on Nexi or on other characters in the Otherworld.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Entangled 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Werewolves Be Damned
by Stacey Kennedy
Release Date: April 15, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Star Crossed


Reviewed by Shelly
 
Picking up immediately after the first in the series left off, Star Crossed continues the story of Clay Powers' family. This time the story is about his sister (by choice, not blood), Juliet ‘Jules’ Conner and her starcrossed lover, Romeo Wellings. I know what you’re thinking – not another Romeo and Juliet story, it’s been done! Well heck yeah it’s be been done, but Moon has her own spin on it and it’s quite good. But make sure you like your drama – all day, e’ryday.

If you’ve not picked up Defy the Odds, I would definitely recommend that you pick up a copy because it’s really good and Moon doesn’t rehash anything from Clay and Melody’s story to bring you up to speed. Jules is the sheriff, Wyatt's, twin. They’ve been inseparable since birth and despite their hijinks you could feel the underlying affection they have for each other. In the small town of Garnet, Jules is also a volunteer Sheriff’s deputy, the town’s only lawyer and along with her brothers she co-owns the MMA training center. She’s the kind of fighter who will kick your butt while wearing a Gucci suit. But even with her enviable wardrobe and loving family, there’s very little that excites Jules enough to see a future not living without her twin for the rest of her life.

And in comes Romeo Wellings. Romeo was Clay’s championship fight opponent in Defying the Odds. Raised by their poor mother, Romeo and his brothers (Nova and Tino) did not have the best start in life and this was further complicated by Nova and Tino’s thug of a father taking them into his home while they were at an impressionable age. Romeo has a lot of guilt and remorse about the way things went down during that time and this sets the stage for an interesting adaption of the Shakespeare’s tale of the Capulets and the Montagues.

Romeo and Juliet, as Romeo likes to call her, are a fun couple to know. Separately they were really quite interesting, complicated and had well rounded personalities but together – oh dang, talk about combustible (in a good way). Their relationship didn’t start in the conventional way. You see folks, Jules' brother Clay issued to Romeo a heck of a beat down in their caged fight but when Clay’s girlfriend Melody was attacked by her psycho ex-husband, Romeo stepped up and saved the day (that’s from book 1). And from that point on, it’s hard for any sane person (except for Wyatt, but that’s another story) to dislike Romeo including Jules.

There’s a ton of sex between these two -- I think I’ve hit my max on gratuitous copulations – so much so that somewhere during the second half I asked myself if Jules was truly interested in Romeo as a person or she just didn’t want to be alone. But thankfully, Moon brought me back around to her way of thinking. Comparatively, this is a darker story than the other and the violence count is high and frequent; keep in mind my earlier suggestion because without the back story that the UFC fighters are a little special in their own right, you might question the survivability of some of the injuries but thick skulls and strong wills prevail.

In the end, Jules and Romeo reminded me that sometimes true love doesn’t always look pretty and flowery. Sometimes you’ve gotta get your hands a little dirty and fight for it. Speaking of dirty --- I can’t wait for Wyatt and Tabitha’s story. I think that might rock my world even more that this one did.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B+

*Provided by Loose ID via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Star Crossed
by Kele Moon
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Loose ID

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Big Bad Beast

Reviewed by Jen
 
When I first got the whiff of a pairing between Ric and Dee a few books back, I was really excited about the idea.  But when I got to know Dee a little better in the last installment and watched her interaction with Blayne, my excitement started to wane a bit.  Frankly, she was kind of a bitch and I have a hard time rooting for characters who aren't likeable.  My opinion of Dee did improve in this book, but this wasn't among my favorites in the series.

It got off to a slow start.  We spend a lot of time with Ric making cow eyes at Dee and her pretty much blowing him off.  Then, she suddenly decides to take him up on all of his flirting, and it kind of feels out of the blue.  We find out in her POV stuff that she has always found him attractive, but her move to go for it with him was abrupt and seemed out of left field.  Regardless, once the two of them finally started a romance, the book began to pick up some steam.

For those who aren't familiar with the characters, Ric is a master chef who also runs the local hockey team and helps lead a shifter crime fighting force. (A multi-tasker.) He is also supermodel gorgeous and has been completely head over heels with Dee for as long as he has known her.  Dee is a trained killer, a former Marine, and country girl.  (Yes, we've returned to the hillbilly Smith pack for this one.)  She also works for Ric's "Group."

As the story begins, the Group is still investigating the human organization kidnapping shifter hybrids and forcing them to fight.  And that storyline runs throughout the book.  The Group and the investigation are just kind of the background framework, however, for getting Dee and Ric together.  I felt like the relationship development was ok --not as good as the last two books.

But the best parts of this installment were the same things that I have found consistently enjoyable about every book in the series. 1) The same core group of characters plays a prominent role. We get to continue following their lives and (mostly) enjoying their quirks.  Each one of them is so clearly defined and stays true to who they are, book after book.  2) The sex is great.  And 3) The laughs are big.  Sometimes, we even get the sex and humor tied in together.

She was stupidly falling for a Van Holtz. The enemy wolf of her Pack. Her daddy hated Van Holtzes the way Dee hated the taste of zebra. Since she could crawl, he'd been warning her about staying away from them, never trusting them, and outright killing them if they got too close.

Well... how could the man be any closer? He'd pushed her onto the bed and had buried his face into her pussy, licking and sucking his way into her heart. Turning her inside out, making her come again.  It just wasn't fair.

How was she supposed to fight this? And, as she came all over his face, her entire body writhing on his bear-size bed, she wasn't real sure anymore that she wanted to fight this.

Because, in the end, the man did make a hell of a waffle...

I know some of my fellow readers love, love, love these books.  I think, in this case, the characters just didn't speak to me much. Dee was hard to relate to and not all that likeable.  This, while Ric is basically perfect and a little flat. For me, they series is fairly good. But as I've said before, don't expect anything deep or with a lot of substance.

It's light, funny, sexy, and over-the-top.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon  
Big Bad Beast
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Kensington

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: The Submissive

Reviewed by Shelly
 
When I read the book blurb for this story, nothing jumped out at me saying no – I’ve read blurbs before where I not only say no, but HELL NO, and this wasn’t one of those at all. Maybe I should have dug a little deeper when the Goodreads description starts by telling me ‘…seductive and scandalous has enthralled million…’ but we all know that both of those things are in the eyes of the beholder. And this beholder expected something different that what I got.

Book blurb:

Abby King has a secret fantasy. New York knows Nathaniel West as the brilliant and handsome CEO of West Industries, but Abby knows he’s more: a sexy and skilled dominant who is looking for a new submissive. Yearning to experience a world of pleasure beyond her simple life as a librarian, Abby offers herself to Nathaniel, to fulfill her most hidden desires. After only one weekend with the Master, Abby knows she needs more, and fully submits to Nathaniel’s terms. But despite the pleasure he takes in Abby’s willing spirit, the Nathaniel hidden behind the rules remains cold and distant. As Abby falls deeper into his tantalizing world of power and passion, she fears that Nathaniel’s heart may be beyond her reach—and that her own might be beyond saving…


After I started reading I thought I was reading the wrong book – I double checked and yep, I’m reading the right one. Abby King does have a secret fantasy alright, but to me, it has very little to do with being submissive and instead has everything to do with being a sexual servant. I don’t want to call it being a slave because to me (and Merriam-Webster) a slave is involuntarily dependent on another and everything about Abby screamed use me, use me, which is fine, but that’s not even in the ballpark of what I find seductive.

I had so many problems with this book, they’re too many to list but I’ll give you top three.
1) Even though Nathaniel’s and Abby’s arrangement weas only on the weekend, he told her what to eat, what kind of exercises to do and how much sleep to get during the week. To me none of that is okay at any given day, time or universe.
2) If Nathaniel allowed Abby to sleep in his bedroom in his home, she slept on a palate on the floor. If I was okay with that, I would have lost my ever-loving mind.
3) I’m not sure what universe Abby lives in, but it’s not the same as Nathaniel, because while these and other similar things are going on, she’s wondering when he’s going to tell her he loves her. I know this is fantasy but goodness alive, make me wanna believe in your fantasy.

For kicks and giggles there’s a #4) Abby and Nathaniel having sex at a football game, surrounded by spectators, during the half-time show. Folks, I think (scratch that I know) I’m pretty opened minded – the plot can be sketchy, but if the people are likable, I’m in. Last, but not least, the last quarter of this book read completely opposite of the first three-fourths. I've since seen mention of the similarities with FSoG; I didn't read that so I have nothing else to say there.

Overall, I just didn't understand who would fantasize about being treated the way that Nathaniel treated Abby. I didn’t like anyone in this story, not one. As a matter of fact, I’ve never given an F to a story before but there’s a first time for everything.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: F

*ARC provided by NAL for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Submissive
by Tara Sue Me
Release Date: February 7, 2013
Publisher: NAL

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: Defying the Odds

Reviewed by Shelly
 
Doesn’t every great romance start with some pie? You might have your doubts, but Melody and Clay will disagree. This is a new author for me and I was really afraid I wouldn’t like the book, but this stuff had me reading/ crying/ eating peanut butter sandwiches (don’t ask) at 3am in the morning because I couldn’t put it down. What the heck?!

Melody Ryan is down on her luck; she’s left the big city where she and her abusive ex-husband lived. Being from a small town, Melody knows that there was no way that she can stay where they lived, but she can’t go back home either, so she does the next best thing. She finds someplace in the middle. That place turns out to be the small town of Garnet where they grow their men big and broad – oh boy do they. While working in the all-day diner as a waitress, Melody sees Clay ‘Powerhouse’ Powers sitting by himself and offers him a slice of pie – on her dime. Clay is immediately smitten because girls don’t give him things.  They might want him to give, but they don’t.

In a good way, I couldn’t get over Melody’s matter of fact attitude about her past. Its a hard reality to face but she’s strong, brave, cautious, and still has that innate innocence about her that I found absolutely charming. It’s rare that a storyteller will use the metaphor of the boiling frog and apply that to the victim of abuse - I thought it was well done. I think that somewhere along the line Moon must have done her research for the subject matter. But I digress.

UFC heavyweight champion Clay is a big man, 6'5" - 260lbs of pure fighting muscle, with a bad attitude; and thank goodness he's very accepting of his short comings and has no real need to change. By the way, did I tell you he's awesomely cool? And I thought he and Melody rocked it out something fierce. He's a good foil for her and it doesn't hurt that she's got some dimples and a sweet smile that he can't get enough of. I felt a little jealous of Melody because Clay has some overt testosterone manliness and muscle that she and I both think is the best thing since sliced bread. But what I especially appreciated about these two is that they didn't jump into bed together. When they do it's off the chain hot - ¡ay caramba!

Some of my favorite moments are between Clay and his best friend Wyatt. There's some pretty smart and engaging dialogue that made me laugh out loud and even tear up a little. These two brothers loved each other and the routine they've developed over the years that takes the place of 'I love you' is quite memorable. Wyatt's twin Jules' story is next and I'm really looking forward to reading more about these guys.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B+

*Provided by Loose ID via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Defying the Odds
by Kele Moon
Release Date: December 20, 2011
Publisher: Loose ID

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: Unraveled

Reviewed by Jen
 
Smite Turner is a very damaged man.  Raised by a mother who went mad and nearly killed him, he has made Justice his life's mission.  A magistrate for the court, he's married to his duty.  Nothing comes before his need to do right.

But when Miranda makes her second appearance as a witness in his courtroom, he remembers that she once went by a different name and had a different color hair.  He doesn't know why she is pretending to be someone else now, but he is intrigued enough to follow her and confront her about it.

Miranda doesn't want to get in trouble, but she is indebted to a local crime boss. Either she does what's asked of her, or her young ward Robbie will pay the price.  That was the reason she had jobs to do in and around the court and why Smite spied her there a third and fourth time.  She tried to run from him, but he caught up with her --and that would have been bad enough-- but then Robbie saw the confrontation and lobbed Smite over the head.  The fallout from that, and Robbie's later brush with the law, draws Smite and Miranda together over and over.  Finally, he decides to no longer fight his attraction to her and asks her to be his mistress.

The arrangement is only supposed to last a month and feelings are never supposed to come into play.  But Miranda can't help falling for Smite as she learns the intricacies of his character.  She respects his devotion to his calling and understands the effects his childhood have had on him.  And though Smite tries his hardest, Miranda cracks the tough shell he carries around him like a shield.

I really enjoyed the book and one of the things I liked best is that Courtney Milan didn't take the obvious route.  When she's got her back up against the wall, Miranda doesn't make the eye-rolling, frustrating decisions most heroines in HR would.  (You know, the one that would set up the big conflict readers know could have been avoided if she weren't a giant idiot.)  She makes the smart choice instead.  We don't have any big misunderstandings; any lies that loom over the path to happiness.  The conflicts --both internal and external-- never felt contrived.  They all felt organic to the characters and their circumstances.

I loved poor, screwed-up Smite. And that Milan didn't try to fix him.  He simply found some measure of peace in the woman he loves.  The romance is great; the pacing and action were just right; and the sex was satisfying too. Another winner from Courtney Milan.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Unraveled
by Courtney Milan
Release Date: December 9, 2011

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: Mayan Prophecy Fulfilled


Reviewed by Shelly
 
I was so excited when I found out that there’s a sequel to Prophecy of the Undead because I thought there was such promise to take that story further. Human Keisha and vampire Yuri were great as a great couple in the first story. Unfortunately I found that I didn’t like them as much in this second story.

This story picks a few years after Prophecy of the Undead left off. Keisha and Yuri are living happily in the bliss that is the undead. The downside is that the bad guys are trying to replicate the results from her discovery of the intelligence hormone and have contracted scientist Neo Ying to do so. Ying’s primary responsibility is Ying and everything else is for the good of Ying – get where I’m going here? Keisha finds out that the bad guys want to use her discovery to create chattel out of humans and calls in some of her and Yuri’s friends to help her get to the bottom of all this.

Unlike the subtlety of the first story, there was so much about this story that I didn’t like. A lot of the story felt very jerky, forced, and pretentious. The introduction of Frank the alien was an interesting choice that in no way made sense to me. Part of the blurb talks about Frank, the ‘furry blue alien’ ("who has spent an eternity encouraging the dominant species on each plant to aim for the stars so they can become a contributing part of the universe") and "is dismayed to find that one of his favorite species, humans, seem to have lost their desire to venture off the planet." Just because humans are one of your favorite species why would another planet’s intelligent inhabitants not want to use them to advance their own species? There are quite of few of these situations that I just could wrap my head around. Another is the way that all humans, except for Keisha, are stupid and greedy.

After a couple days of reflection, it’s not that I didn’t like the story, because I still think the premise has great promise. What I didn’t like was pompous condemnation of the human race that the story took on. The entire last quarter of the story I could have done without - I felt like I was being spoken down to which I’m never okay with.

I’m still in-like with the first story in the series, just this one not so much.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: C-

*ARC provided by author for review


Click to purchase: Amazon
Mayan Prophecy Fulfilled
by Fiona McGier
Release Date: February 1, 2013
Publisher: Eternal Press

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Hero of My Heart

Reviewed by Jen
 
I have mixed feelings about this one.  There were things about it I really, really liked. But there were others that really bothered me.  There was definite potential there; it just didn't quite hit the mark across the board.

One of the things I liked best was the set-up... and the hero. (Yes, that's two things; sue me.)  The story begins with a drugged out Alisdair witnessing a woman's virginity being put up for auction at a tavern.  Even in his condition, he can't let Mary go home with one of the beasts in the bar, so he buys her himself.  He decides he is going to save her. He'll get her out of the hellhole where he found her, marry her, then crawl off to overdose somewhere.

You see, Alisdair is an opium addict and has been ever since the death of his brother. Everyone he ever loved is dead and he doesn't have much to live for. Until Mary enters his life. The lovely vicar's daughter enchants him.  Quickly, their unorthodox pairing turns into something more.  But her horrible half brother is on their trail, trying to steal her back. And Alisdair's greedy cousin is right along with him, hoping to prove Alisdair incompetent --to steal his money.

There's danger --and there's action-- but it takes a backseat to watching Alisdair and Mary fall for one another.  Alisdair is a great tortured soul, who is nearing the bottom of the barrel.  Mary has nothing; no family, no money, no choices. Yet she manages to soothe his damaged heart.  She becomes the substitute for the drugs he has grown so dependent on. Which is where things kind of fall apart.

We're supposed to believe Alisdair is a hard-core junkie, but the ease in which he kicks his addiction is absurd.  I kept waiting for the effects: the shakes, the vomiting, the consuming need.  But nope.  The book had several overly convenient developments and dropped plotlines.  Like what happened to Mary's brother.  It was pretty significant, but never referenced again.  Or what really happened between Mary's parents.  A huge element of the story for the heroine, but never really explained.

Which leads me to the worst thing about the book.  I never bought into the conflict that drove these two apart.  Mary kept thinking about how much she didn't want to leave Alisdair and I never really understood why she felt she had to.  We sort of got an explanation for that, but it was lame.  As was the reason he pushed her away.  It felt completely contrived.

All these issues were a shame because I really liked these characters. I rooted for them.  I loved them together; I loved how they healed each other; And the sex was hot.  There were just too many other things wrong to overlook here.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Random House

Hero of My Heart
by Megan Frampton
Release Date: April 8, 2013
Publisher: Loveswept/ Random House

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: And Then She Fell

Reviewed by Jen
 
I know there is much more to a book than the sex scenes. In fact, I have read some very good books that had no sex scenes in them at all. But just like bad sex can ruin a relationship, so too can it ruin a book.  Especially when the book was just ok to start with.

OK. That sounds harsh. Let me back up a little.

And Then She Fell is the latest installment in Stephanie Laurens uber-huge Cynster series.  It focuses on Henrietta Cynster, who has come to be known as "the Matchbreaker." She has made it her mission to help young ladies weed out the fortune seekers among potential suitors.  At 29, she doesn't really believe marriage is in her own future. But when her younger sister asks her to don the Lady's crystal necklace and seek out her hero, she agrees to try.

It just so happens that she has recently ruined the marriage prospects of her brother's best friend, James, who desperately needs to wed to earn his inheritance and save the livelihood of the people who work his land.  When Henrietta learns of the mess she made, she agrees to help him find a new bride.  And of course, they end up falling for each other.

The romance wasn't bad.  Both James and Henrietta were pretty likeable characters. It was easy enough to root for them to make a go of it, though neither was truly remarkable enough to thoroughly invest me.  There was a little extra oomph worked in when someone starts trying to kill Henrietta and James must save her over and over again.

But then they get to the bedroom and it was all over the top figurative language and ... just... see for yourself:

Her maidenhead ruptured and she didn't even flinch; instead, the honeyed walls of her heated sheath tamped tight around his rigid member, the ultimate velvet vice...

Clinging, gasping and utterly in thrall, they reached for the peak, the thunder in their veins escalating, the thudding of their hearts a single beat that swept them on, whipped them higher.

Until they broke through the clouds and ecstasy beckoned, as hot as the sun and more brilliant than the stars...

That elemental tide of pure sensation wrecked them, wracked them, then, like flotsam, flung them high and far, out and into the void.

To where glory rolled in and filled them, healed them, sealed them, fused and remade them.

Then, with a gentle hand, set them floating free, bliss-filled on a golden sea. 

In the second love scene, alliteration joined the party.

Reassuring, restating, revisiting, and reiterating, they dived in again, plunged in again, seized and surrendered and shared the scintillating delights once again.

I could not stop rolling my eyes.  Which made it very difficult to keep reading.  Yet I did.  And the big villain reveal was a total fail, because he was nobody we had even met before in the course of the book.  Can you spell anticlimactic?

(*sigh*)  I know a lot of people love Laurens' early work, but this is my fourth try with her.  The others were so-so. After this, I just don't see me reading her again.   

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Avon 

Click to purchase: Amazon 
And Then She Fell
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: Avon

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Beast Behaving Badly

Reviewed by Jen
 
When I first started reading these books, people kept telling me, "Wait until you get to the bears." They were so right!  First Lock --and now Bo-- are easily my favorite heroes in the series.  Bo isn't just a bear, though. He is a bear-lion hybrid, or as Blayne likes to say, a bear-cat.  He's socially awkward and OCD, but he's compelling and he's just right for our Blaynie.

I am not usually a fan of scattered, free-spirited heroines, but it's hard not to like Blayne.  She is genuinely a good person and it shines through in all she does.  Unfortunately, that's not the best quality to have for success at shifter roller derby.  So she decides to toughen up, at least inside of the rink.  Who better to teach her how to be merciless than the star hockey player with a reputation for brutality??  With that in mind, she reaches out to Bo for training.

Bo is the polar opposite of the little wolf-dog.  (See how I did that? He's part polar bear.)  He's gruff; he has no friends; he's a neat freak and lives by a schedule.  But he is drawn to Blayne.  He loves her honesty; her refreshing lack of artifice.  And he takes on her training, falling for her along the way.

In the meantime, Blayne is a target for some humans who kidnap hybrids for fight games.  I'm not going to go too much into that except to say, it kept the action going and gave us an excuse to get more time with Dee and Ric.  It also gave us a segue into Bo's hometown, which is chock full of odd bears.  Bears who hate all wolves and dogs, yet still can't help making Blayne one of their own.

It was cool to see the formation of the real friendship between Blayne and Bold (a name which I loved) before we progressed into romance.  I believed in their friendship --that they really liked each other-- before they took it to the next level.  Both characters are quirky, but I am happy to see Laurenston getting away from the typical sassy, low-class, violent snarky types that saturated the previous books.  There are still plenty of laugh out loud moments.  The dialogue is fun and witty.  And the sex, when it finally comes around, is very satisfying.

I think this one ties with The Mane Squeeze as my favorite in the series... or maybe surpasses it just a bit.  Viva los osos! Bears, FTW.

Rating: B

P.S. I love the cover, but it most definitely does not portray the multi-racial background of our couple.

 Click to purchase: Amazon
Beast Behaving Badly
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Publisher: Kensington

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Howl

Reviewed by Allison
 
Howl is a short story about a werewolf, a vampire and a blood slave. Essentially, Rand the werewolf comes to Hayden the vampire's castle in order to negotiate hunting rights on their shared property. While there, he samples Hayden's goods (Scarlet, the blood slave) and falls in love. Scarlet falls head over heels with Rand, but finds herself yearning for Hayden as well. She explains she can't really leave anyway because she made a deal with a witch to keep her from madness (schizophrenia) as long as she doesn't leave the castle. They all get really sad because they can't have what they want. Then they decide that sharing is better than not having any so the vampire, the werewolf, and the blood slave all live happily ever after.

Not sure if you can tell by my book report above, but I did not enjoy this short. I don't mind the wham-bam-thank you-ma'am in 90 pages, but there was nothing that made me enjoy the characters. I didn't feel anything. I was supposed to feel bad for Scarlet and her craziness, but I didn't. I was supposed to feel for the werewolf who feel in love overnight, but I didn't. I was supposed to feel for the stern vampire gone softy for his blood slave, but I didn't. Both men were ridiculous and wanted to own her. Scarlet herself was a bit of a contradiction because she wanted to be free but at the same time loved her arrangement with Hayden.

So, long story very very short - don't bother.

Grade: F

Howl
by Cynthia Rayne
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Publisher: Ellora's Cave

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: Blood Trade

Reviewed by Jen
 
Jane Yellowrock really is a well done urban fantasy series, and this latest installment delivers in almost every way.  It's well written, with a smart plot, and intricate story telling.  The world-building is good; the continuity is great; and the characters are fleshed out and sympathetic.

As the story begins, Jane's beast is still bound to master vamp Leo, and it's just one of many reasons she is depressed.  She's still sad about her break-up with Rick; she misses her lost friend Molly; and she is devastated by Bruiser's betrayal since he helped Leo forcibly bind her.  Basically, the only good things in her life are Eli and the Kid.  But things start to turn around when she decides to take an out-of-town job in Natchez with her new back-up crew.

There are still plague-infected vamps floating around Natchez as well as some Naturaleza vampires who like to suck their victims dry.  And more than 100 humans have gone missing. Jane agrees to work for Hieronymus to root out the errant vampires.  She quickly discovers it won't be a simple mission. Somehow, the vamps have mutated into monstrous hybrids that are very difficult to kill.  Not only that, she has a personal connection to the problem.

Shortly after she arrives in Natchez, Jane is greeted by Misha and Bobby, who both attended the group home where she grew up.  Bobby is mentally disabled and Jane always had a soft spot for him. Misha helps care for him as she raises a sick daughter and is trying to write a book on vampires.  She asks for Jane's help, presumably to help care for her child's medical bills. But once she goes missing, Jane feels like she owes it to Bobby and the little girl to bring her back home.

The plot is complicated, but it's not murky.  As Jane digs to uncover the mystery of the mutant vamps, we learn more about the vampire origin story; the witches get involved; and of course, Jane's skinwalker heritage plays a role.  And in the middle of all of this, Bruiser and Rick end up front and center, representing their own interests in cleaning up the Natchez mess.

This is the only part of the story that didn't work for me.  This is a love triangle that never really gets off the ground.  There's angst, angst, and more angst... with absolutely no payoff.  Jane wants both men at the same time that a relationship with either guy is impossible. She's hurt; she's jealous; she's depressed, angry, and miserable.  And... nothing.  No movement.  I feel like a hamster in a wheel with her love life.

Everything else rocked.  The action is great. The dynamic with Eli and the Kid is great.  I loved Bobby and the tender feelings he evoked in Jane.  I loved the resolution with Evan.  I loved the explanation on the mutant vampires.  I loved the holy water cannon. I loved Beast.  The book is really very good. But I am hitting critical mass on the romance angle.  Fish. Or. Cut. Bait.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Roc

Click to purchase: Amazon
Blood Trade
by Faith Hunter
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Roc

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