Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: Definitely Dead

Reviewed by Jen
If you managed to get through Club Dead without hate in your heart for Bill Compton, this book is designed to remedy that. Yes, yes, there is a lot going on in this sixth installment of the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I will always think of it as the book where Bill became dead to me. (I'll come back to this later.)

Definitely Dead covers a lot of ground. In fact, the first half and the second half felt like they could have been two separate (albeit short) books. The first half doesn't have much of a unifying theme, except that Sookie's life is in transition. The big were-tiger Quinn is in Bon Temps, to pursue a relationship with her. They go out on a date and get attacked by weres. We find out Alcide is moving on with a sweet were woman named Maria-Star. Jason's girlfriend Crystal miscarries her baby. And a whole bunch of other stuf... But the book starts to come together when Sookie is summoned to New Orleans by the Vampire Queen of Louisiana to put her dead cousin Hadley's affairs in order. While there, she befriends a witch named Amelia, gets closer to Quinn, faces grave danger and becomes embroiled in vampire politics at the highest level.

But as many events as we're seeing happen throughout the course of this book (and believe it or not, I left some out!)... the interpersonal relationships are what have stuck with me now that it's over. I'm still sad and disappointed over Alcide. Though his part in the book is small, you feel the end of the possibility of a relationship between him and Sookie. I feel big warm and fuzzies for Quinn. I know not everyone likes him (and his overuse of the word "babe" can't be ignored,) but he is charming and strong... and most importantly, he is good to Sookie. Being a good guy comes naturally to him. There's not much of Eric here, though he is always a treat when he's around...

And then there is Bill. Here we find out the true depths of his deceptions in his relationship with Sookie. Yes, he hurt her with his indiscretions with Lorena. But over the course of the last two books, Sookie was beginning to forgive him and, perhaps, see him as a friend. And then the truth came out. As many tough knocks as Sookie has taken in these books, none have hurt worse than this one. The foundation of her self-worth is badly shaken. And to me, any chance Bill had for a future with her is gone forever. I hope he chokes on a sunshine sandwich. 4 stars.

P.S. If the introduction of Hadley's death leaves you feeling like you missed something, then you probably didn't read "One Word Answer." It's a short story that details Mr. Cataliades' visit to Bon Temps to inform Sookie of Hadley's death and the circumstances surrounding it. It was originally released as part of the Bite anthology and was re-released in A Touch of Dead.

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Review: The Vampire Narcise

Reviewed by Jen
It's a rare thing for me to find a book that truly surprises me.  I read a lot of books from the same genre and they tend to follow patterns.  And though I enjoy many of them thoroughly and may find a minor surprise here or there, I'm rarely as wrong about a book as I was about this one.

I had lukewarm feelings for The Vampire Voss, but I forged on and found I really liked The Vampire DimitriThe two books were similar in tone and seemed to set up a pattern I just expected the third installment to follow.  But it didn't. I wasn't even right about who the love interest was, much less how the story would progress.  Much to my surprise, this was the love story of Narcise and GIORDAN, not Narcise and Woodmore.  Beyond that, it was not a rehash of the events of the first two books, but rather was set mostly before and after those events. 

I usually detail at least a set-up on the plot of the books I review, but I really have already said too much.  For those totally unfamiliar with the series, Narcise is a vampire held captive by her twisted brother. Giordan is the man who falls for her and risks everything to free her.  (...I will not spoil... I will not spoil... I will not spoil...) Seriously, I couldn't believe the sacrifice he was willing to make. Nor did I ever expect the book to take such a turn!And the way Narcise responded to his selflessness made want to pelt her with rotten eggs!

I am so glad I didn't stop after the first book. Or the second.  This book blew me away.  And I think part of it was the bait and switch from the first two installments. Brava, Colleen Gleason! I would definitely recommend the series. Just be prepared, this last book is far from sunshine and roses. There are some very low points for our characters here, some which include rape.  It's a story about sacrifice, perseverance, and love. And definitely worth reading. 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Dead as a Doornail

Reviewed by Jen
I'd never want to stand in a bathing suit next to Heidi Klum.  Or sing after Aretha Franklin.  Who would? We'd all suck by comparison.  Much like any book with the misfortune of coming after the best installment of a series.  The first time I read Dead as a Doornail, I thought it was lame. It's about Jason and Sam and problems with the shifters.  I want Eric and vampires and sex.  But with a little time and distance... and a patience born out of knowing what will happen next... I can look at the book a bit differently.  It's still not my favorite in the series.  But the things that bother me about it now are totally different.

This book picks up just a couple of weeks after the last one ended.  Sookie is waiting to see if her brother Jason will shift into a were-panther in the wake of his attack.  And beyond that, she's worried about how he'll deal with it emotionally.  That situation resolves itself quickly, but an even greater problem presents itself. Someone is shooting shifters.  First some random girl, then Calvin (the leader of the panthers in Hot Shot,) and now, Sam.  The panthers suspect Jason is to blame, so Sookie makes it her personal mission to find out who the shooter is, to help protect her brother.

In the meantime, the leader of Alcide's wolfpack is killed (in an unrelated accident.)  Alcide invites Sookie to the funeral and she quickly realizes he is seeking her help in his father's bid to take over the pack.  We see a new side of Alcide in this book.  One that disappointed me greatly.   This was a guy who it seemed could really fit with Sookie. He is handsome and sexy. He is decent and loyal.  But he also blames Sookie for things that are not her fault. He manipulates. He judges. And he hurts her in the process.  I think watching him fall from the pedestal I placed him on bothered me more than the whole Lorena affair ever dead.

And this brings me to my real problem with the book.  Sookie gets kicked down too many times.  She is a target, over and over. Her home is destroyed.  She is sought for answers in Debbie's disappearance. She is used and disappointed by Alcide.  She has to watch Bill move on.  She has to live with the memories of what happened with Eric, while he remembers nothing.  She has to shoulder responsibilities for Jason, the shifters, Alcide, her job, her friends... all while living with constant rejection and pain of both the physical and emotional varieties.

It's not all bad.  We've got a great moment where Sookie finally tells Eric what happened between them. And we meet Quinn. (I'm aware not everyone is a fan, but I really ended up liking him down the road.) 

I'm just ready for Sookie to get a little light back in her life. Almost 4 stars.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Follow Friday and Assorted Blog Hops

Happy Friday! Here's our weekly opportunity for bloggers to come together and check out each others sites. Please remember to leave a comment below, along with your link so that I can check out your site, and return the favor.

If you want to participate, it's easy. To learn more and to enter, check out: Parajunkee -  Crazy for Books - and Bitten By Paranormal Romance!

Q. If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

1.  Lover Awakened by JR Ward
2.  Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole
3.  A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
4.  Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
5.  Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
6.  Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
7.  The Darkest Passion by Gene Showalter
8.  Dance With the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
9.  Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
10. Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

But this list is subject to change based on the mood I am in.

Q: Do you have another hobby besides reading?
A. Not really. After work and the kids, there isn't much time left in the day. Sometimes, I'll watch a tv show with the hubs, but for the most part, it's all about the books.

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Review: Dead to the World

Reviewed by Jen
Ask any Sookie Stackhouse fan which book is the best in the series, and you'll be hard pressed to find one that doesn't pick Dead to the World. This is the very best that the series has to offer. And the crowning jewel of this masterpiece: a Viking Vampire with amnesia.

Thanks to the events in Club Dead, Sookie's relationship with that asshat Bill is over. And as this book begins, Bill is heading off to Peru to work on his vampire-directory project. Shortly after he leaves, Sookie finds Eric, running barefoot on an old country road with no memory of who he is or how he got there. She brings him back to her house and learns through his second-in-command Pam, that he has been cursed by a powerful witch. Her coven is now searching for him and Sookie has to hide him in her home until the vamps can smoke out the coven. At the same time, Sookie's brother Jason goes missing. And Sookie must divide her time and attention between searching for him and taking care of her houseguest.

Amnesiac Eric is exactly what Sookie needs in her life. He has all the sexy of his regular self, but he is also honest, unassuming, and hopelessly crazy about Sookie. It takes very little time for her to succumb to his charms. And holy cow, their love scenes are a sight to behold! (There is a reason that romp in the shower is a series landmark unto itself.)
The nefarious witch and her reign of terror ends up drawing in the Weres, which means we are treated to some more of the luscious goodness of one Alcide Herveaux.
We learn more about his pack... and unfortunately, we're subjected to more Debbie as well. Let me be clear when I say, I love Eric. But Harris paints Alcide as such a great alternative in these early books --if only he could just get over that horrible, horrible woman.

In addition to the introduction of Alcide's pack members, we learn more about Crystal and the shifters in Hot Shot. (They'll feature prominently in the next book.) And we meet Claudine, a Fairy who will become a big part of Sookie's life.

It's hard to talk about this book without gushing. It's got the best of everything: great characters, good story, plenty of action, emotion, and hot sex. Plus Eric and Alcide. What more could a woman want? 5 stars

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Review: Club Dead

Reviewed by Jen
My, what a difference one book can make! This is the book that changes the Sookie Stackhouse series from the Sookie and Bill Show into so much more.

As the story begins, a chasm is growing between Bill and Sookie. She feels the distance, but is still surprised and hurt when he tells her he is taking an extended business trip and won't be honest about the details. After he is gone a short time, his vampire-boss Eric comes to Sookie to tell her Bill has disappeared. To make matters worse, Bill had told Eric that he was planning on leaving her, once he returned. Despite the heartbreak this causes, Sookie agrees to travel to Jackson, using her gifts to try to seek out her (former) flame.

Eric pairs Sookie with sexy, earthy werewolf Alcide. The were agrees to help, so he can pay off a debt his family owes to Eric. Alcide helps ease Sookie into the supernatural world of Jackson and, together, they work to figure out what happened to Bill. 

The chemistry between Sookie and Alcide is off the charts. Almost as fantastic as it is between her and Eric. It's easy to find yourself asking, "Bill who?" as she interacts with both men. Alcide would be a great partner for Sookie if he could just get over his dysfunctional relationship with his ex-girlfriend Debbie (who hates Sookie in a big way). As for Eric... he and Sookie are drawn together like magnets. It's easy to see how she is hanging on to her resolve not to sleep with him, by a thin thread. And Bill... well, it's hard to see how anyone can leave this book without thinking he is a complete asshat.

I really like where this book took us. I have to say, Bill's distance and change of heart at the beginning of the book felt forced and abrupt. But since I hate him so much now, I don't really care anymore. 4 1/2 stars

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Living Dead in Dallas

Reviewed by Jen
Sookie Stackhouse is back. She’s happy and she’s in love. Her romance with Vampire Bill is a few-months strong and for the first time, she has somewhere she belongs. But the peace she’s been enjoying can’t continue forever. The small town of Bon Temps is turned upside down again, when Lafayette, the flamboyant gay cook at Merlotte’s, is found dead in the backseat of Detective Andy Bellefleur’s car.

But that mystery has to wait. Because Bill’s vampire-boss Eric is sending Sookie to Dallas to do a job. He’s loaned her out to the vampires there to help them find one of their own who has gone missing. Sookie uses her telepathic skills to figure out what happened to Russell. That draws her into the clutches of the nefarious Fellowship of the Sun, a group dedicated to the destruction of all vampires.

A lot happens to Sookie in this book. She meets Barry, a hotel bell boy who is also a telepath. She makes a big impression on the Texas vampires, including their leader Stan… who will be back in later books. For the first time, we get glimpses of the sizzling sexual tension between Sookie and Eric. And fissures begin to show in her relationship with Bill. We see, along with Sookie, what Bill’s lack of humanity really means. And she has to ask herself some very tough questions about what she can and cannot accept in her life.

I enjoy Sookie’s voice. She maintains her spunky, country-girl mentality. She holds on to her own morality, though admittedly she doesn’t stay too rigid –she allows herself to recognize that some of her formerly held beliefs may have been naive and in need of adjustments. But Eric is definitely a shining star here… just a glimpse of the supernova character he’ll become.

(A few words about True Blood:) Season two of True Blood is based on this book. But there are some very big differences here. And I have to say, as with every season so far, other than the glory that is Alexander Skarsgard, the show is vastly substandard to the storyline in the book. There is a maenad, but it’s only a very small part of the storyline. Lafayette is the body in the car, because there is no Miss Jeanette. Tara is not Lafayette’s cousin. In fact, her role is very small and her character is nothing like it is the show. Oh yeah. And Godric is not the kidnapped vampire. He was the bait that helped kidnap Russell. And he’s not Eric’s maker. He is a child molester and killer. Just read the book.

4 stars.

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Review: Dead Until Dark

Reviewed by Jen
If you’ve learned everything you know about Sookie Stackhouse from watching True Blood, you are missing out in a big way. Yeah, yeah, there is definitely something to be said about the joys of watching Alexander Skarsgard brood and wear muscle shirts. But the books put the tv series to shame. The biggest difference is that these books are all first-person Sookie. Everything is about her and the world from her perspective. (Most of the more ridiculous subplots of the series don’t even exist in the books.)

Sookie is a waitress in small town in northern Louisiana. She can read minds and it’s a curse that has plagued her for her entire life. It has isolated her and prevented her from ever developing real relationships… until she meets Bill. He is a vampire; his kind has just “come out” to the world. And when she is with him, there is no noise… just peace and silence. Their relationship kicks off when she saves his life from a wayward couple, planning to drain him and sell his blood as a drug. Not long after she rescues him, he ends up doing the same for her, when the couple returns to retaliate.

The relationship between Bill and Sookie develops quickly. (There are definitely some sexy scenes between the two that can get your blood racing, but nothing likely to make you blush if you’re reading in public.) But there is much more to the story than their relationship. Women are being murdered in their small town of Bon Temps. The victims all seem to have ties to vampires –and eventually, the murders hit very close to home for our heroine. There is action and suspense –and a great element of surprise when the killer is finally revealed.

Sookie is a likeable lead… a sweet country girl who is often underestimated. We see Bill through her eyes as this dashing, sexy, larger-than-life guy, who straddles the line between man and monster. There is a great supporting cast, lead by her boss Sam, her slutty brother Jason (who, despite his portrayal on tv, is not a complete idiot,) and the enigmatic Viking vampire Eric. This first installment really only gives us a peek into the supernatural world that will eventually be revealed as the series progresses. But it’s a great start. It’s fun and fantastic series for any fan of the Urban Fantasy genre. 4 1/2 stars

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Series Reading Order: Sookie Stackhouse

This is the chronological reading order for the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris:

*Denotes short story/ novella
**There are other short stories set in the Sookie universe, but only these feature Sookie

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: Faith and Fidelity

This book was my very first m/m romance and for the most part, I really enjoyed it. The story featured a widower cop named Evan. He's a 30-something father of four, who lost his wife about a year ago. Sherri was his high school sweetheart: the only person he has ever loved; the only person he's ever been with. He's been trying to pick up the pieces of his life, but doing a pretty sorry job, until he makes a new friend.

Matt is a former police officer, who fell from grace when he turned in a dirty cop a few years back. Now he's a security guard, cut off from his brothers in blue. He can't hold down a relationship. He just flits around to the occasional one night stand. And he drinks to numb the pain and loneliness. When he meets Evan, he finds a kindred, broken spirit. The two become drinking buddies and, over time, good friends. Then, the dreams begin. Matt starts looking at Evan in a different way and he's totally freaked about it, since he's never been attracted to a man before. He tries to fight it, but one night, as he tries to comfort his friend from a brutal nightmare, his touch becomes something other than what either man expected.

From there, things escalate rather quickly. Touches turn to kisses, which turn into more touching, and a few days later, they're naked. And in love. Obviously, these developments come as a surprise to the guys. But they seem to accept their attraction to each other pretty easily, and are quickly talking dirty and joking around about it. This is my only stumbling block with the book. Because these are supposed to be two mature men who have been straight all their lives. And I would have expected much more trepidation in the early stages. Yeah, Evan eventually does kind of wig out about it all. But it's not about himself or his attraction to Matt, but rather, what people will think when they find out.

If you can put this aside (which you kind of have to, in order to get through the book), the story is pretty good. The love scenes are good, though not scorching. If it were m/f instead of m/m, I doubt I would have even raised an eyebrow. Both leads are sympathetic and likeable, despite their misery. You can't help but root for them to work it out. And they get the happy ending they're both looking for. All that's missing is a shiny, red bow on top. 4 stars

*Thanks to Brie at Romance Around the Corner for the recommendation.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Forever Vampire

Vail is a vampire who hates his own kind. He was raised in Faery and has sustained himself on the essence of the Fae. But he was kicked out and is now having to make his way in the mortal realm.  His step-father has reached out to him, inviting him into the family business.  Vail is wary, but he accepts the job when he is tasked to find a missing vampiress named Lyric and the stolen Fae gown she was last seen wearing. Of course, he’s not doing it out of the goodness of his heart, but because his stepfather has agreed to help him find his birth-father, Constantine, as payment.  Vail has always wanted to get his hands on Constantine, so he could kill the vampire who raped his mother all those years ago.

There is more to the Lyric’s disappearance than meets the eye. Was she kidnapped or did she run away?  Is her disappearance about the stolen Fae gown or something more?  Finding her is easy for Vail.  Not so easy, is fighting his attraction for her.  It takes no time at all for the two of them to get physical (and can I just say “Yay!” for that.)  Of course, finding Lyric is only half the mission. Vail also needs to get his hands on the dress, but Lyric is resistant to put it back in his hands.  And the two end up working together, to figure out what is really behind her mother’s deal to hand over the dress to a member of the Unseelie court.

There was a lot I liked about this book.  I am always a sucker for a good tortured hero. And with a name like “Vail the Unwanted,” you know our vampire qualifies. It’s easy to see how Vail’s hate for vampires reflects the disdain with which he has been treated his whole life. I loved watching Lyric worm her way into his heart and help teach him his worth.  She is a likeable heroine and it was very easy to root for them as a couple.  The sex was great and so was the emotion behind it. 

My only beef was the combination of information overload and black holes in the history at the beginning.  It felt like there was a lot of backstory we were getting on Vail in a very condensed form…. especially when it came to Vail’s murky family ties.   This probably would not have been the case if I had read Seducing the Vampire, the story leading up to his birth.

It was absolutely worth braving a little confusion, though. The story was action packed and the love story was really good.   4 solid stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Need a Recommendation

I need some help finding a book. I am a huge romance fan. Mostly PNR & Historicals.  I like 'em a little dirty... sometimes more than a little dirty.  And I'd like to give m/m a try but I don't really know where to start.

I love, love, love Qhuinn and Blay in the BDB books.  Never in my life did I think I would be so desperate for two guys to get down to business. Yet here I am. Unfulfilled.  I know there is a vast array of m/m books out there, so I need some direction.  I do not enjoy BDSM.  It doesn't really bother me to have more than two people in the bed, though I don't like more than two for a HEA.

I'm not looking for anything socially conscious or sappy or something that's trying to change the world.  I want the m/m version of what I like in a m/f smut-book... which is engaging characters that have great sexual tension and eventually, great sex, with some kind of feelings involved. Paranormal is a plus but certainly not required.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: The Restorer

Reviewed by Jen
It's always a treat when you end up liking a book more than you expect to. And this was definitely the case here for me...

Amelia can see ghosts. But she has known from a young age that she should never acknowledge them. She must live on holy ground and avoid people who are haunted. Her father's rules have served her well. But now, she finds herself in circumstances where the rules have gone out the window.

Amelia restores old cemeteries for a living. She is working on one in Charleston, when the body of a murder victim is found there. She gets drawn into the investigation, at first because of the detailed pictures she had of the site, but later, her knowledge of cemeteries and their symbolism becomes relevant as well.

The cop in charge of the investigation, John Devlin, strikes a major chord with Amelia. He's charismatic, dark and sexy. She fights her attraction to him because he is haunted by the ghosts of his wife and child. But her feelings for him grow faster than she can push them down. Devlin is a man broken by the loss of his family, but that is changing with Amelia in his life. I loved watching their relationship develop. There is great sexual tension between these two! Devlin's past and present are all tied in with the murder mystery... which grows more complicated as more bodies are found.

I became completely immersed in the murder case. I am a romance fan at heart, so usually I find myself wading through most stories just to get to the big relationship developments. But not here. I was just as wrapped up in the murders and the ghosts plaguing Amelia as I was in her pseudo-relationship with Devlin. There was intrigue, mystery, horror, and strong characters.

We do get a resolution to the murder arc, but many threads are left hanging as the book draws to a close... plenty of material to kick off the sequel. I can't wait to learn more about her family history and her future with Devlin. I just wish I didn't have to wait to find out what happens next! 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: The Guardian

Reviewed by Jen

I really enjoyed this Highlander love story! Ian and his three best friends are returning home to the Highlands after spending the past five years in France. His clan has barely survived through a terrible battle that killed their chieftain and badly wounded Ian's father. Ian's good friend Connor is next in line to take over the clan, but his uncle Hugh has taken advantage of his absence to take over leadership, himself. Now, Ian and his band of brothers must work to install Connor in his rightful place at the head of the clan.

Of course, there is much more to the story than that. Just before he journeyed to France, Ian was forced to marry his very young friend Sileas. Even though she was only 13, she was trying to escape an arranged marriage set up by her stepfather. Ian cared for her as a little sister, but nothing more. So when his father forced him to marry the girl, he was furious. Once he returned home, he planned to end the marriage right away. But once he sees Sileas again, he realizes that she has grown into a beautiful woman; one who has helped see his family through his absence and the many trials they faced over the years.

Sileas is a great heroine. She is utterly loyal and in love with Ian. Yet she manages to hold on to her self-respect. And that is no small feat, the way Ian has dismissed her over the years. Their love story is sweet and steamy (once the story gets that far.) Ian is a good guy, but I wanted to shake him more than once for his general stupidity when it comes to his wife.

The story has some fun twists and turns --and we're set up nicely for future stories with Ian's friends Connor, Alex and (my personal favorite) Duncan. I'm looking forward to seeing where their futures will go. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by Net Galley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Guardian
by Margaret Mallory
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Tangled Threads: Giveaway & Chat with Jennifer Estep

This giveaway is closed. The winners are mbreakfield, Allison, Kristen, Lexie & Heather.

 If you've never read the Elemental Assassin series, you are definitely missing out. This is a fun, fast moving Urban Fantasy series, featuring a female assassin, who can command both ice and stone magic.  The latest installment of Gin Blanco's adventures, Tangled Threads, is just days away from release.  (If you want to want to read my review, click here.)  To celebrate, the mastermind behind Gin's story, Jennifer Estep, is here to answer some of my burning questions about the series:

Jen: One of the things I really love about these books is that they are Urban Fantasy but not the same old vampire and werewolf fare. Explain the world of the elementals and where you got the idea for it.
Jennifer: Basically, in the Elemental Assassin series, there are humans, vampires, giants, dwarves, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Some folks can also use related areas to the four main elements, like electricity is an offshoot of Air and metal is an offshoot of Stone. Anyone can be an elemental – humans, vampires, giants, and dwarves. My heroine, Gin Blanco, aka the assassin the Spider, has a very rare talent in that she can use not one but two elements – Ice and Stone in her case.
I just thought it would be cool to use elemental magic. I thought that using that sort of magic system would let me come with some interesting powers for Gin and the bad guys that she faces. For example, Gin can use her Ice magic to make knives, lockpicks, and more, while her Stone power lets her make her own skin as hard as marble. And the bad guys have everything from Fire magic to electrical powers.  

Jen: Donovan Caine was Gin's initial love interest in the early books. Did you ever intend for him to get over his issues with Gin or was their relationship doomed from the start?
Jennifer: At first, I intended for Donovan to be Gin’s love interest throughout the series. But after writing Spider’s Bite, the first book in the series, I realized that they were going to have the same argument in every book about her being an assassin. Donovan is such a straight arrow that I really couldn’t let him come around to Gin’s way of thinking without really weakening his character. So I decided to have Donovan leave Gin at the end of Web of Lies, the second book in the series.
I’m glad I made the change. Having Donovan walk out on Gin made for some great drama – and so did bringing in Owen Grayson, the sexy businessman who is Gin’s new love interest. So far, most folks seem to be on Team Owen, which is really satisfying to me. ;-) 

Jen: Will we ever see Donovan again? Does he feel the pins I stick into his voo-doo doll?
Jennifer: Heh. That’s funny. A lot of folks seem to not like Donovan after what he did to Gin. I’m thinking about bringing Donovan back at some point, if only so Gin can get some closure about their relationship. Donovan walked away from Gin, and she didn’t like that very much. Plus, I think I could write some interesting scenes with Gin, Donovan, and Owen. We’ll see what happens.

Jen: Do you intend to ever tell Sophia's backstory?
Jennifer:  Readers will learn more about Sophia in Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book in the series, including why her voice is so broken and raspy. If the series goes long enough, I’d like to do a book that really delves into Sophia’s background – including the bad guys who hurt her.
Also, there’s a free short story on the Excerpts page of my website called "Tangled Dreams" that has some scenes from Sophia’s point of view. Here’s the link to read it and the other stories I’ve written for the series: 

Jen: Will Spider's Revenge be Gin's last book?
Jennifer: Actually, I’m working on book six right now, which I’m jokingly referring to as “Gin on vacation.” Gin decides to get out of Ashland for a while, but trouble manages to find her no matter where she goes … Such is the life of an assassin. LOL.

A big thanks to Jennifer Estep for stopping by and for joining me (and some of my other blogging friends) for chat earlier this week.  You can hear her join us about 10 minutes into the chat. If you're interested, check it out:

So, are you sold on the series yet?  If not, I've got something to sweeten the deal! I'm giving away 5 copies of Tangled Threads!  The contest is open to all followers of Red Hot Books in the US and Canada.  To enter, just make sure you're following with Google Friend Connect, then leave me a comment, telling me what your favorite Urban Fantasy series is!  The contest will run through the weekend and I'll announce the winners Sunday night.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Review: Ascension

Kyana is a half-breed: part Lycan, part Vampyre… the only one of her kind. And since the gates to Tartarus have been unlocked, she has been tracking the dark beings that have escaped and are wreaking havoc on the human world. She is part of the Order, a group of supernaturals devoted to fighting and policing those of their own kind who do wrong. Ky is a great tracker, and frankly that’s a good thing, since her job is really the only thing in her life, aside from her best friend Haven.

As our book begins, the Fates and the goddess Artemis tap Haven for a special job: to find the key that can lock the doors to Tartarus and re-imprison the members of the Dark Breed who have escaped. Ky is willing, but things get more complicated when they tell her she’ll have to work with Ryker, a demi-god who rejected her advances long ago. She is still attracted to him and feels the sting of his denial. What she doesn’t realize is, Ryker wanted her then and he still wants her now. He only rejected her proposition for a meaningless affair because he knew he needed more from her. He knew he would be the mate she wasn’t ready to accept.

There is a fair amount of world-building necessary here. We’ve got a book filled with Greek gods, Titans, vampires, lycans, zombies, mystics, and witches. They interact on earth, “below,” and in the realm of the gods. Personally, I didn’t have trouble keeping it straight. I thought it was all integrated quite easily into the story. The plot was pretty straight-forward and the characters clearly defined.

I liked Kyana. She’s tough and independent, though that comes from living a difficult life. She’s been through a lot, and it has made her strong, but also hard. Her feelings for Ryker seem genuine, but it’s clear he feels more for her. She just doesn’t know how to love someone… or more to the point, she doesn’t know how to be loved. This is definitely more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance, but I found the relationship between Ky and Ryker to be book’s center for me. The action was great, but I wanted to see Ryker break down Ky's walls. The sex was pretty good, though not blush-worthy. And I feel like they’re on the right track. But this book does NOT have a neat ending. There is a lot left hanging for the impending sequel. So don’t expect a HEA. Kyana isn’t there yet. But I’m left with the hope that she’ll get there... in time. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Sable Grace
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Avon

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

This contest is closed. Judy is the winner.

Everyone loves the chance to win a good book, right?  The Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop features more than 250 blogs which are giving away books or gift cards in a six day contest that runs from Wednesday, April 20 - Monday, April 25.

Red Hot Books Giveaway:  I am giving away two books to one lucky reader. They are Death's Sweet Embrace by Tracey O'Hara and Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles by Merrie Destefano. Check them out below:

After centuries of secret conflict, humans and parahumans have reached an uneasy truce. But unspeakable evil now threatens the tenuous peace.
Teenaged shapeshifters are being slaughtered by a sadistic serial killer who rips their still-beating hearts from their paralyzed bodies. A task force forms to halt the madness, including the vampiric Aeternus Antoinette Petrescu, as well as Kitt Jordan and Raven Matokwe, members of enemy Animalian tribes . . . and forbidden lovers.
A centuries-old blood feud has divided their shapeshifting peoples, and if their passion is discovered it will doom them both. But past hostilities must be put aside, for the killer they seek is but the first sign of the all-consuming nightmare of The Dark Brethren.

Chaz Dominguez is a professional Babysitter in New Orleans, helping to integrate the recently deceased into their new and improved lives. Though Fresh Start has always been the only game in town, resurrection isn't all it's cracked up to be. Nine lives are all a person can get—and a powerful group of desperate, high-level Nine-Timers will stop at nothing to possess the keys to true immortality.

Now the only hope for Chaz and his family—and the human race—lies in the secrets locked away in the mind of Angelique, the beautiful, mysterious Newbie he must protect.

To win the books, all you have to do is tell me your favorite book so far in 2011 in a comment below.  The contest is open to Red Hot Books followers in the US & Canada. So make sure you're following before you enter! The contest will close Monday, April 25th at 9:00pm CST.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Defiant

Jamie and Eva are both on the hunt for Father Peter.  The priest has been kidnapped by a man commissioned by rebels to relieve King Henry of the throne. Jamie is one of the king’s men and is trying to get to the priest to bring him to Henry. Eva wants to rescue Father Peter, because he helped raise her and she believes she owes him her life.

Even though they want him for their own reasons, Jamie and Eva end up working together to find the priest.  Jamie has a dark reputation as a powerful soldier, but there are secrets behind his recklessness and violence.  Eva is wily and street-wise. She had to be, since she practically raised herself and her young ward Roger over the past 10 years.  While the two start off as oil and water, an attraction is constantly growing between them.  And the more they fall for each other, the faster the secrets between them unravel.

I had some serious issues with the language in this book. I’m not even sure how to describe it.  Let me give you an example:
“Yet not withstanding all these sensible notions, Eva was engulfed like a wick by the bright, burning knowledge that the more Jamie knew of her, the more her life would become… irrevocable.  Eva lived for revocability. Decisions were nothing but footprints in the sand: everything could be washed away. At need, Eva revoked opinions, plans, pennies, entire personal histories.”
It’s verbose.  And it feels a bit pretentious.  I suppose, for a historical, I can understand why the characters might need to talk in an affected manner, but in the narrative, it was too much.  On several occasions, it took me out of the story, because I was spending more time thinking about the words than their meaning.

The story itself was middle-of-the-road.  There was adequate action and intrigue. But hands-down, the best thing the book had going for it was the love-scenes.  Here, the author leaves any cumbersome language behind and wraps you up in a thick layer of hotness.  (Two thumbs up on the sex!)   The ending is both solid and satisfying.  3 stars.

*ARC Provided by Simon & Schuster

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Wait for Dusk

Porn-style Cover
Reviewed by Jen
The fifth installment of the Dark Days series is Wait for Dusk, or as I like to call it (*spoiler*) The One Where Mira & Danaus Finally Have Sex. And I have got to say, this is the best one yet.

As our book begins, Mira is being tortured by the entity who kidnapped her at the end of Pray for Dawn. But it's not an old witch woman kicking her ass... It turns out to be her "real" father, who claims to be Satan himself. Daddy's got a mission for Mira. He wants her to learn to take control of Danaus and Jebari's powers. And he gives her a power-upgrade so she has the ability to do it. This is a bit of a mixed bag for our vampire heroine. She finally has the juice to turn the tables on the two men who have been pulling her strings over the course of the last few books. But she's not completely on board with the idea because 1) she is sort-of in love with Danaus and 2) she is scared Jebari will wipe the floor with her. Dad's not giving her much of a choice in the matter.

Mira is summoned back to Venice to be officially indoctrinated into the Coven. And she brings Danaus as back-up. She knows she's facing the threat of death from fellow coven-member Macaire. And sure enough, he orchestrates a trip for her to Budapest, where he has set the wheels in motion for her death to occur. Of course, Mira's smarter and tougher than anyone gives her credit for. And not only does she have Danaus at her back, she's got Valerio and Stefan with her too. There's a fairly good plot arc about the intrigue in Budapest. But to me, the most interesting is the subplot surrounding Mira and Danaus' evolving relationship. And now that her allegiance to him is clear in the vampire world, he is becoming her Achilles heel. Mira's emotions are so fragile where he is concerned. And there was more than one time in the story where, I too, thought he abandoned her.

But holy cow, when these two finally get their act together.... I think I read (*spoiler*) their sex scene at least 5 times. In a row. Then when the book was over, I went back and read it again. It was that hot. Plus, I needed the distraction from the heart-wrenching ending. For as high as I got on the romance action, Jocelynn Drake shredded me utterly with (*spoiler*) Tristan's death. Even when Mira finally wins one, she still loses. 5 stars

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Review: Pray for Dawn

Reviewed by Jen
Jocelynn Drake really shakes things up with the fourth installment in the Dark Days series, by changing the first person narrative from vampire Mira to vampire-hunter Danaus. I have to say, I loved it. Having Danaus tell the story, allowed us to finally find out what's going on inside the stoic warrior and it helped heighten the tension and mystery of the storyline.

Our story begins with Danaus fighting vamps and the naturi solo in Europe. But for the first time, he comes face-to-face with the entity that controls part of his soul. That bori now wants to cash in on his investment in Danaus by inhabiting his body fully. Of course, Danaus is not on board with the plan.

Themis summons him back to Savannah to help solve the mystery of a murdered senator's daughter. She was killed by some other-worldly creature. So he teams up with Mira to figure out who and what killed her --and why. In the course of the story, we see Mira start to fall apart. (And by that, I mean she goes bat-shit crazy.) Yet, in her moments of clarity, she is pulling Danaus more and more into her life. We finally get some movement on the chemistry between them. But due to Danaus' lingering reticence, they still don't seal the deal. (Grrr.) So Danaus must figure out what is wrong with Mira, while he slowly faces the truth about who killed the senator's daughter. Oh, and did I mention he sort of adopts a street kid in the middle of all this?

So, like I said, I loved finally hearing Danaus' voice in this story. I loved that he and Mira finally started moving towards each other. There were some hard knocks for Mira before the book came to a close. Namely, (*spoiler*) the street kid Lily is killed by poor Tristan... and Tristan is nearly killed by Danaus. Oh yeah, Mira's friend Emma is killed too. It really sucks to be Mira . I didn't see any of it coming and I'm sad and kind of pissed off to see Mira kicked in the teeth yet again. The book ends on a pretty substantial cliffhanger, so be prepared. Have Wait for Dusk on hand to start as soon as this one is finished. 4 stars.

P.S. I freaking-love this cover!

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review: Dawnbreaker

Reviewed by Jen
The third installment of the Dark Days saga picks up a couple of months after the conclusion of Dayhunter.  Mira has returned home to Savannah with Tristan in tow and she is ready to expand her vampire family to her favorite minions Knox and Amanda.  But the naturi have no plans to let her live in peace. They’ve followed her back to the States and they’re trying to kill her before she stops their queen from returning to Earth.  Vampire hunter Danaus comes back into her life, just in time to join her for the latest big battle against the naturi… back in Machu Picchu, the same place where they tortured her all those years ago.

We don’t see much of the secondary characters featured heavily in the first two books. Tristan stays in Savannah during Mira’s trip.  We don’t see Nico or Ryan. And we only get small cameos from Jabari and Sadira.  But we do pick up some new faces, including Nia, the naturi princess, and Stefan, a vampire with aspirations to join the coven.

So here’s what I got out of this book: It really sucks to be Mira.  She is proving time and time again that she’s a pretty stand-up gal.  She takes her duty very seriously. She is willing to put herself in harm’s way to protect those she is loyal to.   And she knows that her attempts to save humanity (and the nightcrawler race) will likely end in her death, and she does it anyway.  But all this comes at great personal expense.  Her mentor, Jebari, is a rat-bastard.  Rowe, the naturi leading the effort to free the queen, relentlessly pursues her. And perhaps worst of all, she must acquiesce to being a puppet, to the whims of both Jebari and Danaus.

And speaking of Danaus.  Why the hell can’t these two recognize what they have together? We see over and over, through Mira’s thoughts and actions that she cares deeply for Danaus.  And he seems to have to remind himself that she is the enemy.  These two need to get it on already… in a big way.  Three books is plenty of time for me to wait. I definitely need some payoff. (And not just physically, by the way.  These two have a deeper connection.)

So when all is said and done, we get our big battle, more reveals about what Danaus is, and big questions about the future of the naturi.  And while the book may be over, there is obviously plenty of story left to go. 4 stars.

P.S. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you don’t want to start with this one. It won’t make sense and you won’t have the same investment in the characters. This is not meant to be a stand-alone. Trust me.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Follow Friday & Blog Hop

Happy Friday! Here's our weekly opportunity for bloggers to come together and check out each others sites. Please remember to leave a comment below, along with your link so that I can check out your site, and return the favor.

If you want to participate, it's easy. To learn more and to enter, check out: Parajunkee -  Crazy for Books - and Bitten By Paranormal Romance!

Q. Do you have anyone that you can discuss books with IRL? Tell us about him/her.

I do!  Her name is Jenna and we work together. She is a UF/PNR fan like me, so every time I find a great book or series, I pass it on to her when I'm done. My favorite part of the workday is when she comes in and we compare notes on the books we're reading.  And sometimes, when one or both of us is at home and it's too hard to wait, we share tweets on the big scenes.  Talking books with a friend is so much more fun than reading alone! Plus --we're going to DragonCon together in September.  

Book Blogger Hop

Q. Pick a character from a book you are currently reading or have just finished and tell us about him/her.

I'm re-reading the Dark Days series by Jocelynn Drake.  The main character is Mira. She is a 600 year-old nightwalker who has the ablity to wield fire. She is strong and independent.  But she is learning that so many things she thought she knew about herself were lies. Her mentor has been using her and experimenting on her.  And the vampire hunter she thought was her worst enemy, may end up being her greatest ally. 


Q Do you have a favorite hero, so far, this year? If-so who? 

Can I call Jerricho Barrons a hero? **swoon**

I've got a lot coming up in the next week!  First, I want to announce two big events with the very talented Jennifer Estep.  She'll be joining me and a group of my blogging buddies on TalkShoe, Sunday night at 7:00CST to talk about her Elemental Assassin series.  Then she'll be at Red Hot Books Friday, April 22 for an interview and giveaway of her new book Tangled Threads

And that's not our only giveaway next week. We'll also be giving away books in the Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop from April 20-25.

Hope you'll be here to join us for the fun!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: Dayhunter

Reviewed by Jen
If you sit down with the first two books in the Dark Days series, they read just like one long story. Dayhunter picks up just moments after where Nightwalker left off. This book is not a standalone. Each installment of the series (including those that follow this one) is just a piece in a larger story. Personally, I love serialized books, but it can be frustrating to wait between each installment. Fortunately in this case, you can sit down with a stack of these and read them from beginning to end, if you're so inclined.

Mira is a vampire, who is now working with vampire hunter Danaus to stop a race of fae, called the naturi, from destroying humanity and nightwalkers alike. Not that Danaus is all that interested in protecting vamps, but he does realize that he needs their help to deal with the naturi threat. At the end of the last book, we learned that Mira is really a weapon, whose fire-starting abilities can be manipulated by her old mentor Jabari --and now Danaus. (The whys are complicated, but let's accept it and move on.) She hates the idea of being at anyone's mercy, but she really has no choice in the matter.

The story follows her journey with Danaus across different parts of Europe and the Mediterrean as they try to figure out how to stop the threat. Things get more complicated as they realize that members of the vampire coven are in league with some of the naturi. It's not clear where anyone's loyalties lie. And more and more, it seems like the only person Mira can count on is Danaus. That makes it so much worse, every time we are reminded that the two are really enemies. It's clear they feel something for each other, but only when Danaus can make himself forget what Mira really is. We're also learning more about what Danaus is and why the ideas of good and evil are so important to him.

Mira is stepping outside of her comfort zone in so many ways. But the most fulfilling way, to me, is seeing her willingness to extend herself to protect others. She brings Tristan and Nico into her fold, building a family that will continue to grow as the series progresses. She is the rock to them that she always thought Jebari was to her. Now she is dealing with his betrayal on top of the staggering responsibilities she has to face.

Mira's character development and her relationships with Danaus and Tristan are (to me) the best parts of the book. This series is not a casual read. Each book intertwines with the next; It's layered and it's complicated. There are a lot of characters and a lot going on. It's all topped off with a healthy dose of violence and a dollop of sex. 4 stars.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Nightwalker

Reviewed by Jen
Jocelynn Drake has created a dark and fascinating new vampire world with this first installment in her Dark Days series. It features Mira, a 600 year old nightwalker. She is special among her people because she can wield fire and is impervious to its effects. She lives in Savannah and serves as the de facto head-vampire in the United States. As our book opens, there is a mysterious vampire hunter in her territory. She is fascinated by the man and finally meets up with him. She realizes that there is something unique and powerful within him. Danaus is not there to kill her, but instead is seeking her out to help deal with an even greater threat to humanity than the vampires.

There are two ancient forces once thought eradicated from the world: the naturi and the bori. And it looks like naturi, which are something like an evil version of the fae, are trying to make a comeback. Mira has stood against them once before and survived... though barely. So Danaus is hoping she can help stop the new threat. Together, they venture to the Old World, seeking ancient vampires to help with their cause.

The very best thing to me about this book are the two main characters. Mira is strong, sexy, and smart enough to know her place in the world. And Danaus is the perfect blend of smoldering power and mystery. The sexual tension between these two is off the charts. Every time they got close to each other, I gripped my book a little tighter, waiting to see if this would be the moment they would give in to temptation. Don't misunderstand. This isn't a romance novel. It's firmly Urban Fantasy, but what's going on between these two characters can't be ignored.

I also found myself very interested in the secondary characters. Jabari is an enigma, showing fatherly instincts one minute, passion the next, and then later cold calculation and fury. Who is he really? Then, there is fragile vampire Tristan, the self-serving warlock Ryan, and the evil naturi Rowe. Each was clearly fleshed out and left me wanting to know more about them.

The book's not perfect. There is a little too much exposition for my taste. I could do with fewer words to describe the setting and background. --Another small peeve was serious overuse of the word "angels" when Mira refers to her bodyguards. Yeah, I get the reference... Michael and Gabriel... but it just felt forced and the more often the word was used, the more it annoyed me.

Drake's not afraid to make bold choices with the course of events. There's a surprising death before the story is over --and there are other heartbreakers as the series progresses. But it says something about the author's abilities to draw me into the world, that the events weigh so much on me as they unfold. In all, it's a solid book and worth reading, because it kicks off a unique and powerful series. 4 stars.

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