Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: The Charmed Souls

Reviewed by Shelly
I couldn't wait to read the second story after reading the The Charmed, the first book in this series. Although this is a connected story, you can definitely read it independently of the first, so don’t let that stop you from enjoying a very good story.

In my review for The Charmed, I said that this isn’t the typical vampiric retelling and thank goodness Wenrick didn’t make a liar out of me. She does an excellent job of continuing along that line and not falling into any stereotypical traps. This book had me laughing out loud, sniffling – okay maybe full on crying would be more descriptive-- and yes, even gasping in shock about the surprises.

As I re-entered the world of the Dhampirs, vampires, and humans Olivia’s story continues with a dare – learning to use her skills as a Charmer and a Dhampir to protect herself from the things that go bump in the night (and sometimes the day) in order to return to her only love, daywalker Caleb Wolfe. For her to do that, she has to be separated from Caleb and reside at a safe house for training. Assigned to her training is human Guardian, Alec Lambert, mortal enemy of Caleb. Yikes, you can imagine the tension that creates. It’s all good though because Olivia is the beneficiary of all that tension.

Wenrick doesn’t pull any punches in this story. By page nine, I had to stop reading to get a box of tissues – dang it! After Alec takes Olivia to a safe community, The Oracle, she has a chance to settle in and train. During her time there she also finds about quite a lot about her old and new family and meets some new friends along with some new enemies.

What I liked about this story was that not once did I feel sorry for Olivia. She never had a moment of self-pity and that whole woe-is-me attitude. She did a remarkable amount of growing --not just the physicality of her training-- but her emotional maturity was by far her greatest improvement. She started seeing herself as what she is - a Dhampir, half human and yes, half vampire. It was wonderful to witness her acceptance of her vampire side without compromising or denying her human side. Well done there.

Oh, that male hotness that is Caleb – I could hear the growl that just rolls through his frame. Grrr! He’s come a long way with words, he’s using them more and more and guess what?  He’s very good with them. Oh yeah. There were a few moments when I just wanted to reach out and give him a big hug (and let’s be honest here – I wouldn’t mind giving him a few more things, if ya know what I mean).

The other members of the Walker Coven are back. Jax Walker, head of the Coven is still impressive in every possible way. He’s a great influence on all the other members of the coven. There were a few times that I just wanted to beat him down for not giving it up to Gemma, but he comes around to my way of thinking just in the nick of time. We get to find out a bit more about Gemma and her quirks. She adds a nice dimension to the storyline.

Olivia’s Guardian Alec is unequivocally my favorite character in this story. Maybe it’s because he and Olivia are together so much and we find out that Alec is what is termed as a ‘good guy’. He’s honest to a fault and loyal until you prove that he shouldn't be. Gotta love it! The other characters, some new some returning, are all part of Alec’s circle: Alec’s Uncle Reese Lambert, one of the Elders at The Oracle; Lucas Rayner, the foulest mouth Guardian around; Phinneas, Maya, Gideon, and the unforgettable horndog, yet pleasantly perverted Kane. I’m looking forward to reading more about all of these characters in the next book.

There were some sex scenes between Olivia and Caleb, and for me they were well paced and not gratuitous in any way. This is a definite recommend and I’m anxiously awaiting Book 3.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: A+

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Charmed Souls
by Christine Wenrick
Release Date: November 22, 2012
Publisher: Red Tree House Publishing

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Immortal Craving

Reviewed by Jen
I'll be honest. I was disappointed when I found out that the hero in this book wasn't a Cait-Sith. I mean, I love those poor, tortured little kitty-cats.  But I should have had some faith.  Tasmin is, indeed, and entirely different breed of vampire.  Instead, he is a poor, tortured, BIG kitty-cat.  And I loved him just the same.

Tasmin is Rakshasa, a lion-vampire shifter, whose kind was thought to be extinct.  But he has been asleep for centuries, cursed to carry the spirit of a demon by the evil Arsinoe.  When he wakes, he is half crazed.  He hears the evil, oily voice inside him, and he wants it out.  He travels from India to the US, looking for Lily, hoping the queen of the Lilium can help him and explain what happened to his people.

When he arrives, it's not actually Lily he seeks out first, but her human best friend, Bailey.  He thinks she will give him insight into Lily that will help his cause.  But his fractured psyche leads him to pass out in her shop, and Bay steps up to help him.  Despite his power and abrupt nature, Bay sees the vulnerability in Tasmin and is drawn to him.  The attraction is mutual, but he knows that the demon makes him a danger to her, so Tas tries to fight it.  It's so sweet and noble.

There is a lot going on outside of the building relationship.  The Ptolemy vamps are targeting Lily and her people, and Arinoe wants Tasmin, so she can get her hands on that demon.  Bay and Lily are struggling with their friendship and questioning how they can maintain it with the differences between them.   There's great action... and familiar faces.. and all the threads of previous books are acknowledged and incorporated in.

But at the heart of the book is the romance, and it was a good one.  Tasmin comes from such a powerful race.  Being strong is all he's ever known, but his circumstances throw all of that on its ear.  Bay is this physically weak, fragile human, yet she takes care of him. She protects him. She saves him.  I loved watching how it humbles him; how he needs her; how is willing to sacrifice himself for her as a result.   He sees beneath the surface of her and knows her worth.  He's awesome.  And they are fantastic together.  There is so much longing and crushing fear that they're doomed.  Delicious angst, folks, just like I like it.

The book wraps up a lot in the overall storyline, and it feels like it could serve as a series finale.  But I hope this isn't the end.  There is definitely more story out there to be told... the demons... Vlad... and I want to read them.  I hope to get the chance.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Immortal Craving
by Kendra Leigh Castle
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Forever

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover

Reviewed by Jen
This is the best historical romance I have read in ages.  Unbelievable sexual tension. A fantastic love story.  Even better than her last book --and THAT is saying a lot.

Have I got your attention yet?

Phillipa is only a couple of weeks away to wedding a sweet, albeit slightly simple man.  And despite the wealth of knowledge floating around in her head, she is plagued by the fact that she has no idea what her wifely duties will entail. She certainly can't ask her betrothed.  Her mother and sisters are no help. So she decides to take her questions to an expert.

Cross has a reputation of being both brilliant and a rake of the highest order.  Who else could be better to school her in the ways of the bedroom?  So Pippa corners him in his office at the gaming hell he helps run --and asks him to ruin her.  Not to bed her, of course, but to teach her everything there is to know about the carnal arts.

Cross is quite taken with Pippa.  She is an unusual woman. Very smart... honest and direct.  But he wants no part of the fairer sex.  He took a personal vow of celibacy years ago to atone for past sins.  He certainly won't debauch someone as innocent as Pippa.  But, my, how she wears him down.  As their paths cross again and again she grows nearly impossible to resist.  Yet somehow he does it.

And there comes the sexual tension I was talking about earlier.  MacLean manages to burn up the pages without these two ever touching each other. Yes, they do touch each other eventually, but in the meantime, I found myself gripping the arms of my chair and leaning toward the computer screen in anticipation of a kiss... a touch... anything.  And when it finally happens --wow. 

Cross is one of my favorite kinds of heroes, the kind that thinks he is nowhere near good enough for the heroine.  He sees her as a prize few others see the value of.  He pushes her away and pushes her away, but --this is where the awesomeness of Pippa comes in-- she never gives up.  It's such a great journey and it left me completely and utterly satisfied.

Rating: A-

*ARC Provide by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
by Sarah MacLean
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Avon

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: How to Misbehave

Reviewed by Allison
Amber Clark is the program director for the Camelot Community Center and while she's always had her eye on older man and building contractor Tony Mazzara, it's always just been a fantasy she's kept to herself. That all changes when a tornado sweeps in and forces them to the dark basement of the Community Center as they seek shelter. Not only do they finally talk, but Tony is claustrophobic and Amber ends up being his anchor to stay calm. She doesn't know if she should make a move, but the storm passes before she can. Fortunately for her, the storm completely smashed her car, providing the opportunity for Tony to drive her home... and come up.

I don't know how else to explain this but to say that it was HOTT. Seriously. And not just sexy, but well written, fast paced.  This couple burned up the pages; I had to keep flipping to keep up! This is one of the best novellas I've read in a long time and I read it all in one sitting. Because, trust me, you won't want to get up in the middle of this one.

This story was a hell of a way to kick off a new series & I can't wait to read the next one, Along Came Trouble!!!

Grade: A

*ARC from Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
How to Misbehave
by Ruthie Knox
Release Date: January 28, 2013
Publisher: Loveswept

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Blaze of Memory

Reviewed by Jen
As I sat down to read this and I looked over the blurb, the first though that occurred to me was: Who the hell are Dev and Katya?  It didn't take me long to put the pieces together. Despite my fears, these are not new characters... just a couple that we haven't seen in awhile.

We met Dev in Mine to Possess (Talin & Clay's book.)  He is the leader of Shine, group of Psy "Forgotten," working to find children of their kind who were neglected or abused and unaware of their heritage.  Katya is actually Ekaterina, Ashaya's assistant who was presumed dead at the end of Hostage to Pleasure.   Obviously, she is still alive, but not the woman she once was.

The councilor, Ming, has had Katya all this time. He's broken her mind, learned all of her secrets, and dumped her on Dev's doorstep. She has an embedded impulse to kill him, though she doesn't remember it.  In fact, she doesn't remember anything at first --not even who she is.  Dev is too smart to ignore the possibility she is a Trojan horse, but her abuse brings out all of his protective instincts.  He takes her into his own personal custody as they try to unravel the mysteries of her mind --and eventually, how to set her free from what Ming has done to her.

I wasn't sure I was going to like a story with both a Psy hero and heroine.  After all, those changeling men and all their touching make these stories so hot.  But Dev isn't a regular Psy. He has never known Silence, though his metallic abilities give him a cool clarity most of the Forgotten lack.  And since the torture cracked Katya's conditioning wide open, she is emotional too. Maybe even more so than Dev.

It's hard at times, watching the dichotomy of Dev the man, and Dev the Shine leader.  Sometimes, he has to be a real dick to Katya.  But I understand it. So does she.  It's hot to watch her earnest feelings and sexuality break down his barriers.   And despite my reservations about leaving the changeling packs, the book actually provided a nice change of pace.  We got to see an entirely new side to this world, while still maintaining links to the people we know and love.

Without spoiling the particulars, I'll tell you that this book made me cry in the end.  (A first for the series.) That's always a sign that the author has made me invest in the characters.   And Nalini Singh has pulled me even further into her web. Her Arrows fascinate me. (I want a Vasic story!! Tell me more about Aden! The Ghost! Xavier.)  It's so clear to me why everyone loves this series... cheesy covers, aside.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Blaze of Memory
by Nalini Singh
Release Date:November 3, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: To Wed the Fae Prince

Reviewed by Jen
Etta has been promised to the Fae since she was born.  Her parents made a deal with the Seelie Court when they were trying to conceive and from that point on, she was betrothed to a prince.  Now in Fairy, Etta thinks it is the eldest prince she is to marry, but it turns out that the younger prince, Farron, is her intended.  Sullen and known to hate humans, Farron seems like the worst possible choice.  But Etta doesn't really have much of a choice at all.  Either she honors her parents' deal or they pay the consequences.

First of all, I was a little put off when I discovered the heroine was only 17. I'm not a YA fan and this book was pitched as an adult romance.  And believe me, Etta is very much a child.  The author uses the nature of the Fae land to make her technically older in a short period of time, but just because her body ages, it doesn't actually make her 22.

Farron makes a better character.  He is earnest and misunderstood --and he really comes through when push comes to shove, but we really don't get to know him on a deeper level, as the story is told from Etta's point of view.

There are moments when the story shows promise.  It's hard to put my finger on, since there were so many things that bothered me, but I think it's probably in the overall writing style, which is pretty engaging.  The pacing is fast and the story moves.  I wasn't bored.

But.  The concerns Etta places so much stock in... over the course of the story are simply picked up and dropped at will. She quickly gets over her (legitimate) concerns about the nature of the Fae... the deals, the slavery, etc.  She goes from disliking Farron to falling in love with him super fast (no many how many years passed in the human world.)  And she goes from fighting his sexual advances to losing her virginity  on a table with her skirts thrown up.

Which brings me to the sex.  I love a good sex scene, I do.  But some of the language here made me cringe.

"As he slid his fingertips against my sopping wet gash, I pushed against them."

Ew.  Sopping wet gash?  In total, we hear about her "gash" three times, which is three times too many in my opinion.  Not to mention, every time Etta was in a sexual situation, all I could think of was how immature and childlike she seemed.

It just didn't work for me.

Rating: D+

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
To Wed the Fae Prince
by V Vervain
Release Date: August 4, 2012

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Seduction of a Highland Warrior

Reviewed by Jen
I'll give Sue-Ellen Welfonder this: she is consistent.  I had the very same problems with this book as I did with Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel.  The main romance in this story was fairly good. But there is so much other junk going on that bogs it down, it practically ruins the book.

Marjory is on a mission to capture Alasdair, the leader of the MacDonald clan. She has wanted him for years and she is fairly certain that the feeling is mutual. Unfortunately, he and her brother hate each other's guts, so it's not an easy match. Her brother tries to keep her away from Alasdair. And Alasdair, himself, tries to fight the attraction between them.  Of course, he can't fight it for long.  Sure, he almost manages to screw it up once or twice, but there was a great sexual tension and affection between these two that couldn't be denied.  Simply put, I liked watching their road to happiness.

Unfortunately, that relationship only made up about half of the book. The rest was tied up with ghosts, Vikings, and Highland legend.  All of which were side-plots I most decidedly did not like.  The Highland legends --like magical dogs and night-walking-- are thrown in there like we should know what they are. There's no set-up or explanation... as if they were as commonplace as lighting a candle or taking a nap.

The ghosts had their own sorry tale about one of Alasdair's ancestors who cheated on his wife with a selkie and went on to be lauded as this super-great guy.  His wife wasn't so high on him, especially in her afterlife. He thought she killed himself over his indiscretion, then actually complained that she didn't love him enough to forbear through her heartbreak.  A real winner, that Drangar. Then, after centuries of blaming him, she forgives him out of nowhere.

Then there's the Viking subplot. Marjory's brother was going to marry her off to a Viking. Later, she had a portentous dream that she was going to be burned on a Viking pyre.  The foreshadowing was thick throughout the book.  But after a quick battle toward the end of the story, the whole thing was just dropped.  Very, very anticlimactic.

Even though I liked the main romance fairly well, it couldn't save this book for me.

Rating: D+

*ARC Provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon
Seduction of a Highland Warrior
by Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Forever

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It's Not Me -- It's You

Reflections from Jen

In any given year, I read somewhere between 350 and 400 books.  And every so often, I find a stand-alone that really rocks my world. But 9 times out of 10, the stories I love most are part of a series.  Over time, a series allows you to invest in characters. You learn their quirks and nuances.  You grow to love them, hate them, or lust after them... but whatever the emotion, they become yours.

I look forward to new installments in my favorite series like Star Trek fans count down the days to their conventions.  Like gadget-nerds camp out the night before an Apple product goes on sale.  Or like Harry Potter fans dress up for a movie premiere.  Hell, I reserved a vacation request months ago for the release of Lover At Last.

Unfortunately, every so often, one of my beloved series lets me down.   I'm not just talking about the random Phury book that stands out as an anomaly to an otherwise fabulous series.  I'm talking about multiple books that just make you ask yourself why the hell you just spent 10-bucks.  Books that make you decide once and for all to break up with a once beloved series.

I've got a few I've already said goodbye to, and others on a watch list.

Anita Blake.  This is kind of THE series that is almost everyone has asked at least once... what the hell happened here?  Granted, not everyone liked the series to start with and not everyone loathes it now, but no one can dispute that the Anita books of today are nothing like the first nine that came out.  It's my understanding that LKH thinks that people who complain about the change in her books are uptight about sex or something to that effect, but... um... I really like reading about sex in books. A lot.  So if that's not the issue, what is it?

It would be easy to say that my problem is that Anita has become a whore, but it's not that simple.  My problem is that the books have changed on a fundamental level.  They started as urban fantasy with no sex in them at all. Anita didn't believe in sex outside of marriage.  They then morphed into urban fantasy with a little sex, in the context of a love triangle. -- I was still down with that. Anita still struggled with her values and her real feelings for two very different men.  Whether you liked Richard (my favorite) or Jean Claude, most people could see the attraction on either side of the coin.

Then came Narcissus in Chains and the books became erotica.  Granted, they are erotica with paranormal elements, but you can't call a series "urban fantasy" when the main character has sex with 10 or more people in the book.  Orgies, BDSM, m/m, exhibitionism, you name it, Anita does it.   Or one of her harem does it.  And I kept reading for a long time, thinking "maybe it will change back." "Maybe Hamilton will fix what she did to Richard." "Maybe..." Hell, I don't know.  But then, Anita adopted a 17 year-old into her sex family. And there was a line in the book about how they'd have sex and he'd want to cuddle before doing his homework or something, and suddenly, I was done.  I haven't looked back.

Kitty Norville.  I really, really enjoyed the early books in this series.  If you're unfamiliar with the series, Kitty is a werewolf DJ, trying to find her way in the supernatural world.  For a time, every single book in the series wow'ed me. Carrie Vaughn gave me an unqualified oh-shit moment in every book. She killed people. She kidnapped people. She shocked me and excited me.  But what she also did was string me along with a love interest that never came to be.

From book one, we're introduced to Cormac, a werewolf killer who has a simmering mutual attraction with Kitty.  The author teases us with it for book after book.  Even after Kitty gets into a serious relationship with another man, we're reminded of what almost-was with Cormac. He's still around. There is still longing.  I've started wishing the other guy dead, even though I like him. Finally, after book nine, I realized, it's never gonna happen.  I feel seriously dicked around.  I'm done.

Chicagoland Vampires.  How I freaking loved this series in the beginning.  It was smart and funny and full of great action. I loved Merit and her friendship with Mallory. I loved her reluctance to be a vamp, how she finally came to love and defend Cadogen House.  And, of course, Ethan.  There was such a great push and pull with Ethan. The highs were so high and then the lows....  (**spoilers ahead**) When Ethan died, I was heartbroken. I cried and cried.  Then Ethan came back to life.. And while there was some WTF-ery there, I thought, "Finally! They will be together."  Only, the excuses continued.  They got more and more flimsy. Until I got to a point where I just didn't care anymore.  The new one came by mail and I gave it to my girlfriend to read for me.  She'll be guest reviewing it for the blog.

On the cusp:

Dark Hunter.  The early books in this series rocked my world. Sherrilyn Kenyon does tortured heroes like nobody's business.  Even when the catch phrases started to get a little predictable.. Even when all the heroines looked at their downtrodden heroes "like they mattered," I still swooned.  Probably all the way through Acheron's book.  (And Lord knows, that book put me through the wringer!)  Then, Kenyon started to go in a new direction. She introduced Thorn and the Hellchasers... she got into Jaden and Azura and Noir.  And I'll admit, I had a hard time following along. But I figured that was the next phase of the story... Then she started pulling in Native American mythology and sprinkling in some of the old characters and the Dream Hunters... with a pinch of the Hellchasers. And frankly, I'm not sure what the hell is going on anymore.

I liked Seth's book. It was kind of a throwback to the familiar favorites.  Plus, Styxx is coming, and it's taking us back into the Acheron world.  I will not miss that, folks.  But where will she go after that?  I'm a little concerned.  The series seems to have lost focus.  One more pantheon comes in, and I think I am out.

Carpathian/ Dark series.  Yes, I still read these. Don't judge me!! They are my guilty pleasure.  Though lately, the pleasure part is fading.  I love the over-the-top love scenes and super-alpha-alpha males.  I love all the interconnectedness of the Carpathians and the reunion books was fantabulous.  (Yes, spellcheck, that IS a word.)  But I started pulling away when we got into the de la Cruz men, none of whom I liked.  Once we got to Zacharias, though, it went to a bad place.  He was such a dick. He abused his heroine. It was too much.  And we've traveled so far away from the characters I love that I feel disconnected.  Feehan needs to get us back to the Carpathian mountains.  She needs to give us that Skylar and Dimitri story.  Or maybe I need to quit reading.

So what about you guys? What series have you broken up with? What killed them for you?

Still in love with some of the series above?  What makes you keep reading?

Share your thoughts, then visit Rachel at Parajunkee and Jennifer at the Book Nympho to see their picks!

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Renhala

Reviewed by Shelly
I wasn’t sure about this story. I was skeptical because it seemed a bit long and the author is very new to me, but it turns out I shouldn’t have been. This is a very interesting story about a parallel world that only a few, on both sides, know about.

There were a lot of things that I liked about this story and a few that I didn’t, but those were minor. Kailey is a young, funny, lovable woman who recently suffered an appalling physical assault. Still in a depressed phase (because really folks that’s not easy to come back from), she decides to go out for dinner with her best friend Amber. This is the beginning of her new rollercoaster life. After meeting the massively persuasive Gunthreon in the backroom (don’t even ask what she was doing back there), Kailey finds out that there is another place called Renhala where traveling to can be done by a single word. Along with her dog Kioto, Kailey is swept up into the fight of her life – saving Renhala and its people.

What I really liked about this story was getting to know Kailey and the people she met along the way. The character development was done really well and other world building (lots of imagery) was absolutely wonderful. Relatively early it’s revealed to Kailey that she’s not human and is in fact one of the people of Renhala. She takes this news pretty well and just keeps on trucking. As a karmelean, with slowly developing powers, she soon comes into her own. I thought there was a plausible back story of Renhala's existence and how they’ve maintained their invisibility from the human world; even more important to me was that the story line was really well plotted out.

Kailey’s mom was one of my favorite characters, talk about a fighter! There are many other characters... Like Russell, Gunthreon’s grandson who had a thing going on with Amber. (Speaking of Amber, I don’t know what best friend school she came from but I would have thrown her back a long long long time ago.) There's Bu, a chocolate tasting, rotten egg smelling, lovable greble... and Greer, the blue eyed cantankerous dragon.  Then Philip, the sometimes seven year old neighbor boy who can transform into Ladimer the healer – with his looking like a blond Norse god hottie – le sigh.

What I didn’t enjoy so much was the slow pacing of the story. This is told in first person and while I think that Lutchen did a wonderful job, there is only so much inner monologue that I can take for this length of a story.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a something a little different but good. Oh yeah, by the way, xnay on the horizontal mambo.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B-

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Amy Joy Lutchen
Release Date: September 27, 2012

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: For the Love of a Goblin Warrior

Reviewed by Jen
Meryn has spent thousands of years trapped in the Shadowlands as a goblin.  He witnessed the death of his wife and children. Now he has been thrust back into the human realm with no warning.  The only languages he knows are long dead.  The world around him is nothing like he once knew. Nothing makes sense.

Nadine is a nurse at the hospital where police take the half-crazed sword-wielding Meryn when he is found on the street.  Though he can't understand the words she is saying, Meryn can hear the kindness and sincerity in Nadine's words and she calms him.  Nadine sees beyond the dirty and wounded exterior to the proud and good man beneath.  So much so, her impression of him remains even after he flees the hospital to live on the streets.

Nadine and Meryn cross paths again a week or so later at a local park, but by then, he has miraculously conveniently picked up the English language.  The two strike up a friendship.  Even more, there is an underlying spark they both feel.  Meryn agrees to let his cousin help him build a new life for himself, to pave the way for a real chance with Nadine.  But all the while, he constantly worries about the fact he can't tell her the truth about himself.

Nadine is working to overcome a difficult childhood.  Her father went to jail for killing her mother who was coincidentally obsessed with a goblin fairy tale. But her feelings for Meryn are changing her life.  Meryn, meanwhile, undergoes an even bigger transformation.  He works through a lot of emotional turmoil as he adjusts to modern day life.  (Some good angst there.)  For the most part, I liked the dynamic of their romance.

But there were a fair share of problems.  Too many things were too easy or, ahem, convenient.  From the ease of Meryn's transformation to a 21st century man after thousands of years as a goblin... to his incidental meeting with Nadine's father... to his history with her mother.  And even if you can ignore all that, when we got to the big reveal of his goblin history, she accepted it as if it were an everyday occurrence.   She was more fixated on a stolen necklace than the fact that he was a mythological creature.  That --and the fact that he lied about it.  (*SMH*) Really? I know some people take issue when reviewers complain about realism in PNR... but who the heck would react that way?? It didn't ring true.

It wasn't a bad story. It just had too many coincidences and the goblin reveal was a major fail.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
For the Love of a Goblin Warrior
by Shona Husk
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Haunted Sanctuary

Reviewed by Jen
I've never read Moira Rogers' Red Rock Pass books, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this first book in the spinoff series.  It's set in the same world, but is very easy to jump into as a new reader.  I was never confused or felt like I was missing anything, nor did it seem like we were getting any massive info dumps. The world-building is woven seamlessly into the story.

Jay is a lone wolf in the small town of Clover. That is, until Zack returns to his family's farm.  Jay has no idea that another wolf is linked to the town, especially not one related to Eden, the woman he's been crazy about for ages. But when Eden gets word that something is stirring at the old farm, she knows what it could mean. And sure enough, when she goes out to investigate with Jay, not only does she find her shifter cousin, but other wolves who are out for his blood.  One of them bites her, changing her life forever.

As the story progresses, we learn that Zack was once Alpha to a pack in Memphis, but stronger, power-hungry wolves attacked them. They ran, hoping to find safety on the farm.  Eden and Jay evolve into an Alpha pair and deem the farm a sanctuary to protect the brutalized pack.  This, as the Memphis Alpha's pack threatens to come down and finish what they started.

Right off the bat, I liked the sexual tension between Eden and Jay. Perhaps it was too good, because I was beyond ready for these two to get busy by the time it actually happened. I liked the fact that they had a history together, so it felt more realistic for their relationship to progress so quickly.  I thought Eden adjusted really well to her sudden turning, and it was interesting to see the portrayal of an Alpha pair where "Alpha" doesn't translate into "overbearing buttmonkey."

I've been sitting here, though, trying to figure out why I liked it, but didn't love it. I think it's because the relationship between Eden and Jay was a bit too easy.  Neither one of them really had to work for it. And other than the long wait for sex, everything between them fell into place from the very beginning.  I find my romance ends up being more satisfying with a bit of angst and uncertainly.  Almost all of our angst, here, is in the external conflict tied into the Memphis wolves and the aftermath of their actions.

But, I did enjoy it overall. And I will be back to check out the next story. I hope it's not too soon for Zack and Kaley's story. Now THAT should be deliciously angsty!

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Haunted Sanctuary
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Ever After

Reviewed by Jen
This is my absolute favorite installment of the Hollows series to date.  The best book I have read in months.  I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.  It's as though Kim Harrison made this book to order, handpicking all of my favorite elements of the series and letting them shine.  Tons of Trent.  Al.  Jenks. And, of course, the ever after.  It's light on Ivy, the vampire culture, witches and werewolves.  And we actually see real growth in Rachel.  It's like Christmas and my birthday all at once.

The story feels more like a follow up to Pale Demon than A Perfect Blood.  We're experiencing a lot of repercussions from that book.  The ley line Rachel accidentally made is leaking --and slowly destroying the ever after.  Of course, she is blamed, but it's really Ku'Sox who is setting her up. He exacerbated the problems with the lines to put Rachel in the crosshairs --and he'll only fix the problem if she takes the curse off of him that keeps him away from her reality.

Ku'Sox is also gunning for Trent. He's been kidnapping Rosewood babies and he wants Trent to manipulate their genes to make more day-walking demons like Rachel. Ku'Sox wants control of the babies to boost his power among the demons.  Trent won't budge, so Ku'Sox takes desperate action.  Trent and Rachel must work together to best Ku'Sox, as the demon endangers those near and dear to both of their hearts... and all of demonkind.

There is a ton of action in this book. I was pulled in from the very beginning and I did not want to put it down until the last page.  It is unpredictable.  Remember the kind of shockers Kim Harrison delivered in some of the earlier books in the series?  Oh yeah, those are back.  At right about the halfway mark, she kicked me in the gut --hard.  No punches are pulled. No easy roads are taken.  It had me by the seat of my pants the whole time.

One of the things I love about these books is the continuity. Harrison never tries to ignore past events. Instead, she weaves them into current stories, reminding us of those things that built the characters into who they are.  From the rat fights to the doctor Trent killed --from Rachel's failed romances to Denon's death and the boat explosion.  It's all there and then some... all kinds of little Easter Eggs for longtime fans.

We continue to learn more about the demons --and their history.  We meet more gargoyles. Learn more about the ever after. Plot Ellsbeth's death (wait... maybe that last part was just me.)  And we get movement on the whole Rachel and Trent will-they or won't-they dance.  I won't spoil it.  But it's a pretty big story thread, or at least, a major current throughout the book.

I am forcing myself to stop gushing now, before I tell you everything that happened.  Just know that if you were on the fence about continuing this series after A Perfect Blood, please take my advice and read this book. If it doesn't make you fall in love with The Hollows again, I don't know what will.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Harper Collins 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Ever After
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Branded by Fire

Reviewed by Jen
Good gracious almighty, this one was hawt.  For the first time in her Psy-Changeling series, Nalini Singh pairs two changelings together. And the result is scorching.  We've seen hints in previous installments that a Mercy-Riley pairing was inevitable, but I honestly never thought it would be this good.

Mercy is a sentinel for the Dark River leopard pack.  Riley is a lieutenant for the wolf Snow Dancers.  They work together as the liaison team for the two packs, but they drive each other crazy.  Mercy is fiery and bold.  Riley is steady and sure, so difficult to ruffle, he's earned the nickname "the Wall."  Neither ever imagined the passion that was lurking beneath the surface between them.

As the story begins, Mercy is at the end of her rope. It's been months since she has been with a man and has started to fear that she would never find the right guy to be her mate.  One too dominant would stifle her, while one too submissive wouldn't measure up for her cat.  When her need reaches a fever pitch, Riley is only too happen to step in and scratch her itch.

What starts out as a "one shot deal" becomes a fire that consumes them both.  Riley gets on board pretty fast, but Mercy fights it.  She knows how possessive alpha males are --and she is too dominant to deal with the fallout.  Before she knows it, though, she is craving Riley as much as he craves her.

The sex is phenomenal from the very beginning and it stays that way throughout the book. This story is much more sexual throughout than the others, and it really, really works. But that's not all there is to Mercy and Riley. I loved watching them find places for the other in their lives... watching them find the compromises necessary to work as mates.

In the meantime, the Human Alliance is flexing its muscle as a threat to be reckoned with. As always, Kaleb and the other members of the Psy Council remain a force.  And the inevitable pairing of Hawke and Sienna is beginning to pick up steam.  With perhaps a third party getting into the mix. Color me intrigued, Kit.

I enjoyed this one a lot. One of my favorites in the series.  Rrrraw.

Rating: A-

Click to purchase: Amazon
Branded by Fire
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: May 22, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: Nobody's Angel

Reviewed by Jen
I wanted to like this story, and I thought the beginning showed potential.  But this book didn't hold me.  In fact, I had to struggle to make it to the end.

It all starts when Kendall watches a co-worker attack another woman then kill himself.  He has a strange white glaze over his eyes... and the event thrusts her into the world of spirits and the supernatural.  A sexy EMT and a mysterious, masked guardian angel enter her life --and she begins to understand the things she is seeing.  Through her investigations, Kendall uncovers the truth about what is eventually revealed to be a string of murder-suicides.  And she falls for the sexy Nephalim who spends the entire book trying to save her life.

Sounds pretty good... but it wasn't.  That's because the romance failed.  I don't know if the guardian angel identity reveal was supposed to be a surprise. I'm hoping it wasn't because it was painfully obvious from the beginning. Then, the way the "love story" progressed was at lightning speed.  It's total insta-love with some shallow hero-angst thrown in.  I felt nothing for either character and I surely didn't believe in any feelings between them.  The sex was over the top, and unexciting since we had virtually no chance for any sexual tension to build.

As for the action/ mystery part of the storyline... it was meh.  Not terrible, but again, I just couldn't make myself care.

This wasn't good for me. Maybe if it were a full length book and we had more elapsed time and character development, it might have been better.

Rating: D+

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Nobody's Angel
by Stacy Gail
Release Date: January 21, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Primal Possession

Reviewed by Jen
I have to admit. I didn't love Alpha Instinct. But I am glad I gave this second installment in the Moon Shifter series a try, because I enjoyed this one much more.

I was already invested in a Liam-December pairing, since I read the set up for their romance in the last book.  Liam is second-in-command to his brother's wolf-shifter pack, and December is the human sister of the town sheriff.  The two were attracted to each other from the beginning, but December tried to keep Liam at arm's length. He doesn't know it, but a shifter killed her younger brother and to begin a relationship with a wolf would alienate her surviving sibling in a way she could not bear.

But December is in danger from an anti-paranormal group who has targeted her from her association with Liam.  Now he must stay close to her to keep her safe.  And the more time they spend with each other, the more he breaks down the walls she tries to maintain around her heart.

I liked Liam a lot. Yes, he is alpha and possessive, but he isn't an overbearing jerk. He tries to see things through December's eyes and makes concessions where he can.  He is clearly crazy about her, and he doesn't give up on the connection he knows they have.  (Yeah, he does get a little boneheaded at the end, but I forgive him.)  I liked December as well, though perhaps not quite as much as I did Liam.  It was hard to watch her rebuff him, even though I understood why she did it.  The sexual tension is great and the love scenes are awesome.

In addition to the primary romance --and some pretty good action-- there is also a strong secondary story brewing for the next book.  Kat and Jayce had me at hello. Seriously, there is so much delicious angst there, I am very excited for their story. I only pray there is no love triangle Aiden. (Please no!!)  I will definitely be reading Mating Instinct.  Like now.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Primal Possession
by Katie Reus
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Signet Eclipse

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Two Sinful Secrets

Reviewed by Jen
Laurel McKee continues her Scandalous St Claires series with this second installment, featuring Dominic St Claire (brother to Lily, the heroine in book 1) and Sophia (cousin to Aidan, book 1's hero.) I was really looking forward to this, since their first encounter eclipsed the primary romance in One Naughty Night.  A young, masked Sophia shared a passionate kiss with Dominic at his family's gaming hall, but ran away before it ever became more.  It was an encounter neither one has ever forgotten.  Even though years have passed, and Sophia has been both married and widowed, the memory of that kiss still scorches her.  And Dominic has never stopped looking for the masked woman who captivated him.

The two come face to face in Paris, where Dominic is on family business.  Sophia is trying to start a new life for herself, after her late husband left her penniless.  They are drawn to each other again instantly.  But Dominic is caught up in the longstanding animosity that his family holds against hers.  At first, he tries to stay away, but goes on to see a relationship with her as a surefire way to get under her family's skin.

I must say, just like in the last book, the family feud is very weak.  And the fact that Dominic wanted to use Sophia to hurt her family made it difficult for me to really like him.  Yes, he eventually comes around, but it's almost too little, too late.

In the meantime, there is a man from Sophia's past who is stalking her.  This is the main external conflict in the book, and it didn't work for me.  This is a powerful and attractive man who could have anyone. His actions and obsession with Sophia are over the top and simply don't have enough of a basis to ring true.  It made him seem almost like a caricature of a villain, instead of a believable threat.

There were some parts of the book I really liked, though. Sophia, for instance, was a pretty good heroine.  She was sympathetic with her cold family and loser husband.  You could really see that she has grown a lot, and she does her best to do right by Dominic.  Also... the sex was hot.  Solid tension and great payoff.  Plus, McKee is really great at laying the groundwork for future books. She did it last time, and she does it here again.  I can't wait for Elizabeth and Brendan's book.  There is so much angst there!!!

I definitely enjoyed it more than One Naughty Night... and I have high hopes for book 3.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon
Two Sinful Secrets
by Laurel McKee
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Forever

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Chloe's Double Draw

Reviewed by Shelly
Woot woot, I’ve found another writer who’ll make it to my auto-buy list. This first story in the King’s Bluff, Wyoming, series is also Archer’s debut story and what a debut it is. There’s a lot going on,  but it’s not too much, and it’s all well played out.

Running from a past she can’t seem to dodge, Chloe Morgan figures she can start over in King’s Bluff, Wyoming. She’s done her time in the big city with her very own stalker and is just really ready for a new start – what sane girl wouldn’t? Getting a job as a schoolteacher at King’s Bluff Community School, Chloe gets to know the town folk including Noah King and Flynn Taylor. Once they meet Chloe at a town gathering, the guys know that she’s going to be theirs and pursuit is on!

Former Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) Commandos Noah and Flynn are Australian by birth but they’ve decided to settle in Wyoming, USA, because of Noah’s inheritance. Turns out that King’s Bluff was founded by one of Noah’s ancestors and Noah’s been left with the responsibility of the town. As Noah’s best friend, Flynn came along for the ride but is enjoying life and what King’s Haven has to offer. They’re about to enjoy it even more with Chloe strapped down in their bed.

I really liked Chloe because she didn’t take any crap from these two Doms. So much so, in fact that, she was constantly in trouble, but only the good kind. I have to warn you right about here, heed the warning about BDSM. Archer is very descriptive in that regard, so if you’re easily offended or expect just a little slap and tickle, I don’t know what to tell you other than you’ve been warned. But I digress. Her past has followed her and there’s quite a bit of action surrounding that and, of course, some former military assistance is definitely absolutely required.

I was a little skeptical about Chloe’s almost seamless progression into being a sub, but it wasn’t really a choice for her and here’s why: Chloe sexual past isn’t really discussed but you get the idea that she’s not been out there (if you know what I mean) but Noah and Flynn tell her every, naughty and not so naughty, thing that they’re going to do. Because of this she gets to say yes or no and BAM! she’s in the lifestyle. Other than the nipple clamps (ouchie) I was maybe kinda sorta a slight bit jealous.

Noah and Flynn were identifiably separate characters and each had their own demons. Although they’ve hard-earned scars both inside and outside they’ve got another thing coming if they think that Chloe is going to let them get away with being ‘Vegemite-eating bastards’. Not today, scratch that - any day, misters. They really tried sometimes to run over Chloe but she absolutely wasn’t having any of it. This is my absolute favorite line from Chloe talking to the guys - ‘before you start and waste all of our time, why don’t I tell you the various ways each of you can shove it up your ass’ – this had me rolling on the floor laughing my you know what off.

Noah and Flynn both have a group of hunky friends from the old days that are still around for a rescue or two. Former SEALs Quinn Sullivan and Mike Langley. There’s Chloe’s friend, good girl and town librarian, Reagan. According to the author’s website, these three are in the next book. Yippee, can’t wait.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the idea that you don’t have to be born someplace to be a welcomed and valuable part of that society. Chloe’s story was a great example.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Chloe's Double Draw
by Fiona Archer
Release Date: November 29, 2012
Publisher: Siren

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Review: A Passion for Him

Reviewed by Jen
I feel very torn about this book. There were some things I really liked here... others, not so much. Let me get you up to speed:

Amelia is betrothed to her dear friend, the Earl of Wane.  She doesn't love him, but he is ok with that. It would be a marriage based on friendship and respect.  Amelia has never gotten over her first love, Colin, who was a Gypsy and family servant in her youth.  As teenagers, they had a passionate and amazing bond, despite their difference in class.  Sadly, Colin was shot and killed years ago, and part of Amelia's heart died with him.

Only, Colin didn't actually die.  He went abroad to remake himself... to earn a fortune in order to make a future possible for himself and Amelia.  Now that he has achieved that end, he is ready to come back and claim her. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in a murder plot and is now being hunted. That doesn't stop him from seeking Amelia out at a masked ball.

Of course, Amelia doesn't know who he is, but she is attracted to him immediately.  He takes on a false name and keeps on the mask every time they meet. And in spite of the mystery, or maybe even because of it, the passion between them reaches a fever pitch.  But once Amelia learns of his deception, can she forgive him?  Or is her sure and steady friend Ware the better choice for her future?  All these questions play out, as a dangerous killer continues to track Colin. 

So here's what was really good.  Sylvia Day does a fantastic job carving out these characters and investing me in their emotions.  I felt the raw heartbreak from Amelia, the insecurity and longing from Colin.  And the passion... wow.  The sex is fantastic and very, very satisfying. (The line about the "slick, humid paradise of her glistening sex" aside.) But... perhaps Day did too good of a job with making me empathize with Amelia.  Because, frankly, I had a very hard time forgiving Colin, and it bothered me how easily he got what he wanted. I wanted them together, but at the same time, I didn't feel like he deserved her after he abandoned her.  He gets off too easy.  Not to mention the scores of women he boned while he was allegedly pining for his lost love. This, while Amelia stayed a virgin, even though she thought he was dead.  Fail, fail, fail.

Would I call it a pretty good book? Yes.  But it also frustrated me, made me angry, and hurt my heart a little bit.  I like to feel a little bit happier about my happy endings.

Rating: B-

*Book Provided by Kensington via NetGalley

 Click to purchase: Amazon
A Passion for Him
by Sylvia Day
Original Release Date: November 1, 2007
Re-Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Bravia

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Dark Dealings

Reviewed by Jen
I'll give Kim Knox credit for this: Dark Dealings is definitely different. It's dark and edgy... a little disturbing and not always pleasant to read, but strangely compelling at the same time.

Ava is a thief -- though not in the traditional sense of the word. She hungers for flesh and bone, and for that, she is an anathema to the Mages who surround her.  All expect for Reist. He took her in when she was just a teen. Took care of her. Made her his protege.  And she fell in love with him. But the feelings were one-sided.  He never looked at her as a woman.  As the story begins, Reist is starting a relationship with a female mage, and Ava has had enough.

When she learns that sexual energy can feed her and fill her with magic, she makes a deal with a Heyerdar. She agrees to trade sexual encounters with the powerful elemental, and with the magic she gains, she hopes to lure Reist to her bed, while sending his new woman into Heyerdar's waiting arms.  In the meantime, Ava and Heyerdar must work together to track down a band of thieves who have gone on a killing spree in the territory.

Ava was a really downtrodden heroine. It was hard to watch everyone kick her when she was down.  No one gave her respect or kindness.  Even Heyerdar didn't treat her well, though he sure did enjoy her body.  He ordered her around and treated her like a dog.  Reist used her and ignored her.  And everyone else treated her like she was a contagious disease.  When Heyerdar finally does come around (at the very, very end,) it just doesn't ring true.  Are we supposed to believe he cared for all along? Pfft.

The imagery surrounding the depiction of the thieves was mighty gruesome.  They sucked people's insides out and left a husk of skin.  When Ava gets mad, she wants to rip the skin from people's bones.  It's not a... comfortable read.  But the world-building was unique and interesting.  And even though parts of the book bothered me, I didn't ever think about putting it down.  Maybe it was morbid curiosity, but I wanted to see how it would all end.

If a bit of darkness doesn't bother you and you don't mind watching the heroine take some hard knocks, you might enjoy it.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dark Dealings
by Kim Knox
Release Date: November 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

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You Should Be Reading: Shaede Assassin

A Message from Jen
You've probably heard me talking about this series here or on Twitter, but in case you missed it (or you haven't gotten around to it yet) --listen up. I'm gonna tell you about the Shade Assassin books.

Darian started her life as an ordinary human. But a mysterious man with extraordinary gifts rescued her from the confines of an abusive relationship and helped her transition into a nearly immortal Shaede.  She uses her new abilities to become an assassin, cut-off from relationships and emotion. But that all changes as she finds others of her kind and falls in love with a man who is totally crazy about her.  I love this series.  The heroine is emotionally stunted, but we get to watch her evolution --both in her personal life and as we see her powers grow.  Tyler is a great hero: patient, loyal and powerful. And there's an engaging cast of secondary characters that grow in importance as the series goes on.  Whirlwind action, great world-building and a romance to root for makes this an Urban Fantasy series you don't want to miss!

If that sounds familiar, that means you have probably visited my Favorites page before. Yep! This series is one of my favorites in Urban Fantasy.  And book 3, Crave the Darkness, is out on March 5th.  Still not sure if it's right for you? Amanda Bonilla is sharing an excerpt from the new book. Check it out:

   “I want you to wish for something.” Ty’s voice rumbled in his chest.
   “Wh- hat?” I stammered.
   “Wish. For. Something.” Tyler’s eyes were hard, unyield­ing, and his stare bore into me with such intensity that I couldn’t look away. His hand, still wrapped around the back of my neck, held my face close to his, and the cold that ema­nated from him chilled me to the bone. “Do you know how fucking frustrating it is for me that you never wish for any­thing? Well,” he scoffed. “I guess you make the occasional wish. But only when you want me out of your hair.”
   “I wished for you,” I said, my voice thick with emotion. “Almost every day. And no matter how much I wanted you with me, you stayed away.”
   “Wants versus needs,” Tyler scoffed. “Your wishes are dictated by magic, Darian. You might have wanted me for whatever reason but you didn’t need me. I’m at your dis­posal . . . night, day, whenever. And still, you only make self­ish wishes. Wishes to keep me home and out of your hair. Wishes to bring me to your side to relieve your guilt. Do you know how useless that makes me feel?”
   “Tyler . . . I . . .” What the hell could I say? He was right. I refused to make wishes, even though his very nature de­manded that he grant them. I hadn’t wanted to use him, to treat him like a slave.
   “Is it easier to be with him?” Tyler asked. “Does he give you space? Freedom? Does he let you be in charge, because I have a hard time believing that he’d let you. Does he even care what happens to you as long as you’re front and center when he wants you to be?” His eyes left mine and his heated gaze swept my body, sending a liquid fire through my blood­stream. “Do you tremble when he touches you?” He swept his forefinger along my collarbone and over the swell of one breast. Can he make your breath quicken like I can?”
   Little puffs of steam burst from my parted lips. “Stop it, Tyler,” I said, too breathily. I tried to infuse my voice with strength and resolution, but fell short. “You don’t want me anymore. Why are you doing this to me?”
   “Make a wish,” he commanded.
   My gaze darted from his eyes to his parted mouth. I could almost feel his lips on mine: soft, yet demanding. “I wish . . .” you’d kiss me.

(*thud*) I wish he would kiss her too!! Clearly, there is angst afoot.   I've got some buy links for the new book below. But if you're new to the series, check out my review for book one --and give it a try.

Crave the Darkness: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Amanda is giving away a copy of Crave the Darkness before you can buy it. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to enter. US/Can only.

Read more »

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review: Hostage to Pleasure

Reviewed by Jen
Poor Dorian. He's been through so much.  The powerful changeling sentinel has never been able to shift. He carries a leopard within him, but a genetic abnormality keeps him from letting his cat come out.  Even worse, his sister was killed a couple of years ago by a sadistic Psy serial killer. It was an emotional wound that nearly destroyed him and still plagues him to this day. It's also made him hate the Psy and see them as the enemy.

Of course, that means his mate would be Psy! Ashaya is the brilliant Psy geneticist who has been forced to work on a terrible implant project by the Council.  She struck a deal with the changelings in the last book and now the Dark River pack is coming through on its end... to get her little boy out of the Council's clutches.  Once they do, Ashaya fakes her own death to break free and reunite with her child.

The council wants her back, but even more so, her twisted twin sister does too. Ashaya takes refuge with Dark River and finds herself twisted up with sentinel who saved her child and haunts her dreams.

I liked this one ok, but not as much as the last two.  Dorian is really close to the edge and, at times, difficult to like.  He's not a bad guy or anything, but I just didn't have a strong emotional connection to him... or the romance.  I wanted them to get together, but my heart wasn't in it the way it was for Clay and Tally ... nor was I dying for the sex the way I was for Judd and Brenna.   Maybe it's because neither Dorian nor Ashaya wanted to want the other.  Both fought the mating pull tooth and nail. And even once it was inevitable, it made Dorian feel angry and guilty... while Ashaya continued to fight against feeling anything. As for Ashaya, I didn't feel much of anything towards her at all. She's smart. She loves her kid. She feels responsible for her sister. And.... ?? And that's it. I got nothing else.  She doesn't have much in the way of personality.

The resolution was satisfying, though pretty predictable.  I did like the continuing overall storyline with the Psy council and human revolutionaries.   I am interested in what's happening with Henry and Kaleb... and very intrigued by Vasic.  I would like more of him, please!

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hostage to Pleasure
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Review: Highland Heart

Reviewed by Shelly
Traveling through the land of Loch Tuinn, Rachel Brindle, her sister Isabelle, and their father William are on their way to the Munro land to do some bartering for wool. While on the road, Rachel inadvertently does something that will reveal her healing magic to those around her. Alex Munro of the Clan Munro (insert Christopher Lambert’s voice) is doing some hunting and gathering work (in his kilt only – hubbabubba) along the property when Rachel sees him and later remembers him from a childhood incident.

During a scuffle Rachel is taken by the Macbain clan who are in a long standing feud with the Munros. Not knowing how she’s going to be rescued, certainly not by her scoundrel of a father, Rachel decides to take matters in her own hands and tries for an escape.

In one of the funniest moments in the story --and there’re quite a few-- Rachel asks Alex why they’re in the feud, and I literally laughed out loud with his answer. For being a very short read, roughly 50 pages, this is a surprisingly pleasant read that left me quite satisfied with the characters and the resolution.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a storyline about Rachel’s sister, Isabella, and Alex’s friend, Colin Macleod.

Sorry folks, no sexy time.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Entangled Publishing

Click to purchase: Amazon
Highland Heart
by Heather McCollom
Release Date: December 17, 2012
Publisher: Entangled

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: A Kiss for Midwinter

Reviewed by Jen
I enjoyed this sidestory novella in Courtney Milan's new Brothers Sinister series. It centers on Lydia , Minnie's best friend from The Duchess War --and boy, does she have a story to tell.  She got pregnant out of wedlock at just 15 years-old by a married man who told her lies.  Then she lost the baby.  But her parents stood by her side and kept her secret.

It's been six years since that horrible time, and Lydia refuses to ignore the good things in life.  She won't be overcome by bitterness.  And it's that remaining softness, that optimism, that fascinates Jonas.  He was just a doctor in training when he witnessed Lydia at her lowest. But now when he looks at her, he only sees what she has overcome, and he is captivated by her. Unfortunately, when she looks at him, she is reminded of what she went through and is convinced that he sees her as the lowest of the low.

Jonas sets out to woo her with an unconventional bet. She agrees to visit three of his patients with him. If she can still look on the world the same way after that, he'll agree never to speak to her again. If she can't, she owes him a kiss.

I liked Jonas. He is socially awkward and blunt.  There is no subterfuge or hidden meanings in his words or actions. He simply is who he is.  A good doctor; a good son; a good man.  Meanwhile, poor Lydia pushes her real feelings down so deep, even she can't recognize them herself.   I empathized with both of them and wanted them together so much!  I really enjoyed watching it all fall into place.

Courtney Milan made me laugh... and made me feel for both these characters, in just a hundred pages or so.  And while the story is tied to The Duchess War, this works 100% as a standalone.  Smart, witty, engaging, and satisfying.

Rating: B+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Kiss for Midwinter
by Courtney Milan
Release Date: December 18, 2012

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Truth's Evil Light

Reviewed by Shelly
I don’t know where Michaela McGregor came from... I don’t really care if you’re a Zephyri or not, I’m just super glad that you wrote this story. When I got this book in the mail I was intrigued by the cover – almost simple in its design. What I can tell you folks is this, there’s nothing about this story that is simplistic (in a good way). The story is complex but told in a way that is very understandable and very easy to read and, more importantly, easy to follow. The ‘otherworld’ starts out quickly and there are some times that I started to say ‘wait, what’s that’ – there’s a glossary that helps out a ton and doesn’t allow the story to be bogged down with the same explanation over and over.

Working for the CIA, Cheveyo Oneida ‘Chevy’ Singer is an empath in a world that doesn’t understand her and unfortunately makes her a ‘freak’. An orphan since age ten when her parents died in a fire, she was found by John who turned her over to the government system. She was teamed with Tony Romano, who would become her guiding figure and more importantly – friend and family.

The story kicks off quickly and doesn’t let up, as Chevy goed on a rescue mission for Tony who was kidnapped while they were on a training exercise. During the rescue, we get a glimpse of Chevy’s powers and the potential she has if she uses her powers for good, not evil. At this point, I’m hoping this story doesn’t take a turn for the worst and turn this emerging character into a vapid, stupid heroine. My hope was not wasted - this chick rocks.

I really liked Chevy’s character. She’s tall --at six feet even-- and kinda thin, so in addition to her psychic abilities she’s feeling outside the norm. But my enjoyment of her was that she was no pushover and certainly not helpless. Never once did I question her motivation or want to smack her for her silliness.

During Tony’s attempted rescue and after accidently exposing the Zephyri on national TV, Chevy’s problems exponentially increase when she has to fend-off not only the human bad guys but vampires, fairies, elves, and shifters from a whole other world. Rescued by the Zephyri, Chevy doesn’t know if she’s been saved or damned but she’ll soon find out. In the meantime, she’s got to save her friend Tony, rescue members of the Zephyri before the U.S. government kills them, save the Earth from the evils of the Zephyri, find her first boyfriend, all this while trying to save her own skin from a madman who’s intent on killing her. What’s a girl to do?!?!

I completely got caught up in the people of the Zephyri, especially Kegan McIntyre, the too-hot-for-his-own-good, day walking vampire and his student Sophia. Sophia is completely and totally bat-shit crazy and so awesome that I’m hoping she get hers somewhere along the line. There are four ruling members who make up the Council of the Zephyri: Ellarian, Queen of the fairies has the best and most justified case of Napoleon syndrome EVER. Fenion - King of the elves, Aadi – rajah of the shifters, Baldr – regent of the vampires is the biggest dude (literally a giant) around. And then there’s Tsái aka Eryx– the hottie with the most-est and oh yeah, he’s also ruler of the Zephyri.

There’s no sex in this story – but I absolutely guarantee I would have been disappointed if there was because there was no reason for it in this installment in the series. The tension of Chevy testing her wings was enough to make me pull my hair out because I just didn’t know who’s really deserving of her. She’s so young and impressionable with the guys, it’s refreshing that she doesn’t fall for their silly lines. I have no clue who she’s going to end up with and I’m totally okay with that because I want her to grow into herself more before she takes on a relationship - I’m on pins and needle to see who it’s going to be.

I really hope that the series brings it as much as this story did, because I’ll tell you folks, it’s worth the time, yes it’s just that good.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: A+

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Truth's Evil Light
by Michaela McGregor
Release Date: September 2, 2012

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: The Duchess War

Reviewed by Jen
Minnie is not at all the woman she seems.  To the casual observer, she seems mousy and biddable.  But her downcast eyes and quiet demeanor hide a brilliant mind and a will of steel.  She must keep up appearances, though. Her true identity is a secret, and if it ever gets out, her reputation will be destroyed.  Unfortunately, when she is falsely accused of printing seditious fliers, she realizes that all of her careful behavior may have been for naught.

A chance encounter with Robert, the Duke of Clermont, gives Minnie an opportunity to lessen the damage, however.  Once she realizes he is the true author of the fliers, she confronts him and asks him to stop. He refuses, but he is intrigued by this woman who sees the real man behind his title.  And so the two of them do battle: She is determined to prove his involvement in the fliers, while he plans to convince everyone that he is smitten with her, so that she can find the solid future his actions may deprive her of.

The more time they spend together, the more Minnie intrigues Robert.  Despite the difference in their social stations, he ends up falling for her.

I love Courtney Milan's writing style.  It's smart. It makes me laugh.  And she makes me understand her characters. But I can't say this was the most engaging of her books.  The relationship was slow to take off.   Beyond that, both characters make choices that stood to obliterate the other. That's a tough pill to swallow.  First Minnie makes a conscious decision to destroy Robert... then he does the same to her.  I understood why they each thought they "had to" do what they did, but it wilted the romantic in me a bit.

Minnie's big secret was different than your standard born-on-the wrong-side-of-the-tracks or I'm-not-really-a-virgin fare.  But after all the build up we had for it, the reveal seemed a bit anticlimactic.

Despite my complaints, I liked the book overall. It's hard for me not to give my heart to a hero so emotionally wounded as Robert.  The poor man is so starved for love, there were times I wanted to jump into the book and give him a hug... And there was a scene where Minnie gives him a book that brought a tear to my eye.  Plus --a stealth virgin hero!  There are good elements in there.  It just wasn't my favorite from this author.

Rating: B-

*Book provided by author for review 

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Duchess War
by Courtney Milan
Release Date: December 8, 2012

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