Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: His Right Hand

Should the cover have given me a clue as to what this story is really about or should I have depended on the blurb for that? I can’t really decide so --- you tell me, here’s the blurb:

“Mike Jasper might be one hell of a catch on paper, but he’s still lacking in a few crucial areas. Just ask his impressive list of disgruntled, dissatisfied exes. Who knew good looks, a hard body and plenty of money weren’t enough, especially between the sheets? When it comes to sex, he reluctantly admits he needs help. And who better to ask than his longtime assistant? Ellen is his right hand, completely devoted. She already sees to his business needs. Surely she can offer a few pointers in pleasure?

After a humiliating demonstration of his limited skills, Jasper’s relieved when Ellen agrees, apparently recognizing a cry for help when she sees one. And the first thing he learns? His intelligent, austere assistant has been hiding an insanely hot and horny vixen under those business suits! Before long, Jasper’s office is a flesh-filled pleasure den, Ellen’s sexual satisfaction crucial to finding his own. He’s learning more than he’d ever dreamed possible under Ellen’s titillating tutelage…included some unexpected lessons in love.”

Once I started reading this story, I kept thinking that surely this is a not a story just about sex – there has to be a plot some where along the line. I’m still waiting for the plot. What I did get was a story about Mike Jasper whose last girlfriend broke up with him because he does not make her happy, in or out of bed. To help himself when he moves on to the next woman, Mike decides to ask his assistant of ten years to help him with pleasing a woman. Ellen says yes and for the balance of the story Mike and Ellen have sex at the office, at the opera, any place that Ellen could think of. There was so much sex that I skipped pages, perish the thought, but even I have my limit.

I probably could have let that slide if I understood Ellen’s why but this story is told from Mike’s point of view and only about one paragraph on one page do we hear Ellen’s motivation for anything. I wasn’t satisfied with what I got, I just didn’t buy it -- not one bit. Even more, it turns out that in the ten years that Ellen’s worked for Mike, he has no idea who she is outside of work. Why would I like a character who has no regards for those around him? Yes, he’s rich (the dreaded billionaire) but does that mean he has to be a complete and total asshat?

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: C-/D+

*Book provided by author for review
His Right Hand
by Silence O'Shea
Original Release Date: March 24, 2013


Review: A Simple Twist of Fate

This is the second novel in a series about the three Hanover brothers. Their father, Charlie, was a con man who died and left behind a trail of angry, cheated people. The grown brothers inherit a house from their grandmother, but the house is located in a small town where Charlie did a lot of damage. The first book, which I haven’t read, sets all this up and shows the brothers moving into the house and deciding to fix it up and stay.

A Simple Twist of Fate opens with Sophie, the housekeeper/carrier of secrets, walking in on a naked Beck, the lawyer/hater of secrets, after his shower. And that’s when I noticed that my brain wasn’t meshing with this author’s style. The conversation was interspersed with so many little body movements that I lost track of who was speaking, and it didn’t flow for me. Then another brother walked up and joined the conversation, and they were talking about how many penises Sophie had seen in her life, and it was strange. After that, I figured out that Sophie has been pretending to clean the house for a month while she searches for something important. Her aunt requested the search so she can’t tell anyone. It’s a secret! During that month, she has been lusting after Beck because he wears t-shirts that barely cover his stomach. Beck has been lusting after Sophie, too, because she wears tight jeans and looks cute when she carries a mop.

The first quarter of the book consists of people telling Beck that he should hook up with Sophie because of his lust, but Beck says he won’t because of their employer/employee relationship. People also tell Sophie to hook up with Beck, but she won’t because she’s on a mission and doesn’t want to get sucked in, or something. That was a problem for me, because Sophie and Beck didn’t interact with each other at all. I was told repeatedly that they were hot for each other, but I didn’t get a sense that they had ever hung out, joked around, or said more than two words to each other, so it was purely physical. Maybe all that chit chat happened in the first book. Basically, I got no relationship building between them.

This book spent a lot of time with other characters. Too much time, in my opinion, because it was taking away from the primary relationship. The whole history of the first book was spelled out, plus Sophie got to go to lunch with some girls, plus the oldest brother drank water and glared a lot. There was also an FBI agent popping up now and then who kept getting yelled at. And there was a mystery woman who would show up and say, “I have to talk to you!” and they would shut her down and go away. Sidenote — Don’t you hate it when characters keep saying “I have to tell you something” but they never just blurt it out? They allow themselves to be sent away without ever saying the very important thing that they need to say.

Eventually, awkwardly, Sophie and Beck decide to set aside their hesitation and have sex. Remember Sophie and Beck? Then suddenly she’s his girlfriend, and things are hunky dory, and she even tells Beck her secret! But the other brothers have issues, and then their mom shows up, and things are tragic and they separate based upon the worst misunderstanding ever until Beck’s brother talks some sense into him (another ding for having third parties solve the problem) and so Beck says nice things to Sophie and then it ends. Several plot points are left hanging because there’s another book to be written about another brother.

For fun, let me share a few things I highlighted: “Somewhere along the line he’d turned into a pre-teen girl.” “He treated her to a dramatic women-are-so-difficult exhale.” “He didn’t plunk down a stack of cash on this place to listen to them bicker like little girls.” “Running to Mom to talk about his love life? They were acting like little girls.” That’s just me being picky, but enough of the manly men stereotyping negative actions as girl-like.

I see this book as part of a saga about brothers finding their identity and dealing with the past. The romance is part of it, but not a big enough part. Basically, I was annoyed and frustrated with this book.

Rating: C


Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Just What She Wants

Reviewed by Shelly

This is a short story (about 42 pages including cover in ePub format). I’ve read Elsong before but it’s been a long while, long enough to not remember her writing style. This is the story of Indiana Jones, Marc Cantrell, and Kyle Landon. Indiana has flown from London, England to FL, for what she thought would be a chillaxing vacation. Yeah, surely a place called Heden wouldn’t be suggestive but let me not get ahead of myself here. Indiana’s already a little nervous because her best friend, Lisa, bailed on her at the last minute – something about a broken leg. Argh, the bad luck of it. Things start looking up when Indiana meets the two hotties who run the resort - Marc and Kyle. It just so happens that Marc and Kyle are a couple of guys in a somewhat committed relationship and have been looking for a third for their relationship – both of the guys are in agreement with this so there was no angst about that. I did have a passing thought that Marc is a bit of slut as he can’t stop sleeping with the guest but whatever floats his boat.

Now I had to put certain things, like my need for things to make sense, aside because this is part of the 1Night Stand line of stories so falling in love within a few hours of meeting could happen. With that premise and knowing that Indiana is only going to be in the resort for a set time, things happened really quickly, I mean really quickly. To Elsong’s credit, Indiana’s character is well developed. She’s funny, smart and believable when she’s dealing with Marc and Kyle. She doesn’t immediately fall for the crap that’s coming out of Marc’s mouth. The only complaint I have, other than the story is too short is that Indiana’s got a thing about Christmas that I thought was ridiculous but as it’s a short story, it can’t be too complex (I guess).

Marc and Kyle had their own drama. Kyle’s physical and emotional pain comes from a place where most of us might have trouble dealing also. I found myself being sympathetic to him and his reasons for the way that he treated Marc. It’s hard to love those around you when you don’t love yourself. There wasn’t a lot to Marc’s character other than he’s the funny guy.

Overall, this was a fun read with a couple of pretty hot sexy scenes.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon
Just What She Wants
by Barbara Elsborg
Original Release Date: December 7, 2012
Publisher: Decadent Publishing


Review: Making It Last

Reviewed by Carrie
I’m a big fan of Ruthie Knox’s Camelot series. This novella takes us back to the very first couple, Tony and Amber, from How to Misbehave. Fast forward 14 years and 3 kids later, Amber is struggling. She has lost herself in her duties to her husband and children and is running on empty. While on holiday to Jamaica for her brother’s wedding, Amber’s mother sees that all is not right with her daughter and encourages Tony to extend her vacation so she can catch a break from familial duties. Tony has been working himself to the bone trying to support his family during rough financial times, so this is the first time he’s really looked at his wife to see that something was amiss.

Those of us who are married with children will find this story eminently relatable. It gets into the nitty gritty of the very hard job of raising children while keeping a marriage going. Tony and Amber take on the traditional gender roles and come off a bit stereotypical. Amber is silent in her suffering and doesn’t communicate that she feels her family has sucked her dry. Tony is oblivious to his wife’s pain because he is all focused on working to give her everything she wants. Some late night confessions to each other probably would have gone a long way in avoiding the place where the couple sits at the beginning of the book.

I empathized with both of them. Amber feels this responsibility of having to do everything and bear the burden with pride - that’s the message society has taught us as mothers. Tony is very much a man’s man. He wants to give Amber things, like the house he built, to show her he loves her. He wants to fix what’s broken in her. Both of them acknowledge that it would be easy to just walk away, but also realize how much they couldn’t continue without the other. The couple’s journey back to each other is in fits and starts and I appreciated the authenticity.

The other message that the author relates are the choices that we make on a consistent basis when we are with a partner. When you feel that disconnect, how do you get back there? Anyone in a long time relationship can attest that hearts and flowers only last a short time. It’s the getting back and remembering those times and evolving in love with the person you chose, and continue to choose, that makes it all worthwhile.

This book can be read as a stand-alone, but I highly recommend all of the books in this series. Ruthie Knox writes funny, smart, real contemporary romance.

Grade: B+

*ARC provided by Loveswept via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Making It Last
by Ruthie Knox
Original Release Date: July 15, 2013
Publisher: Loveswept

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Big Girl Panties

Reviewed by Carrie
Holly Brennan is a grieving widow who has used food to cope with the untimely death of her husband. Trudging back from Toronto, she is seated next to Logan Montgomery, a hot shot personal trainer to pro athletes. As a karmic payment for judging a book by its cover, Logan offers to train Holly to help her “get her life back on track,” not even knowing why or how she got herself into her current state. Holly decides three years of mourning and junk food is enough and grasps at the opportunity to try to move past her depression and grief. As the sessions progress, they become friends. As Holly’s new form begins to emerge, Logan starts to notice more than her snarky retorts. Meanwhile, Holly nurses her crush on Logan, but he still can’t get over his image issues.

Much of the book is centered around weight issues, both from Logan and Holly’s point of view. I totally sympathized with Holly. She has never been the thin girl. She had crappy parents. She was a loner until in college, a man paid attention to her and she married him. He was her way out of a sad life. So as she watched him, and her life, slowly destroyed by cancer, she turned to the one thing in her life that she could count on – food.

On the other hand, there is Logan, who believes that everyone can achieve anything they want if they just put their mind to it. Logan reminded me of a guy I knew in high school that everyone liked. He was gorgeous, popular and nice to everyone, but lacked any real kind of depth or emotion. I felt taken back to that time when Holly secretly crushes on Logan as he makes it plain that he couldn’t even fathom having someone looking like her on his arm. In short, Logan is an ass. By the time he pulls his head out, I’m not sure that many readers will say he is redeemed.

The book is well written and the words flow well except the author tried to cram in a novella’s worth about Logan’s friends Chase and Amanda. that was completely unnecessary. I found myself skipping over their scenes as they had nothing to do with Logan or Holly.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this book. Anyone who has ever struggled with their weight will immediately identify with Holly and her pain. On the other hand, Logan’s behavior really cut me to the quick and I’m not sure if I really forgave him. Readers will feel strongly about this book one way or another.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by William Morrow

Click to purchase: Amazon
Big Girl Panties
by Stephanie Evanovich
Original Release Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Special Occasion

Reviewed by Shelly

I don’t even know why I bought this book. I think I was…I don’t know, but I wasn’t thinking.

Regina Marshall is a devoted wife to her husband. They live in an affluent neighborhood, I don’t know the source of their wealth but they’re well off by the description of the lavish gifts, cars and home. It’s Regina’s birthday and her husband Clayton wants to make her secret sexual fantasy come true. So he hunts down a friend who happens to be a pimp, he runs an escort service but that’s just a dressed up name for what he calls his ‘whores’. Believe it when I tell you that’s not even the part that set off my warning bells.

Stay with me here, Regina and Clayton are both African American and the fantasy that Clayton is fulfilling for his wife is for her to have sex with a white man. Not an attractive man who happens to be white but a blond, blue eyed, pale white man. You’ve got to be shitting me, right. The plethora of references to Regina’s dark hand against his pale white skin is absolutely staggering and I literally couldn’t believe how many times Clayton referred to this grown man as ‘white boy’. There’re very few times when I can stay that I felt furious after reading a story but yep, this one definitely made me shake my head in anger. Special occasion my petunia.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: F

Click to purchase: Amazon
Special Occasion
by Thirteen
Original Release Date: May 28, 2011
Publisher: Beautiful Trouble Publishing

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Donor

Reviewed by Shelly

This was a solid first story in the Dresdan Coven series and I’m a little mad at myself it was in my TBR so long. As a former member of District 5, Elaina’s role as a tracker of the Dresdan led her to Vicq. As a vamp creation of the master vampire Russo, Vicq is not your ordinary Dresdan. He has some special skills that he uses to woo and protect Elaina. After he was exiled from Russo’s coven for his affiliation with Elaina, Vicq has left Elaina alone long enough. He’s finally ready to make her his – permanently. Can this human and vampire find their own HEA? I hope so.

I was completely shocked and impressed that I liked this short story as much as I did. Kirk did a very good job of building the world where these characters live, because it’s certainly not like any I’ve read before. I admit that I love vampire stories and their paranormal world as much as the next person, but it wasn’t the vamps that really got my attention, it was District 5. What are those people doing? I can’t wait to find out what the real story is. Elaina thinks she knows what it is but I’m hoping it’s not as elementary as she seems to think. Kirk, please bring on the tomfoolery and shenanigans because it makes for an interesting read when it’s not the obvious.

Back to Elaina, she’s a very likable character and no whimpering female when it comes to holding her own. This chick can kick a vamp's butt then go out for a meal. How cool is that? I’m hoping there’s going to more about her history once the series continues, because I’m looking for the underlying reason she fell in love with Vicq. Yes, he has the ability to ‘glamour’ – that might be a True Blood term, but I don’t know else to call it –which he did when they initially met, but I’m hoping that’s there’s something more to their love.

Vicq --- oh my my, that’s one hot specimen of vampiliciousness. He’s got a thing for Elaina and nothing will get in his way, not even his creator. And the chemistry between the two was hot and heavy. Like Elaina’s motivation and background, I hope there’s more about him in the future installments.

The other members of Vicq’s newly formed coven are very loyal to their leader and have their own interesting quirks that made for good story telling. Other than the epilogue and a few spelling errors that made me reread a few sentences, this was a good story.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B-

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Ambrielle Kirk
Original Release Date: February 24, 2011
Re-Release Date: April 28, 2013

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Review: The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters

Reviewed by Jen
What a great introduction to the world of Secret McQueen!  It's full of action, violence, and just a hint of romance -- perfect for a novella.  And it managed to give me a taste for the series, without any big info dumps or backstory.

Secret is part-vamp, part-werewolf, and all ass-kicking bounty hunter. She works for the vampire council, dispatching rouge vamps who need to be put down.  Her job and her supernatural side have made it difficult to hold down a relationship, but her friend Mercedes is diligently trying to change that. As the story begins, Secret is getting ready for a blind-date, set up by her friend.

Unfortunately, at the same time, the council has a job for her. She needs to take out a high-profile vamp who happens to be a very famous actor.  Secret actually likes her blind-date, Tyler, but the council doesn't really take no for an answer. So she tries to knock out both in the same night.

I liked Secret. She is tough and good at her job, but her date with Tyler shows how she still longs for love.  Her handler, Holden, is sexy and mysterious. I am very intrigued there. But I also hope we see more of Tyler in the future as well!

My only small gripe is that it didn't make sense to me for Secret not to reschedule her date. If she really wanted a chance with Tyler, trying to work an assassination into the evening was clearly a recipe for failure.  Forcing them to remain on the date felt like a tenuous plot device.  But like I said, small gripe.  I liked the story quite a bit and I am excited to continue on with the series.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters
by Sierra Dean
Release Date: July 19, 2011
Publisher: Samhain

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Days of Rakes and Roses

Reviewed by Jen
If you are looking for a sweet and sexy second-chance- at-love story, look no further.  This one hit the spot for me!

Lydia has spent the last 10 years mourning her chance lost love with Simon. They were caught in her father's barn together --just before they could, er, cross the threshold in their relationship.  Her father tossed him out and Simon left the country.  Even though her father died five years ago, she has heard nothing from him. And no man has ever made her feel what Simon did.  At some point, though, she realized that he may never come back and she made herself move on.

Now Lydia is engaged to be married to another man. She doesn't love him, of course, but it's a good match.  It's at her engagement ball that Simon makes his comeback. Lydia's brother summoned him to stop the wedding.  He's sure that his sister would be miserable with a man she doesn't love.  But it's not as easy as he hoped to reunite her with his old friend.  She was so hurt by Simon's abandonment and it has eradicated her ability to trust a man.  How could she trust him, of all people, with her heart again?

What I liked about this story was that Simon was just as miserable as Lydia over the past decade. He left to protect her reputation and muddled through life just as heartbroken as she did.  And when they were reunited, they both still felt that long ago love for one another.  Yes, there were roadblocks, but there weren't too many and they didn't feel contrived.  It was just right for the length of the story.

This is part of Anna Campbell's Sons of Sin series, and while I loved Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed (and totally think you should read it) you don't have to be familiar with the previous book to enjoy this one.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Days of Rakes and Roses
by Anna Campbell
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Forever

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Review: Secret Maneuvers

Reviewed by Shelly

Lane pleasantly surprised me with this story. I had no clue when I started reading what I thought would be a typical Special Ops story would actually turn out to be a not so typical story. Talk about a roller coaster ride.

Have you ever wanted…craved…a second chance? Be it with your family or a lost love? This is Bobby Baker’s story of his second chance. It’s the story of how a single action changed the course of his life and what he had to do to earn that second chance. Bobby’s story will make you sad, reflective, humbled and joyful; it touches on not being too prideful about getting on your knees and begging forgiveness for the wrong that you've done. Because all Bobby hoped for was fulfillment of his youthful dreams and promises - forever with his one true love.

Fifteen years after receiving a ‘Dear John’ letter from Bobby Baker – the small town boy who promised her a happy ever after - Annabelle Smith is on assignment with her unit of the ATF. Her very first day on her new assignment, she unsuspectingly walks into a meeting room where Bobby is waiting with his off-the-grid, special ops team. Bobby feels like he’s taken a punch to the gut and is completely floored by this especially considering that Annabelle doesn’t even acknowledge his presence. But that’s okay. He’s determined that she’s not getting away again because after looking for the past fifteen years, Bobby has finally found his Belle.

Folks, I don’t even know where to begin because I read this story two days ago and I’m still in awe of the smart writing. Bobby’s love for his Belle is truly an inspiring thing. But, there’s always a but… I was very skeptical about the passage of time and how that would play out but then I remembered that time flies, it waits for no man – so for me it’s plausible that fifteen years could pass while each of these characters went on with their lives. Bobby moved on from the Army that he joined at 18 and Belle moved on from the small town to become something better than her beginnings and the legacy left by her abusive, alcoholic father.

Both Bobby and Belle were very likable characters; their dialogue was witty, sarcastic and fast. Bobby’s alpha male persona was absolutely no match for Belle’s personality because, let’s face it, she’s been working around his type for a long time and it’s not a problem for her to hold her own. I really enjoyed that she was strong and maintained her conviction and thoughts when she was dealing with Bobby. That’s right Belle, don’t let him push you around.

The secondary characters are off the chain. Belle’s BFF, Teagan, is absolutely cold hearted and the most perfect BFF any girl could want. Her interaction with Bobby is some kinda special, I think there were a couple moments when Bobby actually quaked in his boots. Part of Bobby’s team, the Sullivan brothers, are a little different from the rest (if you know what I mean.) I’m hoping that they each get their stories because I think have something quite splendid to tell.

This one is a re-read for me and I highly recommend that you go out and get a copy. And yes, the sexing is smoking HOT!

Happy reading folks!

Rating: A-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Secret Maneuvers
by Jessie Lane
Release Date: June 14, 2013

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Joint Review: In Too Deep

Originally, Jaimie sent me a review for this book, but I saw Carrie's review on Goodreads wasn't nearly as favorable.  That was interesting to me, especially because Jaimie acknowledges the wide range of reaction to the book in her review. So I asked Carrie to add some thoughts from her point of view, so you can see both sides of the spectrum.


Reviewed by Jaimie & Carrie

Jaimie: I was intrigued to read this book from first time author Michelle Brownlow because of the huge discrepancy in the reviews. People seemed to either love the book and the heroine Gracie, or they absolutely hated her and found her to be a weak character. By now, it is not a secret that I do not like weak female leads but there is a difference between weak and vulnerable and I really liked the sounds of the storyline so I dived in and gave it a shot.

Carrie:  I was looking for an angsty story and New Adult usually fits the bill. I’m a little tired of the innocent girl/bad boy trope that is pervasive right now, I saw that you had just read it and rated it positively.

Jaimie: Gracie is a college student who has just finished her freshman year when she meets bad boy Noah as the two work at a local pizzeria in their hometown. Gracie is a naive, inexperienced girl who gets in over her head with the much more experienced Noah. The story follows her as she undergoes a couple of years of emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of Noah but cannot seem to break free from the relationship, which is changing who she is. Her best friend Jake is there for her through it all and he becomes her life line.

I can see why some readers may have become frustrated with Gracie and may have perceived her as weak, and at times I found her naiveté to be a bit unbelievable, but I wouldn’t use the word weak to describe her. Gracie is a classic victim of abuse even though she was not physically abused and to put her down for her inability to break free is like blaming the victim for the abuse. The couple lived the abuse cycle of happy times followed by cutting insults or degradation, apologies, promises and so on. Gracie knows that the relationship is not healthy but in time comes to believe that it is her fault and sadly this is a situation that is being played out at thousands of high schools, colleges and homes around the world at this very moment.

Carrie: I applaud the author for addressing emotional abuse. It’s an issue that is not often talked about but very widespread. Noah is really well drawn as typical example of an emotional abuser with the yo-yo patterns of behavior. Grace, on the other hand, is another story. Her hysterical behavior and inner dialog was completely over the top. Good lord, I've had firsthand experience with this and I never cried and threw up as much as this heroine. It was like when a child is crying, starts calming down but catches herself in the mirror to only start all over again just to prolong the sensation.

Jaimie: Gracie’s relationship with Jake was perfectly written. If their friendship had progressed too quickly, it would not have been realistic. The emotional toll of the abuse Noah inflicted cannot be erased over night and the unfortunate reality is that most women stay even after they know the situation is wrong. Jake has a girlfriend through much of the book but is there for Gracie any time she needs to talk, cry, or forget her problems for a little while. Although he is friends with Noah, he sees how the relationship is negatively impacting her and he resolves to be her soft spot to land.

Carrie: I felt like Jake was an equally ridiculous character. There was never a conflicting emotion or behavior - just constant back patting of Gracie. He’s supposed to be her best friend but only once says something about Noah’s behavior? Jake has a girlfriend but even she knew what was up. My best friend is a guy and I wouldn’t think of taking a nap with him in his bed if I had a boyfriend.

Jaimie: I couldn’t stop reading the story once I started. I could relate to Gracie on a number of levels and I found her journey extremely emotional. Brownlow did an excellent job of voicing the internal dialogue of victims of abuse and she did it in a beautiful, realistic way. If you like an emotional, touching story you should definitely read this book. I cannot wait for the next one and to follow more of Gracie’s journey.

Carrie: My problem with the book was never about the issue of abuse. The believability of Gracie and Jake as characters killed the story for me. Gracie never grew or matured after her relationship with Noah. She just hopped right into bed with Jake. I know how her story ends; she just keeps hoping from man to man because she never learned to stand on her own two feet.

Jamie's Rating: A
Carrie's Rating: C-

Click to purchase: Amazon
In Too Deep
by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Release Date: June 3, 2013
Publisher: Sapphire Star Publishing

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Review: White Trash Beautiful

Reviewed by Janell
This is a poor-girl-meets-rock-star story, but it didn’t entirely work for me. Cass lives in a trailer park with her mother and her boyfriend who are both drug addicts. Cass works as a waitress at the diner across the street. She makes just enough money to buy beer and tuna fish, and anything extra she hides so that one day she can move out. Her boyfriend, Jax, used to be protective and nice before the drugs changed him and he started beating her up. Her mother used to call her a princess but now she’s passed out all day.

One night, Tucker White waltzes into the diner and calls Cass sweetheart. She’s not into random guys flirting with her, but Tucker comes back again and says nice things to her, making her believe he’s actually a good guy. Tucker is the lead singer in a band that’s on tour and about to hit the big time, but Cass doesn’t know that at first.

Tucker’s motivations weren’t clear to me. I get that he flirts with a pretty waitress, and I get that he sees her bruises and her crappy boyfriend and wants to protect her, but I had a hard time finding any feelings beyond that, beyond his wanting to be the knight on a white horse. He tells Cass a few stories about his childhood so that she’ll relate to him, but then I was confused about whether he wanted to settle down with a woman or be a rock star, because he didn’t seem to say much about his band.

Cass sneaks away from her trailer a few times to see Tucker in concert, and one night he takes her to his hotel and they have unprotected sex. Yeah, both of them were so caught up in the romance that neither one considered protection. They didn’t even say, “oops,” afterwards, it just wasn’t ever mentioned. That bugged me.

I was also bothered by the choices Cass made. The story is told from her first-person point of view, and she goes back and forth between “I deserve this horrible life and I shouldn’t let Tucker get involved with me,” or “I need to escape this horrible life and I deserve the fantasy with Tucker.” She made a few too many stupid, “he’s better off without me” decisions.

The drama at the end was over-the-top, but I could have enjoyed it if it came with more character interaction and relationship building. Instead it almost rushed past, and then they were back together and Cass’s reservations were suddenly gone.

Overall this was too up-and-down for me. I like the concept, and there were some good moments, but Cass’s martyrdom got annoying and Tucker’s loyalty and love seemed to be based on nothing more than Cass’s sad eyes and bruises.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon
White Trash Beautiful
by Teresa Mummert
Original Release Date: September 19, 2012
Re-Release Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: Haunted Wolves

Reviewed by Jen
I do really enjoy Moira Rogers' sexy shifter stories.  But while there were parts of the book I really liked, I had just a few niggles that kept this from being a home run for me.

The past few years of Lorelei's life have been miserable. She has lost her son, nearly lost her sanity, and endured the destruction of her pack. She has barely held it together, but now, she has two new alphas to give her the safety and peace she has been sorely lacking.

Colin is attracted to Lorelei but her abuse at the hands of other wolves has made her firmly off limits. Until she takes the initiative and acts on the sexual tension they've got going on.  They begin a fragile relationship, but there are many unspoken truths between them.  Colin needs the pack every bit as much as Lorelei does.  He's been a lone wolf for too long; had to see too much --kill too many-- as an enforcer.  Both of them feel broken by their pasts.  The difference is, Colin has no idea just how deep Lorelei's pain really runs.

The dynamic between these two is really good (with one exception I will get to in a moment.)  At the beginning, there is a lot of pull as they skirt the sexual tension.  Later, the actual sex is hot.  And they are easy to root for as they try to give one another the things they need. Colin struggles to make Lorelei feel safe and revels in the way she entrusts her body to him.  They are more whole together than apart.

As they try to find their way together, someone or something is targeting the pack.  One member is killed at the hand of magic.  So Lorelei and Colin travel to Memphis to see if the Bad Wolves there have something to do with it.  In doing so, Lorelei is forced to confront more of her past and Colin begins to see there is so much about her he doesn't know.

I had two issues with the book: one in the internal conflict, one in the external.  My problem with the external conflict: I'm still not really sure what happened.  I'm not sure how the Bad Guys were using the magic to attack the pack and I'm not sure why.  Yeah, I know their names and their supernatural type, but the bigger explanation is not there.  I'm sure we'll get into it in future books, but not getting it now feels really anticlimactic.

As for my relationship issue... there comes a point in the book where all of Lorelei's secrets come out.  I was unhappy with Colin's reaction; unhappy that Lorelei is painted in the wrong.  Her kid is dead.  She is a train wreck.  This is not about you, Colin.  (Plus, I have to say I had a little trouble following her explanation of how her son died.)  *spoiler* If he died immediately in the wreck, how did her surviving save him from the "hunt?"  Was the whole thing a ploy to turn her into a wolf? What happened to her attacker? Anyway, it bothered me that her grief became about Colin.

Overall, I did like it. It just wasn't my favorite.  --Now I am looking forward to seeing poor Zach put himself together. I do love a good tortured hero.

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Haunted Wolves
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

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Review & Giveaway: Undone

Reviewed by Janell
This is such a love story, and I mean that in a straightforward way: girl mets boy, they flirt, date, fall in love, and eventually live happily ever after. They aren’t thwarted by dark pasts, silly misunderstandings, or villainous exes. They simply learn to fit into each others’ lives and commit to each other. It’s very sweet. Maybe a little slow in parts, maybe a little long, but overall an enjoyable journey.

Paige is a Philadelphia girl who likes loud clothes, tall shoes, and speaking her mind. Her life is pretty good, she thinks, until her best friend/roommate moves out of state. Then Paige loses her job. She moves in with her boyfriend, who quickly tells her that she’s not worth the effort of a relationship. Homeless and jobless, Paige moves in with her parents.

The problem is, her parents have retired to Mirabelle, a small town on the Florida panhandle. Paige hits Mirabelle like a mini-hurricane, causing the old biddies and gossips to turn against her and prevent her from finding a job. Her new life sucks just about as much as her old life. And then her car breaks down.

Brendan, the hot mechanic, tows her car, and that’s pretty much the last bad day Paige ever has. You know what’s cool about Brendan? He’s not an aggressive silent type who thinks he’s not good enough for her. No, Brendan tells her plainly, “And Paige, it’s just a matter of time.” I’d be lying if I said that didn’t give me the shivers.

They circle around each other for about a week, then they kiss, and that’s when I noticed how much this book differed from most books I read. Paige and Brendan date for over three months without having sex. I know! His narration doesn’t constantly point out how uncomfortable his pants are, he doesn’t narrate explicit fantasies, he just takes cold showers and waits because Paige wants to take things slow. When they do get down to business, the scenes are hot enough but not scorching.

Paige’s parents are just about the most normal, supportive parents you can get in a book. Brendan’s grandparents, sister, and friends are also normal and supportive. By the time I met the full cast of characters and saw how nice everyone was, I began to wonder if this book would have any conflict at all.

Paige’s snippy coworkers and nosy neighbor contribute to the town gossip who writes an actual gossip blog, with fake names and innuendos and everything. I know small town novels always have gossips, but I was surprised that old ladies were high-tech enough to write blogs that people read. The rumors cause some drama but not enough to shake up the romance. Ba

sically this is a happy, feel-good love story with fun partners who support each other and talk to each other. This is the first in a series, and I am definitely interested in the next book. Undone is not very suspenseful, which made it seem more like real life. Sometimes in life you just date, hang out with your friends, and eat dinner with your parents. And that’s pretty cool.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: The Wedding Gamble

Reviewed by Janell
Here’s another “Got wasted in Vegas and ended up married” story, and it was great fun, proving that predictable works if it’s written well. Laura is in Las Vegas for her younger sister’s bachelorette party. It’s also Laura’s birthday, not that anyone remembers. She’s having a miserable time until one of the bridesmaids gives her some “generic aspirin,” and then Laura is wandering the Strip in a loopy haze. She meets David outside of a wedding chapel, and he asks her to do him a favor. Laura always tries to help others, so she agrees. She thinks it’s a dream when they get married, but the next morning she realizes that it wasn’t.

David is working undercover for the FBI, tracking down a witness. When the wrong people see him in Vegas, he tells them that he’s there to get married. Enter Laura. David wants her to forget about him and go back to safety, but Laura can’t stop trying to help him, protect him, look out for him.

Laura is a preschool teacher, a size 12, used to sacrificing herself for her sister, used to being the unattractive, boring afterthought in her family. But when she sees bad guys threaten her new husband, she busts out her inner actress and distracts them. It’s fun to watch her discover her inner bravery and hidden talents.

David’s life has centered around bringing down one particular mob boss. He hasn’t had room in his life for relationships. Capering with Laura makes him wish for something he didn’t know he wanted, and it also uncovers a pretty sexy protective side.

As the bad guys circle, Laura and David grow closer. He even buys her a birthday cake, which would melt my heart in an instant. Danger intensifies their relationship, and pretty soon — after a few interruptions — they are exploring the benefits of their marriage. The author does a great job of describing Las Vegas. From the canals of Venice to Circus Circus, from Fremont Street to the Bellagio Fountains, from the sounds of Treasure Island cannons to the crowded sidewalks, I felt like I was there.

When they’ve done their job, David sends Laura back home to safety, with the expectation that she’ll get an annulment. The final HEA happened quickly, both from a book-timeline standpoint and from a writing standpoint. I could have been held in suspense a little longer, but I’m not complaining.

Overall this was fun, amusingly suspenseful, and sweet.

Rating: B +

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Wedding Gamble
by Cindi Myers
Release Date: July 8, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Review: Fifth Grade Past the Light

Reviewed by Jen
Every time I return to this series after several months away, I am immediately sucked right back in to all the things I love about it.  It's funny. So, so funny.  The plot is complex, but woven together so well it reads effortlessly.  The romance is smoking hot; the hero: sexy, powerful and loyal.  And Charley?  She is as amazing as ever... a fascinating mix of strength and vulnerability, wrapped in a goofy exterior, completely void of a filter.

This book picks up just a couple of weeks after the events of Fourth Grave.  Reyes is living next door to Charley, a constant source of temptation, but she is afraid he is the person setting fires to buildings around towns. After all, they are all places from his past.  And he isn't helping her resolve, because he is making no secret of the fact that he wants her.

In the meantime, Charley is working a case.  This one seems pretty simple, catching a cheating husband in the act. But as with all the books in the series, Charley's PI work is secondary to her job as the grim reaper. In that role, she is being swamped by dozens of dead blonde women who are too traumatized to speak. She needs to figure out who killed them, in the hopes that justice will help them find peace.

Meanwhile, fellow PI Swopes is working to unravel the mysteries of Charley's (and Reyes') existence. His trip to Hell may have been short, but it left a big impression. I love how Darynda Jones continues to reveal pieces of the bigger picture throughout the books.  Every installment, we learn more. 

I loved how the plot all came together.  Darynda drops these little breadcrumbs along the way --and a red herring or two-- always keeping you guessing.  Once you get to the end, you don't see it coming, but it all makes so much sense, you're kicking yourself for not seeing it sooner. Brilliant!

Of course, the romance is just as exciting as solving the mystery and the mountain of danger. The sexual dynamic between Charley and Reyes is completely off the charts.  The temperature in the room goes up every time they are together. And when they are in the bedroom... wow.  I was completely satisfied with the romantic element of the book.  Their relationship has so many facets to it, and even after five books, they are nowhere close to boring. It feels like the rug can come out from under them at any moment.

Speaking of which... my only complaint... there is a pretty big revelation about Charley and Reyes half way through the book.  One that I will absolutely not spoil. And I waited, terrified, to see how it all would play out.  Only, it doesn't. The thread is completely dropped, seemingly to be continued in Sixth Grave.    You don't just drop a bomb like that and then ignore it!!

PS -- The last line of the book is a total jaw-dropper.  How am I going to wait until 2014?

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by St Martin's Press

Click to purchase: Amazon
Fifth Grave Past the Light
by Darynda Jones
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: St Martin's Press

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Don't Bite the Bridesmaid

Reviewed by Shelly

Allee’s tale didn’t take any time at all for me to get into. To say that I was surprised when I turned the last page is an understatement. This story just kept getting better and better the more I read. Allee’s take on day walking vampires and their interactions in the everyday  human world is something that I’ve not read before and it was a good thing.

Cute, 20-something Alice Shepard is in desperate need of a date for her sister’s wedding and the weeklong cruise that leads up to it. Her neighbor, Noah Thorpe, agrees to be her plus-one even with Alice’s stipulation of no funny business. Noah is in need of a quick getaway and his next door neighbor offers it just in the nick of time. Are these two really as opposite as they think or will they come together before the council makes a decision to call Noah home?

There are a lot of interesting angles and side roads in this story. As the first in the series, it’s definitely piqued my curiosity and opened a lot of questions - especially around Alice’s ex and Noah’s past. There seems to be more there than meets the eye. So, as I wait for the second one in the series I’ll tell you why I liked this first story so much.

There’s no car chases or good guys or bad guys (but I suspect that Alice’s cheater ex is hiding something.) Instead, it’s a story the ups and downs of family and relationships - Alice and her family, Noah and his family and then Noah and Alice as a couple. I liked Alice quite a lot. She was a little schizo with the yes, no, maybe mindset but I understood that considering the guest list on the wedding cruise. Her relationship with Noah was well written, nice pacing, a little angsty from both of them which was nice to see from a man’s perspective. The sex between them was good and not too soon – what saved it for me was that I considered their relationship outside of the cruise.

This couple had their highs and lows but I was on their side the entire time. The way that Noah treated Alice was refreshing in that he didn’t play the alpha male vampire thing and she wasn’t the simpering heroine who’s just so happy that a vampire has taken notice of her. There’s a whole subplot about Alice’s knowledge of vampires but I’ll leave that to you to read ;-).

In the end, I look forward to more from this writer and this series.

Happy Reading folks!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Don't Bite the Bridesmaid
by Tiffany Allee
Release Date: May 27, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: The Bucket List

Reviewed by Shelly

This is a new to me author, so as with anything new, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve read other full length stories through this publisher that I’ve really liked, but for me this story was bleh.

28 year old Grace is an accountant by trade and one of her clients is pro-wrestler Brett ‘The Wolf’ McAllister. Over the last three years, Grace and Brett have developed a friendship, during which Brett developed a pretty heavy crush on Grace. Grace has always liked Brett but he’s a bit of a player and her past two relationships have made her cautious of Brett’s type. In a moment of spontaneity, Grace makes a bucket list and at the top of the list is Mardi Gras. As her best friend Tia isn’t able to make the trip, Brett volunteers to take Grace and maybe check a few of those things off the list.

I really thought the premise of this story was good. I’m a big sucker for pro-wrestling and who better than show-man Brett to drive the shyness out of conservative Grace. Sadly, I could not get into either of these characters – they weren’t bad or not nice people. I just found myself not invested in them or their happiness. Grace’s personality was flat and immature. The amount of times I read about how her breasts are big was way too much. But what really put it over the top for me…when my interest gradually deteriorated - there’s a scene that happens pretty early in the story (no spoiler here) when Brett and Grace have stopped for gas while on their road trip. Grace sees an attractive woman hitting on Brett, when Brett comes back to the car Grace gives him an attitude and he tells her this priceless statement ‘…stop hating on white women with asses.’ Oh, that’s the game we’re going to play? That’s when I gave up.

Everything after that went downhill but I was determined to read the entire novella.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: D+/C-

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Bucket List
by Gynger Fyer
Release Date: October 19, 2012
Publisher: Beautiful Trouble Publishing

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Review: The Things I Do For You

Reviewed by Shelly

When I started reading this I was having trouble with the characters because I felt like I should already know who they were – I didn’t see a warning that this story would be more enjoyable after reading the first two books (0.5 and 1) in the series. Suffice it to say, I didn’t read those two.

25 year-old model Raina Winters wants a baby and she wants one right now, as she’s already been advised by her doctor that she’s running out of time. (This seems to be related to an earlier diagnosis of endometriosis.) Nicholas Alexander is Raina’s soon to be brother-in-law who’s been in love with Raina since first sight. Raina wants a baby, Nicholas wants Raina so he’ll give her a baby in exchange for what he wants – Raina. And if marriage is what it takes, then that’s what’s going to have to happen. It’s a familiar premise that I thought was handled well.

I got the feeling that these two had a tumultuous relationship in the prior stories (I’m not sure of that) but in this story there’s more angst and stubbornness than anything else. Nicholas is a wonderful guy. Yes, he’s known as a playboy, but he’s not interested in chasing skirts unless it’s Raina’s, of course, especially after getting his palate wet after their one night stand. His love and respect for his family was one of my favorite things about him. It’s hard to not like people who love and appreciate those around them. There’s a very touching moment when he’s visiting his parents’ home and he realizes that they’re not going to be around forever – the way he handled that was very sweet.

I’m not sure of Raina’s history and her obstinate disbelief in love. It actually took away from her character for me because there has to be a time in your life where you choose – either let others control your decisions or move past that and start living a life worth living. I thought Raina was stuck on the first. There’s a sub-story with her father that, if explored, could have done wonders for not just the story, but could have made me like Raina more than I did. Outside of Nicholas and Raina’s bedroom high jinx, there was a nice blend of them growing as a couple and (when Raina wasn’t stuck on stupid) the dialogue was well done.

Nicholas’s other brothers were well presented - Trent and Jackson have already been featured in their stories. Overall the story was a fun, short read.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Things I Do For You
by M. Malone
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Crushstar Romance

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Review: MacRieve

Reviewed by Jen
I have to admit that I wasn't overcome with excitement with the idea of Ulleam MacRieve as the next IAD hero.  True, the MacRieve Lykae are sexy to be sure, but Ulleam never did much for me --and frankly, I was itching for a Lanthe and Thronos book.  I love this series, though, so I figured any book was going to be a win one way or another --and for the most part, it was.

Basically, it's your standard Immortals After Dark book. The hero has a dark past.  He wants the heroine, but he doesn't WANT to want the heroine.  He is strong; she is vulnerable. Nix is funny...  It's comfortable. Pretty predictable.  But mostly enjoyable.

From the very beginning of the story, we find out the root of MacRieve's suffering. He was sexually abused by a succubus for years as a child.  The culmination of the abuse destroyed his family and warped him sexually.  It's been hundreds of years, but he still hasn't gotten over it.  His torture on the island featured in Carrow & Regin's books only made it worse.  He is ready to just end it all with a one-way trip to the place where immortals go to die.  Until Nix manipulates him into finding his mate.

Chloe grew up believing herself to be a human. She has no idea that her father is the evil man behind those island experiments.  She doesn't even know the Lore exists until she starts to exhibit signs of impending immortality. Her dad tosses her a book on the Lore and disappears, clearing the path for some very unhappy immortals to snatch her away.

Once MacRieve wrests her from the bad guys, their connection is instantaneous. The change in him is immediate and everything is so wonderful, you have no doubt it's all about to go to hell.  And it's obvious how it's going to happen.  In some ways after that, it's a lot like Bowen's story... where the hero's instinct tells him one thing, but his past and his personal damage tells him another.  Frankly, he is pretty mean to poor Chloe.  But unlike Lothaire, I had the chance to know him as a good guy first. I got to see what he went through. So I was able to muster some sympathy for him.  Chloe had a lot to handle in a short time and I thought she handled it extremely well (almost too well.)  When all was said and done, you had to root for them to work it all out.

Overall, I liked it.  There wasn't as much overlap with other characters in the series as usual.  The broad landscape of the world is one of the things I like most about the series, so I missed that. It was pretty much just Ulleam, Munro, and Nix (with a cameo from Malkom.)  It felt like a periphery story, more than one built into the main series arc.  I would have liked to see a surprise or two in there, but I left the book feeling satisfied... in a comfortable and familiar way.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Kresley Cole
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Unbuttoned

Reviewed by Carrie

Carly Denton likes her life on the straight and narrow. After growing up in the family most whispered about in their small town, she managed to go to college and become the youngest elected councilwoman. She wants to be the opposite of her parents – controlled, predictable and drama free. This is why she has avoided her brother’s best friend, Lucas, all these years. The object of her childhood crush serves these days as the biggest thorn in her side. Lucas loves to push Carly’s buttons simply to watch her squirm. When forced to work together on a charity project, Carly’s tight strings start to unravel around Lucas and Lucas begins to realize how much he likes Carly squirming.

This is a new to me author. I ended up with this novella after a giveaway on Twitter and didn’t know anything more about it than it was contemporary romance. I began reading and was immediately sucked in. Carly is so neurotic that it’s palpable and you really do feel for her. Carly’s childhood was marred by parents who cared more about publicly airing out their laundry than taking care of her and her brother, Mac. Lucas had a similar miserable childhood growing up with an absentee mother and alcoholic father and the three often took comfort with each other sharing dinner together.

Where Lucas grew up and learned to shuck off the past, Carly is frozen by it. She is consumed by worries about others' opinions of her to an almost debilitating effect. She managed to strictly control any outspoken feelings or passions for so long, that when she is forced to interact with Lucas she realizes that she either has to take the bull by the horns or spiral out of control. When she buckles under and kisses Lucas, her world shifts. Objects under pressure tend to explode when released and all the tension builds up to some fabulous releases.

I really enjoyed this book and am somewhat miffed that it was only a novella. A longer length book would have provided a little more depth that would’ve really amped up the story. I will definitely be reading the next in the series and happy to have a new author to follow.

Grade: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Maisey Yates
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: Berkley

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review: Facade

Reviewed by Janell
Let me introduce you fine readers of this blog to Nyrae Dawn, an author who knows her way around a tortured guy. She started in YA, with What A Boy Wants (detour: I think the cover model of What A Boy Wants is the same guy on the cover of Easy by Tammara Webber, and have you read that yet? Because, oh boy, everyone should read Easy). I think I’ve read just about all of Ms. Dawn’s YA books, and they’ve all got Sensitive Boys with Problems, written so well that you just want to make out with all of them.

Facade is her second New Adult book, which is like her YA books, but the Sensitive Boys with Problems have aged a bit, added a few more problems, and are having emotional sex. What’s not to love?

Adrian lives in a trashy rental house where he smokes pot all day and has loud parties every night. He had a bad childhood, capped off by a Tragic Event that caused him to just run away from life. He uses the drugs and parties to bury his guilt and chase away the nightmares. He’s a silent observer who writes poetry and carries around a well-worn copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, because, “I’ve always respected Edmond. He went through hell and back but fought despite it…. He was strong. Not me.”

Delaney had what she thought was a perfect childhood, up until a Tragic Event showed that it was all a lie. Get this — it was the same Tragic Event that affected Adrian! Delaney knows how they are tied together (it’s an invisible thread that she keeps mentioning, drawing them closer), and she tracks Adrian down in the hopes that they can share their grief and maybe help each other heal, rebuild, move on.

When they meet, Delaney can’t bring herself to blurt out their connection, so she lets Adrian chase her. Adrian can tell that she has secrets, that she’s haunted, and he wants to help chase away her ghosts. Delaney knows exactly what’s bothering Adrian, but she doesn’t want to bring it up and ruin the friendship that they’re building.

I kind of hated Delaney after a point, because she kept making up excuses not to be honest with Adrian. “Oh, maybe he’s moved past it and I would be bringing up bad memories.” “Oh, he’s kissing me, I don’t want to spoil the mood.” “Oh, he’ll hate me, and I’m falling in love with him.” At least after a point she realizes that, the longer she stalls, the bigger her deceit becomes. When she does tell him, that’s when all the gut punches start flying. Finally, Adrian chooses to confront his past and move on. Yay!

The first book in this series, Charade, centered on Adrian’s friend Cole and his girlfriend Cheyenne. They are strong supporting characters here. You don’t need to read the first book to understand this one, you just might enjoy it because it’s fun (and maybe 11% less angsty).

Finally, something to think about. When Adrian and Delaney are at a fair, they play some games, but, “he doesn’t vow to win me a stuffed animal like you always hear about. I think I love that about him. Love how real he is.” What do you think, readers? Is vowing to win a stuffed animal a true test of love? Or is not winning one more honest and real? I think this issue needs to be settled so all women on carnival dates know where they stand once and for all.

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Forever via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Nyrae Dawn
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Forever

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Review: Phantom Wolf

Reviewed by Jen
I had some mixed feelings going on as read this book.  I was really drawn into the romance. It was angsty and full of mistrust and old hurts. It was sexy and held my interest from beginning to end. But.  There are some strong racist overtones that disturbed me throughout the story. Don't get me wrong, it's not about the color of anyone's skin, but make-believe species or not, the prejudice was hard to read at times.

Sam and Kelly are two different classes of mage.  He is Elemental. She is Arcane.  In their world, his class rules, while hers is maligned and treated as servants.  But 12 years ago, they were young and in love and committed to making things work between them. Until it appeared her father killed his family. He left her that day and they have been apart ever since.

Now Kelly works to rescue kidnapped Elemental children.  The Arcanes who are fed up with oppression are taking the kids to drain them of magic, in the hopes to conquer the Elementals who have mistreated them so long.  Kelly is willing to risk everything to stop her misguided people. It's as she is trying to rescue one of the kids that she is reunited with Sam.  He is now a Navy SEAL and his team mistakes her for one of the kidnappers.  She must make him believe the truth and convince him to help her in her mission before it's too late.

Kelly and Sam are clearly two people who have never gotten over each other. But they are both so damaged by their past.  I think the author tried to make Sam more sympathetic by showing us how torn up he was over his family's deaths. Unfortunately, it was hard to look past how he and everyone else treated Kelly.  Society sees her as less than nothing. The mages of Sam's class can basically do anything to her. The way people speak to her is appalling.  And while Sam isn't like that all the time, there are parts of the book he clearly judges her... not just for her father's actions, but for her race. Neither is fair. He LEFT her alone all those years ago. She lost just as much as he did that day.  Now he still acts like she was someone who did him wrong.  It's just not fair.  She is truly a good person and she gets shit on over and over again.  Mostly by other people, but by Sam too. It's hard to get over.

That aside, there is good sexual tension there --and real emotion as well.  Kelly is an extremely sympathetic character.  I really wanted to see her happy ending.  The thing is... when she finally gets it... it's wrapped up in a bow that is just a little too shiny. The end is just a little too easy.  Especially in the bigger picture.

Like I said, mixed feelings.  I didn't want to put it down, because it held my interest... but the treatment of the heroine was hard to take.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Harlequin via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Phantom Wolf
by Bonnie Vanak
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Giveaway: Magic Rises & Magic Bites

Guys, you know I am a big Kate Daniels fans, but Magic Rises has me more excited about the series than I have been in ages.  It's an A-read... one of the best books I have read this year.  Now, thanks to the great folks at Ace, you can win it before you can buy it.  Check out the deets:

Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap.

Sounds awesome, right? (It is!)  So for old fans, we're giving away a copy of Magic Rises and if you've never tried the series, you can win the first book, Magic Bites.  To enter, just leave a comment saying which book you would like to win. US Only! (Don't forget to include your email address.) Contest runs through 7/8.

Check out the Ilona Andrews Tour Schedule:
July 30             MAGIC RISES release date!
July 31             Murder by the Book – Houston, TX @ 6:30pm
August 1           Book People – Austin, TX @ 7pm
August 3           Mysterious Galaxy – San Diego, CA @ 2pm

This giveaway is closed. The winner of Magic Bites is jenniepie. The winner of Magic Rises is myrandaroyan.


Review: The Wicked

Reviewed by Jen
Sometimes I think I am too hard on novellas. I complain because there isn't enough substance; that I don't connect to the characters; or I don't believe in the love story.  Sometimes I ask myself, Is it fair to expect an entire story in half the word count of a full length book?  Then --every blue moon-- I come across a novella like this one -- one that delivers-- and I'm glad my standards exist, because it proves size isn't everything

It doesn't hurt that story begins with a tie in to my favorite couple in the series: Grace and Khalil.  Our heroine, Olivia, is a great friend of Grace's who has been tapped to go on mission for the vampire Carling.  She is a human witch and a symbologist who is working with a team to move Carling's ancient library out of her island home.  There are seven people in the group, including Khalil's dysfunctional daughter Phaedra, and members of a security team lead by a Wyr named Sebastian.

Sparks fly between Olivia and Sebastian right away.  I liked our hero immediately. He's not seven feet tall or as old as time.  He is actually kind of short for a man --and about 200 years into his 250 year lifespan.  And if that doesn't humanize him enough, he is also fighting a curse that's turning him blind --and fighting the ennui of a life without love.  He is vulnerable, yet still powerful.  He's fast and strong, feared and filthy rich.  Plus, he sees the value in Olivia.. despite the fact that she isn't a 20 year-old virgin or a raving beauty.

There is a tangible sexual tension between them, but their path to happily every after looks wide open.  I really enjoyed watching them fall for one another and the love scenes were great too. There's a bit of drama in an external conflict I won't spoil, but the love story is really the heart of the book.  Very satisfying --and reminded me why I love the Elder Races series so much. Now I am more jazzed than ever for Kinked!  (Is it November yet?)

Rating: B+

*ARC Provided by Samhain

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Wicked
by Thea Harrison
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Miss Watson's First Scandal

Reviewed by Janell
This is a historical novella, set in a Regency-esque time period, but in the resort town of Brighton so there aren’t any balls or country house parties, just some swimming and friendly dinners. This book is the first in a series, and as such it introduces a core group of characters who live in Brighton and will have adventures in further books.

David Hawke is a rich bachelor banker. He visits Brighton once a year and hangs out with his friends and the menfolk all swim naked in the surf every morning. His friend Peter Watson lives next door, along with Peter’s sister Abigail. On the other side of them lives Abigail’s best friend Imogen, and Imogen’s brother. I guess no one has elderly parents in Brighton.

Anyhow, David has come to foreclose on Peter’s house because Peter is an unemployed gambler. Abigail knows they’re in financial trouble because she’s sneaky like that, and she tries to find a way to delay the foreclosure. When David agrees to consider it, she kisses him in gratitude. It’s her first kiss, she’s curious, she kisses him again.

That’s the setup. David is eight years older than Abigail. He hasn’t been waiting for her to mature so he can seduce her. He’s just been banking in London, too busy to feed himself or sleep or get married. Banking is serious business, you see. Abigail has not been crushing on David, either. He’s just been sort of there. Their kiss is out of the blue and gets them thinking about each other in different ways. I would like to say that sparks fly and eyes are opened and all that, but I didn’t feel it. I felt more like it was in the background of all their other problems, an afterthought.

I was underwhelmed by this book. Abigail’s forward actions didn’t ring true for her upbringing, and she seemed too sheltered to understand what she was getting into after this exchange: “Then you don’t really mind me being here.” “No. In fact, I think it would be best for you to stay.” When she nods, he scoops her up and carries her to bed. That’s the seduction, and it didn’t make me swoon.

A subplot involving Imogen’s secret identity was random and too convenient, probably laying groundwork for a future novel. I didn’t like how it was handled, though, probably because I didn’t have any sense of Imogen’s character. She mostly sat in her bedroom and talked to Abigail, which made me seriously wonder at first if she were handicapped and incapable of leaving her house.

You know how most Regency (if not all) romances end happily, and then there’s an epilogue showing off a delightful marriage and children? This epilogue was… wrong. It’s like how, when your favorite tv show is going to have a spinoff series, they spend an episode with new characters and settings and try to get you interested. If the new stuff is good, then you might get excited. But if not, you’re just mad that you don’t get to see your regular characters doing regular things. In the case of this book, I wasn’t even that invested in the original characters, but I would have liked them to have some screen time together. Resolving a final romantic problem in an epilogue without one of the romantic partners present is, well, lame.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by LLD Press via NetGalley
Miss Watson's First Scandal
by Heather Boyd
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: LLD Press

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