Thursday, September 30, 2010

Out of Her League by Kaylea Cross

Christa Bailey is one cut away from making the Olympic softball team when threats from an obsessed fan jeopardize her dream, and her safety. Forced to put her life on hold, she reluctantly turns to ERT officer Rayne Hutchinson for help, praying the police catch her stalker before she is cut from the team or does something stupid, like fall in love with her unattainable protector. But Christa's stalker is something far more sinister than either of them could have imagined. With her life at stake, can Rayne keep Christa safe from this patient predator?

My all time favorite genre is romantic suspense so whenever I come across an author that is new to me in this genre I just have to check it out. Out of Her League is the first book in this unnamed series by Kaylea Cross. There were so many things that I loved about this book. The characters were realistic and likeable. Cross’s writing style is smooth and easy. The suspense had me sitting at the edge of my seat. It’s a good thing I’m not a nail biter otherwise I would have chewed them down to nothing. But what I loved most about this book is that it played with my emotions. Christa’s fear was tangible. So much so that when she became anxious so did I. I'm surprised at how emotionally attached I got to these characters. Rayne was equally appealing. Besides being a hunk, he came across as being intelligent and caring. There was also a wonderful subplot about why Rayne’s mom and dad split up so many years ago.

There was one thing in Out of Her League that drove me crazy to the point that I started yelling at my iPad. There were several times when Christa should have had at least some kind of police protection but didnt. Why would Rayne leave her at his apartment alone when they both knew that the stalker not only knew where he lived but also knew how to disarm security systems? After stewing about this for a couple of days, I will admit that it did add to the suspense of the story.

So even though I had a hard time believing the lack of police protection, I loved everything else about this book and plan on reading the rest of the books in this series, Cover of Darkness, No Turning Back and Relentless. According to her website, Kaylea Cross is also working on a paranormal series.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Joint Review: Burning Up by Nalini Singh, Angela Knight, Virginia Kantra, and Meljean Brook

For this little gem of an anthology, Jane and I decided to split up Burning Up and each review our favorite parts. It absolutely one of the best anthologies that we have come across in quite some time. Jane's reviewing the stories by Nalini Singh and Virginia Kantra and I have the other two. Here we go...

"Whisper of Sin" by Nalini Singh

This is a prequel to her Psy-Changeling series and takes place around the time that Dark River is still trying to establish their territory. A crime ring has made their way into San Francisco and is frightening the residents of Chinatown into paying for protection. Ria, a human, is attacked by one of its gang members but is rescued by Emmett, a leopard changeling working with the Dark River pack. There is an instant attraction between them and it continues to build (think hot and steamy) as they work together along with others from the pack to put the crime ring out of business.

I purchased Burning Up mainly for this story and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed finding out how Ria ended up becoming the executive assistant to Lucas, the Alpha of Dark River. When it explained how Ria blew out Emmett’s eardrum....well I just about spewed coffee everywhere it was so funny. (Jen: That part was pretty funny. I would’ve liked to have seen your spit-take!) I loved Emmett from the start and warmed up to Ria as she showed more backbone as the story progressed. The secondary characters were surprisingly well developed for a novella and I really got a kick out of Ria’s somewhat crazy family, in particular her grandmother. This was a very enjoyable read, especially if you follow this series.

“Blood and Roses” by Angela Knight

“Blood and Roses” is set in a medieval world where vampires are common and women who are known as Blood Roses are females born with magic and are taught and trained to be perfect mates/lovers for vampires. They are often used as political bait as “the king alone could grant a Blood Rose’s hand in marriage.” Here, a half-vampire Blood Rose named Amaris is blackmailed by a wizard who holds her three-year-old sister captive into capturing a vampire favored by the king. The idea is for her to seduce this vampire, Lord Raniero, so that he would become more favorable to their plan to aid an invasion and overcome the king. What the wizard and his minions didn’t plan on was Amaris and Raniero falling for each other.

I haven’t read many Angela Knight stories, just a few of her tamer ones sprinkled among some anthologies. Her books are generally too explicit for me and this one was also smokin’ hot. Amaris and Raniero have some serious chemistry which is great for them but they also both have some serious emotional baggage to deal with: the daughter of an evil vampire, Amaris was the victim of an attempted rape by a vampire she thought she was in love with when she was young and naive while Raniero has never known a Blood Rose who didn’t betray him, beginning with his stepmother. Raniero begins to change his mind once Amaris takes a great personal risk and protects him from from bloodthirsty soldiers while he’s defenseless. I liked Amaris and Raniero. They found love in the most unlikely of places and each took a chance on the other. While I thought that “Blood and Roses” is a little too hot for regular ‘ol paranormal romance and it’s not my favorite from Burning Up, it’s a decent addition to this anthology. (Jane here: I agree with you Jen, while not my favorite, I still enjoyed this story.)

"Shifting Sea" by Virgina Kantra

This story, a continuation of her Children of the Sea series, tells the tale of Jack and Morwenna. Major Jack Harris has recently returned from battle (1800’s Scotland), tired and wounded, to find that he has inherited a piece of property from a cousin. All he wants now is to make his land prosper and to find someone to grow old with. Morwenna is an elemental, a child of the sea, also known as finfolk or a selkie. She is longing for something more in her life but she’s not sure what. Exploring his property one day, Jack came across a small cottage next to the sea where he finds Morwenna. As they fall for each other, Morwenna needs to decide whether she is willing to give up her immortality and become human and Jack needs to come to terms with her being a selkie.

This is a wonderful gentle story, a fairy tale type of story inspired by Celtic lore. Even though I say gentle, there is certainly some heat. Not only did Morwenna invite Jack into her cottage when they first met, but also into her bed. I found both characters endearing and really enjoyed this enchanting story. (Jen: I recently caught up with this series - finally - and what I’m interested in seeing the most is what happens with Morwenna’s brother, Morgan, in Immortal Sea. He’s more confused about humans than anyone, or so it seems when he pops in here to visit.)

“Here There Be Monsters” by Meljean Brook

This is a prequel for Meljean’s new steampunk series that begins with The Iron Duke, released on October 5, and is even more entertaining than I expected. It’s also the longest short story in this anthology. It’s peripherally related to the main character in The Iron Duke, Rhys Trahaearn. Thahaearn’s partner-in-pirating, Eben “Mad” Machen, is a notorious pirate with a reputation for being ruthlessly cruel and is the man who the heroine, Ivy Blacksmith, approaches for help. Ivy wants out of London and is willing to do or pay anything to make that happen, including giving away her virginity. Machen is shocked by Ivy’s proposal but agrees with his own stipulations, prompting Ivy to escape at the first opportunity. Even though she tries, Ivy can’t stay away from him forever because Machen can’t forget her.

I hadn’t had any experience with steampunk before reading this short story and I am in love! The juxtaposition between the Victorian time period and the technology used is really cool. The nanos present in everyone’s bodies reminded me of Lynsay Sands’s Argeneau vampires series with the way they are constantly at work, healing their hosts. (They don’t need to drink blood though.) Ivy and Eben are an interesting couple; she’s a genius blacksmith and he’s a pirate fighting for a good cause. Their romance is a hard-won battle but I thought it was worth the fight.

Jane said she bought this book for the Nalini Singh story but this is the one I most wanted to read. I am a big fan of Meljean’s Guardians series and I can’t wait to read The Iron Duke.
(Jane here: This story took me completely by surprise. I didn’t think I would enjoy steampunk but...boy, was I wrong...this story rocked! I see The Iron Duke in my reading future. Jen: No worries, it's preordered!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home—her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to fight her own inner demons?

A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.

We've all seen those made-for-tv movies or after school specials about anorexia and bulimia, cautionary tales that educate about the dangers of these diseases. In Hunger, Jackie Morse Kessler manages to move past the external aspects of eating disorders and go straight to the heart of the matter to show how anorexics feel and think. Lisa should be a typical seventeen-year-old girl but she's not. She's obsessed with food and is convinced that she'll never be thin enough to keep her boyfriend, James, or gain the respect of her parents. She feels inadequate when it comes to her mother; Lisa believes that her mother is overcritical of her and yet feels unworthy of her love. The only person she feels close to is her friend, Tammy, another teenage girl suffering from bulimia. One particularly terrible night, Lisa decides to kill herself with an overdose of pills but before she can swallow too many of them she's compelled to answer the doorbell. At the front door is a deliveryman who hands her a package and tells her "Thou art Famine." The next day, after Lisa turns her food into ash and meets Death and his horse in her backyard, she realizes that her life is about to get really complicated.

I was pretty uneasy as I read Hunger. I had no idea how this fairly short book by an author I've never read before was going to end or how becoming Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, would change an anorexic teenager for the better. I wondered this especially after Lisa meets War, a huge and dominating woman who revels in confrontation and violence. What would be the redeeming message from Hunger other than the obvious party line that you'd expect in a YA novel: anorexia is a dangerous disease and can affect someone who shouldn't be vulnerable to a disease like this. It's okay - Kessler doesn't preach here and I was pretty proud of Lisa at the end, even if the ending was a little too easy but she did find a way to use her powers for good, thereby turning the whole concept of the Four Horsemen on its ear. Part of me is interested in seeing how Kessler handles the next book, Rage, but I'm not sure I have the stomach for it. (Rage's main character is a teenage girl who is a cutter.) I am now more interested, however, in her paranormal romance series about Jezebel the succubus.

Hunger will be available on October 18, 2010. This reviewer's copy came from

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Book Review Roundup

Potent Pleasures by Eloisa James is written in James’s typical engaging style but her protagonists are utterly maddening to the point where this book almost became a wallbanger. I wanted to shake Charlotte vigorously and kick Alex in his private parts. Why in the world would James have these characters make such hideous choices? Worse than any plot of Three’s Company, the misunderstandings and assumptions made – mostly on Alex’s part – caused a disgusting amount of unnecessary heartache for everyone involved. By the end, I wanted to spit. The worst part? I want to read book two in this trilogy, Midnight Pleasures. Starring Charlotte’s good friend Sophie and Alex’s twin brother Patrick, I am confident that these two might not be so awful.

Nicole Peeler’s Tempest Rising, the first in her first series about a girl named Jane True, is a refreshing urban fantasy novel with lots of romance and has a likable heroine who is vulnerable yet resilient. Jane is introduced to the world of supernatural creatures, many of them right in her backyard. The town outcast with a painful past, Jane lives a quiet life of caring for her father and working in the town bookstore. A murder throws Jane straight into the investigation and a relationship with a vampire named Ryu. I liked Tempest Rising enough that I went out and bought book two, Tracking the Tempest, before I was halfway finished. I am curious to see what happens next between Jane and Ryu AND Jane and Anyan. Something tells me that the vampire won't be here to stay. Not for very long anyway.

Pride Mates by Jennifer Ashley was an ebook I got through my nook when I saw B&N had cut the price to $2.62 (it has since gone up to 5.59). I have only read one book by Ashley - a historical romance - and I wanted to see how she handled the pararom genre. No surprise here; she handled it just fine. This was a good paranormal romance about werewolves and how they're integrated into human society with some social commentary on the side. Set in a version of our world where werewolves are "out" but not really "in," Pride Mates is about a defense lawyer who is given a murder case involving a shifter and how she gets dumped into the middle of shifter politics. She also ends up mated to one. I am mightily looking forward to the next chapter in this series, Primal Bonds, that focuses on Liam's brother Sean. He carries a big sword and knows how to use it.

In the Woods by Tana French is an unusual pick for me. A murder mystery written by an Irish woman is something that generally makes my eyes cross. That's my issue not theirs; fiction like that is too dense for me and makes me give up way too easily. In the Woods sounded promising with a cold case of the unsolved disappearance by two children from a group of three where the third was found in a wood, catatonic with no memory of what happened and blood soaked into his sneakers. This third grows up and becomes an incognito detective who catches the new murder case of a teenage girl who is found pretty much where he was twenty years prior. I loved French's style but with a frustrating ending and somewhat obvious mystery, In the Woods disappoints.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Plan

If you've been wondering what happened and why I haven't posted anything this past week, you're not alone. Clearly, my brain just hasn't been in the blogger zone lately; I have started three reviews for books I have recently read and all three have been, well, not good.

I do have standards you know. No, really.

There's not been much free time floating around either. Which doesn't help. I've been too busy picking out toilets and babysitting boogery nephews. Is it strange that I'm kinda hoping I catch his cold so I have some downtime? Never mind. I also went to a football game yesterday and didn't get home until 3am. As a result, my brain is still a little sluggish but here's my plan for the week:
  1. Crank out the reviews for Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler, In the Woods by Tana French, and Potent Pleasures by Eloisa James. Maybe others too.
  2. Stay virus-free. I really hate to be sick, even if it does give me a perfect excuse to lay about and read nonstop. 
  3. Buy said toilet. Who cares if Biscuit and Bone are two different colors? 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This Addiction Knows No Bounds

So I spent this morning at a library book sale and here's what I brought home with me. Not everything's a keeper; there are a few duplicates in there that I already had. The Madelyn Alt and the Mary Jo Putney are scores though. The Christopher Pike was a nostalgia thing.

After I left the book sale, I stopped by a bookstore (I was about 90 minutes from home) that is part of a small independent chain and was delighted to discover that they were having a Labor Day sale where all their books were buy two, get one free. So what did I get there?

I went in there for an actual reason, not just because I couldn't keep away. Well, that's not entirely true but I wanted a copy of Simone Elkeles's Return to Paradise. I struck out with that one but I'm thinking it's okay, based on several reviews I've since read that call it a disappointment and that is disappointing. I've been intrigued by Rampant and it's killer unicorns for a while now and don't you just love the idea of killer unicorns?

Yep. I'm a sick woman :) 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Best Book of August 2010

I have a problem. I don't think I can pick one book for August! Of course, this happens to me every month so why am I surprised? Decisions, decisions... Check out what's after the jump to see what I picked.

Book Blogger Hop (3), September 3-6, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Jennifer at! In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question: Do you judge a book by its cover?

Unfortunately, yes. But not always! Sometimes it's pretty obvious what a book is about based on its cover, other times not. The book I'm about to read, Tempest Rising, has a strange cover.

Would you be able to guess that it's a PNR/UF crossover? I bought it because of the reviews and hype when it came out but if I had to make a decision based on the cover? I probably wouldn't have bought it. Book covers are there for a reason and like everything else, appearance is a big part of first impressions.

Have a great weekend!

Take a Chance on Karen Chance

This is the best thing I've heard, read, and seen all day: Karen Chance's fifth Cassie Palmer book has a title - Hunt the Moon - with a release date of June 2011 and there's an excerpt! I love this series and have been dying for some new Cassie and Pritkin action.

Check out Karen's website to read this excellent passage:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Dark and Stormy Knights edited by P. N. Elrod

It was a dark and stormy knight, and nine dark defenders are about to embark upon a perilous quest...

They're the shadowy defenders of humanity - modern-day knights committing the darkest of deeds for all the right reasons. In this all-star collection, nine of today's hottest urban fantasy authors bring us thrilling, all-new stories of the supernatural brimming with magic, mystery, and mayhem.

An unlikely hero goes head-to-head with a ruthless cantrev lord in Jim Butcher's "Even Hand." Kate Daniels is called upon for bodyguard duty to protect Saiman, a shifter she trusts less than her worst enemy, in Ilona Andrews's "A Questionable Client." At all costs, Cormac must stop a vicious werewolf before it attacks again on the next full moon in Carrie Vaughn's "God's Creatures." And in Vicki Pettersson's "Shifting Star," Skamar reluctantly enlists the aid of her frustratingly sexy neighbor when she takes on a vengeful creature kidnapping young girls.

When everything's on the line, can these sinister guardians complete their missions and live to fight another day? Find out in Dark and Stormy Knights!

First off, here's the lineup in the order in which they are in the book:

"A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews
"Even Hand" by Jim Butcher
"The Beacon" by Shannon K. Butcher
"Even a Rabbit Will Bite" by Rachel Caine
"Dark Lady" by P. N. Elrod
"Beknighted" by Deidre Knight
"Shifting Star" by Vicki Pettersson
"Rookwood & Mrs. King" by Lilith Saintcrow
"God's Creatures" by Carrie Vaughn

I should say right up front that the reason I bought this book was pretty much all about the Ilona Andrews story. That the Jim Butcher story came with it was just gravy. The lineup is pretty impressive author-wise but story-wise? It falls a little short in that department.

"A Questionable Client" by Ilona Andrews - you can see what little I said about it HERE. Two months later, I was still working off my Ilona Andrews/Kate Daniels fix when I got this book. My expectations were pretty damn high for this background story about Kate and Saiman and I loved every word. (A)

"Even Hand" by Jim Butcher - Butcher does something here that I found to be refreshing and disappointing at the same time but I loved it nevertheless. Rarely do we, Butcher's faithful minions, get to see Harry Dresden from another's point of view, let alone a negative one. John Marcone is the main character here and I can tell I'm two books behind in this series because I thought things between Marcone and Harry were at a cease-fire. Apparently, they're not. Harry is not in "Even Hand" but he is on Marcone's mind. (A)

"The Beacon" by Shannon K. Butcher - this lady should stick to pararom and leave UF alone and I don't care if she is married to the UF master. I like her pararoms and have a trilogy of romantic suspense novels of hers to read as well but this story wasn't my favorite. (C)

"Even a Rabbit Will Bite" by Rachel Caine - I started this one but didn't finish it. (DNF)

"Dark Lady" by P. N. Elrod - Dick Tracy would have fit right in here. I don't think I've ever read any of Elrod's books and I'm pretty sure I would have remembered. She writes about a vampire who is living (pardon the pun) and running a bar in Chicago a few years after Prohibition. I kinda liked "Dark Lady," with  its white knight vampire and his haunted bar. It's okay, the ghost is a friendly one. (B)

"Beknighted" by Deidre Knight - another pararom author that I like who didn't impress me here. It felt like she started this one as a pararom and then slammed on the brakes just before the good stuff. (C)

"Shifting Star" by Vicki Pettersson - I didn't read this one because I'm two books behind in her Zodiac series. A few pages in and it was clear that I had no idea what was going on. (N/A)

"Rookwood and Mrs. King" by Lilith Saintcrow - this chick is one of my favorite authors because she's so quirky. Her blog and contributions on Deadline Dames are always well-written and entertaining yet informative and I never know what to expect from her. This short story has plenty of punch for forty or so pages. (A)

"God's Creatures" by Carrie Vaughn - a few years ago, I read Vaughn's first Kitty book and dropped her like a hot potato. That may have been a little hasty. It wasn't Vaughn's writing style that bothered me; rather, I was put off by the attitude of the werewolves. (I was probably semi-subconsciously comparing them to the pack mentality in Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series.) I wasn't familiar with Cormac since I don't remember him from Kitty and the Midnight Hour but I did like him. The plot here wasn't much to write home about - just one of Cormac's jobs - but I thought it was decently done. (B)

Our Most Anticipated Books of September

Here we are at the beginning of September already. This year is just speeding by! A new month means a new list of books releases coming out and our picks for what we’re looking forward to the most. Here we go...

Jen’s pick:

Experience the thrill of the hunt in the third October Daye urban fantasy novel.

October "Toby" Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael's realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael's inescapable power.

There aren’t many series out there that I actually keep up with but when I get a new Seanan McGuire book, I read it. These are not bookshelf riders folks! If you haven’t tried this particular author before and you like urban fantasy, give her a shot. Her Toby Daye series has been just awesome. Start with Rosemary and Rue, Toby’s first book. If you like something a little darker, try Seanan’s alter ego, Mira Grant, and her book Feed, book one in her Newsflesh Trilogy. I just downloaded this baby and plan to get to it very soon. An Artificial Night comes out on September 7th. Tybalt!!!

I would also like to mention Double Cross, Carolyn Crane’s second book in her Disillusionist series. I reviewed Mind Games in June and I loved that it was so different and provoking and thought it was such a good read that I preordered Double Cross too. I can’t wait to find out what Justine and Packard are going to do next. Double Cross comes out on September 28th.

Jane’s Pick:

Great picks Jen! I really need to move Rosemary and Rue and Mind Games to the top of my TBR pile. The book that I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this month is Lara Adrian's Taken by Midnight, the 8th book in the Midnight Breed series. I’m actually caught up on this series and plan on reading Brock’s story and soon as it lands in my mailbox. Here’s the blurb from the back cover.

At the Crossroads of death and desire, a woman tastes a pleasure no mortal is meant to survive...

In the frozen Alaskan wilderness, former state trooper Jenna Darrow survives an unspeakable breach of body and soul. But with her narrow escape comes an even greater challenge. For strange changes are taking place within her, as she struggles to understand, and control, a new hunger. To do so, she will seek shelter in the Boston compound of the Order, an ancient race of vampire warriors whose very existence is shrouded in mystery. Perhaps the most mysterious of them all is Brock, a brooding, dark-eyed alpha male whose hands hold the power to comfort, heal...and arouse.

As she recovers under Brock’s care, Jenna finds herself drawn to the Order’s mission: to stop a ruthless enemy and it’s army of assassins from subjecting Earth to a reign of terror. Yet in spite of his resolve, a purely physical relationship without the strings soon binds Brock and Jenna together with a desire fiercer than life and stronger than death itself--until a secret from Brock’s past and Jenna’s own mortality challenges their forbidden love ultimate trial by fire.

Taken by Midnight will be released on September 28th. I highly recommend this series :)