Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our Most Anticipated Books of March

Jen’s picks:

There’s lots of much-awaited books coming out in March - River Marked by Patricia Briggs and A Lot Like Love by Julie James - and I will definitely be reading both of those but there are two books I am very excited about: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen and Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal. You can be sure I've got both of these reserved at my local library.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.
But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.
For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.
Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.
The Peach Keeper will be released on March 22, 2011.

Now with this striking new adult novel from author and creator Francine Pascal, millions of devoted fans can finally return to the idyllic Sweet Valley, home of the phenomenally successful book series and franchise. Iconic and beloved identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are back and all grown up, dealing with the complicated adult world of love, careers, betrayal, and sisterhood. (Link to the first chapter:
Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later... will be released on March 29, 2011.

Jane’s pick:

My pick is Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire. I have to blame Jen for getting me hooked on the October Daye series and urban fantasy in general. (You are welcome!) This is the fourth book in the series which takes place in the San Francisco Bay area. Love, love, love this series! The release date is March 1st.
Two years ago, October "Toby" Daye believed she could leave the world of Faerie behind. She was wrong. Now she finds herself in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, sharing an apartment with her Fetch, and maintaining an odd truce with Tybalt, the local King of Cats. It's a delicate balance—one that's shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended.

Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile. But if Oleander's back, what's her game? Where is she hiding? And what part does Toby's mother, Amandine, have to play?

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher. For the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda, and there are more players in this game than Toby can guess. With everything on the line, she will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can't find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she thought she'd never have to face again...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

The universe isn't what it used to be. With the new Alliance between the Triad and the United Coalition, Captain Tasha "Sass" Sebastian finds herself serving under her former nemesis, biocybe Admiral Branden Kel-Paten -- and doing her best to hide a deadly past. But when an injured mercenary winds up in their ship's sick bay -- and in the hands of her best friend, Dr. Eden Fynn -- Sass's efforts may be wasted.

Wanted rebel Jace Serafino has information that could expose all of Sass's secrets, tear the fragile Alliance apart -- and end Sass's career if Kel-Paten discovers them. But the biocybe has something to hide as well, something once thought impossible for his kind to possess: feelings . . . for Sass. Soon it's clear that their prisoner could bring down everything they once believed was worth dying for -- and everything they now have to live for.

I recently had my own fun little impromptu Linnea Sinclair marathon where I read five of her books over approximately a week's time. I started reading Gabriel's Ghost during the Super Bowl (the book was WAY more interesting), continued on with Shades of Dark, Hope's Folly, The Accidental Goddess, and finished with my favorite of the bunch, Games of Command.

I don't usually enjoy space fiction as much as the other genres. If I can't wrap my mind around what's going on, i.e. can't picture the scenery or what the people might look like, I can't get into it all that much, and I'm a Star Trek geek! (Star Trek beats Star Wars any day btw.) Sometimes I find that sci-fi novels are just way too out there for me. Fortunately for book lovers everywhere, Linnea Sinclair knows how to write sci-fi, she knows how to write a great romance, and she knows how to mix them together. Games of Command is really two romances in one but the focus is on Tasha and Branden, a pair who couldn't be more different: a woman who grew up outside of the law with people, and by extension her, that Branden, a stuffed shirt if there ever was one, considers to be contemptible. (He doesn't know who she really is.) He is her commanding officer who comes off as cold and unfeeling and while this might be true in many ways since he is a cybernetic man (think: Terminator), when it comes to Tasha he's as hot as a star going supernova.

Branden is an admiral and as competent as they come. He's a fascinating dichotomy; inside, he's a man with loving feelings toward a woman and an unshakable sense of duty but on the outside he's a machine who has data ports in his arms and eyes that glow machine-bright when he's jacked into his computer. He requests Tasha to be his ship's captain at his first opportunity in an officer swap program created by the Alliance between Branden's Triad and Tasha's United Coalition, a request that amuses and scares Tasha. She subsequently spends a lot of her time on their ship trying to get under his skin by wearing sarcastic t-shirts and being friendly with her crew. This type of antagonism is not out of character for the span of their relationship, from pages 6-7:
   She gives the techie the order to open the comm and-for what will be the first of many times to come-hears the voice of Captain Kel-Paten. The Kel-Paten. But only his voice. Visual's out. In order for short-range scan to function at all, it has to be.
   "Sarna Bogue, this Captain Kel-Paten of the Vaxxar. Cut your drives immediately or you will be fired upon. Prepare to be boarded."
   With a nod to the chief, she seats herself in the command sling, takes a deep breath, and activates the comm mike: " Vaxxar, this is the Sarna Bogue. F--k you and the equinnard you rode in on. Sebastian out."

The secondary romance between Eden and Jace was complimentary to Tasha and Branden but held less appeal for me. Eden is the Vaxxar's CMO and Tasha's best friend; Jace is a rogue smuggler who is being hunted by Kel-Paten. Eden and Jace communicate mostly by telepathy which is generally verboten by their governments. (Telepaths are generally eradicated or modified in this universe.)

Games of Command was touching and funny with an absorbing story. The plot got a little crazy involving alternate realities but hey, pretty much anything goes with science fiction. If you're like me and love sci-fi, give this romance novel (and writer) a try. You won't be disappointed.

Random Thoughts on Saturday...Oh Wait!

What up, peeps? Don't you hate it when you wake up thinking it's a different day? I woke today thinking it's Saturday and it took seeing Mike Bettes on the Weather Channel to think, Uh, wait a minute...Sheesh.

It's been a good week for book releases, hasn't it? Pale Demon by Kim Harrison, Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr, and How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper, just to name a few. I love big release weeks like this; it makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. (Or me in a candy store, bookstore, Crate & Barrel store...)

On Sunday, you'll want to head over to Book & Movie Reviews by Deanna to participate in a Sookie Stackhouse Read-Along she's co-hosting with the lovely Jen D. from Not Now...I'm Reading!. It's the first week, so naturally they'll be reading Dead Until Dark, the one that started it all. I still need to dig up my copy :)

I finally got around to watching The Social Network last night. I have to say, I was rather underwhelmed but I should have seen it coming. The litigious nature of society these days drives me crazy and the idea that two rich kids could sue for millions of dollars and win without a sturdy legal leg to stand on is preposterous. I liked what was quoted on the movie's wikipedia page:
Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig wrote in The New Republic that Sorkin's screenplay doesn’t acknowledge the "real villain" of the story:
The total and absolute absurdity of the world where the engines of a federal lawsuit get cranked up to adjudicate the hurt feelings (because "our idea was stolen!") of entitled Harvard undergraduates is completely missed by Sorkin. We can't know enough from the film to know whether there was actually any substantial legal claim here. Sorkin has been upfront about the fact that there are fabrications aplenty lacing the story. But from the story as told, we certainly know enough to know that any legal system that would allow these kids to extort $65 million from the most successful business this century should be ashamed of itself. Did Zuckerberg breach his contract? Maybe, for which the damages are more like $650, not $65 million. Did he steal a trade secret? Absolutely not. Did he steal any other "property"? Absolutely not—the code for Facebook was his, and the "idea" of a social network is not a patent. It wasn't justice that gave the twins $65 million; it was the fear of a random and inefficient system of law. That system is a tax on innovation and creativity. That tax is the real villain here, not the innovator it burdened.
I did feel that the lawsuit between Zuckerberg and Saverin was justified; what Zuckerberg did to his former best friend under Sean Parker's influence was crappy beyond belief. However, the movie was well done - how could it not with David Fincher directing and Aaron Sorkin writing the script - so the acting deserves some kudos but to win Best Picture at the Oscars? Don't think so.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: The Sentry by Robert Crais

The extraordinary new crime novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

Dru Rayne and her uncle fled to L.A. after Hurricane Katrina; but now, five years later, they face a different danger. When Joe Pike witnesses Dru's uncle beaten by a protection gang, he offers his help, but neither of them want it-and neither do the federal agents mysteriously watching them.

As the level of violence escalates, and Pike himself becomes a target, he and Elvis Cole learn that Dru and her uncle are not who they seem- and that everything he thought he knew about them has been a lie. A vengeful and murderous force from their past is now catching up to them . . . and only Pike and Cole stand in the way.

You might wonder why I, a romance novel junkie, would want to read books like Robert Crais' The Sentry. Well, I'll tell you - they're damn good. I love the strong men with their unwavering moral compasses who fight the good fight for no reason other than that they'll see somebody hurting someone else and need to take a stand to stop it. Joe Pike (and Lee Child's Jack Reacher too), bestill my beating heart.

Joe Pike is not a warm and fuzzy guy. He doesn't even smile. What he does however and to paraphrase Liam Neeson's character in Taken, is have a specific set of skills and isn't afraid to use them. A former Marine, LAPD cop, and mercenary, Joe takes serious umbrage when he sees someone made into a victim and that is what he believes happens one day when he walks in on two LA gang members beating up an older, defenseless man in his sandwich shop. Joe gets emotionally involved with the man and his niece, an attractive woman in her thirties, and ends up enlisting his friend and business partner Elvis Cole to help him discover what has happened to them.

The Sentry moves slowly, unraveling each new mystery rather delicately until the ending, which barrels along like a freight train to an unsurprising yet satisfying climax. The ultimate villain is a particularly nasty kind of crazy but sometimes it felt as if there was some disconnect between what he was doing and what was otherwise happening, insofar as the level of suspense goes. For most of The Sentry, the main characters were unaware of the real bad guy, but that was really because of the length of time it took for Joe to figure things out. This is a complicated mystery and smartly written in usual Crais style.

Crais' Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels are always a treat to read. Cole is a tough guy wrapped in a more human package and serves as a great foil for Joe's stoic personality without being sitcom-y. In The Sentry, Cole is a bit emotionally fragile, teetering on the brink of serious depression and battling some PTSD. I'm not sure if it was better for him to be busy and distracted rather than not involved in Joe's mystery in the long run; being forced to defend Joe's life, while reinforcing their brother-like bond, takes a toll on Elvis. It made me wonder what would happen to him between this book and the next. Joe, on the other hand, always surprises me. With a poker face that would impress Batman, Joe seems like an island but he is not; this is a man who feels deeply and has a strong sense of responsibility to the woman who he promised to protect.

The Sentry is a good book. Read it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: Taken by Lilith Saintcrow

Sophie never believed she was special. Avoiding a violent ex, she can't remember the last time she truly felt safe. Then vampires murder her best friend and Sophie is kidnapped by a dangerously sexy shape-shifter. Zach insists that Sophie is a Shaman—someone with a rare gift for taming his savage side—and he needs her to help him save his pack. Now, with a malevolent enemy closing in, Sophie and Zach must risk everything on a bond that may be their only salvation...

I am not generally a series romance reader; Harlequin has plenty of imprints I like but I tend to stay away from Nocturne and the like as it doesn't give me enough bang for my buck, so to speak. The stories tend to be too short for my tastes (usually less than 300 pages or so) and before I know it, I've finished the book and am left wanting. However, when I heard that Lilith Saintcrow was going to be writing for them, I knew I had to try it out. I was not left wanting.

Lilith Saintcrow has a way with words. Her books are definitely not what I would consider to be mainstream; she doesn't really write romances and her UF books have a touch of the strange to them. For example, she chose to write about weres in Taken but instead of the usual, garden variety werewolf, she picked the carcajou, a wolverine. (Carcajou is actually French for wolverine.) Saintcrow's books are weird, yes, but that appeals to me and thus I enjoy them. I also enjoy her contributions on; she has a way of breaking down a subject and explaining writing without being boring or professor-ish.

Taken got a three and a half star rating on B& and four stars on Amazon and while that isn't so shocking, I was surprised by the reviewers who claimed that Taken is "not really a romance" and "Slooooooooow". Now, I was surprised by the lack of nooky in Taken; there is no penetration here, not even after the curtain falls at the end of a scene. (Except for probably after the ending. I'm just assuming.) There is a bit of kissing but there's no real romancin' going on and if you've read the book description, you'll figure out why: Sophie is damaged and Zach's a good guy in a tight spot. He understands that slow and steady and TRUE will win his race and I found it refreshing to see a woman like Sophie find a place where she belongs and fall in love with a man she can trust without the all too typical sex her up style I've found in so many romances where the men use their sexuality to bind a woman to them like a drug. (I'm not generalizing here, just sharing what I've read.) So yeah, Taken ended up being more PG-rated rather than R but this reviewer is okay with that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where is The Bookworm?

Since it has been weeks since I last posted, I thought I might check in and say hey. February has bit, my friends, truly bit. I started it with a cold I got at the tail end of January and then last week, my teeth all decided they hate me and turned me into something from a monster movie. I'm afraid to leave my house lest I make little children cry. A root canal, an abscess, and extraction later, I am on the mend, but having lived the last week in a vicodin haze means that I haven't done hardly any reading in the last several days. Now that hurts.

Monday, February 7, 2011

And the Pale Demon ARC Giveaway Winner Now Is...

Jen D!

Your name was chosen using a highly sophisticated method of picking your name out of a hat (well, a box really).

Please email me your snail mail address at so I can Priority Mail it to you ASAP. Uh, scratch that :)

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thanks again for reading this blog!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hexbound by Chloe Neill


Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia’s School for Girls, but she’s already learned that magic can be your best friend…or your worst enemy.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. Turns out, even a little magic can turn you to the dark side. That’s why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities, on top of avoiding the snobs who think they run her school, nursing a crush on a cute sophomore with a big, werewolf-y secret, and fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago’s nastiest nightlife—including the tainted magic users known as Reapers.

Then Lily’s invited to a private meeting with Sebastian. He’s hot, powerful, and offering to help her harness the magic flowing in her veins in a way no one else can. He’s also a Reaper. Lily can’t hide her suspicions. But she’ll soon find out that the line between good and evil isn't always clear…

My thoughts:

There are strange things happening beneath the streets of Chicago, supernatural type things involving slimy creatures, vampires and reapers. I’m rather glad I don’t live there. This is the second book in the Dark Elite series and while this book is geared toward teenagers I couldn't help but enjoy it. My favorite part of this story (and series) is the unlikely friendship between Lily and Scout. By day, they are ordinary teens attending school at St. Sophia’s. Once night comes, they must use their special powers to help keep Chicago a safe place to live. Lily has only recently learned that she can do firespell which allows her to manipulate light and power. Scout is not just a spellcaster but also a spellbinder which is quite rare. Their magic is only a temporary gift, lasting from puberty to around the age of 25. Lily and her friends spend their nights searching through the underground tunnels for reapers, teenagers that refuse to give up their magic and feed on other’s souls to hang onto their power. There is always plenty of action going on in this story along with the mystery as to what Lily’s parents are really doing in Germany.

Then there is Sebastian, who I think is the most intriguing character in this series. He showed up briefly in Firespell and left me wanting to know more about him. He is tall, dark and handsome and happens to have the same magical powers as Lily. Unfortunately he is a reaper, one of the bad guys. Or is he? Can there be good reapers? All I know is that Sebastian could have killed Lily in Firespell but didn’t. Then he gave her some much needed information in this story. Whose side is he on? It’s a good thing that I happen to like books that leave me with questions for they tend to stick in my mind longer. There is no word yet on when the next book in this series will be released. This was a fun read.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Audiobook Review Roundup

Ever since I started listening to audiobooks last year, I've been collecting them like crazy. As is my usual MO, I'm falling into a bad habit of starting them but not finishing them.

I'm working on that.

However, I have gotten through several and have been meaning to talk a bit about them here for a while now. What better time than now, right? So, here's three mini-reviews about three audiobooks I liked.

First up: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. No surprise - I LOVED it! I've had a paperback of this book sitting on my shelves for months but when I saw it at the library, I knew that this was how I was meant to experience this book and I was right. No doubt that the usual reading experience for Garden Spells would have been fabulous (it IS a Sarah Addison Allen book after all) but Susan Ericksen's narration made this book come alive for me. Ericksen is superb. Her characters all have distinct voices, not just different versions of one voice, and I loved that. I can't wait for The Peach Keeper.

Next: The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Caught up as I was in the Meyer craze of 2008, I had preordered way in advance my copy of The Host. It then was summarily ignored in my disgust of Breaking Dawn but I recently decided to give it a shot on audiobook. (I'll listen to just about anything when I'm doing laundry or scrubbing the floor.) What a wonderful story The Host turned out to be! There was nothing juvenile here; the story of a member of a race of interplanetary travelers who take over planets by implanting their teeny, centipede-like bodies into the indigenous inhabitants, who forges a bond with her host and other humans who are rebelling against the invasion completely captivated me, much to my to my husband's consternation. (I was listening to this fairly long audiobook whenever I had the time and my earbuds kept him out.) Kate Reading's narration was pitch-perfect and I am sure that I would not have enjoyed this book quite as much if I had sat down and read it page after page.

And last but not certainly least: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews. This was a reread (of sorts) for me. This series is one of my all-time faves and and I thought it might be nice to have a different "picture" of it in my head. I also expected to just enjoy the story during a time when I'm needing some entertainment. (Stupid laundry.) The narration is by Renee Raudman and I am happy to know that she is the one doing the rest of the books (it bothers me when the production companies aren't consistent and don't have the same person complete the series). Her voicing of Kate meshed well with my mental image and I really enjoyed seeing Kate and Curran meet and begin their relationship. I will certainly be looking to add the rest in this series to my audiobook collection.

That is all.

Review: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic. (

I meant to get this review written in time for this book's release date of yesterday here in the states so shame on me. Midnight Riot is the most fun I've had when reading a new urban fantasy author in quite some time. I knew I was going to like it when I read this line from page five (my copy is an ARC mind you), when Peter realizes that the witness he's questioning is, in fact, a ghost: "Right, I thought, just because you've gone mad doesn't mean you should stop acting a policeman." I just love that British stiff upper lip.

Peter Grant is a nice guy. He's the mixed race son of a has-been jazz musician heroin addict and an African woman who has an office cleaning business. He's open-minded and considerate and has a crush on his fellow cop and friend, Leslie. He's intelligent and an affinity for science. Peter has his hands full pretty quickly right off the bat: much to this relief, he gets assigned to Nightingale, the Detective Chief Inspector who handles all the supernatural cases but is still respected by his peers (I appreciated that Aaronovitch didn't make Nightingale or Peter into "Spooky" Mulder); he becomes a wizard's apprentice and moves into Nightingale's building; and there's a murderer running amok, killing indiscriminately (or so it seems) and making people's heads implode, putting Peter right in the middle of the action, much to his dismay. There's lots of action in Midnight Riot, although very little of it is pretty (women and children are not exempt). The victims become possessed and be uncharacteristically and unreasonably full of rage (from page 120 from my ARC):
   I turned just in time to see Dr. Framline charge up the street brandishing a stick half as tall as he was. Behind him came his date from the gastropub, yelling his name in confusion. I ran as fast as I could, passing the woman quickly, but there was no way I could make Dr. Framline before he reached his target.
   The courier didn't even put an arm up to defend himself when Dr. Framline clubbed him hard on the shoulder with the stick. I saw the man's right arm jerk brokenly and his hand lose its grip on the bike, which began to topple sideways.
   "The more you take," yelled the doctor, raising the stick again, "the better it is for you."
The lack of buildup to these attacks made them seem all the more senseless and awful for me and overall, that's a good thing. For the reader, anyway. There is the occasional history lesson that pops up in Midnight Riot but as they came from Peter's humorous point of view, I didn't mind them.

I wish that the PTB has stuck with the UK title for Midnight Riot - Rivers of London. Midnight Riot has meaning too but Rivers of London feels to me to be more appropriate. That would mainly be because of all those "gods and goddesses" of England's riverway structure, like Mama Thames and the Old Man of the Thames, who keep popping up. Peter is made into their intermediary; into his lap falls the responsibility to be arbitrator of their differences to get them to come to an agreeable treaty to prevent a war between the two camps. England would not have fared well if Peter failed.

Midnight Riot is a police procedural with a supernatural twist. With an unusual (to say the least) villain and an appealing protagonist, this book was an enjoyable read. I have preordered the sequel, Moon Over Soho, out on March 1, 2011.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Please Excuse Me While I Hack Up This Lung

I am not necessarily a silver-lining type of girl but for me, there is only one perk of being sick: having the perfect excuse to do nothing but read. So, while I lay here suffering this week, not only am I going to read read read but I plan to get some reviews written too. What else have I got to do while I wait for to send me the next two Adrian Phoenix books I ordered (plus a few more)? I have read lots of good books lately and I want to share my thoughts on them with everyone. There may also be another giveaway too. (Not an ARC this time!)

It is now time for a nap. Please stand by :)