Archives for May 2011

Review: Before the Witches

Reviewed by Jen

You won’t find a boring moment in this action packed short story. The whole thing is only 78 pages long, but Karina Cooper packed those pages with enough story that it felt like more. There was sex… death… explosions… and dammit, I even cried.

Nigel is a cop trying to bust a Russian slavery/prostitution ring. When he infiltrates a brothel, posing as a dirty cop, he meets Katya.  She is prostitute who is looking to escape and find freedom for the other women.  The two make a fast connection.  Fast forward a few pages and the earthquakes are ravaging Seattle.  Nigel rushes back to the whorehouse just in time to rescue Katya and her friends.  Most of the other women go their separate ways but Katya returns with Nigel to the police station.  It’s there that the apocalypse really kicks into action and the two of them are on a mission, simply to stay alive as the world falls apart around them.

The story has a lot going for it.  The sexual tension and the romance action were great… and so were the fantastic scenes of destruction. In a very short time, the author had me caring about these characters –even the secondary ones.  I could see the sequence of events playing in my mind like a great action movie.

But there were two moments that jarred me out of my complete immersion in the book. The first was, upon their second meeting, Nigel and Katya are doing it in his office.  Without a condom. SHE IS PROSTITUTE, MAN!  He should have more sense than that! –And second, when the two of them swing out the “L” word on the day after they meet.  It wasn’t necessary. We can see that they fall in love in the Epilogue.  It doesn’t happen in a day!

Those two things aside, it was a fantastic read.  I’m very excited to start Blood of the Wicked to see how the rest of the series plays out.  4 1/2 stars.

P.S. If you’re wondering if there are any actual witches in this book, the answer is yes… sort of.  Katya has a little bit of premonition and some consider her a witch.  But most of the witch-reference is in the Epilogue, where the author explains that many go on to blame witches for a hand in the apocalypse.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Before the Witches
by Karina Cooper
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: Hunting Human

Reviewed by Jen
 

It’s always such a pleasure to come across an unexpected gem. From the summary blurb of Hunting Human, I figured it might be entertaining, but from the very beginning, it exceeded my expectations.

A few years ago, Beth and her best friend Rachel were kidnapped by werewolves during their backpacking trip across Europe. Rachel didn’t survive the ordeal. Beth did, but she emerged as something very different. And it’s more than the fact she was turned into the very thing that attacked her; the trauma cut her off from her old life; ended her studies; and ruined her for human relationships.

Now, she’s made a new life for herself in Portland. And slowly, she is letting the handsome and charming Braden become a part of it. The two of them have sizzling chemistry. And their courtship is great romance-reading. But neither of them knows that the other is a wolf. What’s more, Markko, the werewolf behind Beth’s attack all those years ago… is now searching for her again. And he happens to be from a clan that is Braden’s family’s greatest enemy. Of course, when each of them finds out that other can shift, there’s mistrust, ansgt, and a lot of drama. And that’s just the beginning. Markko is stalking them both.

There were so many things I liked about this story. I think my favorite was the initial relationship between Beth and Braden. It was sweet, sexy and believable. So when they turn on each other, I found myself gripping my e-reader, anxious for a reconciliation. The back-story of Beth’s attack is played out in a series of flashbacks. It’s terribly effective, because the horror of it all is meted out in increments, over time. The secondary characters are fleshed-out and likeable. (I’m still trying to find out who Lucy was trying on that dress for! I’d love a sequel featuring her, or Chase… or both.)

The only thing that kept me from 5 stars on this one was an angst-overload between Beth and Baden about 3/4 of the way into the book. I was ready for them to start understanding and trusting each other a bit before they got there.

Overall, I’m so glad I gave this book a chance. I only wish I had read it sooner. I hope to hear more from this author. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Hunting Human
by Amanda Alvarez
Release Date: March 28, 2011
Publisher: Carina Press

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop

This giveaway is closed. Andra is the winner.

The Splash into Summer Giveaway Hop features more than 300 blogs which are giving away books or gift cards in a six day contest that runs Wednesday, May 25th through Tuesday, May 31st.

Red Hot Books is giving away a copy of Defiant by Kris Kennedy.

A rogue knight and an enchanting renegade join forces to right old wrongs in award-winning author Kris Kennedy’s sizzling new medieval romance.
 
A warrior with questionable intentions . . .
Jamie Lost is the king’s most renowned commander, a fearless lieutenant ordered to kidnap an exiled priest before rebel forces close in. The mission is simple—until he meets a mysterious thief who will steal his quarry and then his heart.
 
A lady of remarkable courage . . .
Beautiful Eva is also seeking Father Peter, but she intends to protect him from a secret that could cost him his life. She senses that she, too, should fear Jamie—not just for his wickedly sharp sword and dangerously muscular body, but for the powerful longing he ignites within her.
 
A secret that could overthrow the king.
When a band of mercenaries abducts the priest, Jamie and Eva must form a volatile alliance. As civil war unfolds around them, they embark on an epic journey that betrays the truth about their hidden identities, their unexpected loyalties, and the simmering attraction that could seal their fates forever.

To win, tell me about one of your favorite book heroes in the comment section below.  The giveaway is open to all Red Hot Books followers in the United States, so be sure to you’re following in Google Friend Connect if you want to participate.  A winner will be announced by Wednesday, June 1st.
Click here for a full list of participants in the hop. Good luck!

Armchair BEA: The Best of 2011

So far, I’ve read around 200 books this year. There have been some real stinkers. But there have been a handful worth a special mention.  So without further ado, I give you my favorite books of 2011 (so far.)

Shadowfever
by Karen Marie Moning

OK, this was an easy one. Not only has Shadowfever been my favorite book of the year, but currently reigns as my favorite book ever. Sadly, if you haven’t read the other books in Moning’s Fever series, I can’t put this book in your hands and tell you to start reading. Part of what makes this book so spectacular is that it’s the culmination of a story told over the course of five books. It answers burning questions; it solves mysteries; it quenches desires. I doubt it would even make sense if you haven’t read the previous installments. But let me tell you, if you like dark urban fantasy, even a little bit, I urge you to try this exceptional series It starts with Darkfever.

Pale Demon
by Kim Harrison

It’s not that unusual for series to span nine books or beyond. But usually, by this point, most authors are starting to lose steam. Not Kim Harrison. Her Rachel Morgan series is better than ever. Rachel finally embraces the fact that she is more than just a witch. She is bold and fiery and fantastic. Her relationships continue to grow and change. And Harrison finally gave me a book that didn’t make me cry. (It’s been a long time since she’s done that!) The Hollows didn’t knock me over from the first book, but it gets better and better over time. Pale Demon is the best one yet.

 

Magic Slays
by Ilona Andrews

I haven’t met a Kate Daniels story that I didn’t like.  Kate is a snarky, magic-filled, fire-weilding bad ass.  And I love her.  I can’t say this was my favorite in the series.  That honor still goes to Magic Bleeds.  But this series on its worst day, still puts most other books to total shame.

The Restorer
by Amanda Stevens

This book was a fantastic surprise.  It was dark; it was edgy; it was suspenseful.  And I was completely captivated.  This is the first in a new series called the Graveyard Queen. The female lead, Amelia, works as a cemetery restorer and can see ghosts.  But it’s a secret she guards well because if the ghosts ever figure it out, her life will never be the same.  Throw in a murder mystery and a haunted love interest and you’ve got one hell of a great story.  I can’t wait until the sequel.

Honorable Mention:
The Vampire Narcise
by Colleen Gleason
It’s a rare thing for me to be truly surprised by a book. But this one did it in a big way.

Burn the Night
by Jocelynn Drake
This was a fantastic ending to the Dark Days series.  It won’t come out until June, but I’ll post my review on Wednesday, June 1.

Aftertime
by Sophie Littleton
Dark, edgy and different. With zombies.

Review: Cameo and the Highwayman

Reviewed by Jen

Cameo and the Highwayman picks up immediately following the events of Cameo the Assassin. And I wish I could say that things are looking up for our heroine, but the hits just keep on coming.  Cameo is on a mission to recapture her sister’s remains for her vampire master Haffef.  Opal and Kyrian are at her side.  But just one day after they arrive on the distant shores near the royal palace, Cameo encounters Edel, a vampire who also calls Haffef his master.

Edel thinks that he has escaped Haffef and forces Cameo to stay with him, as a companion.  To pacify her, he allows her a night with Opal.  Finally, the two of them have a chance to admit their growing feelings for one another and act on them. But their happiness is short-lived, as events rip Opal away from Cameo and she is prevented from coming to his aid.

This book seemed shorter than the one before it, more like a novella than a full-blown novel. And I was disappointed. Because I wanted more.  The tension, the action, the emotion… all kept building and building until it all exploded at the book’s conclusion.  I was surprised at the way things ended and frankly kind of pissed off that I couldn’t find out what happens next.  That’s right. We’ve got a cliffhanger here and it’s a doozy.  This sequel better than the original and you can be sure I intend to read Cameo and the Vampire when it comes out in the fall.  4 1/2 stars.

Cameo and the Highwayman
by Dawn McCullough-White
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace

Review: Cameo the Assassin

Reviewed by Jen

Cameo the Assassin is set in a past/alternative world that is both dark and bleak.   As the story begins, Cameo is clinging to life, after a brutal rape and attack.  But a vampire steps in and keeps her from succumbing. She survives, in a manner of speaking. She becomes the vampire’s thrall, half-living, half-undead.

Years later, she has become an assassin. In the course of a hit, her path crosses with two highwaymen who rob her carriage. She lets them escape, but tracks one down later to get her things back.   It’s those same highwaymen who become her next targets for assassination. She would have carried out that mission as well, if her boss hadn’t sent Gail with her as a partner.  She was a victim of Gail, herself, once. And the urge to kill him finally gets the better of her.  Now she is thrown together with Opal and Bel as they try to survive the next wave of assassins.

Opal confused me a little as a character. He is flamboyant and over the top. He wears lots of make-up and Cameo asks more than once if he and Bel are involved. Yet, he is also painted as a rake who charms the pants off of women and develops a thing for Cameo, himself.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of him, even now.  But I do know, that I found myself rooting for him and Cameo to reach out to each other throughout the course of the book.  So maybe all the make-up and purple brocade were just lagniappe.  Who knows?

Joining our strange trio is a teenage acolyte named Kyrian.  Cameo becomes his protector after his grandfather shows her a kindness.  There’s mystery surrounding the boy, not the least of which is why Cameo’s master can barely stand his presence.  And speaking of Cameo’s master… he is hardly a benevolent sire.  I’d kind of like to kill him myself.  Despite the fact that he saved Cameo from death, all those years ago, he doesn’t seem much better than the men who nearly killed her in the first place.

Overall, I did like the book. It features vampires and ghouls, but it didn’t feel like standard horror or Urban Fantasy fare.  Cameo isn’t your standard heroine, either.  Most supernatural heroines these days are snarky/sexy/tough/witty women who kick ass on the side of right. Cameo is haunted and broken and surprisingly sympathetic.  I get the impression that she kills because she doesn’t consider herself worthy of doing anything better.  The ragtag group that comes together in the book are likely the only friends she has ever had.  Which makes me ache for her to have just a little bit of happiness with them.

The ending of the book does wrap things up for the most part, but leaves several loose ends for the next installment, Cameo and the Highwayman.  4 stars.

*This book was provided by the author for review.

Click to purchase: Amazon
Cameo the Assassin
by Dawn McCullough-White
Release Date: July 16, 2009
Publisher: iUniverse

Armchair BEA: Who Are You?

First off, I want to welcome everyone who has never been to the site before!  My name is Jen and for all intents and purposes, I am Red Hot Books.  All of the thoughts, opinions, reviews and rants come from me. 
So who am I? Well, I am a mom first. I have a 5 year-old boy and a 7 year-old girl. And I’ve been with their father, my high school sweetheart, for 20 years. (Holy crap!)  I make my living as a tv news producer in the Southeast United States. It’s fun work, but it can be high-stress.  When I’m not busy being mom, wife, or employee, I spend my free time reading and reviewing. 
A love of reading.  I read very quickly, which is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing, because time rarely limits my ability to sample new books. I get to try many authors, without a huge time commitment. It’s a curse, because until I was introduced to the concept of review copies, I couldn’t afford to keep up with my book habit –even with frequent trips to the library.
Let’s talk books. My books of choice generally fall into two categories: paranormal and romance.  I love Urban Fantasy, like Kate Daniels, Sookie Stackhouse, and Rachel Morgan.  I love Paranormal Romance, like Immortals After Dark, Lords of the Underworld, and the Black Dagger Brotherhood.  I love Regency Romances and Highlanders.  And smut.  Let’s not forget smut.
Creating a dialogue.  As much as I love reading, it’s almost as rewarding to talk about the books I read.  And I don’t just mean writing reviews. I love to hear what other people think.  Did the same things bother them?  Did they love the same characters?  Did it remind them of another series?    To me, comments are the hallmark of a successful blog… much more than the number of followers. 

So please, look around the site.  Leave your comments. And come back!  You can also find me on Goodreads, Amazon and Twitter!

Review: Magic Slays

Reviewed by Jen

Coming off the high of the spectacular ending of Magic Slays, I’ve been staring at the computer for 10 minutes, trying to figure out why it took me a little while to really get into this book. And I think I’ve finally come up with the answer.

As the story begins, Kate is running the new agency that Curran set up for her since she has left the Order.  But despite her competence and reputation, she doesn’t have any clients.  But just as her best friend Andrea returns from a two month absence, Kate is hired to find a missing man and the mysterious device he has built.  She investigates; she is snarky; she is magic and bad-ass.  But (insert light bulb here) I wasn’t very invested in any of it, because Kate seemed to have no stake in it all, beyond completing a job.  No justice mission like she had when searching for Greg’s killer; no revenge for a brutal attack on a friend; no saving the world from a deranged aunt. Just a job.

It was when Kate realized what the device could do and what it would mean to her world, that I began to perk up. And then we were off and running.  Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that the device could have huge ramifications on Kate and all those she loves, if it is activated.  And as we get into the second half of the book, Kate encounters a personal crisis, that makes her willing to risk everything to fix it.  It’s when Kate is desperate and loyal and determined that she is at her best.  And here she shines, a heroine in the greatest sense.

Curran is back as Kate’s mate, and I was worried that some of the spark would be missing from their relationship, now that it’s more permanent. But Kate’s paranoia keeps them from falling into the old-married couple routine.  She still has questions about whether things can work for them long-term. But as the story progresses, he proves himself to be an utterly worthy hero.  And I still enjoyed the fire between them.

For the last third of the book, I was completely unable to put it down. The ending was utterly fantastic and sets up even more drama for the next installment.  I can’t imagine that Kate is keeping her secret for much longer. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by Penguin Group USA

Magic Slays
by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: May 31, 2011
Publisher: Ace

Review: How to Marry a Duke

Reviewed by Jen

If you’re looking for a sweet and feel-good Regency Romance, this is the right book for you.  How to Marry a Duke is a little light in the sex department, but it’s so fast-moving and entertaining that I barely had a chance to want for more.

Tristan is a duke looking for a wife.  And he’ll settle for nothing less than a suitable match. He wants a woman with intelligence, wit, breeding and fire.  And the longer he searches, the clearer it is becoming that such a woman is hard to find.  When he meets a matchmaking spinster named Tessa, he decides to employ her services.  But he doesn’t expect the attraction or friendship that quickly blossoms between them.

Tessa thinks love is something she’ll never have, but she is determined to find it for Tristan.  Even as her own feelings for him grow, she remains determined to find him a woman who can make him happy.  Tessa has a deep secret, which she has kept for many years. But now, it’s threatening to come out. Can she rely on Tristan’s help?  Or will it put him at risk for scandal as well?

Tessa is a worthy heroine: smart, independent, brave and loyal.  And it’s always a treat when a desirable woman is wrapped up in a package that’s bigger than a size 2.  Don’t expect much in the way of surprises… things progress pretty much as you would expect. But sometimes there’s comfort in that.  I enjoyed it. 4 stars.

*I won this book in a giveaway from the publisher

How to Marry a Duke
by Vicky Dreiling
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: Embraced by Blood

When we first met Alphonso in Bonded by Blood, he was introduced as the evil brother to our hero, Dom. But before the book was over, we found out that the he was really a double agent who worked inside the Darkblood organization, feeding information to the Guardians. We also discovered that’s he had been having an affair with his Guardian contact Lily, who also happened to be a good friend of Dom’s.

As Embraced by Blood begins, a year has passed.  Alphonso has severed his relationship with Lily, although he is painfully aware that she is the love of his life.  He knows that the Darkbloods will be hunting him for his betrayal and he doesn’t want Lily caught in their crosshairs. Beyond that, he was badly hurt in the climax of the last book and he doesn’t think he’ll be able to defend her with the pervasive injury to his leg.

But now that he’s learned the Darkbloods are hunting for a Guardian tracker to kidnap and convert to their cause, he puts himself back in Lily’s orbit to make sure she is safe.  As the book progresses, the two end up thrown together to foil the Darkbloods’ latest plans to gain strength and abuse humans; while at the same time, trying to outrun the Blood Assassin that has targeted Alphonso.

It took me awhile to get into this book.  Alphonso is trying to be noble and I get that. But a good deal of his misery is of his own making. He has chosen to keep the truth from her. And he isn’t the only one who has suffered for it.  It took a long time to get to anything that felt like progression in their relationship. Just a lot of unhappiness and regret.  Of course, that does change eventually and that is where the book finds its legs.  But it never really measured high on my sexual-tension-o-meter.  Yes, of course, I wanted them together, but there was never a burning in my belly for it. Does that make any sense?

It was frustrating to see Dom’s unwillingness to forgive his brother or believe in his goodness.  And the resolution on that part of the story was a little abrupt.  On the plus side, we have some well drawn secondary characters, like Jackson and Santiago; both of whom have their own books coming soon.

So the bottom line… I liked it ok.  I’m pretty sure I liked the first one better, though.  3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Embraced by Blood
by Laurie London
Release Date: June 21, 2011
Publisher: HQN Books