Archives for October 2011

Review: The Guardian

Reviewed by Jen

This book reminded me why I fell in love with Sherrilyn Kenyon. For me, the Dark-Hunter series has kind of lost its way a little bit lately. But The Guardian felt a lot like some of the earlier books that I loved so much. It’s technically a Dream Hunter novel, but it brings together many different threads from previous books. We’ve got many of the Dream Hunter characters we’ve met before, like Solin, Delphine & Jericho. But our heroine is half Dream Hunter, half Kattagarian… so we’ve got a healthy dose of Were-Hunter. AND our hero is a slave to Noir, which ties us into the whole Azmodea/ Hellchaser storyline. Plus we get a visit to Sanctuary and a Malachai connection.

If all that sounds intimidating, well, I’ll be honest when I say there were times my memory was creaking, trying to remember all the elements from the previous books. But Kenyon does a good job filling in the blanks and bringing you up to speed. And besides, the real draw of this book wasn’t all background stuff anyway: our main couple stole the show.

Seth is part Egyptian God, but was cast out by his parents as a child. He has been rejected and betrayed his whole life, and has spent thousands of years as a slave to the primordial god Noir. He has been tortured beyond any point I could convey to you. He’s never known love. In short, he is a super-awesome- dreamboat of a tortured hero.

By the bidding of his master, Seth has been torturing the Dream Hunter Solin to get him to reveal the location of the key to Mt Olympus. But then, Solin’s daughter Lydia comes to rescue her dad. She becomes Seth’s prisoner, while Solin goes to get the key. As his captive, Lydia spends more time with Seth and gets to see the man behind the mask he wears as Noir’s Guardian. And she wants to show him all the love he has never known.

He pulled her hand up and laid it against his chest before he finally explained, “I can perform a lot better for you if you wait until the end to hurt me there.”

She didn’t know what made her hurt the most, the sincere honesty in his voice or the expectation of pain she saw in his eyes. He spoke as if he were nothing more than a trained monkey with no other purpose than to service her and go.

Her hand trembling, she brushed his curls back from his forehead. “Has no one ever made love to you?”

Scowling, he cocked his head. “Made love? I don’t know what that is.”

Of course, he didn’t. Because no one had ever touched him with a loving hand. They had used him, abused him, and then thrown him away his entire life.

But that was going to change.

I really enjoyed this book alot. Kenyon is sooo good at writing tortured heroes and this reminded me a lot of Dance With the Devil in tone. My only complaint, was that ending felt a little bit rushed. Maybe more than a little bit. But I can forgive it. I really think fans of the series are going to be happy with this one. I definitely was.  4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by St Martin’s Press

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository

The Guardian
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Review: Cut and Run

Reviewed by Jen

There is somebody for everybody in this world. Even if you are as completely and thoroughly screwed up as FBI agents Ty and Zane. You’d never think that they are two people who could fall for each other. As the story begins, Ty comes off as this flippant, rebellious asshole with an enormous chip on his shoulder. Zane is a by-the-book, uptight brown-noser with something to prove. But looks are deceiving. As the book progresses, we learn that both men wear masks that cover who they really are… and underneath, they are each a big, fat mess.

The guys are thrown together to help solve a bizarre serial killer case. They hate each other from the get-go. But both men are talented agents in their own way, and slowly, a grudging respect forms between them. As they work the case, things continue to evolve between them. Each man begins to see the real person beneath the other’s facade… and an attraction begins brewing, which ultimately proves too powerful to resist.

There were several things that surprised me about this book. First, is that this is a real thriller. It’s not a romance with a mystery backdrop. It’s a true romantic-suspense, where both love interests happen to be guys. (I wish I could say the identity of the killer came as a shock. I can’t, but it was a roller-coaster ride to get to the ending anyway.) I was also surprised by how much time passes over the course of the book. Twice, we jump over months with our main characters apart. They continued to live and to change off-page.

By the time we get through most of the book, we see the real Ty and Zane. And it’s no picnic. Zane is an addict with reckless tendencies and abandonment issues; Ty is emotionally cut-off and afraid of anything real in his life. They lust after each other, but often don’t like each other. They need each other, but can’t extend themselves enough to risk heartbreak. All the while, they get their asses kicked over and over and over again. Car crashes and shootings and overdoses… suffocations and explosions… you name it, they endure it.

It’s not light reading. But it’s gripping.  I didn’t want to put it down.

The sex: super hot. And the tender moments were touching. But these two really need some therapy. And a good health insurance plan.  A little more than 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Cut and Run
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: September 29, 2008
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Series Reading Order: Cut & Run / Sidewinder

This is the reading order for the Cut & Run and Sidewinder series by Abigail Roux:

*Sidewinder story, featuring characters in the Cut & Run world

Review: Queenie’s Brigade

Reviewed by Jen

The fight for Earth isn’t going very well for humanity. Captain Michael Drake leads one of the last starships still battling the alien race trying to take over the planet. But the aliens are winning. Just before they completely destroy his ship, his crew manages a space jump… which lands them near a remote penal colony.

The colony is run by Queenie, a tough yet seductive woman, who takes Drake and his crew as prisoners. She wants to use his ship to get her people off the long-abandoned planet. But they’ll all need to work together to repair the ship enough to make it ready for flight. Drake holds out hope he can convince her to join his cause to defend Earth, but she wants no part of his plans. So he is in a race against time to change her mind before the aliens find them next.

There’s a definite attraction between Drake and Queenie, but there’s very little romance to speak of. We do get one short love scene, but it’s not until the very end. The bulk of the story is about the battle of wills between Drake and Queenie. She is a difficult character to like. I understand that her life has forced her to be a hard person, but she was very hard for me to empathize with. Drake was pretty likable though. Overall, it was a quick, easy sci-fi read, with a dash of sexy times. 3 stars.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Queenie’s Brigade
by Heather Massey
Release Date: July 2, 2011
Publisher: Red Sage Publishing

Review: Ecstasy Untamed

Reviewed by Jen

Ecstasy Untamed is book six in Pamela Palmer’s Feral Warrior series. But if you haven’t read the first five, don’t let that stop you from giving this book a try. I haven’t read the other books either. And while it was obvious the series has a history, I never felt lost and the world building was easy to understand in the context of the story.

A quick set up: There is a race of immortals called Therians. Long ago, each had the power to shift into animals. But a big bad thing happened and then only about two dozen of the Therians retained the power. Each carried the spirit of one animal. Then, another big bad thing happened, trapping the animal spirits of all but nine of the remaining shifters. Those men, the Ferals, protect the other Therians and fight the bad guy Mages who want to release bad-guy Daemons on the world. Anytime a Feral is killed, his animal searches for a strong Therian to replace him and that man is drawn to the other warriors to join their group. Still with me?

Hawke is one of the Ferals and as the book begins, he is recovering from an attack that left him in conflict with his animal. He is trying to repair the damage, but it’s not working out. In the meantime, Maxim appears at the house with his would-be mate, Faith. Maxim has the marks of a Feral, and the men believe he is there to replace their lost brother, the Fox. It turns out, he carries one of those animals lost years ago. Quickly, Feral House begins filling with men carrying the other missing animals.

Hawke is drawn to Faith. She had only known Maxim a day before she followed him to Feral House, but she felt drawn to him… certain she belonged to him. It’s a feeling that’s difficult to hold onto as Maxim reveals himself to be an enormous asshat and she begins to fall for Hawke. If you’re worried this might be an infidelity story, don’t be. Maxim is a bad, bad dude. And it’s obvious Hawke and Faith are meant to be together. The only question is how they’re going to get there.

There’s a lot going on in the book. The love story is good and so is the sex. There is plenty of action and plot development, but it’s easy to keep up with. There is also a bit of darkness –which surprised me a bit. But all the twists and turns kept things interesting. We’ve got a set-up for two different couples in future books. I am definitely interested in what’s going to happen with Wulfe. I want to go back and check out the backlist to learn more about him, if for no other reason. He smacks of a delicious tortured hero.

I enjoyed it. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Ecstasy Untamed
by Pamela Palmer
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Avon

Review: All About Seduction

Reviewed by Jen

Poor Caroline really took one for the team when she married old Mr Broadhurst. She was only 15 years old and he was 40 years her senior. Basically, her father sold her off and Broadhurst has been helping the family with finances ever since. In exchange, Caroline has forced herself to submit to his attentions for the past 15 years. Twice a week, every week, he has come to her bed, but never did she take pleasure from it –and never has it resulted in pregnancy.

Now that her husband is 70 years-old, he has decided he wants an heir. And he has demanded that Caroline sleep with another man to give him a son. She doesn’t want to. Sex is horrible enough with one man –why would she endure it with another? But he forces her hand, cuts her out of his will and threatens to turn over his mill to a man even more unscrupulous than himself.

Broadhurst invites a group of noble men to the home for Caroline to choose from, but Jack –the only man who has ever caught her eye– works in the mill. As the book begins, he is badly injured and she takes him into the Broadhurst home to convalesce. It’s no big jump to guess where the story goes from there.

It’s all kind of predictable. Caroline is uptight and terrible at seduction. But Jack is pretty solid hero material. I always enjoy it when the male lead thinks the leading lady is out of his reach. It was gratifying to see him finally catch a break, but it was a long time in coming. He had to suffer through most of the book. So did Caroline, come to think of it.

It took too long to get to the good stuff… and the author didn’t tread much new ground. But the romance was fairly good. Comfortable and kind of familiar. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
All About Seduction
by Katy Madison
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Avon

AAD Author Spotlight: Kristen Painter

Former college English professor.  Two time Golden Heart finalist. Blogger. AAD Author. Kristen Painter wears a lot of hats. And she has dipped her toes in several genres from romance… to poetry… to steampunk… and most recently urban fantasy. Kristen was kind enough to spare some time to chat with me about her House of Comarré series and a few other tidbits. Check it out:

Jen: Right off the bat, it must be said that the cover art for Blood Rights is absolutely gorgeous.

Kristen: Thanks you!

Jen: Did you get any input there?

Kristen: The fabulous folks at Orbit found Nekro, the artist, and he did the art, then Lauren at Orbit put it all together. I had some input, but just minor tweaking stuff.

Jen: What did you think?

Kristen: LOVE it. LOVE. Like majorly.

Jen: For those who have not read Blood Rights yet, what can they expect?

Kristen: Hopefully, a fun, fast-paced read and a glimpse into another world not so unlike our own.

Jen: Where will Mal and Chrysabelle go from here in Flesh and Blood?

Kristen: Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Hah! Let’s just say…more trouble awaits.

Jen: Is there a set number of books planned for the series?

Kristen: Yep. There will be five books in total and possibly a spin-off series if things go well.

Jen: I was so sure the Mal and Chrysabelle relationship would was going to go farther in Blood Rights. Will there be more romance between them in the later books? (Please say yes.)

Kristen: YES! Remember, it’s five books, so having everything happen in the first book wouldn’t have worked. I promise that things will keep progressing for them!

Jen: You do have several romance books under your belt, ranging from PNR, to contemporary, to steampunk. Which is your favorite genre to write and why?

Kristen: It tends to be whatever I’m writing at the moment. Does that make me fickle? lol

Jen: What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Kristen: I love Louisa Edwards’s contemporary chef romances and Roxanne St. Claire’s romantic suspenses. I love a good Victoria Alexander historical, too! Outside the realm of romance, I’m currently digging back into comics and graphic novels. A lot of my fellow Orbit authors have some great stuff out there too. I’ll pretty much read anything you put into my hands.
Jen: I spend way too much time playing on Twitter. What is your biggest time-sucker?

Kristen: Twitter! And tv. I love tv. There, I admitted it. From reality tv to Law and Order marathons to the BBC, I watch too much. I have to really use it as a reward or I’d have zero brain cells left. I should probably add online shopping to the list of time-sucks too. Man, I wish I could get paid to shop. I’d BANK!

Jen: Your favorite guilty pleasure?

Kristen: Besides chocolate and playing with my cats? Going to movies with my husband. Because we both work at home, we can sneak off for matinees and a lot of times we have the theater to ourselves. It’s pretty awesome.

Jen: What are you looking forward to most from AAD in New Orleans this year?

Kristen: Um, everything? My husband graduated from Tulane, so we go to NOLA quite a lot. I know the city fairly well and love to spend time there. There’s one particular meal I’m looking forward to having — besides beignets and hot chocolate at Cafe Du Monde — actually, there are about five meals I’m really looking forward to. lol Oh, NOLA, I love you but you do not love my waistline!

Jen: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.

 

Kristen: Thanks for having me! I’ll be chatting tonight (and giving away some books) in the Knight Agency chatroom at 9pm eastern, so stop by and say hi!

Review: Shades of Gray

Reviewed by Jen

This book put me through the emotional wringer. It was provocative; it was gut-wrenching; and it was damn good.

The story follows FBI agent Miller Sutton as he forces drug-runner Danny Butler to turn state’s evidence against his boss Roberto Hinestroza. Danny doesn’t want to do it, but it’s that or he gets sent back to prison and labeled a rat… virtually a death sentence.

Miller is responsible for Danny’s protective custody and as they spend time together in close quarters, the attraction is undeniable. Danny is gay, but Miller has never allowed himself to explore feelings for another man. There is something about Danny, though, that breaks through Miller’s walls. It’s hard to describe the evolution of their relationship in a way that gives it its due. It’s definitely sexy, but there is real depth beneath it. Danny is so broken by the life he’s led, but he covers it with a facade of strength. And yet, while his self-worth is undeniably fragile, there is a beacon of light in him that calls to Miller as no one ever has.

Miller is wrestling with his own demons. He has lived his life with such rigidity, pushing down his own feelings and desires so deep, even he can’t see them. As these two begin to fall for one another, each man is forced to look deep within himself and face hard truths. But at the same time, their hidden relationship makes both men happier than they have ever been.

When it was over, Miller slid out slowly, collapsing onto Danny’s body.
“Why,” he panted into Danny’s neck, “why is it so goddamn good?”

He was surprised at how full his voice sounded, so close to overflowing its steady banks.
Danny stroked his hair, his lips warm against Miller’s cheek.

“Because it’s us, Miller,” he whispered. “Because it’s us.”

I thought the whole book was going to be about their time in the safehouse, but there is so much more beyond that. There are some great flashbacks peppered in, which give readers alot of insight and backstory. And there are major developments after the guys leave the safehouse too. Without giving it all away, I can tell you that Danny makes a huge sacrifice… and so does Miller.

Sometimes I felt crushed under the weight of their feelings for each other, their own self-loathing, and the confluence of horrible circumstances they have to face. But in their moments of happiness and acceptance, it was like a warm blanket. There was just so much happening, my emotions ran the gamut. The sex is hot, don’t get me wrong, but this book is about so much more than that. It’s about love; it’s about self-discovery; and it’s about redemption. Very good. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Shades of Gray
by Brooke McKinley
Release Date: October 19, 2009
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Guest Post & Giveaway: SM Reine

This giveaway is closed. The winner is Sariah.

Please welcome author SM Reine to the blog today. Her new book, Death’s Hand is out this week. Check out the details and this guest post from Sara. 

 

Policing relations between Heaven, Hell, and Earth is messy and violent, but Elise Kavanagh and James Faulkner excelled at it– until coming across a job so brutal that even they couldn’t stand to see one more dead body. Now they’ve been pretending to be normal for five years, leaving their horrific history a dark secret. Elise works in an office. James owns a business. None of their friends realize they used to be one of the world’s best killing teams.

After years of hiding, something stirs. Bodies are vanishing. Demons scurry in the shadows of the night. A child has been possessed. Some enemies aren’t willing to let the secrets of the past stay dead…

I have to admit something a little bit embarrassing. We’re all friends, right? We all love books here, and I’m pretty sure we like them spicy (why else would we be addicted to Red Hot Books?), so we can be honest with each other.

When it comes to hot heroes… I fall in love fast and hard.
I think my first real love was Edward from the Anita Blake series. His smoldering good looks and ruthlessness made me totally infatuated with him. I drew a lot of pictures of him on my binders (this was high school, don’t worry) and fantasized about him slaying my nonexistent vampires. When he hooked up with Donna in Obsidian Butterfly, I was seriously crushed! Why hadn’t Laurell K. Hamilton saved him for me?
Well, fortunately, I picked up Anne Rice after that, and she’s not short on any number of hot guys to lust after! If I wrote my name as “Mrs. Sara Lestat” once, I must have written it a thousand times. That didn’t go so well once I got to Memnoch the Devil (the books started getting a little weird from there), but that was okay, because fictional marriages and divorces are faster than a trip to Vegas.
My list of boyfriends gets pretty tangled from there—my marriage to Remus Lupin from Harry Potter resulted in heartbreak (curse you, Tonks!), and Patch from Hush, Hush and I had to end it because of a difference in philosophies (nothing to do with Nora, I assure you). After that, I gave up on YA guys (too unreliable) and dove head first into romances, where I was suddenly surrounded by heavily muscled shirtless guys courtesy of JR Ward, Shayla Black, and Jeaniene Frost.
But there was a problem: All of these guys kept running off with the heroines of their books!
I’m married to a real human guy these days, so I’m coping. I don’t draw pictures of my hunky fictional boyfriends all over my pages anymore, and the only name coming after “Sara” belongs to my husband.
And yet, I still haven’t given up on those hunky heroes. Instead, I write them myself instead of falling in love with the ones I read. My books are full of hunky heroes—whether they be demon hunters or badass warlocks or ordinary guys thrown into the thick of things, they’re all completely crushable and fictionally marriageable… at least for a few weeks, until the next fictional guy comes along to break my heart.
But please don’t tell my real husband. I’m not sure he could stand the competition.
Who are your favorite fictional boyfriends?

Answer the question below for a chance to win a bookmark and Death’s Hand charm.

Click to purchase Death’s Hand at: Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Review: Avenger’s Angel

Reviewed by Jen

This was a book with potential. The premise: 2000 years ago, four favored archangels were given the gift of soulmates. But before they could join with their archesses, members of their brethren interfered, wanting the women for themselves. The creator sent the women to earth to protect them, and their mates chose to fall, in order to find them among the humans.

Presumably, each archangel will get his own book as the series progresses. This one features Uriel, the first of the four to finally find his archess. Uriel is living as a popular actor (a la Robert Pattinson) when he stumbles across Ellie at a book signing. She has no idea what she is or that angels even exist. But she has had mysterious powers all of her life and she is inexorably drawn to Uriel.

There are two main foils for their relationship. One is Samael… he’s one of the jealous archangels who didn’t get a mate. He also followed the women to earth and is determined to make Ellie, his. The other problem is a mysterious group of men that has been tracking Ellie and her powers since childhood.

All of this sounds pretty good, but something didn’t quite connect for me in the execution. There was a lot of repetition, especially in the early part of the book. Ellie’s attraction to Samael was, while understandable, somewhat off putting. But the biggest problem for me was the lack of a discernible build. Uriel was besotted at first sight. Ellie’s resistance was laughable. It’s like she’s supposed to be tough and strong, but also this shining beacon of good. Meanwhile, Uriel is a perfect, gorgeous, rich movie star. As if being a freaking angel didn’t make him spectacular enough.

Meh. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t live up to its potential. The scene stealers in the story were Samael and vampire-angel Azriel. Perhaps, a story featuring one of them would grab me more. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository

Avenger’s Angel
by Heather Killough-Walden
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Signet