Archives for January 2012

Review: Second Grave on the Left

Reviewed by Jen

I am completely, totally, 100% crazy about Charley Davidson. This book picks up right where the last one left off, taking me on yet another ride filled with mystery, action, snark, angst, and sexual heat. If you are not reading this series, you should be.

In this installment, Charley puts on her PI hat to help her friend Cookie search for a missing woman who Cookie knew in childhood. It turns out that Mimi is one of half a dozen people from the high school who have met an unsavory fate in a short period of time. And whoever is behind it all, has a long reach, because Charley finds herself in real danger more than once over the course of her investigation.

In the meantime, the sexy and mysterious Reyes is back… albeit in pseudo-spirit form. Charley is just as drawn to him as ever. (And frankly, I think I might be nursing a major crush on him, myself.) Unfortunately, he is in deep trouble. Demons who have escaped hell are holding his body captive. They’re torturing him, hoping to draw Charley out… to capture her and the portal to heaven. Charley only cares about saving Reyes. But he doesn’t want to be saved. He’d rather let them kill him than risk them getting to Charley. So she is on another race against time, to save the life of the man she can’t live without.

I am completely captivated by the whole Charley/ Reyes dynamic. It’s so… epic. Even though they have been sleeping together since the very beginning of the series, the author makes their relationship this amazing tension-filled powder keg. I don’t know how they’re going to make it work, but I want them to…  SO MUCH.

Charley is a phenomenal heroine.  She is powerful and brave and loyal and so damn funny.  The great supporting cast is back. Though I’m not feeling the love for Charley’s dad right now, Cookie, Uncle Bob and even Garrett continue to pull their weight as great characters. But it’s Reyes who steals the show. Seriously. I’m going to stop gushing now. 5 stars.

Here’s a little clip from the audiobook:
Click to purchase: Amazon
Second Grave on the Left
by Darynda Jones
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Review: First Grave on the Right

Reviewed by Jen

Funny. Fresh. Action-packed and a little dirty. I absolutely didn’t want to put this book down. I loved the heroine. Charley Davidson is a snarky, brave, and hilarious woman who happens to be the Grim Reaper. She’s also a P.I. and a consultant for the police department.

Obviously, Charley’s a busy woman. But as the story begins, she is experiencing some super-sexy dreams that may be a little more real than she first thought. It appears her dream-lover is the same guy who she met once in a life-changing experience as a teenager and she has never forgotten in the years since. But who is the mysterious Reyes? How is getting into her dreams? The answers lead to even more questions. And in the meantime, Charley has her other responsibilities to deal with as well.

Someone has killed three lawyers. And Charley has to work with their ghosts and the police department to solve the case. Plus, she is trying to help one of her P.I. clients escape an abusive husband. It’s amazing she has any time to rest, much less have a down and dirty affair in her sleep.

I liked so much about this book. Charley really is hilarious with her sarcasm and wit. But beneath the surface, her character really has a lot of depth. The entire Reyes story had me at the edge of my seat and as for the direction it took… well, I never saw that coming. I’m really curious as to how it will play out.

There’s also a great cast of secondary characters like Charley’s uncle Bob, her best friend Cookie, and sort-of nemesis Garrett. They each helped make the story richer.

It was really good.  I predict that this series and I will have a very happy future together. 4 1/2 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon
First Grave on the Right
by Darynda Jones
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Review: Firelight

Reviewed by Jen

This book doesn’t fit in one simple category. It’s historical… with elements of the paranormal. It’s gothic, dark, dangerous and romantic. It was completely enthralling and I absolutely could not put it down.

It’s been three years since the mysterious Lord Archer first met Miranda. She captivated him with her fearlessness and fiery disposition. Now he has made arrangements with her father to marry her. Miranda doesn’t realize that Archer is the same man she encountered that night in the alley all those years ago. He is simply an imposing man, who wears a mask covering his entire face.

No one knows what lies beneath Archer’s mask. But Miranda falls for the man underneath the disguise. And he falls for her. The love story is only the beginning, though. Archer is working tirelessly to find a cure for his disfigurement. He’s part of a mysterious organization of immortality questers. Someone is gruesomely killing off his associates and framing him for the crimes. Archer is full of secrets, which are slowly revealed over the course of the book.

The slow unraveling of Archer’s story is amazing. It’s second only to the phenomenal love story between him and Miranda. Kristen Callihan takes sexual tension to an entirely new level. I have never hungered for a single kiss between two characters as much as I did in this book. Just a kiss and I was breathless.

Slowly, she cupped his cheek. The air grew heavy, her chest tightening with each draw of breath. Archer closed his eyes, seeming to steel himself, and she knew he meant to pull away again. The idea of it slashed at her breast. Suddenly, everything became quite simple.

Her hand slid to his neck as she closed the gap she could no longer tolerate. Archer’s eyes snapped open, and a tremble ripped through him. “Don’t…” The protest died as her mouth fitted to his.

A shock of feeling coursed through her limbs at his touch. His breath caught sharply as though he too felt the shock. His body grew taut as a bow, quivering with barely held restraint. And she knew then that as much as he desired it, he feared touching her.

Every tiny piece of Archer that is unveiled was like a small victory. Every touch, every emotional connection between him and Miranda was a gift for my greedy eyes. And believe me, I felt greedy… for every crumb. In most books, I would frustrated or annoyed at how long it took for the couple to get together, but here, it’s done so well, it’s like magic.

I did have a little trouble keeping all the men straight in Archer’s club, especially when we were dealing with fathers & sons and courtesy titles mingled with real names. But it wasn’t too overwhelming. The villain, once revealed, was not a huge surprise… but the “why” part of it was something I didn’t see coming.

Archer is a fantastic tortured hero. Miranda is the one happiness he has found in so many long, miserable years. And she is a worthy and loyal heroine. She has secrets and strengths of her own, like an ability to wield a sword and to control fire.

The book is really quite extraordinary. It’s different… something shining, sparkling, and unique in a sea of familiar and predictable paranormal and historical romances out there. I loved it. 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Firelight
by Kristen Callihan
Release Date: February 1, 2012
Publisher: Forever (GCP)

Review: The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae

Reviewed by Jen

I’m so glad I did not give up on this trilogy. This installment is far and away the best book of the three. Like the first two, it was still long, but the pacing was so much better. Even though it was continuation of the ongoing kidnapping storyline, the book avoided the redundant feeling of its predecessor. And the hero is the strongest and most interesting character in all three books.

We first met Dominic in Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue. But then, we only knew him as the man intent on kidnapping one of the Cynster sisters. His efforts failed, of course, in both that book and the next. So when this book begins, the only Cynster sister remaining is the youngest, Angelica. Instead of hiring someone to do the deed this time, Dominic decides to do his own dirty work. He never expects how easy Angelica would make it for him.

From the moment Angelica sees Dominic at a ball, she knows that he is the man for her. Even after he kidnaps her, she is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He explains to her that the kidnapping plot is all a ruse to trick his mother into believing he has ruined a Cynster. She is extorting his cooperation. Angelica quickly agrees to go back to Scotland with him and help in any way she can.

I enjoyed their love story. Angelica is strong and determined and she never wavers. Dominic is a great hero. He is stalwart and loyal to his clan… a gentleman… and still a sexy beast. The love scenes are steamy. The romance is fulfilling. And the adventure is never dull. Plus –we get a fabulous epilogue, treating us to the weddings of all three Cynster sisters. Thumbs up! A little more than 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae
by Stephanie Laurens
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Guest Post & Giveaway: T. P. Boje

This contest is closed. The winners are Tawn, Persephone and Avadonja.

Paranormal YA author T.P. Boje is joining us on the blog today to share a guest post on the inspiration behind her Afterlife series and give away three copies of her book, Beyond. Please help me welcome her!

Have you ever wondered where you go when you die?
Meghan is 16 when it happens to her. She wakes up on a flying steamboat on her way to a school run by Angels in a white marble castle. She meets Mick who helps her through a difficult time in a different world filled with heavenly magic. One day she finds a mirror in the cellar of the school and goes through it. She ends up back on earth where she meets Jason. But Jason is in danger and Meghan knows something important.
Soon she will have to choose between the two worlds.
The one she belongs to now, and the one she left.
Have you ever wondered where you go when you die?
Haven’t we all at some point? I used to do it a lot as a kid. Is heaven for real and what is it going to be like once I get there? What kind of a body will I have? What will I look like? Will all of my family come with me? Will I meet my grandmother there?
When I was a child I remember reading Astrid Lindgren’s “The Brothers Lionheart”. To those who don’t know it, it is a book about two brothers that both die and goes to the country Nangijala, a land in “the campfires and storytelling days”. Here the brothers experience great adventures. Together with a resistance group they lead the struggle against the evil Tengil, who rules with the aid of the fearsome fire-breathing dragon Katla. It is really a very beautiful book and I remember how it made me look upon death in a totally different way. Like it could actually be a new adventure.
As I grew up I never thought much about life after death and if there really was one or not. I was busy living my life and thinking about my life here on earth. But then one day not many months ago a thought just popped into my head. What if we have to go to school when we die?
As it so often happens, the thought wouldn’t go away again once it had come into my head, and I started playing with the idea. If it is true that we leave our bodies here on earth, then we must have some new body on the other side, right? And it would probably take some time to get used to that new body. And how about going through walls and doors and stuff? I mean if we become spirits then we would have to learn how to do all those things, right? And what about flying? That is not something that comes to us easily. We would have to practice first, right? And someone would have to teach us. So eventually I started imagining this school that we all had to graduate from in order to be let into heaven, and soon Meghan popped into my head and started walking around on that school – that just had to be run by angels. She soon made some friends and fell in love (as it often happens when you are sixteen). And that was when the problems began. Because the boy was still human, living on earth, so how could they ever be together?
That was when I realized that a book-series was born. And just like the book “The Brothers Lionheart” from my childhood, it was about how dying is only the beginning of the next great adventure.

 

Does the Afterlife series sound like something you would like to try?  TP is giving away two ebooks and one paperback of Beyond. Just leave a comment to enter.  You can learn more about TP and her books by visiting her website.

Review: Thread of Death

Reviewed by Jen

This novella was great way to tide me over until I could read By a Thread. (**WARNING** This review contains spoilers from the events of Spider’s Revenge.) The story picks up just a couple of weeks after the end of the last book, and it gives us a peek inside Mab Monroe’s funeral.

Gin has just barely recovered from her fight with the powerful elemental, but she feels like she must attend the funeral to give herself closure. Unfortunately, the other attendees are basically a who’s-who of Ashland’s underworld. And the word is out that Gin is the Spider. So this is no quiet service. Someone is gunning for Gin and she has to fight for her life, with even greater implications than usual.

Among the cool things we get are multiple POV’s, which is unusual for the series. I liked getting outside impressions of our heroine. I also liked that this book begins to set up a villain for future installments and it sparks some intrigue surrounding my beloved Owen. The story is short, but it’s not filler. I expect to see the implications from these events play out in future novels. Good stuff. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Thread of Death
by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Pocket Books

Elemental Assassin: Short Stories & Novellas

Reviewed by Jen
 

Jennifer Estep has provided a wealth of wonderful short stories to fill in the blanks of her Elemental Assassin series. Most can be found free on her website.  Here’s a breakdown:

Poison – One of three prequels to the first novel.  It’s told from Finn’s perspective.  It seems Gin’s foster brother wasn’t always her biggest fan.  In this story, Finn is 15 and Gin, at 13, has just come to live with him and his dad.  He is jealous that his father has decided to train Gin to be an assassin instead of him.  But Gin really saves Finn’s bacon when he gets into a tough spot, cementing a friendship that will last them a lifetime.

Web of Deceit – This is the second prequel story. It is told from the point of view of Fletcher, Gin’s adopted father and mentor. He watches as Gin undertakes her first solo mission as an assassin. She is 16. The target: two brothers who are kidnapping teens and pimping them out. It’s nice to get to know the old guy a little and see the love he has for Gin.

Spider’s Bargain – The final prequel to the first novel follows Gin on one of her hits.  In this case, she’s going after a dirty cop named Cliff Ingleas.  Cliff has been forcing sex out of vampire hookers and has most recently raped and beaten a 13 year-old girl. When she learns what he has done, Gin decides to kill him for free.  The events of this story are referenced in Spider’s Bite.

Web of Death – This story takes place between the events of Spider’s Bite and Web of Lies. Gin has retired from the assassin business and is in the process of moving into Fletcher’s old house, when she comes across a female vampire prostitute being attacked.  Taking down the two male vamps who were doing the attacking gives Gin the first real excitement she’s had in her life since she left the killing business.

Wasted – This short story takes place in between the events of Web of Lies and Venom.  And it’s told from Finn’s point of view. When a beautiful woman passes him over to start up an affair with his boss, Finn knows something is up.  Sure enough, she has less than honorable intentions and Finn makes it his own mission to keep her plan from succeeding.  A cameo from Xavier helps set up the main story arc regarding Roslyn in the next book.

Tangled Dreams – This short story takes place in between the events of Venom and Tangled Threads. And here we get a tale from both Devereaux sisters.  Gin is injured saving a mother and daughter from some carjackers and comes to Jo-Jo for help.  We learn what healing is like from Jo-Jo’s perspective, but more importantly, we learn a little more about her other gifts (like prophesy.)  When the surviving carjacker tracks Gin to the house, Jo-Jo takes care of him herself and calls her sister to clean up the mess. Sophia picks up the rest of the story, giving us a closer look at her elemental gifts and how they are different from her sister’s.

Tangled Schemes – Here we get a story from Bria’s point of view and it takes place just before the events of Tangled Threads. Bria is trying to track down her sister and learn the identity of the Spider, obviously having no idea that they are one in the same.  We get her perspective on why she came to Ashland and even a little bonus conversation with (the weenie-toad) Donovan Caine.  Bria gets herself in a tight spot as she continues her investigation, but manages to come out of it all ok in the end.

Spider’s Nemesis – Here we see the murders of Gin’s mother and sister from Mab’s point of view.  The story starts where Tangled Threads leaves off and Mab is contemplating who the mysterious Spider is.  She remembers the first time she met Gin’s mother as well as the meeting with the great-aunt who foretold her death at the hands of a Snow girl.  Pretty cool to see the pieces all fall into place as Mab slowly figures out who her nemesis really is.

Thread of Death – Reviewed here.

Review: Perfection

Reviewed by Jen

In the world Kris Cook has created with his Eternally Three series, immortals live among us. But they need a certain sexual energy to sustain their life force. An angel must join with a jinn and a human in “tripling” and share energy. (By the way, a “tripling” is exactly what you think it is.)

This story follows Micki, a human woman who is searching for her missing brother. She knows something is wrong, thanks to a cryptic message he left her, asking her to bring his flash drive to a club and give it to a man named David. It turns out that the club is a hedonistic house of flesh. And once she arrives, she has trouble remembering her mission. All she can think about is her erotic attraction to the two men who remind her of the dirty sex dreams she’s been having. –And wouldn’t you know it? One of them is a jinn and the other, an angel.

Apparently, David’s a big muckety-muck in the supernatural world and he has assigned Jared and Bradley to watch over Micki. And boy, do they ever. But the mind-blowing sex reveals there is something special about their tripling and the woman in the center of it. As the book progresses, we see Micki, Jared, and Bradley fight the agents of the Dark who hope to harness their power, search for Micki’s missing brother, and have lots and lots of sex.

The menage action is seriously hot. Dirty, sweaty, slutty, look over-your-shoulder to-see-who’s-watching-you-read hot. Micki is the clueless human, learning to embrace her carnal side… Bradley, the do-right angel… and Jared, the damaged jinn who is trying to redeem himself for past mistakes. It’s a fun supernatural sexcapade, with a fairly straightforward conflict to anchor the dirty bits together. And they were good dirty bits –but I had a few nitpicks. One: You have to accept a lot of the supernatural parts of the story at face value, without a lot of world-building. Two: It bothered me a little how easily Micki jumped into the nasty with two strangers in a public place, no matter how hot they were. And three: As good as the sex is between among them, they all fell in love really fast.

It was fast, fun ride, though… as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously.  A little more than 3 stars.

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Perfection
by Kris Cook
Release Date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Siren

Review: Heiress Without a Cause

Reviewed by Jen

At 28, Madeleine is a spinster, firmly on the shelf. But there is more to her than the prim and proper exterior she shows the ton. For the past few weeks, she has been assuming an alter-identity as an actress to live her passion on the stage. Obviously, when Ferguson -a newly minted Duke- asks her to help his younger sisters come out into society, he has no idea she is anything less than the model of propriety.

Then Ferguson visits the theater. He is taken by Madeleine’s alter ego and quickly figures out her identity. He is torn between wanting her for himself and wanting to keep her innocence intact. I’ll bet you can guess which desire won out.

Madeleine’s adventure was only supposed to last for a short time, but she is drawing in such a crowd, the owner of the theater begins blackmailing her to stay. She must team up with Ferguson to continue her charade and keep her identity a secret. This, as a passionate affair grows between them.

What I liked about this book is that the hero works out his feelings for the heroine very early on. Usually, in historical romance, the revelation that the hero is really in love doesn’t come until close to the end of the book. Not the case here. Ferguson doesn’t ever hold back his feelings for Madeleine. That doesn’t mean he is perfect. He’s overbearing and autocratic at times, though not nearly as much as he fears he is.

My biggest complaint was with Madeleine. Her reticence to accept a future with Ferguson was just… stupid. She explains her reasons, but they simply do not wash for me. I also found her to be reckless at times, and a little selfish. I didn’t dislike her, but I wasn’t always on board with her decisions.

The sex was definitely good. And bonus points for use of the word “manroot.” I’ll probably check out the next installment when it comes out. 3 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Heiress Without a Cause
by Sara Ramsey
Release Date: January 23, 2012
Publisher: Spencerhill Associates

Shameless Giveaway Hop

This contest is closed. The first place winner is Georgia McMillan.  The second place winner is Lori A.

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Welcome to the Shameless Giveaway Hop! The amazing Brie at Romance Around the Corner and Michelle at Michelle’s Book Blog are my co-hosts for the big event. But the three of us are just the tip of the iceberg. More than 80 blogs and authors are taking part and you can find a different prize at every site.

As one of the hosts, I feel like I need to go big for this giveaway. And I like to give choices. So here are your options.

Prize #1: Lothaire by Kresley Cole (Hardback)
US Residents Only

ALL FEAR THE ENEMY OF OLD

Driven by his insatiable need for revenge, Lothaire, the Lore’s most ruthless vampire, plots to seize the Horde’s crown. But bloodlust and torture have left him on the brink of madness—until he finds Elizabeth Peirce, the key to his victory. He captures the unique young mortal, intending to offer up her very soul in exchange for power, yet Elizabeth soothes his tormented mind and awakens within him emotions Lothaire believed he could no longer experience.

A DEADLY FORCE DWELLS WITHIN HER

Growing up in desperate poverty, Ellie Peirce yearned for a better life, never imagining she’d be convicted of murder—or that an evil immortal would abduct her from death row. But Lothaire is no savior, as he himself plans to sacrifice Ellie in one month’s time. And yet the vampire seems to ache for her touch, showering her with wealth and sexual pleasure. In a bid to save her soul, Ellie surrenders her body to the wicked vampire, while vowing to protect her heart.

CENTURIES OF COLD INDIFFERENCE SHATTERED

Elizabeth tempts Lothaire beyond reason, as only his fated mate could. As the month draws to a close, he must choose between a millennia-old blood vendetta and his irresistible prisoner. Will Lothaire succumb to the miseries of his past . . . or risk everything for a future with her?

Prize #2: Choose any three paperback books from the list below
US Residents Only
  • Burn the Night by Jocelynn Drake
  • Feast by Merrie Destefano
  • Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis
  • Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson
  • The Fall by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
  • Diary of a Mad Fat Girl by Stephanie McAfee
  • Darkest Heart by Thea Devine
  • Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite
  • The Princess in His Bed by Lila DiPasqua
  • The Courtesan’s Secret by Claudia Dain
  • Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Lure of the Wicked by Karina Cooper
  • Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper
  • All Things Wicked by Karina Cooper
  • A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
  • Sacrifice: Mortal Path by Dakota Banks
  • How to Worship a Goddess by Stephanie Julian
  • The Ravishing of Lady May by Charlotte Lovejoy
  • Dragon Warrior by Janet Chapman
  • Moon Sworn by Keri Arthur
  • A Fiend in Need by Maureen Child
  • Kitty’s Big Trouble by Carrie Vaughn
  • Lord of the Vampires by Gena Showalter
  • Lord of the Wolfyn by Jessica Andersen
  • Lord of Rage by Jill Monroe
  • The Darkest Surrender by Gena Showalter
Prize #3 – The Book of Your Choice (Up to $10) from The Book Depository
International

I am going to select two winners. First place winner gets to pick first. Second place can select from among the remaining prizes.  To enter: just fill out the Rafflecopter form below –and don’t forget to check out the other sites participating in the hop!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Oooh La La!