Archives for January 2013

Review: Haunted Sanctuary

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve never read Moira Rogers’ Red Rock Pass books, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this first book in the spinoff series.  It’s set in the same world, but is very easy to jump into as a new reader.  I was never confused or felt like I was missing anything, nor did it seem like we were getting any massive info dumps. The world-building is woven seamlessly into the story.

Jay is a lone wolf in the small town of Clover. That is, until Zack returns to his family’s farm.  Jay has no idea that another wolf is linked to the town, especially not one related to Eden, the woman he’s been crazy about for ages. But when Eden gets word that something is stirring at the old farm, she knows what it could mean. And sure enough, when she goes out to investigate with Jay, not only does she find her shifter cousin, but other wolves who are out for his blood.  One of them bites her, changing her life forever.

As the story progresses, we learn that Zack was once Alpha to a pack in Memphis, but stronger, power-hungry wolves attacked them. They ran, hoping to find safety on the farm.  Eden and Jay evolve into an Alpha pair and deem the farm a sanctuary to protect the brutalized pack.  This, as the Memphis Alpha’s pack threatens to come down and finish what they started.

Right off the bat, I liked the sexual tension between Eden and Jay. Perhaps it was too good, because I was beyond ready for these two to get busy by the time it actually happened. I liked the fact that they had a history together, so it felt more realistic for their relationship to progress so quickly.  I thought Eden adjusted really well to her sudden turning, and it was interesting to see the portrayal of an Alpha pair where “Alpha” doesn’t translate into “overbearing buttmonkey.”

I’ve been sitting here, though, trying to figure out why I liked it, but didn’t love it. I think it’s because the relationship between Eden and Jay was a bit too easy.  Neither one of them really had to work for it. And other than the long wait for sex, everything between them fell into place from the very beginning.  I find my romance ends up being more satisfying with a bit of angst and uncertainly.  Almost all of our angst, here, is in the external conflict tied into the Memphis wolves and the aftermath of their actions.

But, I did enjoy it overall. And I will be back to check out the next story. I hope it’s not too soon for Zack and Kaley’s story. Now THAT should be deliciously angsty!

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Haunted Sanctuary
by Moira Rogers
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Samhain

Review: Ever After

Reviewed by Jen

This is my absolute favorite installment of the Hollows series to date.  The best book I have read in months.  I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.  It’s as though Kim Harrison made this book to order, handpicking all of my favorite elements of the series and letting them shine.  Tons of Trent.  Al.  Jenks. And, of course, the ever after.  It’s light on Ivy, the vampire culture, witches and werewolves.  And we actually see real growth in Rachel.  It’s like Christmas and my birthday all at once.

The story feels more like a follow up to Pale Demon than A Perfect Blood.  We’re experiencing a lot of repercussions from that book.  The ley line Rachel accidentally made is leaking –and slowly destroying the ever after.  Of course, she is blamed, but it’s really Ku’Sox who is setting her up. He exacerbated the problems with the lines to put Rachel in the crosshairs –and he’ll only fix the problem if she takes the curse off of him that keeps him away from her reality.

Ku’Sox is also gunning for Trent. He’s been kidnapping Rosewood babies and he wants Trent to manipulate their genes to make more day-walking demons like Rachel. Ku’Sox wants control of the babies to boost his power among the demons.  Trent won’t budge, so Ku’Sox takes desperate action.  Trent and Rachel must work together to best Ku’Sox, as the demon endangers those near and dear to both of their hearts… and all of demonkind.

There is a ton of action in this book. I was pulled in from the very beginning and I did not want to put it down until the last page.  It is unpredictable.  Remember the kind of shockers Kim Harrison delivered in some of the earlier books in the series?  Oh yeah, those are back.  At right about the halfway mark, she kicked me in the gut –hard.  No punches are pulled. No easy roads are taken.  It had me by the seat of my pants the whole time.

One of the things I love about these books is the continuity. Harrison never tries to ignore past events. Instead, she weaves them into current stories, reminding us of those things that built the characters into who they are.  From the rat fights to the doctor Trent killed –from Rachel’s failed romances to Denon’s death and the boat explosion.  It’s all there and then some… all kinds of little Easter Eggs for longtime fans.

We continue to learn more about the demons –and their history.  We meet more gargoyles. Learn more about the ever after. Plot Ellsbeth’s death (wait… maybe that last part was just me.)  And we get movement on the whole Rachel and Trent will-they or won’t-they dance.  I won’t spoil it.  But it’s a pretty big story thread, or at least, a major current throughout the book.

I am forcing myself to stop gushing now, before I tell you everything that happened.  Just know that if you were on the fence about continuing this series after A Perfect Blood, please take my advice and read this book. If it doesn’t make you fall in love with The Hollows again, I don’t know what will.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Harper Collins 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Ever After
by Kim Harrison
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins

Review: Branded by Fire

Reviewed by Jen

Good gracious almighty, this one was hawt.  For the first time in her Psy-Changeling series, Nalini Singh pairs two changelings together. And the result is scorching.  We’ve seen hints in previous installments that a Mercy-Riley pairing was inevitable, but I honestly never thought it would be this good.

Mercy is a sentinel for the Dark River leopard pack.  Riley is a lieutenant for the wolf Snow Dancers.  They work together as the liaison team for the two packs, but they drive each other crazy.  Mercy is fiery and bold.  Riley is steady and sure, so difficult to ruffle, he’s earned the nickname “the Wall.”  Neither ever imagined the passion that was lurking beneath the surface between them.

As the story begins, Mercy is at the end of her rope. It’s been months since she has been with a man and has started to fear that she would never find the right guy to be her mate.  One too dominant would stifle her, while one too submissive wouldn’t measure up for her cat.  When her need reaches a fever pitch, Riley is only too happen to step in and scratch her itch.

What starts out as a “one shot deal” becomes a fire that consumes them both.  Riley gets on board pretty fast, but Mercy fights it.  She knows how possessive alpha males are –and she is too dominant to deal with the fallout.  Before she knows it, though, she is craving Riley as much as he craves her.

The sex is phenomenal from the very beginning and it stays that way throughout the book. This story is much more sexual throughout than the others, and it really, really works. But that’s not all there is to Mercy and Riley. I loved watching them find places for the other in their lives… watching them find the compromises necessary to work as mates.

In the meantime, the Human Alliance is flexing its muscle as a threat to be reckoned with. As always, Kaleb and the other members of the Psy Council remain a force.  And the inevitable pairing of Hawke and Sienna is beginning to pick up steam.  With perhaps a third party getting into the mix. Color me intrigued, Kit.

I enjoyed this one a lot. One of my favorites in the series.  Rrrraw.

Rating: A-

Click to purchase: Amazon
Branded by Fire
by Nalini Singh
Release Date: May 22, 2009
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

Review: Nobody’s Angel

Reviewed by Jen

I wanted to like this story, and I thought the beginning showed potential.  But this book didn’t hold me.  In fact, I had to struggle to make it to the end.

It all starts when Kendall watches a co-worker attack another woman then kill himself.  He has a strange white glaze over his eyes… and the event thrusts her into the world of spirits and the supernatural.  A sexy EMT and a mysterious, masked guardian angel enter her life –and she begins to understand the things she is seeing.  Through her investigations, Kendall uncovers the truth about what is eventually revealed to be a string of murder-suicides.  And she falls for the sexy Nephalim who spends the entire book trying to save her life.

Sounds pretty good… but it wasn’t.  That’s because the romance failed.  I don’t know if the guardian angel identity reveal was supposed to be a surprise. I’m hoping it wasn’t because it was painfully obvious from the beginning. Then, the way the “love story” progressed was at lightning speed.  It’s total insta-love with some shallow hero-angst thrown in.  I felt nothing for either character and I surely didn’t believe in any feelings between them.  The sex was over the top, and unexciting since we had virtually no chance for any sexual tension to build.

As for the action/ mystery part of the storyline… it was meh.  Not terrible, but again, I just couldn’t make myself care.

This wasn’t good for me. Maybe if it were a full length book and we had more elapsed time and character development, it might have been better.

Rating: D+

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Nobody’s Angel
by Stacy Gail
Release Date: January 21, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Primal Possession

Reviewed by Jen

I have to admit. I didn’t love Alpha Instinct. But I am glad I gave this second installment in the Moon Shifter series a try, because I enjoyed this one much more.

I was already invested in a Liam-December pairing, since I read the set up for their romance in the last book.  Liam is second-in-command to his brother’s wolf-shifter pack, and December is the human sister of the town sheriff.  The two were attracted to each other from the beginning, but December tried to keep Liam at arm’s length. He doesn’t know it, but a shifter killed her younger brother and to begin a relationship with a wolf would alienate her surviving sibling in a way she could not bear.

But December is in danger from an anti-paranormal group who has targeted her from her association with Liam.  Now he must stay close to her to keep her safe.  And the more time they spend with each other, the more he breaks down the walls she tries to maintain around her heart.

I liked Liam a lot. Yes, he is alpha and possessive, but he isn’t an overbearing jerk. He tries to see things through December’s eyes and makes concessions where he can.  He is clearly crazy about her, and he doesn’t give up on the connection he knows they have.  (Yeah, he does get a little boneheaded at the end, but I forgive him.)  I liked December as well, though perhaps not quite as much as I did Liam.  It was hard to watch her rebuff him, even though I understood why she did it.  The sexual tension is great and the love scenes are awesome.

In addition to the primary romance –and some pretty good action– there is also a strong secondary story brewing for the next book.  Kat and Jayce had me at hello. Seriously, there is so much delicious angst there, I am very excited for their story. I only pray there is no love triangle Aiden. (Please no!!)  I will definitely be reading Mating Instinct.  Like now.

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Primal Possession
by Katie Reus
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Signet Eclipse

Review: Two Sinful Secrets

Reviewed by Jen

Laurel McKee continues her Scandalous St Claires series with this second installment, featuring Dominic St Claire (brother to Lily, the heroine in book 1) and Sophia (cousin to Aidan, book 1’s hero.) I was really looking forward to this, since their first encounter eclipsed the primary romance in One Naughty Night.  A young, masked Sophia shared a passionate kiss with Dominic at his family’s gaming hall, but ran away before it ever became more.  It was an encounter neither one has ever forgotten.  Even though years have passed, and Sophia has been both married and widowed, the memory of that kiss still scorches her.  And Dominic has never stopped looking for the masked woman who captivated him.

The two come face to face in Paris, where Dominic is on family business.  Sophia is trying to start a new life for herself, after her late husband left her penniless.  They are drawn to each other again instantly.  But Dominic is caught up in the longstanding animosity that his family holds against hers.  At first, he tries to stay away, but goes on to see a relationship with her as a surefire way to get under her family’s skin.

I must say, just like in the last book, the family feud is very weak.  And the fact that Dominic wanted to use Sophia to hurt her family made it difficult for me to really like him.  Yes, he eventually comes around, but it’s almost too little, too late.

In the meantime, there is a man from Sophia’s past who is stalking her.  This is the main external conflict in the book, and it didn’t work for me.  This is a powerful and attractive man who could have anyone. His actions and obsession with Sophia are over the top and simply don’t have enough of a basis to ring true.  It made him seem almost like a caricature of a villain, instead of a believable threat.

There were some parts of the book I really liked, though. Sophia, for instance, was a pretty good heroine.  She was sympathetic with her cold family and loser husband.  You could really see that she has grown a lot, and she does her best to do right by Dominic.  Also… the sex was hot.  Solid tension and great payoff.  Plus, McKee is really great at laying the groundwork for future books. She did it last time, and she does it here again.  I can’t wait for Elizabeth and Brendan’s book.  There is so much angst there!!!

I definitely enjoyed it more than One Naughty Night… and I have high hopes for book 3.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Forever

Click to purchase: Amazon
Two Sinful Secrets
by Laurel McKee
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Forever

Review: Chloe’s Double Draw

Reviewed by Shelly

Woot woot, I’ve found another writer who’ll make it to my auto-buy list. This first story in the King’s Bluff, Wyoming, series is also Archer’s debut story and what a debut it is. There’s a lot going on,  but it’s not too much, and it’s all well played out.

Running from a past she can’t seem to dodge, Chloe Morgan figures she can start over in King’s Bluff, Wyoming. She’s done her time in the big city with her very own stalker and is just really ready for a new start – what sane girl wouldn’t? Getting a job as a schoolteacher at King’s Bluff Community School, Chloe gets to know the town folk including Noah King and Flynn Taylor. Once they meet Chloe at a town gathering, the guys know that she’s going to be theirs and pursuit is on!

Former Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) Commandos Noah and Flynn are Australian by birth but they’ve decided to settle in Wyoming, USA, because of Noah’s inheritance. Turns out that King’s Bluff was founded by one of Noah’s ancestors and Noah’s been left with the responsibility of the town. As Noah’s best friend, Flynn came along for the ride but is enjoying life and what King’s Haven has to offer. They’re about to enjoy it even more with Chloe strapped down in their bed.

I really liked Chloe because she didn’t take any crap from these two Doms. So much so, in fact that, she was constantly in trouble, but only the good kind. I have to warn you right about here, heed the warning about BDSM. Archer is very descriptive in that regard, so if you’re easily offended or expect just a little slap and tickle, I don’t know what to tell you other than you’ve been warned. But I digress. Her past has followed her and there’s quite a bit of action surrounding that and, of course, some former military assistance is definitely absolutely required.

I was a little skeptical about Chloe’s almost seamless progression into being a sub, but it wasn’t really a choice for her and here’s why: Chloe sexual past isn’t really discussed but you get the idea that she’s not been out there (if you know what I mean) but Noah and Flynn tell her every, naughty and not so naughty, thing that they’re going to do. Because of this she gets to say yes or no and BAM! she’s in the lifestyle. Other than the nipple clamps (ouchie) I was maybe kinda sorta a slight bit jealous.

Noah and Flynn were identifiably separate characters and each had their own demons. Although they’ve hard-earned scars both inside and outside they’ve got another thing coming if they think that Chloe is going to let them get away with being ‘Vegemite-eating bastards’. Not today, scratch that – any day, misters. They really tried sometimes to run over Chloe but she absolutely wasn’t having any of it. This is my absolute favorite line from Chloe talking to the guys – ‘before you start and waste all of our time, why don’t I tell you the various ways each of you can shove it up your ass’ – this had me rolling on the floor laughing my you know what off.

Noah and Flynn both have a group of hunky friends from the old days that are still around for a rescue or two. Former SEALs Quinn Sullivan and Mike Langley. There’s Chloe’s friend, good girl and town librarian, Reagan. According to the author’s website, these three are in the next book. Yippee, can’t wait.

What I enjoyed most about this story was the idea that you don’t have to be born someplace to be a welcomed and valuable part of that society. Chloe’s story was a great example.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Chloe’s Double Draw
by Fiona Archer
Release Date: November 29, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: A Passion for Him by Sylvia Day

Reviewed by Jen
 

I feel very torn about this book. There were some things I really liked here… others, not so much. Let me get you up to speed:

Amelia is betrothed to her dear friend, the Earl of Wane.  She doesn’t love him, but he is ok with that. It would be a marriage based on friendship and respect.  Amelia has never gotten over her first love, Colin, who was a Gypsy and family servant in her youth.  As teenagers, they had a passionate and amazing bond, despite their difference in class.  Sadly, Colin was shot and killed years ago, and part of Amelia’s heart died with him.

Only, Colin didn’t actually die.  He went abroad to remake himself… to earn a fortune in order to make a future possible for himself and Amelia.  Now that he has achieved that end, he is ready to come back and claim her. Unfortunately, he gets caught up in a murder plot and is now being hunted. That doesn’t stop him from seeking Amelia out at a masked ball.

Of course, Amelia doesn’t know who he is, but she is attracted to him immediately.  He takes on a false name and keeps on the mask every time they meet. And in spite of the mystery, or maybe even because of it, the passion between them reaches a fever pitch.  But once Amelia learns of his deception, can she forgive him?  Or is her sure and steady friend Ware the better choice for her future?  All these questions play out, as a dangerous killer continues to track Colin.

So here’s what was really good.  Sylvia Day does a fantastic job carving out these characters and investing me in their emotions.  I felt the raw heartbreak from Amelia, the insecurity and longing from Colin.  And the passion… wow.  The sex is fantastic and very, very satisfying. (The line about the “slick, humid paradise of her glistening sex” aside.) But… perhaps Day did too good of a job with making me empathize with Amelia.  Because, frankly, I had a very hard time forgiving Colin, and it bothered me how easily he got what he wanted. I wanted them together, but at the same time, I didn’t feel like he deserved her after he abandoned her.  He gets off too easy.  Not to mention the scores of women he boned while he was allegedly pining for his lost love. This, while Amelia stayed a virgin, even though she thought he was dead.  Fail, fail, fail.

Would I call it a pretty good book? Yes.  But it also frustrated me, made me angry, and hurt my heart a little bit.  I like to feel a little bit happier about my happy endings.

Rating: B-

*Book Provided by Kensington via NetGalley

 Click to purchase: Amazon
A Passion for Him
by Sylvia Day
Original Release Date: November 1, 2007
Re-Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Bravia

Review: Dark Dealings

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll give Kim Knox credit for this: Dark Dealings is definitely different. It’s dark and edgy… a little disturbing and not always pleasant to read, but strangely compelling at the same time.

Ava is a thief — though not in the traditional sense of the word. She hungers for flesh and bone, and for that, she is an anathema to the Mages who surround her.  All expect for Reist. He took her in when she was just a teen. Took care of her. Made her his protege.  And she fell in love with him. But the feelings were one-sided.  He never looked at her as a woman.  As the story begins, Reist is starting a relationship with a female mage, and Ava has had enough.

When she learns that sexual energy can feed her and fill her with magic, she makes a deal with a Heyerdar. She agrees to trade sexual encounters with the powerful elemental, and with the magic she gains, she hopes to lure Reist to her bed, while sending his new woman into Heyerdar’s waiting arms.  In the meantime, Ava and Heyerdar must work together to track down a band of thieves who have gone on a killing spree in the territory.

Ava was a really downtrodden heroine. It was hard to watch everyone kick her when she was down.  No one gave her respect or kindness.  Even Heyerdar didn’t treat her well, though he sure did enjoy her body.  He ordered her around and treated her like a dog.  Reist used her and ignored her.  And everyone else treated her like she was a contagious disease.  When Heyerdar finally does come around (at the very, very end,) it just doesn’t ring true.  Are we supposed to believe he cared for all along? Pfft.

The imagery surrounding the depiction of the thieves was mighty gruesome.  They sucked people’s insides out and left a husk of skin.  When Ava gets mad, she wants to rip the skin from people’s bones.  It’s not a… comfortable read.  But the world-building was unique and interesting.  And even though parts of the book bothered me, I didn’t ever think about putting it down.  Maybe it was morbid curiosity, but I wanted to see how it would all end.

If a bit of darkness doesn’t bother you and you don’t mind watching the heroine take some hard knocks, you might enjoy it.

Rating: C+

*ARC Provided by Carina Press via NetGalley 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Dark Dealings
by Kim Knox
Release Date: November 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

You Should Be Reading: Shaede Assassin

A Message from Jen

You’ve probably heard me talking about this series here or on Twitter, but in case you missed it (or you haven’t gotten around to it yet) –listen up. I’m gonna tell you about the Shade Assassin books.

Darian started her life as an ordinary human. But a mysterious man with extraordinary gifts rescued her from the confines of an abusive relationship and helped her transition into a nearly immortal Shaede.  She uses her new abilities to become an assassin, cut-off from relationships and emotion. But that all changes as she finds others of her kind and falls in love with a man who is totally crazy about her.  I love this series.  The heroine is emotionally stunted, but we get to watch her evolution –both in her personal life and as we see her powers grow.  Tyler is a great hero: patient, loyal and powerful. And there’s an engaging cast of secondary characters that grow in importance as the series goes on.  Whirlwind action, great world-building and a romance to root for makes this an Urban Fantasy series you don’t want to miss!

If that sounds familiar, that means you have probably visited my Favorites page before. Yep! This series is one of my favorites in Urban Fantasy.  And book 3, Crave the Darkness, is out on March 5th.  Still not sure if it’s right for you? Amanda Bonilla is sharing an excerpt from the new book. Check it out:

“I want you to wish for something.” Ty’s voice rumbled in his chest.
“Wh- hat?” I stammered.
“Wish. For. Something.” Tyler’s eyes were hard, unyield­ing, and his stare bore into me with such intensity that I couldn’t look away. His hand, still wrapped around the back of my neck, held my face close to his, and the cold that ema­nated from him chilled me to the bone. “Do you know how fucking frustrating it is for me that you never wish for any­thing? Well,” he scoffed. “I guess you make the occasional wish. But only when you want me out of your hair.”
“I wished for you,” I said, my voice thick with emotion. “Almost every day. And no matter how much I wanted you with me, you stayed away.”
“Wants versus needs,” Tyler scoffed. “Your wishes are dictated by magic, Darian. You might have wanted me for whatever reason but you didn’t need me. I’m at your dis­posal . . . night, day, whenever. And still, you only make self­ish wishes. Wishes to keep me home and out of your hair. Wishes to bring me to your side to relieve your guilt. Do you know how useless that makes me feel?”
“Tyler . . . I . . .” What the hell could I say? He was right. I refused to make wishes, even though his very nature de­manded that he grant them. I hadn’t wanted to use him, to treat him like a slave.
“Is it easier to be with him?” Tyler asked. “Does he give you space? Freedom? Does he let you be in charge, because I have a hard time believing that he’d let you. Does he even care what happens to you as long as you’re front and center when he wants you to be?” His eyes left mine and his heated gaze swept my body, sending a liquid fire through my blood­stream. “Do you tremble when he touches you?” He swept his forefinger along my collarbone and over the swell of one breast. Can he make your breath quicken like I can?”
Little puffs of steam burst from my parted lips. “Stop it, Tyler,” I said, too breathily. I tried to infuse my voice with strength and resolution, but fell short. “You don’t want me anymore. Why are you doing this to me?”
“Make a wish,” he commanded.
My gaze darted from his eyes to his parted mouth. I could almost feel his lips on mine: soft, yet demanding. “I wish . . .” you’d kiss me.

(*thud*) I wish he would kiss her too!! Clearly, there is angst afoot.   I’ve got some buy links for the new book below. But if you’re new to the series, check out my review for book one –and give it a try.

Crave the Darkness: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

Amanda is giving away a copy of Crave the Darkness before you can buy it. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to enter. US/Can only.

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