Review: Dead and Kicking by Lisa Emme

dead and kickingReviewed by Jen

I have to say, there just aren’t as many new Urban Fantasy series out there as there used to be, so it’s kind of exciting for me to find one that I enjoyed. I read this debut by Lisa Emme in one sitting. While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, it is an entertaining story that fills a void in the market right now. There is just enough of a romantic thread to satisfy. And there is a promise of more story without a cliffhanger to raise your blood pressure. [Read more…]

Review: Bring Me to Life by August Kert

bring me to lifeReviewed by Jen

A hot zombie romance isn’t going to be for everyone. I get that. But if the idea intrigues you, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this quick –and pretty sexy– read.

The story takes place more than a decade into the zombie apocalypse. Lyric is one of the human survivors, but things go from bad to worse when she is kidnapped and stuck in a human stable to feed the monsters. For the first time, she learns that some zombies have moved beyond mindless hunger. Some can think… and even talk.  They’re the masterminds behind human camp she is stuck in, but despite the odds against her, Lyric is determined to get out. [Read more…]

Review: Apocalipstick

apocalipReviewed by Janell

It turns out that I’m not a fan of gore, so take that into account with this review, because it’s got a lot of zombie killing.

Jenna is eighteen, and about five years ago some sickness killed a lot of people. They were dumped into mass graves, and then those corpses reanimated and killed even more people, so the world doesn’t have a lot of humans. Jenna manages to find a group of people traveling south to a secluded inn where they can live happily ever after. [Read more…]

Review: Cowboys & Vampires

Reviewed by Jen

This first installment in the Venom Valley world is a genre bending, entertaining ride.   It’s male/ male romance against the backdrop of old west meets vampire with a bit of necromancy thrown in. How could I NOT give it a try?

With the death of his adopted mother, Josh learns the hard way that he can raise the dead.  And once they’re reanimated, only a shot to the head can put them back down. Unfortunately, a witness caught him putting a bullet in one of the zombies, turning him into a wanted man.  Knowing no one will believe his story about a walking corpse, he goes on the run.

Dex is Josh’s best friend and the object of his fantasies. He’s also a lawman, and once that witness I told you about comes forward, he must scramble to find Josh to get answers.  Dex adores his friend and has no idea that he shares the attraction.  (Once they meet back up, however, nothing is left to the imagination.)

In the meantime, there’s a vampire plaguing the town of Belkin’s Pass and targeting the local brothel.  He is intrigued by Josh and ends up pursuing him as well.  (That leads us to a fabulous face off of vampires vs zombies… but I digress.)   There’s a lot going on in a novella sized story, with at least three POVs, plenty of action, and sexual situations, both real and imagined.

I enjoyed the book overall. It was different. I liked the mishmash of genres that usually steer clear of each other. But I’ll admit that some of my enjoyment was in the slight campiness of it all.  I liked the main characters, though I never felt like we got to know them deeply.  I felt like Dex and Josh jumped in the sack really fast after years of never revealing their feelings to one another.  And there is still a lot we don’t know… specifically about Josh’s past and side character Glory’s spirit lover.

There are multiple sort-of hypothetical sex scenes… kind of imagined sex scenarios in the characters’ heads.  They would think about the dirty things they would do to each other –or wanted to do.  One such scene would have been more than enough, IMO.  The actual sex scenes were good and satisfying, though I was amused at how many different euphemisms I read for a… er, back channel.

Be warned: this story is not self-contained.  There is a gnarly cliffhanger at the end.  But the good news for folks who want to keep reading: this is a re-release of book one in the series… and book two has already been written. Bait will also be re-released under a new title, Stakes & Spurs, though I’m not sure on the date.

Rating: B

*Book provided by publisher for review

Cowboys & Vampires
by Hank Edwards
Release Date: April 17, 2013
Publisher: Wilde City

 

Review: Tower in the Woods

Reviewed by Jen

I always feel chagrined when I accidentally fall into a BDSM situation.  I don’t enjoy the genre and I didn’t realize that’s what I was picking up when I accepted this book for review. Here’s the blurb:

When she sees a man fleeing a horde of zombies, Nel Zapur has no choice but to extend a lifeline. But what will happen to her once Dane Prince reaches the tower’s top? Based on the Grimm’s fairy tale Rapunzel, Tower in the Woods is a post-apocalyptic thriller, complete with zombies, snipers, a fateful snowstorm and . . . a hot, alpha male!Raised by the Women’s Independent Territory Church (WITCH), Nel Zapur is a skilled sniper tasked to eliminate zombies. Never having once laid eyes on a man, she has been a prisoner in her tower for eleven long years. A fateful snowstorm leads a mysterious stranger to her window, and saving him may prove to be the best and worst decision of her life.

Special Agent Dane Prince was sent to gather intelligence on the WITCH, and his journey leads him to a mysterious tower in the woods. Snowed in with a virginal member of the feminist cult, Dane is determined to use the situation to his advantage. Not only will Nel provide him with the information he needs, she will also learn to submit to his every desire.

Perhaps I should have seen the word “submit” and knew that meant the hero would tie up the heroine with a rope of zombie hair that doubled as a noose around her neck while he took her virginity… but then again, maybe not.  Regardless of what I expected, here we are.

I liked the concept of the book: tough soldier comes face to face with a woman who has never seen a man before.  Nel may be a virgin, but she is tough –both inside and out. She would have to be, to endure the solitude she’s had.  I liked her. She knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to ask for it.  Dane, however… Well, I already told you how he took her virginity. Then, after she almost died, he spanked her with his belt for it.  He yelled at her for escaping her tower.  He made her take it hard and painfully on the hood of the car, while he knew other soldiers were watching… It just was so not my cuppa tea.

The offputting (to me) BDSM stuff aside, there’s a scene early in the book that is in there twice –once from each character’s perspective. I was so confused reading the dialogue again, two pages apart, it took me five minutes of staring at my nook to realize why they were saying the same things again.  –And then, we had an Epilogue which was completely outside of the tone and feel of the rest of the book.

This was really not good for me, though in all honesty, at least half it is because the sex and treatment of heroine at the hands of the hero is really not something I enjoy reading.

Rating: D

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tower in the Woods
by Tara Quan
Release Date: January 14, 2013
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

Review: Night Forbidden

Reviewed by Jen

It’s been 50 years since a near-Apocalypse changed the world forever.  Power hungry men and the rulers of Atlantis orchestrated the Change, each for their own ends.  Now a small band of survivors, the Resistance, is trying to rebuild and stop their ongoing schemes.

Fence is part of the Resistance.  But he is different than most because he actually lived in the time before the change and was in some kind of stasis, not aging for half a century.  He lost everyone he ever loved, but he is readjusting to his new life in his new surroundings.

Ana is a descendant of Atlantis. She wants nothing to do with her mother’s people, for she knows the brutality they are capable of.  Their one gift to her was in implanting the crystals into her body that allow her to breathe underwater. It’s beneath the surface of the sea she feels whole, unencumbered by the effects of a leg ravaged by injury.  It’s ironic that she would come to fall for a man who is utterly terrified of water.

When Fence and Ana meet, there is a fast attraction, but there are roadblocks.  Ana fears getting close to any man, because she doesn’t want anyone to see her crystals.  And Fence is the kind of guy who prefers a bit of fun to real romance.  He’s a smooth operator, a ladies man, and no one is more surprised than him when he begins falling for Ana.

I liked the love story well enough. A cocky player isn’t my favorite kind of hero, but Fence is charming enough.  Ana’s story isn’t shocking, but as we learn more about her secrets, it peels back more of the layers in the world-building surrounding the Change.

I have to say that the series has a very different feel than it did in the early books, where the zombie-like gangas were featured so prominently. In this book, the zombies barely exist and it’s all about the Atlantians as the nemesis in the story.  It’s less about a constant physical threat and more about the machinations of these powerful beings.  I miss the zombies. They were cool.  Everything is growing more and more complicated and I wish I would have reread the earlier books before I started reading this one. Most of it came back to me, but it took a little time.  I wonder how easy it would be for a new reader to follow at this point.

Though the lion’s share of the story follows Fence and Ana, we do see some familiar faces, like Quent, Zoe and Elliott.  And we get some very, very short scenes with Wyatt and Remy.  I guess we’re being set up for a love story between these two, which bums me out. I was really hoping for a redemption story for Ian with Remy… and frankly, I’m not ready for Wyatt to get over his wife and kids, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I liked it. I appreciated having a physically imperfect heroine.  There’s some pretty good banter and a couple of love scenes to heat things up.  But I wish we could have had more time for a relationship to develop between these two before they starting throwing around the L-word.  It was only a week! Come on!!

I’m hoping the next installment goes back a little more to the gritty side I know this series has to offer. More zombies and bounty hunters, less crystals and swimming with the dolphins.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
Night Forbidden
by Joss Ware (Colleen Gleason)
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Avon

Review: The Last Night

Reviewed by Jen

This is one of those books that sounded great in the blurb. But when I sat down to read it, I had to force myself to finish.

Basically, it’s a new take on zombies (which I love.) After a cataclysmic earth event, some microbe or whatnot was uncovered, infecting most of the population. They grew a stone-like skin and hungered for the ashy remains of burned human flesh. In the meantime, earthquakes are plaguing the landscape, tearing down the remains of civilization.

Erica is hiding out with a small band of survivors. They are under attack by the zombies dubbed “ashers” when Jake sweeps in on his motorcycle. He begins killing the ashers –an amazing feat since no weapon has ever affected them before. He offers to share his knowledge on how to kill the zombies in exchange for supplies from Erica’s people. In a nutshell, Erica and Jake hook up, and then take off together in search of greener pastures.

I like post-apocalyptic zombie stories; and love-among-the-ruins stories are generally great. But there are so many things I didn’t like about this book. First of all, everything is extremely dramatic and over the top. Yes, it’s the end of times, but that’s where subtlety really works best. On top of that, the relationship at the core of the story is laughable. Basically, Jack and Erica want to hook up because each is the only attractive person the other has seen in months. They are naked in hours. Horizontal not long after that. And then filled with deep emotions, eliciting dialogue like:

“Where you are, I’ll be there. Fuck paradise.”

and

“Don’t know what we would have called it before the destruction. Don’t know if it had a name. But this, what I feel for you now, Erica. This is love.”

It’s been one freaking day!!! –And did I mention the full-body orgasm? What the hell is that?

There is essentially no character development. And I hated the ending. I don’t know what else to say. 2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Last Night
by Nico Rosso
Release Date: February 13, 2012
Publisher: Carina Press

Review: Horizon

Reviewed by Jen

I could have never predicted the course this book would take. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Honestly, I feel torn over the answer. In one way, it’s amazing. Sophie Littlefield isn’t afraid to make some really bold choices. She stays true to her characters and her world, even when it hurts. But that’s the thing… sometimes, it really hurts.

The story picks up a couple of months after the events of Rebirth, which was a little disappointing for me. A lot has happened since Cass and Dor rescued Smoke. And there were times I felt like I had missed something. Our characters are now ensconced in the camp at New Eden. Smoke is in a coma. Dor is a new relationship. And Cass is losing ground. Just like we saw her regress into her old sexual habits in the last book; she is slipping into other self-destructive behaviors here. It’s hard to watch. This character is so very damaged, and it would be so easy for Littlefield to fix her. But she doesn’t. Not in the predictable fashion. Not in a way that will ease readers or soothe us.

Despite outward appearances, there is still something between Cass and Dor. At times, it’s hard to decide whether that’s right for her or not. And once Smoke wakes up, things get even more complicated. I kept waiting for Cass to make to her choice. And waiting. And waiting. But the conflict and uncertainty linger for almost the entire story. It’s almost easy to forgot this is a zombie book.

Speaking of zombies, the Beaters are evolving; they’re getting smarter and threatening New Eden. That forces the community to start searching for a new home. We’re reminded of the brutality of this new world and ever-present danger our characters face. The whole book is gripping. And exhausting. And heartbreaking.

It took me a while to reconnect to it all… especially in the beginning, with the time jump and unexplained events that happened between books. Some of the blanks were filled in over time, but I felt a little disjointed. The story really hit its stride about half-way in… And it pummeled me with one poignant moment after another, especially in some of the scenes between Cass and Smoke.

I wish I could find the right words to explain how I feel about how it all ended. It was not what I thought it would be. It broke my heart, as I came to the same realizations Cass did… And then as the events unfolded, I felt a knot form in my stomach that still hasn’t eased. It made sense. It was honest. It ends with loss and with hope. It’s an amazing series that needs to be read in its entirety. It’s heavy reading, but the journey is worth it. 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley/ Harlequin

Click to purchase: Amazon
Horizon
by Sophie Littlefield
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Luna Books

Review: Cameo and the Vampire

Reviewed by Jen

Let me start by reminding you that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I will be the first to admit that this cover would be a total turn-off if I hadn’t already read the first two books in this series. But since I was already a fan of Cameo, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see how her story ends.

This book picks up right where the last one left off. Cameo has barely escaped with her life after being bitten by Edel, then witnessing his murder. She makes her way back to Opal, with Jules –the former assassin and newly turned zombie– trailing along. Once reunited, Cameo and Opal decide to seek out Kyrian to help heal Opal’s injuries.

Kyrian, meanwhile, has met with other acolytes who have called to him for help. They are planning to take down Haffef, who by the way, is focused solely on bringing Cameo’s sister back to life. There are a lot of twists and turns that carry us to the inevitable showdown between Cameo and her maker. And that’s kind of a double edged sword. One of the things I like best about this series is that it’s so different from the other books out there. The characters can’t be compared to your standard supernaturals. The setting is unusual and the plotline, unpredictable.

But. There are what felt like a lot of red herrings in this installment. Or maybe they are dangling plotlines… which is bothersome for the conclusion of a series. For instance, there’s a surprise baby thrown in and it seems like that might go somewhere and then –it doesn’t. Hints of a possible love triangle linger, then crash and burn. And perhaps most disturbing of all is the fate of Cameo’s sister. What did she become? Where did she go? She was pretty much the impetus for everything that happened. Then the thread was just dropped.

Obviously, these things bothered me, but I still enjoyed the story. Opal is still a complete enigma to me, even after three books. Cameo is fascinating in her tortured and macabre way. And the series just reeled me in and didn’t let go. There was a pretty concrete ending, but it was kind of surprising and left me wondering where things would go from here for our characters. I guess the author believes in leaving them wanting more. Because if she wrote another book, I’d read it. Almost 4 stars.

P.S. If you’ve never read this series, this book is not the place to start. Give Cameo the Assassin a try. It’s usually $.99 on the Kindle.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Cameo and the Vampire
by Dawn McCullough-White
Release Date: October 24, 2011
Publisher: Claypipe Press

Review: Studenstein

Reviewed by Jen

**WARNING: This review is intended for readers 18 and older. It contains coarse language and adult themes. If you think you may be offended, you might want to skip this one. **

After spending 15 minutes trying to find a tactful way to say this, I have given up. So I’m just going to come out with it: Reading about a woman screwing a guy in the ass with a strap-on dildo is not generally my cuppa tea. That being said, if it doesn’t bother you –or if it kind of floats your boat– “Studenstein” is actually a pretty entertaining novella.

Our heroine, Shani, is a reanimated corpse who was brought back to life to be a sex-slave.  She now works with others of her kind to free those still enslaved by the corporations who created them and programmed them for pleasure.  As the story begins, she is on a mission to rescue Royce, a sex-bot who doesn’t even realize he needs saving.  Once she spirits him away, she discovers that he experiences serious pain if he can’t have an orgasm every so often.  Unfortunately, he can’t feel his dick, so that really limits his options.

Shani is very wary of sex.  In fact, she hasn’t touched a man since she gained her freedom.  But she is willing to strap on the, er, strap-on… to give Royce the release he needs.  Frequently.  The end goal is to get him to her people, who can remove the devices that allowed his creators to control him.

The novella has pretty solid world building, especially considering its length.  Like I said, the female topping didn’t really push my hot buttons. But I did like the dynamic between Shani and Royce.  Shani is empathetic without being maudlin.  And despite some of the darker themes, there are definite moments of levity.  This was my favorite:

“She felt like a princess descending her throne. A zombie princess, getting ready to fuck a guy in the ass in the kingdom of a crappy motel room.”

That is pretty funny.

It turns out that this is actually the second installment in a series following the undead sex-bots. But this works easily as a stand-alone.  I’m kind of struggling to rate this one, but it was certainly fun to read.   4 stars.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Studenstein
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave