Shelly’s Favorites of 2016

What an amazing year for romance. I read some really good ones this year including a couple historicals.

If you’re a fan of Lisa Kleypas’s historicals and haven’t read her Ravenels series, you’re missing out. This was a new to me author and I couldn’t have been more pleased with Marrying Winterborne, book 2 in the series. Rhys and Helen’s romance was a sweet, fun and well told story about choosing what’s good for you in spite of what society says.

Each of the past few years, M.Q. Barber’s put out a story that I’ve really liked and this year was no exception. Finding their Balance is book 5 in her Neighborly Affection series and continues the story of Henry, Jay and Alice. Well worth the read in you’ve followed that series but I wouldn’t recommend as a stand alone.

I waited for Grace Draven’s book 2 in the Wraith Kings series, Eidolon, patiently. I wasn’t sure it would be worth it because I’ve been disappointed before but this one was absolutely worth the wait. Jen loved it too.

If SEALs are your thing, Embattled Road should be right up your alley. It’s the prequel to JM Madden’s Lost and Found series and it’s good short but good.

I’ve read everything put out by Christine Wenrick and when Leaving Lily Behind came out I was never so happy. It’s book 3 of the Men of Brahm Hills series continuing the saga of good versus evil, Dhampirs, vampires, humans and all things that go bump in the night. It’s tightly woven with the series just in case you’re tempted to read as a standalone.

One of my favorite writers is Allyn Lesley. She’s one of these authors who can pen a tale about an anti-hero and make you fall in love with him. Deeper, book 2 in her Descent series is no exception to that. Noah is no saint and Avi knows it.

Happy reading folks!

Honorable mention goes to:

Angel 6.0 – Concubine by Travis Luedke
A Bad Bit Nice by Josie Kerr
Happily Ever All-Star by Sosie Frost
The Devil’s Bedpost by Lena Hart
Falling by Allyn Lesley
Sucker Punched by Kelley Martin

Review: Leaving Lily Behind by Christine Wenrick

leaving lily behindReviewed by Shelly

This one took me a few chapters to get into, but once I was in, I was in. The last book in the Brahm Hill series was over a year ago and though you might want to read this as a standalone; it’s tightly connected to book 2. Alec and Poppy’s (Guarding Poppy – Book 2) story takes place somewhere along the same lines as the first part of this story. All that being said, what came back to me pretty quickly was the reason why I enjoy Christine Wenrick’s writing. It’s engaging and tickles the imagination for the possibilities on what the Dhampir, vampire, lycan world looks like. [Read more…]

Shelly’s Favorite Books of 2014

2014

This is the year of series for me. All of my faves this year are part of a series, which is not something I’m used to. I think we all know how rare it is to find multiple books within a series that are as good or better than their counterparts.

healing the woundsHealing the Wounds by M.Q. Barber (Pub date: 06/02/2014)

This was my only A+ book all year long. It’s a ménage with BDSM written all over it, but the writing made me like what these characters were feeling – happy, sad, anxious, fearful – the gamut of emotions were all there. The 3rd in MQ Barber’s ‘Neighborly Affection’ series picks up the story of Henry, Jay and Alice. This takes us right to club where Jay and Henry met and we see a glimpse of time when Henry saved Jay from a guy who claims he’s a Dom. There’s a lot of crying, talking and soothing of emotions in this one which was one of the many things that made me enjoy it so much. [Read more…]

Review: Guarding Poppy by Christine Wenrick

GuardingPoppy_ReFormat_02252014.inddReviewed by Shelly

FINALLY! Alec’s story is here and it was worth the wait. Christine Wenrick’s writing in this continuation of her Charmed Trilogy series keeps me captivated and considering this is Book 5, I have no complaints. What’s different about this installment in the series is the sexual content. The first 3 books were pretty conservative with the sex scenes. Very little was talked about between Olivia and Caleb in the bedroom. The sexual tension and attraction was kept pretty high and that really worked well for that couple. Kane’s story – the first installment for the Men of Brahm Hill was a bit more risqué with the sex because let’s face it – Kane’s a horndog (he’s off the market and is faithfully married now but marriage hasn’t changed his mouth much). With Alec and Poppy, we get a lot more from behind the bedroom door. Before I go on – be warned, there will be spoilers if you’ve not read the previous stories. [Read more…]

Review: Someone Else’s Skye

someone else skyeReviewed by Shelly

To say that I merely looked forward to this continuation of Wenrick’s Charmed Trilogy would be a gross understatement. I can’t lie, I’m a Wenrick fan and couldn’t get enough of Caleb and Olivia. That being said – I was really hesitant about starting this story. I mean what are the chances that I’m going to be equally as in-like with her characters and the plot lines? Well, it turns out that procrastination delayed my enjoyment of a wonderful story. Don’t get me wrong, it would be difficult for Wenrick to write a better story for me that any of the Trilogy, but dog-gone-it if she wasn’t close. [Read more…]

Review: The Charmed Fates

Reviewed by Shelly

When I read the blurb for the first in the series of the Charmed Trilogy, I would have never guessed Wenrick’s would take me on such a roller-coaster of adrenaline. Each installment is absolutely better than the last and this story is no different; this story is so much darker than the others –The Charmed Fates – is my favorite in the series.

Enjoyable to say the least, Wenrick’s writing style is captivating – there’s just enough dialogue that carries the story along quite well. One of the many things I like about her is the way that she conveys the passage of time. I’ve noticed that a lot of writers in this genre don’t express this in real time (days, weeks, etc.); this author does and it’s one of those quirky things that helps me believe that even in their paranormal world, these characters are subject to something that mutually affects us.

It’s been about a year since Olivia Greyson was involved in a horrific train accident, lost her best friend Sarah, and met Daywalker Caleb Wolfe. It’s during that time that she found out that she’s a Charmer, a Dhampir, whose talents are a wanted commodity amongst the most powerful in the community of vampires. Since she’s spent time and trained with her guardians at The Oracle, strengthening both her physical and mental self, Olivia is becoming a formidable warrior.

The Walker Coven – Olivia, her mate Caleb, her grandfather Jax Walker, and her good friend and fellow Dhampir Gemma – are living under the radar, always on the lookout for the dark and evil vampire, Luther Davin. Since their mating, Olivia and Caleb have gotten closer, but in this the final installment of the series, their relationship will undergo some significant challenges complicated by Olivia’s insecurities and Caleb’s need to protect. These two are still as hot as a couple. Olivia by herself continues to impress me in her maturity and the way she handles her business, especially with Caleb. Jax and Gemma’s relationship will see some incredibly happy times and undergo heartache that could shatter even the most patient soul. Jax couldn’t be any more perfect as a mate for strong-willed Gemma and as Olivia’s grandfather.

The Brethren are back – Alec is hunky and cankerous as usual, that foul-mouth delectable Lucas takes a more prominent role and I liked it just fine. The GLD (good looking Dhampir) Phin and his love Maya are as cute as ever, and the biggest horndog ever in the history of horndogs Kane is bringin’ it and bringin’ it well – fighting to keep Davin from increasing his power.

Now on to the bad guys, and boy howdy are they bad. At one point in the book, I was close to jumping to the end because I was so mad at Wenrick. I couldn’t believe what was going on – I was like ‘NOOOOOO way!!!’. But that’s what make a good writer isn’t it?  The antagonists are just as well written as the protagonists. Davin in all his ugliness and evilness has been trying to get Olivia to come over to his side for quite a while now. With the increasing dangers to Olivia’s safety, the tension in the coven increases to a boiling point. If that’s not enough to drive the sane insane, Caleb’s 600-year-old maker Celeste shows up because she wants her Caleb back and will do whatever she needs to do to make that happen. Celeste is awesomely bad, twisted, a complete and total megalomaniac.

In the end, I relished this story individually but I gotta tell ya, I thoroughly adored the series and I’m so glad that I read it. Thanks Wenrick! I look forward to more from the ‘Men of Brahm Hill’.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: A+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon 
Learn more about the series & Enter the giveaway here
The Charmed Fates
by Christine Wenrick
Release Date: February 8, 2013
Publisher: Red Tree Publishing

Interview & Giveaway: Christine Wenrick

Shelly is a big fan of Christine Wenrick’s Charmed Trilogy.  Check out this Q&A they did together!

Shelly: Hello, Christine. Let me start out my saying that I’m a big fan of your work. When I got the chance to do this interview – I was thrilled. So that being said – will you tell us a little about yourself and what (or who) started you on the course of being a writer?

Christine: Thanks, Shelly! I wish I could say I knew I was destined to be a writer all my life, but that’s not the case. I dabbled with writing in college but have been working as a commercial interior designer until four years ago when I decided to write my first novel, The Charmed. I think, like any author, you have to have something that inspires you, and for me it was the ending to this first book. I had a crystal clear image of that ending . . . and nothing else. LOL. So I basically started writing towards that end. Probably not the easiest way to write a book, but it worked out OK.

Shelly: One thing I noticed when I read the first story, The Charmed, was that even though this is a vampire story, you’ve somehow brought a unique and uncommon perspective to the subject. How’d you do that?

Christine: That is certainly a compliment. An uncommon perspective to a vampire story is hard to do these days, but it may be the sense of isolation I put the characters and the reader in at the beginning of the series. I knew I wanted an adult story, a very intimate and personal story between Caleb and Olivia. To me that meant isolating them from the world we see every day, but in a way that makes sense or is familiar to present times. Then you can create those moments of tug and pull, the quiet ones where very little is being said but you can feel the force that is drawing them together. If you can feel passion between two characters in the things they don’t say—the moments outside of the love scenes—then you’ve done your job as a romance writer.

Shelly: Which character, in any of the books, was the hardest for you to write?

Christine: Great question!!! I would say Jax, the coven leader. He has lived for centuries and his character needed to reflect that kind of depth and breadth of life experience . . . and, of course, pain. For me, he represented the emotional soul of the trilogy and as such is one of my favorite characters.

I had several challenges, mostly because when I started I didn’t know much about the piano. But in writing Olivia’s character it was clear that music was at the center of who she was. It’s how she expresses herself best. The hardest part was making sure that held true throughout all three books and did not get too far sidelined by the other events happening to her.

Shelly: I thought Maya was a gem – she’s sometimes come off as meek but when the tire hits the road she’s something else. Which character would you say is most like you?

Christine: Maya is a fun character. One of my favorite things to do is bring a character along for several books so the reader can watch them grow and mature. You will see that with Maya as well.

As for me, I’m not sure I’m really like any of my characters, more like a mix of them. I might latch on to one thing that it similar to me and build a character from there. For example, Olivia will doggedly focus on something once she believes it’s the right decision or course of action. I can be like that.

Shelly: I enjoyed the flow of dialogue – was it a conscious process that the cursing/swearing would be at a minimum for this series?

Christine: Actually, yes it was. Although I myself can curse just as easily as the next person, I’m just not a huge fan of words that can jar a reader out of the story, especially when they’re repeated a lot. Of course, that’s a really difficult rule to follow when one of your characters is a curse-a-holic (Ahem, Lucas . . .)!

Nowadays people curse, men especially it seems, so it needs to be in there. I just try to pick and choose the right moments and infer the rest.

Shelly: What story are you working on now?

Christine: I am putting the finishing touches on book three in my Men of Brahm Hill series, which is a connected five-book series to The Charmed Trilogy. It has taken me longer to write than I hoped because of my obligations for The Charmed, but I am so excited where this series is going I spend just about every hour I can getting it out of my head and onto paper. The first book in the series, Someone Else’s Skye, will be available this fall, and to get the most out of all the little nuggets I have left for the reader I recommend starting from the beginning with The Charmed.

As part of her tour, Christine is is giving away a $50.00 Amazon Gift Card and a signed copy of The Charmed to one lucky winner that follows the tour. Enter to win.


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Review: The Charmed Souls

Reviewed by Shelly

I couldn’t wait to read the second story after reading the The Charmed, the first book in this series. Although this is a connected story, you can definitely read it independently of the first, so don’t let that stop you from enjoying a very good story.

In my review for The Charmed, I said that this isn’t the typical vampiric retelling and thank goodness Wenrick didn’t make a liar out of me. She does an excellent job of continuing along that line and not falling into any stereotypical traps. This book had me laughing out loud, sniffling – okay maybe full on crying would be more descriptive– and yes, even gasping in shock about the surprises.

As I re-entered the world of the Dhampirs, vampires, and humans Olivia’s story continues with a dare – learning to use her skills as a Charmer and a Dhampir to protect herself from the things that go bump in the night (and sometimes the day) in order to return to her only love, daywalker Caleb Wolfe. For her to do that, she has to be separated from Caleb and reside at a safe house for training. Assigned to her training is human Guardian, Alec Lambert, mortal enemy of Caleb. Yikes, you can imagine the tension that creates. It’s all good though because Olivia is the beneficiary of all that tension.

Wenrick doesn’t pull any punches in this story. By page nine, I had to stop reading to get a box of tissues – dang it! After Alec takes Olivia to a safe community, The Oracle, she has a chance to settle in and train. During her time there she also finds about quite a lot about her old and new family and meets some new friends along with some new enemies.

What I liked about this story was that not once did I feel sorry for Olivia. She never had a moment of self-pity and that whole woe-is-me attitude. She did a remarkable amount of growing –not just the physicality of her training– but her emotional maturity was by far her greatest improvement. She started seeing herself as what she is – a Dhampir, half human and yes, half vampire. It was wonderful to witness her acceptance of her vampire side without compromising or denying her human side. Well done there.

Oh, that male hotness that is Caleb – I could hear the growl that just rolls through his frame. Grrr! He’s come a long way with words, he’s using them more and more and guess what?  He’s very good with them. Oh yeah. There were a few moments when I just wanted to reach out and give him a big hug (and let’s be honest here – I wouldn’t mind giving him a few more things, if ya know what I mean).

The other members of the Walker Coven are back. Jax Walker, head of the Coven is still impressive in every possible way. He’s a great influence on all the other members of the coven. There were a few times that I just wanted to beat him down for not giving it up to Gemma, but he comes around to my way of thinking just in the nick of time. We get to find out a bit more about Gemma and her quirks. She adds a nice dimension to the storyline.

Olivia’s Guardian Alec is unequivocally my favorite character in this story. Maybe it’s because he and Olivia are together so much and we find out that Alec is what is termed as a ‘good guy’. He’s honest to a fault and loyal until you prove that he shouldn’t be. Gotta love it! The other characters, some new some returning, are all part of Alec’s circle: Alec’s Uncle Reese Lambert, one of the Elders at The Oracle; Lucas Rayner, the foulest mouth Guardian around; Phinneas, Maya, Gideon, and the unforgettable horndog, yet pleasantly perverted Kane. I’m looking forward to reading more about all of these characters in the next book.

There were some sex scenes between Olivia and Caleb, and for me they were well paced and not gratuitous in any way. This is a definite recommend and I’m anxiously awaiting Book 3.

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: A+

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Charmed Souls
by Christine Wenrick
Release Date: November 22, 2012
Publisher: Red Tree House Publishing

Review: The Charmed

Reviewed by Shelly

I had some hesitancy when I began to write this review because I wasn’t sure how I would convey my enjoyment of this story without being repetitive. As Christine Wenrick’s debut novel, this was an exceptional effort that paid off well. This isn’t your typical vampire retelling; it does in fact have an interesting angle on vampires and their coven.

The Charmed tells the story of Olivia Ann Greyson, a musically gifted graduate student and Caleb Wolfe, young vampire. Caleb and the Walker Coven save and rescue Olivia after her train has been ambushed by a mad pack of vampires. During the skirmish, Olivia and her best friend Sarah suffer severe bodily damage.

After Caleb’s rescue, things start happening really fast for Olivia, primarily learning about the existence of vampires. Even though Caleb’s a vampire and Olivia’s not – these two find themselves very attracted to each other. Olivia’s disheartened to learn that Caleb fights it, really hard. And although Olivia feels a lot for Caleb, she knows that her past relationships have not gone well and she’s really concerned that whatever she and Caleb develop could go south and fast. Despite the odds, during their time together, they begin to fall in love. Through a sequence of events, Olivia discovers that she’s not able to stay in the protected world that Caleb offers and decides the only thing that she can do is leave. When she gets home, she meets her new protectors – The Brethren. They share with Olivia what her true ‘gift’ is. Holy cripes, these dudes –especially that Alec– are hardcore. Me Like!

I really liked Olivia. She was full of insecurities, as any girl her age, raised in a sheltered environment, would be. I thought the way her story was told was well done, and I really connected with her and felt her highs and lows.

Caleb, on the other hand, is a dimpled hottie and has that strong silent-type, wholesome, thing going on. He had the whole non-verbal communication down to a tee – that’s really hard to do when it’s not a visual format, but oh my, does he know how to use those eyes. Umm-hmm-mmm. (Sorry about that, ya’ll, I’m good now.) Even though Caleb has some internal conflicts that dictate how he chooses to live his life, it’s neither over the top nor unbelievable for the world that he lives in. And of course, by now you must know that I’m on Team Wolfe – all the way.

Some of the other characters, especially Sarah and her family’s true relationship with Olivia, are something I hope to see more of. Jax and Gemma are the other members of the Walker Coven and bring more than enough drama of their own. Jax, you gentle giant, are you gonna man-up and bust a move on that girl? The other Brethren – Gordon, Lucas and Phin – can’t wait for more of you guys.

The sex between Caleb and Olivia was well done (off the chain as some might say) – it wasn’t gratuitous, but it wasn’t tame either and I thought it worked well for them. I really and totally enjoyed this story and I absolutely can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy. Well done Wenrick!

Happy Reading Folks!

Rating: A

*Book provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Charmed
by Christine Wenrick
Release Date: August 29, 2012
Publisher: Red Treehouse Publishing