Review: Carniepunk

Reviewed by Jen

I’m a little late getting around to reading this 2013 collection of carnival themed short stories, but I learned it included a prequel to a series I am reading now and I wanted to check it out. I found the stories to be very uneven, both in tone and in how much I enjoyed them. But there were enough engaging entries, I found it worth the read.

Painted Love – This is the first thing I have ever read by Rob Thurman and I have to say, it was a bit odd. It follows the observations of Doodle, an enigmatic traveler who attaches himself to a man named Bart, a sociopath working at a carnival. The story is told entirely through Doodle’s eyes, though he does not participate much in the action. To be honest, I thought he was a dog until his true form was revealed at the end. Didn’t get much out of this one.

[Read more…]

Review: Jinn and Juice by Nicole Peeler

jinn and juiceReviewed by Jen

As a fan of the Jane True series, I went into this book with certain expectations. I know Nicole Peeler can suck me in to her stories, make me laugh, and light me up with sexual tension. And from the beginning of this book, all the way until the end, I kept waiting for those things to happen. Only to be disappointed. This isn’t a bad book. It’s creative with a diverse cast of characters and a different focus and feel than most urban fantasies on the market today. It just didn’t ever flip the switch to make me connect –to care– about what was happening. [Read more…]

Review: Tempest Reborn

Reviewed by Jen

After the soul stomping ending of the last Jane True book, I was ready for this book to sweep me off my feet and continue the wild ride from page one. Let me warn you now, it doesn’t do that. In fact, for the first 90+ pages, I found myself struggling to get through the book.  There’s a lot of quiet misery, which I understand.  But there is a huge amount of time devoted to existential ideas and ideology inside the world building.  I found myself asking What happened to the characters I love so much in this series? The relationships? The action?  The short answer: they’re here.  You just don’t see them until about a third of the way into the book.

That being said, the second two thirds of the book were great.  After the requisite amount of research (*shudder*) Jane figures out what she needs to do to save Anyan from a lifetime trapped inside an evil white dragon.  Jane must work with her band of friends and supporters to get the job done.  It’s a mishmash of her people from Rockabill and those she has met in her various adventures. (Honestly, I wish I would have done a series re-read, because I kind of struggled remembering who everyone was.)  But it became increasingly obvious just how vital her team is to her success.

It’s a great finish to the series in a few ways: most notably with Jane and Anyan. One of my chief complaints about their relationship has always been in how it’s been ridiculously parceled out. The wait for them to finally get together was excruciating.  Thankfully, all of that is over.  We finally see Jane and Anyan as they were meant to be together. Plenty of love; plenty of sex.  Plenty satisfying.  Also great: Nicole Peeler ties up her loose ends nicely.  We get resolution on many lingering threads. We see what happens to all these characters we have gotten to know.  And finally –we see Jane come full circle.  She has evolved into this awesome champion… only to find it’s her fragile humanity –her heart– that makes her capable of saving the world.  Good stuff.

There were a couple of niggles.  Like I said, the start was really slow.  And this book is really missing the humor I have come to love from Jane and the series.  There’s a great line about sex surrounded by Oreos and a river of milk that gave me a chuckle, but all in all… it’s heavy.  The prior installments really  balanced the humor and the serious in a way this book just didn’t.

All in all, though, I liked the way it ended.  Peeler throws in a good surprise or two and kept me emotionally invested until the end.  A satisfying conclusion to a good series.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest Reborn
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Orbit

Favorites From… Nicole Peeler

Nicole Peeler

Hi folks! Nicole Peeler here, sharing with you one of my favorite subgenres. It’s a little different, maybe, for some of you, but if you like para-rom or UF I really think you’ll like…

Paranormal cozy mysteries!

The mystery genre, for those of you who don’t read it much, are divided into two primary strains: thrillers and cozies. Thrillers are things like Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or The Snowman, which have lots of action, violence, and violent themes. As for cozies, you’re probably most familiar with them in the shape of Murder She Wrote or Miss Marple. Cozies usually feature an amateur sleuth, rather than a professional, and the sex and violence are toned way down. There are still murders, but they will often be offstage, using a method such as poisoning or a single stab-wound, rather than showing a big gory murder like a thriller would.

I love cozies and always have, but recently cozies have begun to stretch their wings a little, allowing things into the genre that would never have been considered before. One example of this is the paranormal cozy. You might remember stories like “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” in which there appears to be a paranormal element. But, just like in Scooby Doo, those elements were always “unmasked” to reveal a human villain.

Lately, however, some cozy authors have been playing with the supernatural in a “real” way. The murderers in these books are still going to be human, and that’s one of the things that makes the paranormal cozy different from urban fantasy. But nowadays we have amateur sleuths who are witches with real arcane power, or true psychics, or mediums who really can see the dead, et cetera.

So a cozy paranormal mystery will have all the elements of a cozy. There will be a murder to be solved by an amateur sleuth. There will be minimum sex and violence on stage, although there may be a love interest and some “closed door” intimacy. There will be a really developed world that’s small in feel, so an actual small village or a small community within a larger one. And there will be lots of great character development, as part of the joy of the cozy is watching someone who shouldn’t have to deal with murder and intrigue being forced to chase after baddies.

But a paranormal cozy will have some fun supernatural extras that will appeal to readers of both para-rom and UF.

If you like the sound of this genre, two writers I highly recommend are Juliet Blackwell and Victoria Laurie. Both have series with great supernatural elements, wonderful love interests, and very intriguing murders to solve by fun protagonists.

As someone who has always loved the cozy, I’m happy to see it opening up to new themes and premises, while still remaining true to its roots.

Thank you to Nicole Peeler for sharing her recommendations today.  I asked Nicole to be a part of this feature because her Jane True books add some much needed laughter to my life. The title character is a half-human half-selkie who is just learning about the supernatural world around her and her place in it. The series also features a sexy shapeshifter named Anyan who ratchets up the sexual tension between action and the humor. You can check out my review of the first book in the series, Tempest Rising, for more info.

In the meantime, I’ve got a cozy mystery for you to try. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter to win a copy of Juliet Blackwell’s In a Witch’s Wardrobe. US Only.

Be sure to check out all of the Favorites From My Favorites posts and giveaways this month, by clicking here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*”Favorites from…” photo: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos  

AAD: My author crushes

I’m bacccckk. OK, maybe it seemed like I never went away, thanks to the scientific wonder of pre-scheduled blog posts. But I have just returned from five fun-filled days in the Crescent City for the Authors After Dark convention.  I am exhausted and I have no voice left, but I have some really great memories that I am taking away from the event.

On the way home (after I finished reading the epically awesome Stars & Stripes,) I tried to catalogue in my head how I could possibly blog about the experience in any meaningful way. I thought about doing a post about each day of my visit. Then I thought about what my post for Tuesday would be like and it was something like: I drank with Marcela at Pat O’Briens. I ate dinner with bloggers. I walked. I drank again. The end.  So instead of a blow by blow, I’m going to post about the things that stick out as the most memorable parts of the trip.  The first thing that comes to mind: the authors I met and fell in love with.

I left AAD with giant, embarrassing crushes on at least four authors.  Two are women. One is gay. The other is married.  But let’s not get caught up in the details.  These folks had Personality with a capital P. And I may or may not have tailored parts of my schedule to stalk gain valuable insights from them throughout the con.

Mark Henry. You had me at The Pussy Eater.  Seriously.

The best panel that I attended was called Guess the Author by the Sex Scene (or something like that.)  Mark and Nicole Peeler completely stole the show.  I can’t remember what Nicole read, but it involved a clit that burned a lot while the heroine gave the longest blow-job in history.

Meanwhile, Mark read The Pussy Eater with the enthusiasm of a 14 year-old girl at a One Direction concert.  I laughed so hard that I cried.  I am sad to say that I didn’t get to spend any more time with Nicole, but I “accidentally” ended up at Mark’s table for dinner Friday night.  And at his zombie panel. And the panel on dark humor.

And speaking of dark humor.. Dakota Cassidy was also on that panel (as well as many others I attended.)  It would have been a great segue to say that was where she stole my heart. But the truth is, I fell in love with her during the Bookie awards, when in her acceptance speech, she said, “Where is Jeaniene Frost? –Ooh, I beat you, girl.”

She has this great, fabulous, big hair and awesome eye make-up and she utterly dominated every single panel she sat on. She’s just got this presence that is impossible to quantify.  Her voice has this deep, dusky timbre and she is larger than life and completely hilarious.  Loved. Her.

Finally, Damon Suede.  Damon, who walked around in a kilt and flashed his ass at anyone who asked what was underneath.  I got to stand at the table with Mandi, Tori and Pamela while they talked to him at the Open Bar Friday night.  I think he had pants on by then, but he was totally charming anyway. I just kind of stood there with a goofy smile and listened to him talk. He also seriously rocked it out on the dance floor after dinner.

So that’s the list.   It’s just the tip of the iceberg on the AAD experience. I’ve got more stories to tell about the great authors and my amazing fellow bloggers in the days ahead.  In the meantime, I’m ready to start unloading some of the mountain of goodies that I took away from the event.

Enter below to win a copy of Dark Frost by Jennifer Estep and an ARC of Hollywood High by Ni-Ni Simone and Amir Abrams. A big thank you to the folks at Kensington for the books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Tempest’s Fury

Reviewed by Jen

I’ll admit it. I am having serious trouble with this review.  All I want to talk about is the ending.  I know that’s not fair.  I can’t spoil people.  I can’t rob them of that feeling I got when Nicole Peeler totally ripped the rug out from under me in the last chapter.  Unfortunately, my brain just won’t let me move past it.  So I must tell you off the bat that the ending to this book is a shocking/ amazing/ horrible punch-in-the-gut cliffhanger.  But I won’t tell you what it is.

That being said, let’s go back to the beginning.  The story starts with Jane on a mission to Great Britain to help Blondie deal with a new supernatural threat.  Ancient elemental entities similar to the underground creature in the last book, are threatening to make a comeback.  And unlike the being that imbued Jane with her new fancy ax, these beings are murderous and fierce.  Blondie actually hacked up the Air and Fire beings, also known as the Red Queen and the White King, back in the day –when she was the champion of the magic ax.  Their pieces were scattered around the world, but now someone is gathering the pieces to put the monsters back together again.  Jane, Anyan, and Blondie have to stop it.

It’s a cool story arc.  It’s fast moving and full of action. It takes unexpected twists and turns and it incorporates some familiar faces from past books. All this while continuing to expand the established world building.

The book is really good. I only had one complaint. That was the ridiculous number of near-sex encounters between Anyan and Jane. I was already stretched to my limit before I started the book.  While I appreciate the need and desire to keep sexual tension alive, I was just flat out annoyed with all the stops and starts. The interruptions to their attempts at physical intimacy continue well into this book.  And though they do eventually (finally) seal the deal –and it’s fantastic, by the way– I had lost my patience way before that point.

Back to the plus side… I love Anyan. Love. Anyan.  We get to know him better as Jane does, both through his actions and through a peek into his history.  –Jane continues to be a funny, earnest, and all-around great heroine.  She is really growing here, yet she still manages to hold on to the core of who she is. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have no idea when the next book comes out, which makes me even more of a wreck about the ending. But knowing Nicole Peeler it will be one heck of a series finale.  I can’t wait to see how she fixes this. Because she must fix it.

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Orbit

Click to purchase: Amazon
Tempest’s Fury
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: Orbit

5 for Friday – June 15

As you read this, I am kicking back and (hopefully) enjoying my vacation.  It’s been a great week for reading. I finally treated myself to that Once Burned arc and it totally lived up to my expectations! The best from Jeaniene Frost I have read in a long time.  I also read Tempest’s Fury and am still reeling from the killer ending. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to read this weekend, but what I think makes a good vacation isn’t always what the rest of the family has in mind.  All I know is that if someone says “bathing suit” to me, they are getting a kick in the shin.

5. Karen Marie Moning has released the blurb for her new Fever-world book Iced.  Check it out:

The year is 1 AWC—After the Wall Crash. The Fae are free and hunting us. It’s a war zone out there, and no two days are alike. I’m Dani O’Malley, the chaos-filled streets of Dublin are my home, and there’s no place I’d rather be.Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules—and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive.

Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the rare humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks—and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin—before everything and everyone in it gets iced.”

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  Dani is obviously still quite young. There is no talk about romance –and I’m glad.  I can’t quite imagine Mac really trying to kill her. I’m not a big Dani fan, but I keep reminding myself that I didn’t like Mac in the beginning either, so I will definitely give it a chance. (I am a little scared, though.)

4. Maya Banks has revealed the cover for her upcoming Highlander Most Wanted.

It’s gorgeous, right? This is for the second book in her series Montgomery/Armstrong series, out in February.  Book one, Never Seduce a Scot, releases September 25th.

3. New Magic Mike trailer. Perhaps the best thing that has happened to me this week.  I know I shared it with many of you on Twitter, but it’s worth it to watch it again, yes?

It’s got bare asses and big dicks in silhouette. My life is complete. (The banner says July 11th, but it’s out June 29th.)

2. I don’t usually spend much time talking about YA or Twilight kind of stuff, but have you seen the Entertainment Weekly cover on the new Breaking Dawn movie?

It is positively creepy how much that little girl looks like she could be their child.  Wow.

1. I told myself I wouldn’t watch True Blood this season, but then I asked myself, What if Joe Manganiello gets naked?  Then, of course, I watched it.  And he kept all of his goddamn clothes on.  I saw Sheriff Andy’s bare white ass. I saw Sam’s extremely mooby moobs.  But Alcide didn’t even take off his shirt. What. The. Hell.  I am totally not watching next week.   

But what if Joe Manganiello gets naked?  Who am I kidding?

A big thanks to everyone who participated in the Shameless Summer Hop this past week.  You guys are the best!

Until next time!

AAD Author Spotlight: Nicole Peeler

After completely glutting myself on a binge read of the Jane True books, I sent off these burning questions to the amazing Nicole Peeler. She was kind enough to take some time to chat with me about the series that I am now totally in love with. Check it out:

Jen:  How many books do you plan to write in the Jane True series?

Nicole: I’ve got six planned and six sold, then I’ll cap the series. I’m a firm believer in capping Jane’s type of character-driven series, even though it’ll be sad to see it end.

Jen: For the love of all that is holy, please tell me that Jane and Anyan are finally going to sleep together in Tempest’s Fury.

Nicole: I would tell you, but I’d have to kill you. 😉

Jen: No. Seriously. I think I need it as much as she does at this point.

Nicole: I know, and I apologize to both you and Jane. 😉 My goal was to see how far I could take sexual tension. I took it right to the tip, as it were. The good news for you and everyone else, including Jane, is that I physically can’t take that tension any further.

Jen: Why won’t Caleb wear a loincloth? Is he a voyeur AND an exhibitionist or what?

Nicole: We discover at some point in the series that Caleb does, in fact, have at least one of the tendencies you’ve listed above. But my intention with him and his haunches was to call attention for Jane to how different Supernatural society is from her own. Supes are fine running around sans pants, while Jane’s been raised human, for which you have to go to special beaches to do that. 😉

Jen: These books are so funny. And at times, they are super sexy. Which is more fun to write: Jane’s rockin’ internal dialogue or Jane’s rockin’ love scenes? (And why?)

Nicole: I think what’s so fun about Jane’s sex scenes is that they’re also humorous. I share Jane’s inability to see the seriousness in any situation, and that includes sex. I think I’d be doing a disservice to her as a character if, when she had sex, she was suddenly this really proper, intense person she never is at any other time. So I like writing funny sex, even though not everyone gets that. The people who do get it love it, and I think that’s the fun in writing a really vivid, quirky character like Jane.

Jen: Other than Jane, who is your favorite character to write for?

Nicole: As for other characters who are fun to write, Grizzie’s obviously very fun. And I got a huge kick out of writing Salim, as I had a hairdresser back in the day who was just like him. Writing Salim really took me back.

Jen: Have you ever considered writing a side story from one of the other characters’ POV?

Nicole: I am actually writing a short story and hope to write more about Capitola and the other ladies of Triptych that you meet in book three. They’re super fun and very different from Jane, so it’s a nice challenge.

Jen: I read that you teach a class in Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. Do you get many fans in your class?

Nicole: I teach in a whole MFA dedicated to popular fiction. But no, my students tend to treat me like a professor rather than an author. Every once and a while I hear about a student of someone else’s who is a fan, but I’ve not had one.

Jen: Which authors do you like to read?

Nicole: I read loads, and very widely. Too many to list here, but I blog about a lot of the people I’m reading at the time and really enjoying. So following my website is always a good way to find a new book or six.

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

Nicole: New Orleans itself, to be honest. It’s one of my all time favorite cities in the world.

Jen: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I love, love the Jane True series and I’m so excited about the convention this summer! Can’t wait to see you there.

Nicole: Thanks, Jen! I feel the same! See you soooon!

You can find more from Nicole on her website, Twitter & Goodreads.

Review: Eye of the Tempest

I feel like the Jane True series veered from its path a bit in this latest installment. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it. But there are big changes afoot, both for Jane and the landscape of her world.

I started this book with one thought: If Jane and Anyan don’t kiss, I’m going to Nicole Peeler’s house and accosting her with my nook. I mean, I have been waiting with drool in the corner of my mouth patiently for these two to realize their feelings and now that they have, there should be no more waiting, right? Well, there is some movement there. But, their relationship has felt like a carrot dangling on a string for a long time. I still want it, but I’m getting annoyed.

In this case, Anyan is benched for nearly the entire book, which negates the ability for the two of them to gain much forward momentum. It turns out, there is a big power hidden somewhere in Rockabill and it’s drawing the villains from the last book to Jane’s little town. Blondie is a big player in this one.  And I missed our big supporting cast through most of the book.  Ryu was just a voice on the phone –and even Anyan, Nell and Iris were a shadow of their normal presence in the books. A lot of the drama surrounds the history and origins of the supernaturals, which is interesting, but didn’t quite pack the same punch as the action in Tempest’s Legacy.   A lot of this was a personal mission for Jane.

My favorite thing about these books –the humor and internal dialogue between Jane’s virtue and her libido– is definitely intact. (How can you not laugh when Jane ruminates that Anyan is lord of the vagina?) But part of Jane’s charm is the fact that she is such a wonderful underdog. I fear her becoming too powerful; I don’t want to lose who she is. I also thought that her reconciliation with Ryu was way too easy. But I’ve got faith. This series has been a real winner for me.

Let’s just hope Jane’s poor libido gets some relief soon. She’s earned it.  And, frankly, I’m tired of waiting. A little more than 4 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Eye of the Tempest
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Orbit

Review: Tempest’s Legacy

This series just keeps getting better and better.

Jane True has finally realized what I have known since book one: Anyan is the man. That’s right. THE MAN. Jane now accepts that she has a massive crush on him. And probably always has. The only problem is that he has been gone for two months. She hasn’t seen him since the end of the last book. And when he does show up again, it’s to break the news that her mother is dead… a victim of one of those terrible testing facilities we learned about in Tracking the Tempest. Jane joins with Anyan and Ryu as they investigate the murder and try to ferret out other similar compounds.

I loved this book. There was so much delicious angst. Ryu and Jane still have a lot to resolve. And it isn’t all pretty. Also, we now have her feelings for Anyan in the mix. I’ve thought Anyan’s feelings for Jane have been obvious since the beginning, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome and it’s all quite a ride.

The part of the story featuring the compounds is pretty disturbing. And it really hits home as a character we know and love gets caught up in it all. But this is such fantastic storytelling. I couldn’t put it down. Even as dark as it gets at some point, there is still this fantastic humor infused throughout. Jane’s internal ramblings and constant interjections from her libido make me laugh out loud. Plus, it’s so satisfying to see how she has grown. Our little halfling has come a long way, both in power and personal growth.

But if I don’t get some payoff on this sexual tension soon (you know the one I mean) — I think I may just implode. Seriously. It’s killing me. 5 stars.

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Tempest’s Legacy
by Nicole Peeler
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Publisher: Orbit