Carrie’s Most Anticipated Books of 2015

I know I’m going to miss a bunch after I send this list to post, but these are just a few of the books that have me biting my nails until they release.   I ordered them by release date to let you manage your excitement.

Tell me in the comments what you can’t wait for! [Read more…]

Review: The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston

unleashingReviewed by Carrie

I was looking for something a bit lighter with, hopefully, a bit of humor. This is the first book in a new PNR series based on Norse mythology. I’ve been looking for Norse-type books since I’m addicted to the TV series, Vikings.   I’ve enjoyed a few of Laurenston’s Dragon Kin books so when a trusted fellow blogger posted her glowing review, I went ahead and one-clicked. I am so glad I did! [Read more…]

Review: Big Bad Beast

Reviewed by Jen

When I first got the whiff of a pairing between Ric and Dee a few books back, I was really excited about the idea.  But when I got to know Dee a little better in the last installment and watched her interaction with Blayne, my excitement started to wane a bit.  Frankly, she was kind of a bitch and I have a hard time rooting for characters who aren’t likeable.  My opinion of Dee did improve in this book, but this wasn’t among my favorites in the series.

It got off to a slow start.  We spend a lot of time with Ric making cow eyes at Dee and her pretty much blowing him off.  Then, she suddenly decides to take him up on all of his flirting, and it kind of feels out of the blue.  We find out in her POV stuff that she has always found him attractive, but her move to go for it with him was abrupt and seemed out of left field.  Regardless, once the two of them finally started a romance, the book began to pick up some steam.

For those who aren’t familiar with the characters, Ric is a master chef who also runs the local hockey team and helps lead a shifter crime fighting force. (A multi-tasker.) He is also supermodel gorgeous and has been completely head over heels with Dee for as long as he has known her.  Dee is a trained killer, a former Marine, and country girl.  (Yes, we’ve returned to the hillbilly Smith pack for this one.)  She also works for Ric’s “Group.”

As the story begins, the Group is still investigating the human organization kidnapping shifter hybrids and forcing them to fight.  And that storyline runs throughout the book.  The Group and the investigation are just kind of the background framework, however, for getting Dee and Ric together.  I felt like the relationship development was ok –not as good as the last two books.

But the best parts of this installment were the same things that I have found consistently enjoyable about every book in the series. 1) The same core group of characters plays a prominent role. We get to continue following their lives and (mostly) enjoying their quirks.  Each one of them is so clearly defined and stays true to who they are, book after book.  2) The sex is great.  And 3) The laughs are big.  Sometimes, we even get the sex and humor tied in together.

She was stupidly falling for a Van Holtz. The enemy wolf of her Pack. Her daddy hated Van Holtzes the way Dee hated the taste of zebra. Since she could crawl, he’d been warning her about staying away from them, never trusting them, and outright killing them if they got too close.Well… how could the man be any closer? He’d pushed her onto the bed and had buried his face into her pussy, licking and sucking his way into her heart. Turning her inside out, making her come again.  It just wasn’t fair.

How was she supposed to fight this? And, as she came all over his face, her entire body writhing on his bear-size bed, she wasn’t real sure anymore that she wanted to fight this.

Because, in the end, the man did make a hell of a waffle…

I know some of my fellow readers love, love, love these books.  I think, in this case, the characters just didn’t speak to me much. Dee was hard to relate to and not all that likeable.  This, while Ric is basically perfect and a little flat. For me, they series is fairly good. But as I’ve said before, don’t expect anything deep or with a lot of substance.

It’s light, funny, sexy, and over-the-top.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon  
Big Bad Beast
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Kensington


Review: Beast Behaving Badly

Reviewed by Jen

When I first started reading these books, people kept telling me, “Wait until you get to the bears.” They were so right!  First Lock –and now Bo– are easily my favorite heroes in the series.  Bo isn’t just a bear, though. He is a bear-lion hybrid, or as Blayne likes to say, a bear-cat.  He’s socially awkward and OCD, but he’s compelling and he’s just right for our Blaynie.

I am not usually a fan of scattered, free-spirited heroines, but it’s hard not to like Blayne.  She is genuinely a good person and it shines through in all she does.  Unfortunately, that’s not the best quality to have for success at shifter roller derby.  So she decides to toughen up, at least inside of the rink.  Who better to teach her how to be merciless than the star hockey player with a reputation for brutality??  With that in mind, she reaches out to Bo for training.

Bo is the polar opposite of the little wolf-dog.  (See how I did that? He’s part polar bear.)  He’s gruff; he has no friends; he’s a neat freak and lives by a schedule.  But he is drawn to Blayne.  He loves her honesty; her refreshing lack of artifice.  And he takes on her training, falling for her along the way.

In the meantime, Blayne is a target for some humans who kidnap hybrids for fight games.  I’m not going to go too much into that except to say, it kept the action going and gave us an excuse to get more time with Dee and Ric.  It also gave us a segue into Bo’s hometown, which is chock full of odd bears.  Bears who hate all wolves and dogs, yet still can’t help making Blayne one of their own.

It was cool to see the formation of the real friendship between Blayne and Bold (a name which I loved) before we progressed into romance.  I believed in their friendship –that they really liked each other– before they took it to the next level.  Both characters are quirky, but I am happy to see Laurenston getting away from the typical sassy, low-class, violent snarky types that saturated the previous books.  There are still plenty of laugh out loud moments.  The dialogue is fun and witty.  And the sex, when it finally comes around, is very satisfying.

I think this one ties with The Mane Squeeze as my favorite in the series… or maybe surpasses it just a bit.  Viva los osos! Bears, FTW.

Rating: B

P.S. I love the cover, but it most definitely does not portray the multi-racial background of our couple.

 Click to purchase: Amazon
Beast Behaving Badly
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Publisher: Kensington

Review: The Mane Squeeze

Reviewed by Jen

Just when I feared every single shifter in the world of the Pride series was an over-the-top, bizarre, or arrogant joke, Shelly Laurenston proves me wrong.  Only HALF of this couple fits the bill.  Yes, tigon shifter Gwen is violent, bawdy and a bit, er, low class.  But the hero, Lock, is actually kind of normal.  At least, as normal as a guy who shifts into a grizzly bear can be.  This is progress.

You may remember Gwen from the earlier books in the series. She is Mitch’s half-sister from Philly. I mention her hometown, because it’s brought up so often in the book, it must be very, very important. Anyhoo, she is now moving to New York to join a business venture with best friend –and fellow hybrid outcast– Blayne.  As the story begins, the two women are attacked by some vicious wolves –and they run to Lock for cover.  Gwen remembers him from a friend’s wedding (Smitty & Jess from The Beast in Him) where he stepped in to save her from a fight. She figures he could save her again… and he does, but she is still injured in the skirmish.

The two forge a connection that day, but it’s not until months later that their relationship is rekindled, thanks in no small part to some friendly meddling by Blayne.  These two are so different, yet they strike a real chord with each other.  I liked Lock much more than any of the other heroes we have met in the series.  He is humble and unassuming, even though he is one of the biggest and baddest shifters out there.  He is earnest and genuine in his feelings for Gwen and he doesn’t take shortcuts in their relationship.

Gwen is somewhat less appealing. She’s not all that different from Ronnie, Sissy May, or the other farcical characters we have met already.  She’s always spoiling for a fight; she loves to talk trash; blah blah.  Just instead of making her hillbilly, the author makes her “street.”  She does soften around Lock, though, and that is probably her saving grace.

There’s a bit of an external conflict going on with a family feud, but the romance is the real draw.  Gwen and Lock really work in an “opposites attract” sort of way.  The series’ trademark humor is still present; so is the smoking hot sex.  And I feel like we got a pretty good set-up for a Dee and Ric story, which intrigues me.

I think this has been my favorite installment so far.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Mane Squeeze
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: November 1, 2009
Publisher: Kensington

Review: The Mane Attraction

Reviewed by Jen

Who says you can’t go home again?  Sure, most of the folks in Smithtown would be thrilled never to see Sissy Mae Smith ever again; also true: the feeling is mutual.  But when the bounty on Mitch’s head nearly gets him killed, Sissy can’t think of a safer place to take her dear friend to recuperate.

The friendship between these two is really the core of the book.  Sissy and Mitch are two characters who are larger than life.  They both need to control everything around them. They both swim in self-confidence.  And in each other, they have found kindred spirits. They can talk to each other like no one else can: they tease, they mock, and they cut straight through the niceties.

While both swear nothing romantic or physical can ever happen between them, the sexual tension is present all the time.  Often, it’s couched in a joke, but it’s still there nonetheless.

“I’ve had a near death experience, Sissy… and I’m really horny. Uh… think we can–”
“No. We can’t. And you couldn’t even feed yourself too long ago.”
“It was all that chicken soup. It cured me.”
“Yeah. Right. And stop touching!” She slapped his hand away again.
“Oh come on Sissy. I almost died. Can’t you help me out?”
“You did not and I’m not having sex with you ’cause you almost died.”
“Fine. Hand job?”
This was pretty much the dynamic between them for most of the book.  Mitch is charming, and over the top lazy and hungry… which means he is constantly telling Sissy how she should be pampering and feeding him.  It should be utterly obnoxious, but with Mitch, it’s not.  He is funny and it’s clear he thinks the world of Sissy Mae.  She feels the same way.

It actually took longer than I expected for these two to leave the strictly-friends zone, but once they did, they were going at it like rabbits until the end of the book.   The only times they weren’t doing it were when Mitch was eating, playing football, or trying not to get killed; or when Sissy was trying to protect herself from her crazy family members and stupid ex-boyfriend.

Yeah, there is some other stuff going on outside of the relationship.  Surprisingly, little of it had to do with the hit on Mitch. Most of it was family drama among the members of the Smith clan… Sissy being out of control and larger than life… and Mitch being hungry, horny, and more than a little full of himself.

The book is funny and light. The characters are likeable and entertaining.  This entire series is that way.   They all kind of feel alike and there’s not really much depth.  But they’re kind of charming and they make me laugh.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Mane Attraction
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: November 1, 2008
Publisher: Brava

Review: The Beast in Him

Reviewed by Jen

After kind of lukewarm feelings toward the first installment in this series, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on with these books, but I am glad I did.  I found that I enjoyed this story.  The things that were good in The Mane Event were good here as well: the humor and the delectable sexy times.  But in this case, with a full length book I got a chance to know the characters a bit better and get more excited about their romance. [Read more…]

Review: The Mane Event

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about this series for awhile, so I figured I would finally give it a try.  And it was exactly the two things people told me it was: funny and sexy.  This “book 1” in the Pride series is actually comprised of two novellas based on men of the Llewellyn lion shifter Pride.

Christmas Pride” focuses on Mace, the prodigal son of the Pride.  He has returned home after more than a dozen years in the Navy and he wants to reconnect with the woman he fell in love with as a teen.  Dez is now a cop and a divorcee, but she is also everything he remembered and more.  A murder of a male pride member helps bring her back into his life. He takes full advantage of the opportunity and makes a full court press to make her his own.

I had a couple of issues, most notably the structure of the pride.  Men are sort of shipped in to breed with various females.  It squicked me out a little. I also didn’t like that the female shifters (with the exception of Sissy) were all portrayed as cut-throat bitches.  These things didn’t ruin the story, but they did give me pause.

I definitely laughed out loud more than once, with both the physical comedy and the dialogue.

“Mace, he’s a problem. The man has a sheet longer than your dick.”
“Wow. That’s huge.”
Dez sighed. “Would you focus?”

(*snort*) I liked that the heroine was curvy… maybe even a big girl.  Though we did spend a lot of time focusing on the size of her boobs.  –The sex was hot too.

I wouldn’t call it deep or anything, but it was fun and entertaining.

Shaw’s Tail” centers on Shaw, a former Breeding Male of the Llewellyn Pride. He was badly beaten in the first story and as this one begins, wolf-shifter Ronnie Lee is tasked with taking care of him during his recuperation. Apparently, the healing fever also induces some amorous behavior, because Shaw can’t keep his paws off her.  Ronnie is a free-spirit, though, and has no interest in pursuing a relationship… even when Shaw has recovered and still comes after her.  The sex is great between them, but he won’t be satisfied until he can convince her to give him her heart.

The sexy times were back in full force and so were the laughs.

“Rhonda Lee ever tell you how she and Sissy Mae made money while traveling the world?”
“No. How did she–”
“Hookin,” Ronnie Lee tossed in desperately. “I was a prostitute. A damn good one too.”
“Stop lyin, Rhonda Lee,” her mother called from the kitchen. “I doubt you were good at all.”

But like the first story, there wasn’t much in the way of an emotional connection here.  These two were sexually attracted to each other, had fun together, and were “in love” in a couple of days.  It wasn’t bad, but it was definitely light reading.  Also, the whole Southern drawl, backwoods Tennessee thing got a little old for me.  As a Southern girl, I’m not a huge fan of the stereotype.

Overall, the book was an ok read, but I can’t say I loved it.  I’ll probably give book two a try, but I am not in a big hurry.

Rating: C+

Click to purchase: Amazon
The Mane Event
by Shelly Laurenston
Release Date: October 1, 2007
Publisher: Brava

Series Reading Order: Pride

This is the reading order for the Pride series by Shelly Laurenston:

* Denotes short story/ novella