Monday, December 30, 2013

review: MIDNIGHT RISING by Lara Adrian

Series: Midnight Breed #4
Random House: Dell
Released: March 25, 2008
Source: Library
Page Count: 356

Rating: Liked it

In a world of shadows and dark, consuming hungers, desire is the deadliest weapon . . .

For journalist Dylan Alexander, it began with the discovery of a hidden tomb, thrusting her into the center of a gathering storm of violence and secrets. But nothing is as dangerous as the scarred, lethally seductive man who rises from the shadows to draw her into his world of dark desire and endless night.

Fueled by pain and rage over a shattering betrayal, the warrior Rio has pledged his life to the war against the Rogues. He will let nothing stand in his way - least of all a mortal woman with the power to expose the entire vampire race. For an ancient evil has been awakened, and a stunning darkness is on the rise. Suddenly Dylan is powerless to resist Rio's touch, even as she uncovers a shocking link to her own past. And now she must choose: Leave Rio's midnight realm, or risk it all for the man who has shown her true passion and the infinite pleasures of the heart . . .

My Thoughts
To be honest, I was surprised to find that Rio's book came so soon into the series. Considering what happened to him the year before, it seemed far too soon for him to find another Breedmate and heal from his emotional wounds.

I did enjoy the story. Watching as Rio came back to life was fascinating. I did not, however, find the pacing entirely believable. This is a problem in many books, but this one in particular, because of Rio's background, just rubbed me the wrong way at times. I also felt that what happened with Dylan's mother was a total cop-out. The characters were enjoyable, though. I liked Dylan and found her to be an interesting match for Rio.

I wish I had more to say about this one, but . . . nada. Here's hoping that the next book in the series has a romance that is a tad more believable!

Friday, December 27, 2013

review: BIG JACK by J.D. Robb

by J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts
Narrated by Susan Eriksen
Series: In Death #17.5
Berkley / Brilliance Audio
Released: February 23, 2010
Source: Library
Page Count: 309

Rating: Liked it

In New York City in 2059, someone is pursuing missing gems from a decades-old heist . . . someone who's willing to kill for them. Sharp-witted and sexy, NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is used to travelling in the shadowy corners outside the law. And in a future where crime meets cutting-edge technology, she will attempt to track down the diamonds once and for all - and stop the danger and death that have surrounded them for years.

My Thoughts
This may not be an "official" In Death series book, but, at 309 pages, it certainly feels like a full book. This was an interesting one, as it involved solving not only the current crime but also a jewel heist committed several decades earlier. It was fun tagging along with Eve and her new partner, Detective Peabody. I especially enjoyed the will-he-won't-he running joke regarding Roarke and the diamonds, considering that I half-expected that he would palm a couple of them just for kicks.

It still felt to me, however, that a little piece of the story was missing. That's when I discovered that Big Jack was originally published as the second part of the Nora Roberts Remember When anthology. Apparently, the first story in the anthology is set in 2004 (when the book was published) and has to do with the heist. I have yet to read it but hope to get my hands on it soon in order to get the entire reading experience.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

review: THE GUARDIAN by Sherrilyn Kenyon

THE GUARDIAN by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: Dark-Hunterverse #22
Penguin: St. Martin's
Released: November 1, 2011
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 345

Rating: Really liked it!

Dream-Hunter Lydia has been charged with the most sacred and dangerous of missions: to descend into the Nether Realm and find the missing god of dreams before he betrays the secrets that could kill her and her kind. What she never expects is to be taken prisoner by the Realm's most vicious guardian . . .

Seth's time is running out. If he can't hand over the entrance to Olympus, his own life and those of his people will be forfeit. No matter the torture, Seth hasn't been able to break the god in his custody Now there's the Dream-Hunter Lydia: She isn't just guarding the gates of Olympus - she's holding back one of the world's darkest powers. If she fails, an ancient curse will haunt the earth once more and no one will be safe. But evil is always seductive . . .

My Thoughts
I should preface this by stating that I love this series. I got into it during my freshman year of undergrad, when I was five hours away from home and desperately needed an escape from the constant presence of my three roommates. (We were ALL in the same room - it sucked!) I devoured every book I could get my hands on, quickly filled in the gaps, and actually reread the series each time a new book was released - at least, up until Acheron was published. Since Acheron, I haven't felt that the books are up to the same quality that the beginning books were. Perhaps it is because of the sheer volume of Acheron's story, which clocked in at more than 700 pages; I'm not sure. Regardless of my perception of quality, however, I still inevitably enjoy the story simply due to how much time I have put into the Dark Hunter universe.

In many ways, The Guardian heralds a return to the Dark Hunter stories of yore. Rather than being self-contained, as Retribution and No Mercy felt to me, we come across many characters to whom we have been introduced in the past - Solin, Jaden, Madoc - as well as races within the Dark Hunter universe - Dream Hunters, gods from various pantheons, Kattagaria, etc. I only read the first of the Nick Chronicles books, but I think there is a tie-in from that series as well. It was nice to have a book not be about the Dark Hunters and Daimons for once (which, believe me, is not something that I ever thought I would say!). The major arcs running through The Guardian are very well-developed.

My problem, however, is with the story between Lydia and Seth. Considering Seth was torturing Solin when Lydia meets him, the insta-love that she feels just doesn't seem realistic. Sure, Seth is a tortured soul and there's a reason that he acts the way he does, but Lydia doesn't know that yet. She can really only suspect from what she sees in Seth's room. And considering how messed up he is, it doesn't seem right that Seth would learn to trust again in just a few days, most of which were spent being beaten or dealing with his injuries.

That being said, I really enjoyed this story, even with all of its flaws. I can only hope that the books following this one are just as good.

Monday, December 23, 2013

review: WILD INVITATION by Nalini Singh

Series: Psy-Changeling #0.5, 3.5, 9.5, 10.5
Penguin: Berkley Sensation
Released: March 5, 2013
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 339

Rating: Loved it!

In Beat of Temptation, innocent Tamsyn has always had a place in her heart for Nathan, a blooded DarkRiver sentinel. But is she ready for the fierce demands of the mating bond?

In Stroke of Enticement, a wary young teacher, skeptical about love, arouses the man - and the animal - in an aggressive leopard changeling who must prove his affections are true.

In Declaration of Courtship, Grace, a shy submissive wolf, finds herself pursued by the last man she ever would have imagined: a SnowDancer lieutenant said to be mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

In Texture of Intimacy, SnowDancer healer Lara discovers the searing joys - and unexpected challenges - of being mated to quiet, powerful Walker, a man used to keeping his silence.

My Thoughts
Nalini Singh has never let me down with this series, and her short stories are no exception. This is surprising, as I typically suffer through them just to get the information instead of actually enjoying them. Few authors manage to pack in a full, believable romance into a scant 100 pages.

The first two stories in this anthology had already been published in other anthologies ("Beat of Temptation" in An Enchanted Season and "Stroke of Enticement" in The Magical Christmas Cat); as such, I read them in 2010 when I first started the Psy-Changeling series and can only say that I very much enjoyed the stories.

The real gems of this anthology are its two previously unpublished stories. "Declaration of Courtship" pits the dominant lieutenant Cooper against the submissive-with-a-backbone Grace in a sexy romance that will have you rooting for them to overcome their fears and just do it already! "Texture of Intimacy" was a lovely story about Lara and Walker's life together after they became mates. I fell in love with these characters while reading their book and could not have been happier to return to their story.

While it is certainly possibly to read this anthology without any prior knowledge, I would highly recommend picking up the series for pure entertainment value. Nalini Singh always delivers.

Friday, December 20, 2013

review: DARK WATER by Tricia Rayburn

DARK WATER by Tricia Rayburn
Series: Siren #3
Egmont USA
Released: July 10, 2012
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 368

Rating: It was okay

The sea is calling, but the reluctant siren will do anything not to answer . . .

A year after the events that killed her sister and turned her into a siren, Vanessa is desperately trying to put her family back together and reclaim a "normal" life. But no matter how many times she swims, or how much salt water she drinks, she can feel herself getting weaker and weaker. She has no idea how to survive as a siren and she doesn't want to know the truth about her newly discovered identity. It's just too horrifying.

Back in Maine for the summer, reminders of ex-boyfriend Simon are everywhere. Vanessa loves him and would do anything to make things work. But how can she ever let him back in her life when she is a monster who will only cause him more heartache? And how can Simon ever love her back when he learns the truth - that to stay alive Vanessa must give in to the needs of her siren self, no matter who it hurts?

Chilling and romantic, Dark Water explores questions of identity as old as the sea and brings the Siren trilogy to a startling conclusion.

My Thoughts
I received an ARC of Undercurrent at BEA in 2011 and read the first two books in the Siren trilogy shortly thereafter that summer. I ripped through them - they were fabulous, and I couldn't get enough! Then, following my usual pattern, I ordered the final book in the series and couldn't being myself to read it. I do this all the time, and it's a flaw that I am working to get over. When I love a series, I tend to put off reading the last book because (a) I don't want the series to be over and/or (2) I am worried that the last book won't live up to the rest of the series, and I will be disappointed in it. However, as I am trying to wrap up these series that I have yet to finish, I finally sat down and read Dark Water. Oh, and I should also note that this is my Random Reads selection for April!

Well, Dark Water left me wanting more - not in the sense that it didn't deliver, but rather that it didn't feel complete. I am still confused about so many things regarding Vanessa's future and would really like to keep reading about her (hint hint, Tricia Rayburn!). I did see the bad guy coming a mile away and was a little annoyed that she didn't. Follow your instincts, girl! I suppose that my real problem with the book is that the story didn't really advance at all.  When there finally was a showdown, there was a fade-to-black scene with a brief explanation of what happened in the next chapter. Vanessa is still facing all of the same problems that she was in Undercurrent, yet now she suddenly accepts her fate? Like I said, it's incomplete, unresolved. There are too many loose ends for me to be completely happy with the story.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

review: MIDNIGHT AWAKENING by Lara Adrian

Series: Midnight Breed #3
Narrated by Hillary Huber
Dell / Tantor Media
Released: November 2007 / June 2010
Source: Library
Page Count: 369

Rating: Loved it!

With a dagger in her hand and vengeance on her mind, Darkhaven beauty Elise Chase prowls Boston's streets in search of retribution against the Rogue vampires who took from her everything she cherished. Using an extraordinary psychic gift, she tracks her prey, well aware that the power she possesses is destroying her. She must learn to harness this gift, and for that she can turn to only one man: the deadliest of the Breed warriors, Tegan.

No stranger to loss, Tegan knows Elise's pain. He knows fury, but when he slays his enemies it is with ice in his veins. He is perfect in his self-control, until Elise seeks his aid in her personal war. An unholy alliance is forged - a bond that will link them by blood and vow - and plunge them into a tespest of danger, desire, and the darkest passions of the heart.

My Thoughts
Now that's what I'm talking about! I had some concerns about this series after Kiss of Crimson was so similar to Kiss of Midnight, but Midnight Awakening has erased my fears. This one really blew the formulaic romance out of the water AND managed to significantly advance the series plot arc with Marek. I am one happy, happy girl!

It was nice to have the heroine already be inducted into the Breed world, so we didn't have to go through the confusion and confession bit again. Elise knows the ins and outs of Breed society, probably better than Tegan himself considering that Tegan has never really been interested in fitting into society. She has nothing left to lose, and she is fearless because of it. Sure, sometimes she makes stupid decisions, but these are understandable considering her recent loss.

Tegan was a nice surprise for me. I expected him to be a bit more like, say, Zarek from the Dark Hunter series, but he ended up being rather sweet instead of just mean/intense. Maybe Rio will be more like I was expecting Tegan to me; that remains to be seen.

This series just keeps getting better and better. If you haven't given it a chance yet, don't wait any longer! Go grab yourself a copy and dig in!

Monday, December 16, 2013

review: IMITATION IN DEATH by J.D. Robb

by J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts
Narrated by Susan Eriksen
Series: In Death #17
Berkley / Brilliance Audio
Released: August 26, 2003
Source: Library
Page Count: 342

Rating: Loved it!

The summer of 2059 is drawing to a sweaty close when a killer makes hi debut with the slashing and mutilation of a prostitute. He leaves behind a note addressed to Lieutenant Eve Dallas, commending her work and inviting her to participate in his game . . . and signs it "Jack." Now Eve is on the trail of a serial killer who knows as much about the history of murder as she does, and he's paying homage to some of history's most vicious, and infamous, killers, beginning with Jack the Ripper. But who will he choose to emulate next? And will Eve be able to stop him before he decides to finish the game by coming after her?

My Thoughts
Nora Roberts knocked it out of the park again. I cannot get enough of this series! This installment's killer was seriously creepy, imitating past serial killers. The first death was almost too much for me, especially what is discovered later on in the killer's lair. Yikes. Sometimes hearing it can be worse than reading it on the page, because you can't just skim over the bloody parts. The rest wasn't horribly graphic, though. Probably the most interesting part for me was the various serial killers that Roberts made up, figures that Dallas would have studied in school but have not yet been inflicted upon the world as we know it.

At the same time, the storyline was tempered by the anxiety (and eventual triumph of) Peabody's detective exam and the new revelations about Eve's biological parents.

I'm so proud of Peabody making detective! Sure, she's just a fictional character, but after 17 books it still feels like I've come along on this journey with her.

Friday, December 13, 2013

review: KISS OF CRIMSON by Lara Adrian

KISS OF CRIMSON by Lara Adrian
Narrated by Hillary Huber
Series: Midnight Breed #2
Dell / Tantor Media
Released: May 2007 / April 2010
Source: Library
Page Count: 387

Rating: Really liked it!

He comes to her more dead than alive, a towering black-clad stranger riddled with bullets and rapidly losing blood. As she struggles to save him, veterinarian Tess Culver is unaware that the man calling himself Dante is no man at all, but one of the Breed, vampire warriors engaged in a desperate battle. In a single erotically charged moment Tess in plunged into his world - a shifting, shadowed place where bands of Rogue vampires stalk the night, cutting a swath of terror.

Haunted by visions of a dark future, Dante lives and fights like there is no tomorrow. Tess is a complication he does not need - but now, with his brethren under attack, he must shield Tess from a growing threat that includes Dante himself. For with one reckless, irresistible kiss, she has become an inextricable part of his underworld realm . . . and his touch awakens her to hidden gifts, desires, and hungers she never knew she possessed. Bonded by blood, Dante and Tess must work together to thwart deadly enemies, even as they discover a passion that transcends the boundaries of life itself . . .

My Thoughts
After reading Kiss of Midnight and reading all of the comparisons to J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I was worried that I would grow to dislike the Midnight Breed series just as I have the BDB books. (Sorry, people, I know I'm in the minority on this one, but it just doesn't do it for me!) There are also some similarities with other series, but those didn't worry me so much as the BDB comparison. Really, though, any series that focuses on a group of badass paranormal warrior guys finding their soulmates is going to sound indirectly similar to the many, many other series out there about badass paranormal warrior guys finding their soulmates. Big whoop! Each series has its own feel to it and that special touch that the author injects into their characters.

Kiss of Crimson has helped me to put away my BDB-related fears about Midnight Breed. It was still relatively formulaic in terms of how Dante and Tess get together vs. the romance in Kiss of Midnight, which is really the only reason why I'm going with a B+ instead of an A-level overall rating. I wanted some more variation in the story and hoped that the series arc with The Big Bad would be more developed in this installment. It was touched on a couple of times, but nothing really advanced in that area.

The main characters have their own strengths and weaknesses. Dante is incapable of spitting out the entire flipping story in one sitting. Instead, he drags details out for poor Tess, to the point that she ends up discovering things on her own and ending up in bad situations. Tess, though, for all of her likable qualities, shows too much compassion for her own good in allowing her ex to stay in her life despite (a) not loving him, (b) not wanting to lead him on, and (c) knowing exactly what kind of shady person he is. Sometimes, you just have to know when to cut someone loose from your life.

I would not call this book the be-all-and-end-all of alpha male paranormal vampire romance, but it IS an interesting read in an interesting series that I will definitely be returning to in the future.

As I listened to the audio version, I would also like to note that the narrator, Hillary Huber, is fabulous. I will definitely be looking for her name in other credits in the future.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

review: ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY by Jennifer Rardin

ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY by Jennifer Rardin
Series: Jaz Parks #1
Hachette: Orbit
Released: October 8, 2007
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 308

Rating: Really liked it!

I'm Jaz Parks. My boss is Vayl, born in Romania in 1744. Died there too, at the hand of his vampire wife, Liliana. But that's ancient history. For the moment Vayl works for the C.I.A. doing what he does best - assassination. And I help. You could say I'm an Assistant Assassin. But then I'd have to kick your ass.

Our current assignment seemed easy. Get close to a Miami plastic surgeon named Assan, a charmer with ties to terrorism that run deeper than a buried body. Find out what he's meeting with that can help him and his comrades bring America to her knees. And then close his beady little eyes forever. Why is it that nothing's ever as easy as it seems?

My Thoughts
I have been putting off this series for quite a while now. First, I had been acquiring them but waiting for the last two books in the series to come out, because I had a feeling that I was going to love it and want to rush through it. Then Jennifer Rardin passed away in September 2010, just before the seventh book was released, and I was too sad to pick up her books. It's probably irrational, but I do this all the time.

Two-and-a-half-ish years later, I came across a review of the eighth and final Jaz Parks book which noted that it was a satisfying conclusion to the series. I realized that I had yet to dig these books out of the "read someday" series and grabbed the first one.

Jaz grabbed my attention right out of the gate. I enjoy sarcastic, badass female leads who are actually able to access their emotional sides, which embodies Jaz perfectly. And Vayl... oh goodness. I CANNOT WAIT to see how their relationship unfolds throughout the series! They seem perfect for each other, and that makes me happy.

To be quite honest, the storyline was a bit of a stretch for me. It's difficult to explain why without spoilers, but basically how and why the terrorist group was going to "bring America to her knees" seemed a little far-fetched, as though it had not quite been thought all the way through. Considering this is an urban fantasy story with a vampire assassin, well, take it as you will. That said, I very much enjoyed Rardin's easy writing style and found Jaz to be a very interesting narrator. With first person narratives, it is very important to click with the main character. I consider that to be more important than the story itself, especially for the first book in a series. I would not hesitate to recommend Once Bitten, Twice Shy to any urban fantasy fan!

Monday, December 09, 2013

review: HAVOC by Jeff Sampson

HAVOC by Jeff Sampson
Series: Deviants #2
HarperCollins: Balzer + Bray
Released: January 24, 2012
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 352

Rating: Liked it

Emily Webb thought life would go back to normal after she and packmate Spencer Holt killed the man who tried to murder them and their fellow "Deviants." Or as normal as it could be, after finding out she has nighttime superpowers . . . and she's a werewolf. But when Emily wakes up one night to find an otherworldly shadowman watching her, she knows the danger has only just begun.

Determined to find answers, Emily and Spencer, along with the third member of their pack - football player Dalton McKinney - set out to ind the people who made them what they are, and why. And as Emily and her friends get closer to the truth, they realize that they aren't the only ones in town with special powers: The most popular girls in school just might have a secret of their own - and they just might have it out for Emily.

But other kinds of Deviants will be the least of the pack's problems if they can't get their own powers under control. With each nighttime shift, Dalton's behavior grows more erratic, and Emily's transformations begin to evolve in mysterious ways. With shadowy beings stalking the Deviants at every turn, a mysterious company doing all it can to keep the truth hidden, and the secrecy of her strange new identity in jeopardy, life threatens to spiral out of control for Emily. And soon all these dangers will come together in one terrifying confrontation that may force her to make the toughest choice of her life.

My Thoughts
I loved Vesper and was really hoping that the sequel would live up to it. In some ways, it did, but in other ways it left me wanting more. Yes, we get to know new characters and new details about the conspiracy, but it still feels like we have a long way to go before we get to the end of the trilogy. Havoc raises more questions than it answers, and I did not feel satisfied at the end of the book.

Additionally, this time around I really did not connect with the male characters, mostly Dawson but Spencer too. This could be because of the male author, but it's hard to tell. Emily was well-written, I thought, but Dawson was just too violent for my taste. By about the mid-way point, I was mentally cringing every time his character made an appearance because I was worried about what stupid thing he would do next.

The book's saving grace, in my opinion, is the recording transcripts scattered between the chapters. While we don't get answers from them, we do get an idea of where the series is headed from them. I can't wait to get my hands on Rampage now!

Friday, December 06, 2013

review: SLIDE by Jill Hathaway

SLIDE by Jill Hathaway
HarperCollins: Balzer + Bray
Released: March 27, 2011
Source: The lovely Jill Hathaway herself!
Page Count: 250

Rating: Really liked it!


Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth - her sister's friend Sophie didn't kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn't actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else's mind and experiences the world through that person's eyes. She's slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed "friend" when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing would have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie's slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can't bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she's spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

My Thoughts

Vee's narcolepsy isn't just an annoying medical condition - it is part of her psychic ability to slip into other people's minds. This sliding takes a dangerous turn when she slips into the mind of a killer as they stand over the dead body of her sister's friend, Sophie. When the police label Sophie's death as a suicide, Vee takes it upon herself to investigate the truth. She is slowly and inexorably drawn into her family's dark secrets . . . and must uncover the truth before she becomes the next target.

Slide wasn't quite what I was expecting, but that is so not a bad thing in this case! I was glued to my seat from the first page and couldn't even be bothered to get up to turn the lamp on, instead choosing to read with my face about two inches from the page until Boyfriend came home. (It's ok - he's used to my reading weirdness.)

The reader should be able to figure out what is happening before Vee does, but Hathaway's writing style and pacing ensure that any predictability does not undermine the story as a whole. She is also very good at throwing unexpected monkey wrenches into the mix. Since this is only her debut effort, I can't wait to see what she publishes next!

While I had a difficult time with many of the characters - Vee's father's absenteeism, Rollins's withdrawn moodiness, Vee's little sister's general bitchiness in the beginning, etc. - it is easy to see that these characters are grounded in reality. The death of Vee's mother is obviously still affected the family to this day, and Rollins's home situation is to blame for his attitude. They are flawed, as we all are, and that is what makes them interesting, even if they are difficult to emphathize with at times.

Slide is a wonderfully-written addition to the psychic mystery genre, in the vein of Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder and Kim Harrington's Clarity.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

review: ANIMAL INSTINCTS by Gena Showalter

ANIMAL INSTINCTS by Gena Showalter
Harlequin Enterprises: HQN
Released: August 2005
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 370

Rating: Liked it

Unleashing your inner tigress isn't easy when you're a doormat by nature! Still, after escaping a wretched marriage to a cheating SOB, Dallas party planner Naomi Delacroix isn't about to let another man sweet-talk her into sheathing her protective claws. Not even hunky millionaire Royce Powell, who's hired her to arrange his mother's surprise party. Even if he does make her purr like a kitten with one heated glance . . . 

Royce claims he's been in love with her ever since she threw a party for one of his friends six months ago. But if that's true, why is this incredibly eligible CEO currently taking applications for a wife? Despite herself, Naomi is tempted to fill one out. But can her inner tigress believe a man might change his stripes?

My Thoughts

I was happy that Naomi finally got her happy ending, but I was incredibly unimpressed with Royce. He was wayyyy too freaky-macho-alpha male. I felt that the things he was doing to get Naomi were bordering on sexual harassment (if not crossing the line entirely). It honestly made me uncomfortable at times, even not taking Naomi's past relationship issues into account. Royce was frustrating in that he would not take no for an answer, even when he really should have manned up and realized that it was just not going to be his day. If you don't mind super-testosterone-booster men, though, you may like this book!

Gena Showalter is a fantastic author, but this is not her best work. I can't speak for all of her books, but the Alien Huntress and Tales of an Extraordinary Girl series are amazing!

Friday, November 29, 2013

review: BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood

BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1
Penguin Group: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Released: February 7, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 326

Rating: Loved it!

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship - or an early grave. 

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood - not even from each other.

My Thoughts

I was very pleasantly surprised by this book! I went in expecting a Victorian read that I wouldn't be able to handle (because I really hate that time frame), but instead I received an alternate history that made the story so much more interesting than I had originally anticipated!

The beginning is a little slow and reads like a typical historical fiction book, but I promise you that it picks up pretty quickly! This is a fantastic book about witches, prophecies, an overbearing, male-dominated society, and how Cate is trying to get her sisters and herself out of it alive. Much like Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle books, Born Wicked has a strong female heroine. Cate isn't afraid to make sacrifices for the people she loves, even at her own expense.

I can't wait to get book #2 to more fully explore the backstory and figure out how Cate is going to deal with everything that went down at the end of book #1!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

review: THE SHADOW RUNNERS by Liz Maverick

Series: 2176 #3
Dorchester Publishing: Love Spell
Released: June 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 327

Rating: Loved it!


Newgate, Australia: Down Under, anything goes.

In the 22nd century, history repeats itself. Part penal colony, part dumping ground for toxic waste, the land is controlled by "the Parliament," a gang of dissipated self-styled aristocrats who rule in a mockery of the English Regency. To survive here, you have to know the tricks. Like Jenny Red. She knows the score. She's been Down and made it out to tell the tale.

But D'ekkar Han Valoren - the bastard son of the Emperor whom Jenny's family was accused of destroying - knows Jenny escaped, and he wants her to take him back in. Okay, maybe she'll help Deck's team of rebels, his Shadow Runners, like he asks. But not because he's holding anything over her - if he tried anything that stupid, she'd give him a taste of steel. No, she'll do it because of what was once between them. Because of the revolution of her heart.

My Thoughts

After struggling to get through book #2 in this series, I was so happy to see this book get off to a good start. I really liked the characters - both Jenny and Deck - and it certainly didn't hurt that it was set in Australia, which I love to read about!

Of course, Australia in 2176 is pretty messed up. Aristocracy around the world have fled to Australia and formed their own strange, 1700's-like court. And this court wants Deck. All the while, Deck and Jenny are fighting for freedom, heading into the Australian outback to create an outpost for the Voice of Freedom. (This is what ties all of the series together.)

I loved the romance and the world-building in this installment. Hang on to your hats, because it is one crazy ride!

Monday, November 25, 2013

review: JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE by Beth Fantaskey

by Beth Fantaskey
Series: Jessica #2
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Harcourt
Released: January 10, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 313

Rating: Liked it

It's one thing to find out that you're a vampire princess. It's whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own.

Determined to clear his name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that without blood to drink, Lucius's time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is - and who she can trust - before it's too late? 

My Thoughts

I was so excited when I found out that Beth Fantaskey would finally be writing a sequel to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side! That was one of my favorite books of 2009 (the year I started getting into the YA genre).

I did make one mistake, though: I read this book without reading the short story "The Wedding of Anastasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu." I hadn't realized that this story existed before reading the book, and it was referenced several times throughout. Going back and reading the short story made the book make so much more sense! Not everything that happened between the two books was explained, but it was definitely a big chunk.

My only problem with the book is how Fantaskey treated the adoption side of this story. Jessica is adopted, but she keeps referring to both her mom and her birthmom as "Mom," which is something that always bothers me. Also, she lets Lucius (and all of the other vampires) get away with calling her Anastasia  (her birth name) instead of Jessica (her adoptive name that she's had almost her entire life). If she really loved her (adoptive) parents as much as she claimed, she wouldn't have jumped into her new life and effectively cut them out of it. I also found her parents' behavior pretty despicable, as they made little to no effort to actually stay in contact with her.

Besides that, though, this was an interesting book. It's a little more adult than a lot of the YA paranormal romances out there, as the couple is already married. Although nothing is explicitly mentioned, it's obvious that something is happening when they're sleeping in the same bed. I did like that she eventually grows a pair, though, and learns to stand up for herself.

Friday, November 22, 2013

review: ELFANGOR'S JOURNEY by K.A. Applegate

Series: The Andalite Chronicles #1
Scholastic, Inc.: Apple
Released: January 1997
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 111

Rating: Liked it

His name is Elfagnor-Sirinial-Shamtul. 

An Andalite war-prince. The one who gave five young humans the ability to morph into any animal they touch. They are still out there, fighting an evil so powerful there isn't a moment that goes by when they can actually feel safe. Their story continues.

But this is how it all began.

My Thoughts

I decided to read the Animorphs series chronologically rather than in publication order. It's cool, I can do that - I'm a nerd. Haha. Anyway . . .

For those of you familiar with Animorphs, the first official book in the series opens with an alien crashing into Earth. Elfagnor's Journey, the first book in The Andalite Chronicles, chronicles that alien's life before that fateful day. It was very interesting to see this side of Elfagnor rather than the dying, serious alien I remembered. While not exactly humorous, I enjoyed seeing alien civilization through the eyes of a different alien rather than a human.

Quick summary: Elfagnor is a lowly aristh (cadet) onboard a spaceship, essentially still in training. Out of the blue, he is called to action as a pilot when enemy Skrit Na ship is spotted leaving Earth. When a second enemy ship is spotted, Elfagnor and his partner must take the lead themselves and take the ship, and in the process they rescue two human captives. Will Elfagnor be able to return the humans to Earth, or will another mission get in the way . . ?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

review: DAY OF FIRE by Kathleen Nance

DAY OF FIRE by Kathleen Nance
Series: 2176 #2
Dorchester Publishing: Love Spell
Released: May 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 372

Rating: It was okay


Canda: For over a century it's been closed off, quarantined. Now, in 2176, its people thrive. The country still needs peacekeepers, though - and the Mounties are there. Be It All. Do it All. Those are the high-tech police force's twin mottos. They're Day Daniel's mottos, too.

But things are heating up. Someone or something called the Shadow Voice is broadcasting treason, and Day's determined to stamp it out. Seeking the source of the threat, Day enters the techbar, Flash Point. There she meets Lian Firebird, an enigmatic government operative. He offers - no, insists - upon joining her trek to the legendary Citadel. Well, Day decides, Mounties work alone, but she can still do and be it all - even with this hunk at her heels.

My Thoughts

I had a tough time reading this installment in the series. It literally took me months to get through it. There is a fine line between a strong female character and an asininely stubborn one, and Day Daniels often landed on the wrong side of the line. That was my biggest problem with the book. The story itself was interesting, though!

My advice to readers is to slog through this book as best you can, because there are better books waiting for you on the other side!

Monday, November 18, 2013

review: BLOODROSE by Andrea Cremer

BLOODROSE by Andrea Cremer
Series: Nightshade #3
Penguin Group: Philomel Books
Released: January 3, 2012
Source: A bookish friend
Page count: 414

Rating: Loved it!

Calla has always welcomed war. But now that the final battle is upon her, there's more at stake than fighting. There's saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay's wrath. There's keeping Ansel safe, even if he's been branded a traitor. There's proving herself as the pack's alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers' magic once and for all. And then there's deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is.

In the final installment of the Nightshade trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Andrea Cremer creates a novel with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat until its final pages. A dynamic end to a breathtaking trilogy.

My Thoughts

I'll keep this short, sweet, and spoiler-free.

Oh, Andrea Cremer. I don't think my heart is going to forgive you anytime soon for how you ended this series! I love it, and it's perfect, but it's so hard to accept things as they ended.

Loyal fans of Andrea Cremer and the Nightshade books, take note: You will need Kleenex to get through this finale.

Best line of the book: "Sure, there's always the nitty-gritty details, but it boils down to the basics. One of you, two of them. Love's a bitch.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Series: 2176 #1
Dorchester Publishing: Love Spell
Released: April 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 327

Rating: Loved it!


The year: 2006. The mission: routine. Or so U.S.A.F. pilot Bree "Banzai" Maguire thinks, Then she's shot down over enemy airspace, captured and put in bio-stasis. When she wakes, everything's changed. It's one hundred and seventy years later - 2176 - the world is in crisis, and she's a hotly contested prize.

Once, Banzai's job was to protect democracy; now a mysterious voice claims she must bring it back. But who will help? Two men vie for her heart. Kyber, her captor, the rich, ruthless Emperor Prince of Asia, has all a man could desire . . . except her love. Then there's U.C.E. SEAL commander and would-be rescuer Ty Armstrong. He has all the right moves - but are they enough to keep up with a woman on a mission? With two such choices, Banzai regrets she has but one heart to give for her country.

My Thoughts

The Legend of Banzai Maguire is the first in a science fiction romance quintet. It was released in 2004 and is no longer in print (except for the fifth and final book, which is being rereleased by Dorchester in June 2012). However, I was able to track this series down on eBay, and - although sometimes a little cheesy - it was actually pretty good.

We start out with Bree "Banzai" Maguire in 2006 just before she goes on a flyover mission for the Air Force. Fast-forward 170 years, and Bree is rescued from stasis by Ty Armstrong, a S.E.A.L. commander for the U.C.E. But before Ty can take Banzai home, they are ambushed by forces sent by Kyber, the Emperor Prince of Asia.

Susan Grant tries to play Prince Kyber as a legitimate contender for Banzai's heart, but I just never bought it. Ty was such a sweetheart; he was perfect for her.

Gini Koch was my first science fiction romance author, but Susan Grant was my second. This book is a great introduction to the series, and I have high hopes for the rest of the books!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

review: A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis

A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis
Series: Across the Universe #2
Penguin Group: Razorbill
Released: January 10, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 386

Review: Loved it!


It's been three months since Elder unplugged Amy. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

"Amy, you're going to have to make a choice. This ship is dying. Godspeed won't last much longer. And you - you must decide for everyone. Because you're running out of time."

My Thoughts

(This review will be spoiler free for A Million Suns.)

Holy frex! I skipped both sleep and a homework assignment in order to read this book - it was just that good!

I'm always concerned about second-in-a-trilogy books, because they tend to falter in style or only set up the story for the third book. A Million Suns, however, does not fall into any of the usual traps. The plot actually moves, the characters actually develop, and relationships move in a positive direction.

Revis said that she had included a scientific error in Across the Universe. As I do not particularly care for science, I couldn't figure it out before hand. However, everything becomes very clear in A Million Suns, and I was so excited to finally figure out the mystery and see some hope for the future in this series.

This book makes me so happy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

review: CINDER by Marissa Meyer

CINDER by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Macmillan: Feiwel and Friends
Released: January 3, 2012
Source: Publisher (THANK YOU!!!)
Pages: 387

Rating: Loved it!

Even in the future, the story begins with once upon a time.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

In this thrilling young adult debut novel, the first in a quartet, Marissa Meyer's rebooted fairy tale introduces readers to a heroine and a masterfully crafted world that isn't the Cinderella you remember - but it's the one you won't forget.

My Thoughts

This book showed up in my mailbox as a complete surprise, and I swear I screamed a little when I opened the package! I had been looking forward to Cinder for months, reading every article I could find on it (and generally sharing them on this website). Seriously, people - it's a fairy tale reboot in a futuristic, somewhat dystopian setting. What's not to love?

Cinder did not disappoint. I ripped through this book because I was so caught up in the story that I literally could not bring myself to stop reading! This book is so action-packed that it's almost impossible to put down. The main characters are accessible people who don't seem to have the emotional issues of most characters in light dystopian novels, which I very much appreciated. Characters can - and often do - make or break a book for me, and Cinder and Kai really made Cinder come to life, at least in my humble opinion. Oh, and Iko too. Iko was fabulous, and I hope she works into the rest of the quartet.

I do recommend, though, that readers check out the prequel - "Glitch," which can be found online here - before reading Cinder. While I generally advocate reading books first, the backstory from the prequel really does help to make sense of things in the book.

I've read a few reviews that mention how the story is predictable, and I bet you to please take these with a grain of salt! Of course it's somewhat predictable - it's a retelling! Certain things have to fall into place in order for the story to progress like it's supposed to progress. I'll get off my soapbox for now, though. :)

Overall: Cinder is a tightly-plotted, gripping story set in a wonderfully complex futuristic world. Twists and turns abound, as do robotic feet. Enjoy!

Friday, November 08, 2013

review: UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi

UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky #1
HarperCollins Publishers: Harper
Released: January 3, 2012
Source: Blogger trade
Page Count: 374

Rating: Loved it!

For readers who loved GRACELING and THE HUNGER GAMES comes a startling new world and a breathtaking, unforgettable love.

Exiled from her comfortable home, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - called the Death Shop - are slim. Violent energy storms scan strike suddenly, and even the very air she breathes might kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild, dangerous - a savage. He's also her only hope.

Because Aria alone holds the key to his redemption. Perry needs her, too. Their unlikely alliance will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

My Thoughts

Under the Never Sky is right up there on my list of favorite dystopians with Shatter Me and Dearly, Departed. That's not to say that it's exactly the same, but rather that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these stories and  characters and can't wait to read more!

Aria is a bit naive, but that's to be expected from a character who has been sheltered from anything real for her entire life. Her background shows through from time to time, but she eventually proves to be incredibly adaptable, which was a trait I found admirable. Perry was unexpectedly likable, too. This probably came from his viewpoint. FYI: Each chapter is labeled with the name of the character who is narrating it. This makes for very easy transitions.

The Aether storms were a very interesting phenomenon, and I hope to read more about them in the next book. It sounds crazy that something could completely ruin the landscape, but Rossi's descriptions show just how devastating they can be in this world and provide a good explanation as to why Aria's ancestors found it necessary to lock themselves into pods like Reverie.

I loved the paranormal elements in this story. It can be tough to find a dystopian that is paranormal instead of tech-y (like The Hunger Games). I always love stories that involve genetic modifications, environmental or otherwise.

Rossi is great at plot and character development. Under the Never Sky is a must-read!