Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Becoming Alpha

Becoming Alpha
Aileen Erin
Young Adult/PNR
Alpha Girl/Book 1
Ink Monster/December 17, 2013

Tessa McCaide has a unique talent for getting into trouble. Then again, it isn't easy for a girl with visions to ignore what she sees. Luckily Tessa and her family are leaving California and moving halfway across the country, giving her the perfect opportunity to leave her reputation as “Freaky Tessa” behind. 

But Tessa doesn't realize that kissing the wrong guy in her new Texas town could land her in far more trouble than she ever imagined. Like being forced to attend St. Ailbe’s Academy, a secret boarding school for werewolves.

Even if the wrong guy did accidentally turn her into one of “them” and doom her to attending the weirdest high school ever, Tessa can’t help her growing attraction to the mysterious Dastien Laurent.

When vampires attack St. Alibe’s and her visions pinpoint an enemy in their midst, Tessa realizes that boy drama and her new found canine tendencies might just be the least of her problems.

Be careful who you touch! That's Tessa McCaide's mantra, or it should be. Tessa is off to start fresh at a new high school and hopefully a new life. She's trying to escape her reputation of being "weird" or "different". Turns out, weird and different are mild compared to what she's about to encounter.

Becoming Alpha has some of the more traditional young adult trademarks with the misunderstood teens, the experienced mentor and a longstanding rivalry. Becoming Alpha also has parents who care about their daughter and want what is best for her even when it's difficult on all of them. This was a nice change since often we get the absentee parents or the parents who are around but clueless as to what is going on with their child. Still, Tessa was separated from her parents and forced to adjust to a new life, relying more on her wits and the guy responsible for getting her into the situation in the first place.

The guy. Yeah, he's interesting but not nearly as developed as Tessa which is not surprising since the story is told from Tessa's point of view. So even though we don't get to know Dastien as well as I might have liked he kept my interest and I hope we get to know him better in the subsequent books. There is another male character who I'm curious about.  He is Dastien's mentor as well as an adult who plays an active part in the teens' lives. Again, I found him interesting and hope to learn more about him.

There isn't much of a surprise as to where this story is heading. Take out the paranormal aspects and you have your standard young adult novel mix:  boy meets girl, teen angst, teen drama, rivals, mean girl, boy and girl against the world. Still, the pacing kept me reading and the author didn't reveal everything at once but doled out information, keeping up my curiosity. The big fight scene towards the end was well done with tension, danger and some added gore making for good reading.  And there is the fact that I bought the next book in the series.

Rating:  B

Alpha Girls Series ~

Becoming Alpha
Avoiding Alpha
Alpha Divided
Bruja (May 12, 2015)
Alpha Unleashed (October 13, 2015)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TBR Challenge Review: Her Perfect Stranger

Her Perfect Stranger
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Harlequin Temptations #878/May 1, 2002

For only one night, Commander Corrine Atkinson lets go of her iron control and seduces a perfect, sexy stranger. Come morning, control firmly in place, Corrine sneaks out of his bed and gets back to her own life.

But Corrine's in for a big surprise. Her perfect stranger has turned into the wrong man! His name is Mike Wright and he's the newest member of the team she's commanding--which means spending all day in very close quarters. And he's wasting no time in reminding Corrine how right it can feel to spend the night in the wrong man's bed!

Made it! I did terrible at last year's challenge but I'm determined to do much better this year. Starting off with a quick category romance certainly helps.  The fact that it's written by one of my favorite contemporary authors just adds more momentum to get this read and reviewed!

Corrine Atkinson makes an impulsive decision with some very surprising ramifications.  She is a woman in a decidedly man's world.  Her NASA team is made up of four men and herself. and she's the one in command.  She knows it isn't always easy for some men to be under the command of a woman but her career goals come first.

Mike Wright goes for what he wants in life, in both his professional and personal life.  When he meets a beautiful woman on a rainy night the attraction is something he can't deny or resist.  When they meet up again, it's a shock for Mike but he tries to make the most of the opportunity.  There were a few times when it felt borderline sexual harassment with Mike's "hidden touches" as Corrine puts it. Corrine made it clear that she wants to forget their one night together and keep their relationship purely professional.  If Mike were going to make a move, he should have kept it to after work hours.

Eventually, both Mike and Corrine give in to their mutual attraction after months of tension and loads of cold showers. The one thing I did like about their relationship was Mike's ability to respect Corrine's authority at work and not resent her for her ambitions. Otherwise, it was fairly predictable.

Rating: C+

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Switch

Janelle Stalder
New World/Book 1
New Adult/Dystopian
CreateSpace/August 27, 2013

Two thirds of the world's population has been wiped out, devastated by the worst war earth has ever seen. Still standing amongst the ruins is a mind reader who finds herself on the wrong side of the war. Everyone does what they must to survive.

When the rebels bent on bringing down the New World leader start to rise up, it is her job to make sure they stay down where they belong. That is, until one rebel sneaks past her defenses and into her heart. Love will blossom from the ashes, but will it be enough to save them, or will it mean the end of them both?

So glad I took a chance on this one. It's different than the usual dystopian novel. The world is not full of zombies or aliens but people who want power and will do whatever it takes to get it. What sets this story apart is the heroine isn't always heroic. She is willing to do what it takes to survive. Some might say her choices are less than honorable but honor doesn't always keep you alive.

Charlotte finds herself in the midst of the enemy but to her mind, there is no enemy, only the need to survive.  She forms this odd family of sorts with two very powerful men.  Even so, she keeps herself detached, doing her job while trying not to let any emotions color her perspective.  It isn't always easy for Charlotte when those emotions creep up on her. She pushes them down but you can see they still affect her, even if she doesn't think they do.

The evolution of the story shows how Charlotte not only changes her thinking but the causes of those changes. She is not a stagnate character by any means but continues to grow with her experiences and mistakes. The growth is often painful but far from dull. There are also very strong secondary characters who cause Charlotte to question her motivation and her loyalty. The darker side of life, love and loyalty are all explored with fascinating answers from each of the characters.  Switch was certainly an unexpected treasure!

Rating:  A-

New World Series ~


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Review: Lead

Kylie Scott
Contemporary Romance
Stage Dive/Book 3
November 25, 2014
St. Martin's Griffin

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, whether it's booze, drugs, or women. However, when a PR disaster serves as a wake-up call about his life and lands him in rehab, he finds himself with Lena, a new assistant to keep him out of trouble. 

Lena's not willing to take any crap from the sexy rocker and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry. But when Jimmy pushes her too far and Lena leaves, he realizes that he may just have lost the best thing that ever happened to him.

Well hello there blog.  It's been a while.  2014 was not the best year for Leslie's Psyche.  It seems the ole' psyche was on the fritz for most of the year.  Blogging just wasn't working for me.  I read a lot of wonderful books last year, but when it came to write about them, the words won't flow from the brain to the page.  Blogger's block.  It's a bitch.

So to start back on the road to recovery, I've decided it would be best to start with a winner.  That winner being Kylie Scott's Lead.  It's the third book in her Stage Dive series about four band members and each of their rocky roads to true love.  I enjoyed the first book, really liked the second book and the third book, I read in a day.  Yeah, it's that good.

First, I should start by saying if you haven't read the first two books in the series, I highly recommend reading those first.  Not only are they good reads, they also give a more complete look at the band and how they interact with each other.  But, if after reading this review you can't wait to read Lead, go for it.  But don't be surprised if you end up going back and reading the first two.

Lena Morrissey is having a bad day and it's about to get really weird.  Being offered a job when you're not applying for one is odd.  When the job is as an assistant for a wildly famous rock star, then you're in the twilight zone.  Lena takes the job, but doesn't let herself expect much to come of it.  She's a little out of her element but is smart and learns quickly how to deal with Jimmy.  Lena is not only smart, she's funny.  I found her so easy to relate to,  She isn't perfect and doesn't try to be someone she's not.  Take her as she is or find someone else.  Personally, she's one of my favorite contemporary heroines.  She stands up to Jimmy even when she's afraid.  Do it afraid seems to be her motto.  It's a good one to have.

Jimmy Ferris, lead singer for Stage Dive, is also a recovering addict.  He's working on getting clean but in his business, it isn't easy.  Everywhere there are temptations.  When he agrees to hire Lena to be his assistant he isn't expecting much.  What he really wants is to be left alone but instead Jimmy finds Lena hard to ignore.  Jimmy is an ass, bu in a good way.  Let me explain.  He's honest, tells it like it is and that can definitely come across as being an ass.  But wouldn't you rather have honesty over deception?  I really found myself liking Jimmy which was certainly different from the impression he left on me from the first two books.  Lick and Play left me thinking Jimmy was an immature, self-absorbed S.O. B.  After reading Lead, Jimmy managed to endear himself to me.  Not an easy feat.

The interaction between Lena and Jimmy is so well developed.  Scott takes her time with this romance.  There is no rush, rather a slow simmer, allowing Lena and Jimmy to learn about each other, often without realizing it.  It worked well to get them to the place where they could both trust each other.  Lead is funny, emotional and sometimes sad, but at it's heart it is a romance with wonderfully developed characters and a great way to start the new year.

Rating:  A

Stage Dive Series ~

Deep (March 31, 2015)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: The Homecoming

The Homecoming
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 6
Harlequin/August 26, 2014

At the age of nineteen, Seth Sileski had everything. A superb athlete and scholar, handsome and popular, he was the pride of Thunder Point. Destined for greatness, he lost it all in a terrible accident that put an end to his professional football career when it had barely begun. The people in his hometown have never forgotten what might have been.

Seth has come to terms with the turns his life has taken. But now he's been presented with an opportunity to return home and show his father—and the people of Thunder Point—he's become a better, humbler version of his former self. 

Winning over his father isn't the only challenge. Seth must also find a way to convince his childhood neighbor and best friend, Iris McKinley, to forgive him for breaking her heart. With his homecoming, will Seth be able to convince the town, his family and especially Iris that he's finally ready to be the man who will make them all proud.

The Homecoming introduces some new characters in Thunder Point.

Seth Sileski is a man who doesn't give up.  Whether its sports, his career or friendships.  He takes what life throws at him and changes with it.  His attitude about the bad things that happen to him made me like him even more.  Now he's back in him hometown to start a new phase of his life and mend some old relationships.

Iris McKinley has had a crush on her neighbor for years.  When Seth moves back to Thunder Point, Iris thinks there might be a chance at more than friendship.  Unfortunately, Seth doesn't have a clue.  I could feel for Iris with how frustrated she was with Seth.

As Seth and Iris forge a new, adult relationship, they discover how they have changed since they were kids as well as how there are still familiar traits each still has.   Iris is the stubborn one in this relationship with Seth having an infinite amount of patience.  That patience pays off in the end.

As with many small town romance series, we get the joy of catching up with previous couples and the goings on of the town as well.  Thunder Point is a character unto itself, a place where many readers would love the chance to visit if not live.  I know I would.

The Homecoming is a sweet, friends to lovers romance.  One of my favorite romance tropes.  Add to that the characters are engaging with a story line readers should find entertaining.

Rating:  B+

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise
The Homecoming
One Wish (February 24, 2015)
The New Hope (June 16, 2015)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: Take Me On

Take Me On
Katie McGarry
Young Adult/Contemporary
Pushing the Limits/Book 4
Harlequin Teen/May 27, 2014

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

Take Me On another winner from Ms. McGarry.  This young adult series continues to impress.  The characters and their situations truly feel genuine.  Yes, even a female kickboxer.  Certainly not unheard of and in McGarry's hands, real.

Teenagers lives are rarely as simple as they might appear from the outside looking in.  Such is the case for Haley and West.  They both have their share of burdens to carry.  For Haley, it's the knowledge she is walking a thin line between keeping her family safe instead of following her dream.  Her family's situation is precarious with her father out of a job and the family dependent on Haley's uncle's kindness of which there is little.  The way each member of Haley's family is portrayed was important in showing how Haley has  to the point where she is.   It's West who helps give Haley the courage to fight back at the injustices she has suffered.

West is a rich kid on the wrong side of town when he finds himself in the middle of a fight.  He's outnumbered and out skilled but West doesn't know how to give up.  West is easy to like.  He has this way about him,  He's the guy we all remember from high school who could bug the crap out of us and still make us laugh.  West home life may look ideal, but there is so much more going on under the surface.  McGarry shows us how teens from well off families who seem to have it all, can, in reality, have very little of what is important.

The chemistry between Haley and West is well done in that it shows the nuances of teen romances.  How they can develop in spite of the obstacles thrown in their way.  The setting also played a big role in their romance. West learns how working hard for something makes it much more important when you achieve your goal.  For Haley, she learns who she can count on, not only herself but friends and family.  This is such an important message for young adults to hear.  Many may feel they are alone in dealing with their problems and reaching out, sharing some of their burden is not an option.  Kids shouldn't have to shoulder adult burdens and they shouldn't feel like they have to do it alone.

If you haven't read the first three books in the series, I would highly recommend you do.  (The novellas are good read too!) They are not essential to appreciating or understanding Take Me On, but they are well written and not to be missed.

Rating: A

Pushing the Limits ~

Pushing the Limits
Crossing the Line (novella)
Breaking the Rules (novella)
Dare You To
Crash into You
Take Me On

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ARC Review: The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger
Wendy Corsi Staub
Harper/July 29, 2014

In New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub's new thriller, one woman finds herself in the crosshairs of a twisted predator who might just be masked behind a familiar screen name . . .

During the darkest period of her life, Landry Wells found solace in a group of bloggers who had been in her shoes and lived to tell the tale. She's shared things with her online friends that even her husband and children didn't know. Things that now, looking back, make her uneasy.

One of the bloggers is dead, victim of a random crime—or was it? Did she trust too easily; reveal too much? At the funeral a thousand miles from home, Landry is about to come face to face at last with the others. These women are her closest confidantes in the world: they understand her; they know everything about her—and one of them might be a cold-blooded killer . . .

This was a little different from my usual read.  It's suspenseful with clues dispensed throughout the story as to who the killer might be.  I found myself not only curious to find out who the murder is and the motive but also became caught up in the lives of these women and what they had been through together and were still going through in their fight and recovery from cancer.

The point of view of the killer enhances the story.  The thought process they go through after thinking they've gotten away with murder is eerie in how it is so human.  We don't like to humanize murderers but instead when we think of them, we regard them as less than human and not on the same level as us.  When you get into their head, it makes them that much more real and easier to understand their twisted logic.

The plot twists are not so obvious early on, instead the reader gets a sense of something "not quite right" but must continue reading and discovering clues.  Not only does the story explore the difficult journey cancer patients must face but it also deals with the safety of the internet and how much is too much to share with the world.  And how much can you trust someone on the other side of the screen.

The women in the story have different backgrounds, different experiences, different lives but have the common experience of fighting cancer which brings them together.  These are women who would not have met had it not been for that bond.  It was interesting seeing how they fit together despite their diverse backgrounds.

The Perfect Stranger was a refreshing change and a look at how the internet can provide both positive and negative affects to our world.

Rating:  B+

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ARC Review: The Promise

The Promise
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 5
Harlequin MIRA/June 24, 2014

Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it's time to move on from his loss. But as the town's only doctor, the dating scene is awkward. That is, until a stunning physician's assistant applies for a job at his clinic.

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She's already been burned by a man with kids, and she's come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she's used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She's willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options.

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary—it isn't enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.

Come on back to Thunder Point, Oregon.  It's a beautiful place, I want to live there!  Like Carr's Virgin River series, the setting is also a vibrant character. What make up the town are the people, those welcoming, giving souls who almost seem too good to be true.  For Doctor Scott Grant, Thunder Point is the perfect place for his little family.  For Peyton Lacoumette, a break from the city is what she needs for her

Peyton could work at a larger, more prestigious practice but small town life is calling to her.  She finds she needs the friendly, comforting feel of Thunder Point.  After the mess she left behind in Portland, Peyton is happy to find a temporary home until she decides what and where she wants her life to go.  Peyton is a woman who is easy to like.  She knows what she wants, she's not perfect but is learning from her mistakes and is mature in her professional life and personal life.

Dr. Grant is the beloved local doctor with a heart of gold.  Too good to be true?  It certainly seems like it but he's also human and not perfect which is what made him come out of that god-like persona and into the world of mere mortals.  He's friendly, hard working and easy to relate to.  A great guy for Peyton, if only she can get past the similarities to her ex.

Scott Grant is almost too good to be true.  I could totally see how Peyton would want to back away from him not only because on the surface he seems like he has the same issues Peyton's ex had, but after getting burned it's not surprising Peyton is leery of any relationship with another doctor.

We do get to catch up with the residents of Thunder Point which is always something to look forward to.  I think that's the appeal of a small town romance series.  You not only get to meet new characters but have the chance to catch up with some old favorites.  This can take away page time from the main couple which can cause their romance to feel less than fully developed.

Overall, a solid addition to the Thunder Point series.

Rating: B+

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise
The Homecoming (August 26, 2014)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: Divided

Elsie Chapman
Dualed Series/Book 2
Young Adult/Dystopian
Random House/May 27, 2014

West Grayer is done killing. She defeated her Alternate, a twin raised by another family, and proved she’s worthy of a future. She’s ready to move on with her life. The Board has other plans. They want her to kill one last time, and offer her a deal worth killing for. 

But when West recognizes her target as a ghost from her past, she realizes she’s in over her head. The Board is lying, and West will have to uncover the truth of the past to secure her future.

How far will the Board go to keep their secrets safe? And how far will West go to save those she loves? With nonstop action and surprising twists, Elsie Chapman’s intoxicating sequel to Dualed reveals everything.

If you haven't read the first book, Dualed, you might feel a little lost when starting Divided.  There is back story given but you get a greater understanding of the main characters and the world if you have read Dualed, which tells how West and her boyfriend Chord got to the point they are at now.

The world West Grayer lives in is a lot like our world on the surface.  There are families living in what looks like either cities or the suburbs with kids heading off to school and hanging out after school but just beneath the surface is a completely different world.  A world where children learn to kill because if they don't they will be the ones killed.  It is a bleak existence for these kids, knowing someday they will have to kill their someone who looks like them - their alt.  The survivor is the one deemed worthy to defend their world from outside forces.

West Grayer isn't an easy character to like.  There are some reasons to feel sympathy for her, her home life is filled with loss of family and friends because of the system of Alternates (Alts) killing each other.  Some of the decisions she makes are very hard and not always easy to understand.  In Divided, reinforced is the fact that survival is ultimately all that drives West.  She needs to survive not just for herself but for Chord and for those she's lost.  Still, she makes some brutal choices that make her less than easy to like.

The idea behind Kersh and the Alternate program is for the city to be comprised of the best fighters in order to defend themselves from the Surround which is everyone outside Kersh's walls.  There are some glaring problems with this plan.  First off, not everyone has the same opportunities for training.  It reminded me of the Hunger Games with the twelve districts and the huge economic discrepancy between districts.  It is why West decides to become a Striker, so she can afford better training.  This also leads to some Alts or their family members having the money to hire Strikers to take out their Alts so they don't have to fight them.  How does this provide Kersh with the best possible Alt remaining?  It would make more sense if the Alts were to fight it out in a supervised arena. Sick but more fair and no chance for innocent bystanders to be hurt or killed, which does happen.  Or better yet, train the teens to become an army to defend the city.  Why none of this was not questioned by the general population, especially parents of kids who are dead, I don't know.

It does turn out that things are more complex and truths are revealed behind the reasoning of the Alternate system.  While we do learn more of how and why Kersh came to be, I still found the world West lives in depressing.  The one standout of the story is the writing.  I just wish the world of Kersh made more sense.

Rating: C

Thursday, July 3, 2014

ARC Review: Shattered

Kevin Hearne
Urban Fantasty
Iron Druid Chronicles/Book 7
Del Rey/June 17, 2014

For nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time
 . . . three’s a charm.

With Shattered, the seventh book in the adventurous Iron Druid Chronicles, Mr. Hearne has done it again. Not only has he given readers a wonderful ride filled with adventure, intrigue and comedy but he has woven a number of pantheons into a cohesive plot with gods and goddesses vying for the chance to either help Atticus or hasten him to his death.

The story is told in alternating chapters in three different point of view - Atticus, Granuaile and Owen.  Owen is Atticus' archdruid, his teacher who has been spending the last two thousand years on a time island.  But now he is free and it is Atticus' job to see that Owen becomes acclimated to the new world he finds himself in.  Of course, Atticus doesn't exactly have an abundance of free time but he does feel a responsibility towards Owen,  It was interesting to see their relationship unfold in a new direction with Atticus in the role of the teacher and Owen the student.

Granuaile is now a powerful Druid in her own right.  She can kick-ass right alongside Atticus.  She is pulled in another direction when her past association with Laksha comes calling.  With Granuaile, we see how she has embraced her life as a Druid but she brings a more modern outlook to the series.  I do like when Atticus and Granuaile are together because they work so well as partners but they spent most of Shattered apart.

I can't forget to mention Oberon, mostly because it might hurt his feelings.  The hound is in fine form if a little less page time than I would have liked.  Oberon is the comic relief, although not always intentional on his part.  He is the reason I find myself laughing out loud while reading Mr. Hearne's novels although Owen does give Oberon some competition in that arena.

Along with the three different points of view we also have three different plots converging into a final epic battle.  Hearne certainly knows how to choreograph battle scenes.  There are a multitude of fighters with various weapons but the action plays out like a well directed play with everyone knowing their part.  But there is also a great display of emotion in these scenes.  With friends and family members falling under the blade, whether they be god or long lived mortal, they all feel the pain of loss.

Shattered is another well written addition to the series.  It has that roller coaster feeling of exciting, thrilling, scary and left me wanting to get back in line for more.

Rating: A-

The Iron Druid Chronicles ~