Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review: Magic Strikes

Title: Magic Strikes
Author: Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels/Book 3
Published: April 2009

*Spoilers if you haven't read the first two books*

Kate Daniels, former mercenary, is now working for the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid. It's been two months since she lost a good friend and gained a daughter. Since then she's been working for the Order and trying to keep her distance from the pack, specifically Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta. But all roads eventually lead home or in Kate's case they lead to Curran.

The Kate Daniels series is one that I almost missed. I had heard good things about the first book, Magic Bites, but was hesitant to start a new series. Thankfully, I spotted Magic Bites at the library and gave it a go. I was hooked! While Magic Bites was good, Magic Burns was even better and Magic Strikes blew me away! This is not a series you want to start anywhere but at the beginning. Andrews does a good job of filling in back story but the characters have gone through so much growth and change, especially Kate, that you really don't want to miss out on that.

Kate must help out her friend Derek, a werewolf and a member of Curran's pack. While trying to help Derek she must also make a deal to assist Saiman, a shape shifter with the ability to shift into just about anything he wants. He also has a thing for Kate, one that she has absolutely no intention of reciprocating. Saiman convinces Kate to accompany him to the Midnight Games where she finds out just how brutal the world of underground fighting is. She also finds out that her old partner Jim is somehow involved in the same mess Derek was in. After Derek is severely beaten and left for dead Kate and Jim devise a plan to find the ones who beat Derek. They get way more than they planned and end up fighting in the Midnight Games tournament.

The creatures that Kate and her teammates have to fight in the tournament are a variety of scary and bizarre. The Reapers are their main opponents and they are after the Wolf Diamond, the prize in the tournament. The Reapers have no intention of losing and are determined to defeat Kate and Curran's team at any cost.

The Masters of the Dead and the vampires they control were not featured prominently in Magic Strikes but they are some of the scariest vampires I have ever read. They totally creep me out.

A lean shadow skittered from the alley, followed by another. Emaciated, hairless, loping on all fours in a jerky, uncoordinated gait, they crossed the street before me and paused. They had been human at some point but both had been dead for more than a decade. No fat or softness remained on their bodies. No flesh-only steel-wire muscle beneath thick hide. Two vampires on the prowl. And they were out of their territory. page 7

The fight scenes leave you breathless and make you feel like you are there, in the Pit with Kate and crew. While reading those scene I was on the edge, worried about these characters that I have come to know and love. I was worried for their safety and wondered if they would all make it out of the Pit alive or if one of them would fall. I really wasn't sure that one of them wouldn't end up dead. That's what Andrews does, makes the reader feel for these characters until they become more than just characters in a book. They become as close to real as they can possibly be. When Kate is in the Pit you can literally feeling the magic swirling around as she describes what she is experiencing ~ the ebb and flow of the powers. Feel the sand, smell the blood, the fear. The need to kick ass and kill something. The reader experiences it all through Kate.

Of course I have to mention my favorite shape shifter Curran. He can be a man of few words but when he does speak everyone listens. He's had his eye on Kate for some time but she's trying her best to stay out of his path. The romance continues to develop between them but is muted at first. The sexual tension and Curran's pursuit of Kate is on going with Kate determined to deny of her feelings for Curran, to a point. Curran is persistent and slowly works at breaking down Kate's resistance.

Kate, royally pissed off at Curran~

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" I looked for something heavy to hit him with, but the room was mostly empty. There were surgical instruments but no heavy, blunt objects capable of causing the kind of pain I wanted.

He straightened.

"He was silver!" I snarled in his face. "I had it under control. What was going through your head? Here's a toxic silver golem; I think I'll jump on his back! That's a damn good idea!"

He scooped me up and suddenly I was pressed against his chest. "Were you worried about me?"

"No, I'm ranting for fun, because I'm a disagreeable bitch!"

He smiled.

"You're a moron!" I told him.

He just looked at me. Happy golden lights danced in his eyes. I'd learned exactly what those sparks meant. Fury fled, replaced by alarm.

"Kiss me and I'll kill you," I warned.

"It might be worth it," he said softly. page 276

There is a secondary romance in the works with Andrea and Raphael. Andrea is also a member of the Order and Raphael is a werehyena that is mad for Andrea. She, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with him. Raphael is stubborn and is intent on winning Andrea. Their encounters were humorous and it didn't hurt that Raphael is completely adorable in his quest to win Andrea.

Magic Strikes is funny, emotional, mesmerizing to the point that I didn't want to put it down. The brilliance of the writing kept me on edge and at times left me there, teetering on the brink. Just when I thought I knew where the authors were going I ended up like Kate, wanting someone to pinch me.

I blinked a couple of times and held my arm out to Jim. "Pinch me."

Claws sliced my flesh. Ow.

I stared at a couple of red dots on my forearm, licked them, tasting the sharp bite of magic on my tongue. Yep. Real. I did just see a golden palace fly off. page 162

The world building is once again an indulgence for the readers' senses with the descriptions of Atlanta, it's citizens and structures all playing a part in the story. I could go on about the amazing world that Kate and her friends inhabit but I'll stop here. Just know that when you read Ilona Andrews be prepared for an incredible journey filled with a kick ass heroine, action scenes that leave you breathless and sexual tension that torments and teases, leaving you wanting more.

I can not recommend this series enough. All kinds of good stuff can be found at the author's website. Ilona Andrews (who is actually a husband and wife writing team) also has a new series coming out this fall starting with On the Edge. I blogged about the cover here and you can read an excerpt here.

Go out and get Magic Bites, Magic Burns and Magic Strikes. You won't be sorry.

Rating: A+

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tomorrow Is Release Day...

Tomorrow is a big day for three of my favorite authors. Three special releases tomorrow and all three are the third book in the series.

Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione

Forbidden Temptations…
Serena Kelley is an archaeologist and treasure hunter—and a woman with a secret. Since she was seven, she’s been the keeper of a powerful charm that grants her health and immortality . . . as long as she stays a virgin. But Serena isn’t all that innocent. And when a dangerously handsome stranger brings her to the brink of ecstasy, she wonders if she’s finally met the one man she cannot resist.

Fatal Desires…
Wraith is a Seminus demon with a death wish. But when an old enemy poisons him, he must find Serena and persuade her to give him the only known antidote in the universe—her charm. Yet, as she begins to surrender to his seductions, and Wraith senses the cure is within his grasp, he realizes a horrible truth: he’s falling for the woman whose life he must take in order to save his own.

You can read my review of Passion Unleashed here.

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with these days. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that’s saying a lot.

But when Kate’s werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet. As her investigation leads her to the Midnight Games - an invitation only, no holds barred, ultimate preternatural fighting tournament - she and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, uncover a dark plot that may forever alter the face of Atlanta’s shapeshifting community...

I'll have my review of Magic Strikes posted tomorrow. Loved it!

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Ella Varner has it all--a successful career as an advice columnist, a handsome boyfriend, and a circle of friends in Austin. When anyone has a problem, Ella knows the answers.

But one night she receives a call that changes everything. And as Ella's world is turned upside-down, she meets a man who is the opposite of everything she ever wanted . . . a man who will offer her the most irresistible challenge she has ever known . . .

I haven't read Smooth Talking Stranger yet but it's Kleypas so I will definitely be reading it. There's an excerpt here to give you a taste of Jack Travis and Ella Varner. Jack is the brother of Gage Travis from Sugar Daddy and Haven Travis from Blue Eyed Devil. Both wonderful books.

All of the above books have a release date of March 31st but I did see all three in the bookstores Friday. I was suprised to see the Kleypas in Borders, I thought they would have a strick lay down date on it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review: Lucky's Woman

Title: Lucky's Woman
Author: Linda Winstead Jones
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: Last Chance Heroes/Book 4

Published September 2006
Silhouette Intimate Moments
Year of the Category Challenge

From the back cover:

She saw a killer in her dreams...

Annie Lockhart's colorful exterior concealed a serious psychic ability. And if her latest visions were true, a serial killer was preying on couples deeply in love. She had been burned by her talents before, so instead of going to the police, she hired private investigator Lucky Santana to find the killer.

Even though Lucky wasn't sure about this assignment, Annie drove him crazy, in more ways than one…which made their task all the more torturous: Annie and Lucky set out to look like a happy couple. As their faux relationship turned all too real and passionate, the killer came in for one last deadly showdown.

This is the second book I've read by this author and it makes me want to try more of her work. Maybe some of her full-length novels. The writing has an intrinsic flow, not stalling out at any one plot point. The story kept my interest enough to make this a very quick read.

Annie has dreams, vivid dreams of murder and death. She's tried to do the right thing in the past but going to the police turned out to be a disaster. When the dreams start up again she decides to hire a private investigator to help find out who the murderer is.

Annie went through hell five years ago when she dreamed of murder. She thought going to the police was the answer. Instead she was ostracized to the point that she moved from Nashville to the smaller town of Mercerville, TN. She owns and runs two shops called Annie's Closet that sells one of a kind hats and handbags. She loves designing hats and bags and has found her niche in the beautiful town. The last thing she wants to do is have to move again.

Lucky Santana is prepared to take a statement from Annie and be done with the case. He figures she's nuts and doesn't want to waste time listening to some crazy lady. But it turns out that Annie isn't crazy and Lucky soon finds himself deeply involved in Annie's effort to find the murderer.

Lucky is a hero who has a soft spot for women in trouble. He starts out very skeptical of Annie and her abilities. Even after he experiences proof of her psychic talent he still continues to try to solve the murders and find the killer through conventional methods. While he poses as Annie's love interest he also has a chance to get to know her far better than he planned.

I liked the way Annie and Lucky interacted. Even when the spark of attraction was there Lucky still held back and Annie still treated her growing attraction for Lucky as secondary to finding the murderer. That's not to say that they didn't do something about the attraction but it didn't completely overshadow the original reason for the two being together in the first place.

Lucky and Annie both have issue from their pasts to overcome and Winstead Jones deals with them in a way that doesn't come off as phony. The suspense was also well written and genuine. I hate it when I figure out who the killer is long before the hero/heroine do, when it's suppose to be concealed until the dramatic end.

Lucky's Woman was a quick, enjoyable read. It's part of the Last Chance Heroes series from Silhouette but IMO can be read as a stand alone. Since it and others in the series were published a few years ago the best chance of finding it is in UBS or Paperbackswap.

Linda Winstead Jones has also written under the name Linda Jones. Her website is a bit sparse but there is info on her previous and current releases.

Rating: B+

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cover Love ~ On The Edge

Next Tuesday Ilona Andrews' book Magic Strikes (loved it!) hits the shelves, then no Kate and Curran *sigh* until next year. But readers do have a new series from Andrews to look forward to. The Edge series begins with On The Edge, releasing September 29. The new series features Rose who is an Edger and can travel between the two different worlds. The burb explains it better than I can...

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, between the world of the Broken (where people drive cars, shop at Wal-Mart, and magic is a fairy tale) and the Weird (where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny). Only Edgers like Rose can easily travel from one world to the next, but they never truly belong in either.

Rose thought if she practiced her magic, she could build a better life for herself. But things didn’t turn out how she planned, and now she works a minimum wage, off the books job in the Broken just to survive. Then Declan Camarine, a blueblood noble straight out of the deepest part of the Weird, comes into her life, determined to have her (and her power).

But when a terrible danger invades the Edge from the Weird, a flood of creatures hungry for magic, Declan and Rose must work together to destroy them—or they’ll devour the Edge and everyone in it . . .

Part of the first chapter of On The Edge is available to read online here. I like it and since I love the writing in the Kate Daniels series I have very high hopes for the new series.

And the cover ~ overall I like it, my only minor problem is the guy. A little on the big side. But love the colors and a gun toting heroine works for me. For some reason, makes me think of Supernatural. *shrugs* Don't know why.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: Flat-Out Sexy

Title: Flat-Out Sexy
Author: Erin McCarthy
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Fast Track/Book 1
Published: November 2008

The life as the wife of a race car driver is exciting, terrifying and lonely. Tamara Briggs has experienced all of these emotions. She also experienced a devastating loss when her husband, race car driver Pete Briggs, was killed in a crash two years ago. Since then she has kept busy being both mother and father to her two children. Her job as a professor at a local university also requires much of her time. When she tries to venture back into the dating world her first try is an absolute fail. Then on the heels of that failure comes the man of her dreams, the newest rookie driver. If only Tamara hadn't sworn off relationships with drivers.

I'd heard a lot of talk about this book and the hotness of it. The talk was dead on and the hotness went from simmer, steam, slow burn to all out 5 alarm fire. This was a funny, sexy, emotional read that I really enjoyed. I've never been interested in any type of race car driving so it was intriguing to read about the lifestyle and how it affects not only the drivers but their families. I'm not sure how much research Ms. McCarthy did on the racing world but I do feel like I have a better understanding of what all the excitement is for the world of racing.

The heroine in Flat-Out Sexy is a widowed mom of two in her early thirties. One thing a really liked about Tamara is that she acted her age. She had her teaching career and kids to take care of and those were her priorities. McCarthy did a good job working the kids into the story without having them being annoying or simply window decorations. Tamara was fortunate that she had a close relationship with her in-laws even after her husband's death. They helped her with her kids so she was able to have a separate social life. She still felt some guilt about leaving her kids with the in-laws and didn't take advantage of them which was another positive aspect of her character. Tamara did have a few hang ups. The first about the age difference between her and rookie driver Elec. He was 25, almost 26, and she was 32. I personally don't see a problem and neither did Elec but Tamara did. I think the age issue was at least partially an excuse she used to not get close with Elec and develop any kind of deep relationship with him. Her other hang up was her body and that she didn't think it measured up to the bodies of younger women, women that hung out at the track and would love to date Elec. Were her hang ups about her body genuine? To her they were and that's what counts. Elec saw Tamara's body in a different light, not focusing on what Tamara perceived as flaws but on the whys of them. He set out to show her that he loved how she looked and she didn't need to feel insecure with him.

Smart, sexy, good looking and funny describe Elec Monroe. He comes from a racing family, it's in his blood. So when he meets Tamara at a racing function he knows of her but had only met her once before, back when he was a teenager and she was a newly married woman. I think that's what stuck in Tamara's head when she realized she had met him before. It was up to Elec to help Tamara realize that he wasn't that goofy teen but a grown man. Elec's an interesting character, he has all this prestige of not only coming from a racing dynasty but he's a young, hot race car driver with women dying to meet him and hook up with him. He's not by any means innocent and has had his share of women but he doesn't connect with any of them until Tamara. He wants to get to know her and spend time with her, not just in bed but out. Talking and hanging out with her and her kids. She, unfortunately doesn't want anything more from him than a one night stand. Life's ironic like that. Good thing for Tamara is that Elec is stubborn and continues to woo her and show her that he is more than just a gorgeous young stud. He was also adorable during his inner dialogues when trying to decide what his next move would be with Tamara. The poor man had a habit of over-thinking. Very funny.

The relationship and it's development between Elec and Tamara came across as very genuine. They certainly had their problems. First is the simple logistics of getting together without anyone else knowing. Elec's racing schedule kept him on the road for most of the week and Tamara was determined that they not be seen in public. Then Tamara began to realize that she was falling for Elec which scared the crap out of her. She was understandably terrified of getting involved with another driver. There were also some family issue that had to be addressed and overcome. I really liked how McCarthy handled the problems, there were obstacles that I could see real people in the same situation having to deal with. There wasn't this feeling of "we're having amazingly great sex so everything else will work out". The problems were still there to be worked out after the having of the amazing sex. And those scenes were smoking!

The other thing about this book that I totally and completely enjoyed was the humor. It was, at times, truly laugh out loud funny. The dialogue between not only Elec and his buddies but Tamara and her BFF Suzanne cracked me up. On page two Suzanne makes a comment about a "metrosexual man" and "waxed balls" and I couldn't help but wonder if this was setting the tone for the rest of the book and was that necessarily a bad thing? Then I got to thinking about waxing and how it seems like the firmer the area being waxed the easier the waxing and how... well, how many men would really do that? The book was not only funny but got me thinking about some really odd things.

I mentioned Suzanne, Tamara's BFF. Suzanne is also the ex-wife of one of the drivers, Ryder who is friends with Elec. The race world is a close knit family, where everyone knows everyone. Suzanne and Ryder still have some heat between them and I do hope they get their own book.

Overall a very enjoyable and entertaining read. Definitely recommend it. The next book in the series is Hard and Fast and features racer car driver Ty McCordle and Imogen Wilson who is a graduate student and teaching assistant of Tamara's. Ty and Imogen meet briefly in Flat-Out Sexy and there is definitely a spark between the two. Ms. McCarthy has a fun website with details on all her books. Be sure to use the Mix It Up!! feature when checking out her site.

Rating: A-

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cover Love ~ Blaze of Memory

You've probably seen this one already, Nalini posted on her blog a few days ago. But in case someone missed it, thought I posted it here.

This is the second Psy/Changeling book scheduled to be released this year. First we get Mercy and Riley's book, Branded by Fire on July 7 then we get Dev's book Blaze of Memory on November 3. We still don't know who Dev's heroine is, I'm guessing that's why he's the only one on the cover maybe? Devraj Santos first showed up in Mine to Posses. He was Tally's boss and is the director of the Shine Foundation. If you haven't read Mine to Possess yet and don't want any spoilers then STOP READING NOW.

If you do want to find out more about Dev, here he is explaining to some of the Pack members what happened when Silence was initially implemented:

..."In short, a hundred or so years ago, when Silence was voted into being, people who disagreed began to search for a way out. It had to be done in secret because dissidents had already begun to disappear."

When no one interrupted, he continued, "In the end, the only solution the rebels could come up with was to drop out en
masse and attempt to link to each other in the seconds before psychic death. They hoped their gamble would lead to the spontaneous creation of a new psychic network. If it didn't , the defectors were prepared to die." The ruthless lines of Dev's face lit from within. "But they didn't. And the ShadowNet was born." Mine to Possess, pages 311-312

Dev, it turns out, is one of the Forgotten. He's a descendant of one of the rebels that created the ShadowNet. I'm looking forward to reading more about the Forgotten and their world. I'm curious to see who is part of that world and if there are any familiar faces from past books.

So what do you think of the cover? It didn't really grab me the way the other covers did. It's not that I don't like it but it looks like it should be on a romantic suspense novel rather than a PNR. Maybe I'm just shallow and want him shirtless. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: Passion Unleashed

Title: Passion Unleashed
Author: Larissa Ione
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Demonica/Book 3
Published: April 2009
ARC Review

What would you do if you were immortal? If there was nothing that could physically cause you harm? There is a catch ~ because there's always a catch. To keep leading the charmed life you must remain a virgin. Not too bad, all things considered. What if a gorgeous, funny, incredibly sexy guy comes along. What if he's THE GUY? Serena Kelley lives that charmed life and Wraith is about to try to take it all away.

First I'll start by saying that I am in love with this series and it just continues to get better and better. There was a lot going on in this book but I never felt that the plots and subplots got away from Ione. The writing is tight and the story moves at a pace that had just the right amount of action, suspense, romance and humor. That along with hot sex scenes and smart ass demons made this book an absolute treat to read.

Passion Unleashed picks up ten months after Desire Unchained. Wraith has gone through his s'genesis, which means he can now impregnate demon females. One night when out hunting he gets into a fight with some vampires. During the fighting he is poisoned and left to die. He ends up back at Underworld General Hospital (UGH) where his brothers Eidolon and Shade are able to take care of him. Unfortunately they can't cure him of the poison that is in his system, slowly killing him. His only hope is Serena and her charm that keeps her healthy and immortal. He needs to find her, seduce her and get her charm.

Serena Kelley is a female Indiana Jones with a twist, she's immortal. She works as an archaeologist/treasure hunter and reports to Valeriu Macek, an Aegis Guardian. The Aegis are the group of highly trained human warriors that hunt and fight demons. Serena is also trained in fighting which is a good thing because she has a tendency to be fearless, diving headlong into dangerous situations. She is careful when dealing with men, not allowing things to go too far. She may still be a virgin but she isn't exactly chaste. And she's certainly not immune to Wraith and his incredible body.

Once Wraith finds out that the holder of the charm is a human female he refuses to seduce her. He doesn't have sex with humans, ever. But after discovering that he really has no choice he goes after her only to find that seducing her won't be as simple as he thought. He's not the only one after her and the evil that is after Serena wants more than her virginity, he wants her blood. When Wraith does catch up to Serena he takes on a new role of guide, helping Serena locate her next acquisition. This allows Wraith to get to know Serena which makes what he has to do much more difficult. Knowing that taking the charm will mean Serena's death.

Wraith and Serena take the reader on a wild ride of treasure hunting, demon fighting and erotic sex scenes without the actual sex (don't worry, there's hot, crazy sex too). I'm thinking only Wraith could steam things up so completely without fully consummating the act. The pairing of Serena and Wraith is done with such a skillful touch that despite the fact they faced overwhelming obstacles in their relationship by the end of the book you can't imagine them with anyone else. I loved Wraith and how his emotions are so much more than what he lets on. He doesn't want anyone to know how strongly he feels and how much he cares.

I think of Wraith as the survivor, the one that in spite of himself and his self-destruct mode he survives. He doesn't exactly thrive but exists, living to hunt, kill and fuck but not to truly enjoy, only pretend to. He still maintains that bad ass, fuck off attitude of the 'I don't give a damn club'. The only things he really cares about are his brothers, their mates and the hospital. The people and the place that give him a purpose in life.

About Wraith's relationship with his brothers Eilodon and Shade. The three are half brothers, having the same father. Their mothers were all different types of demons. While the brothers were all raised in different environments Wraith's by far was the harshest, most cruel. He's so emotionally damaged by the torture he endured that he can't seem to get to a point where he can find any joy in life. He thinks of himself as the screw up, always needing to be saved by his brothers. I loved reading the scenes with these three. The way they interact is so normal, so brotherly. For me as a reader seeing the hero interacting with other males, especially ones that he's close to, gives me a better, more rounded view of his character. Guys act different around guys than they do around females. That seems to be universal whether they're human, vampire, werewolf or demon.

What Serena does for Wraith is open those eyes of his. She helps to waken that slumbering conscience of his. To show him that he is a good man and that he does care about more than just his brothers and their mates. I loved the way she took him in and showed him that a woman can and does care about him. That it's not just the physical attraction but that she really liked him as a person and came to care for him as the man who he is. The one who he had been hiding behind his nasty attitude. She doesn't give up her identity when she falls for him. She continues to be a strong heroine. I liked the fact that she didn't suddenly submit to him and leave the decision making to him. She still maintained her voice and her adventurous determined nature. Which is why she was such a good match for Wraith.

The plot had many twist and turns. I didn't always know where Ione was going with the story but that was part of the thrill, not knowing what was around the next turn. The bad guy is wickedly evil, sinister in his love of death and blood. And since this is spoiler free I won't go into the details of some of the secondary characters but will say they are some of the best and well developed, considering the amount of time they had on page. Some of the little bits and pieces the reader is shown of these secondary characters only helps to heighten the anticipation for the next book and the next installment of these demons and their lives.

Passion Unleashed is another outstanding addition to this fascinating world of demons, vampires, werewolves and humans. Visit Larissa Ione's website for more about the Demonica series and her contemporary books coauthored with Stephanie Tyler under the name Sydney Croft. You can also add to your Demonica knowledge by accessing the free online read of the Demonica Compendium here.

Rating: A

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cover Love ~ Darkness Calls

I stumbled across the cover for Marjorie M. Liu's next book in her Hunter Kiss series. I like the shades of golds and the way the light shines down on Maxine. Love the tats! As a lover of all things sharp and shiny I covet the sword she's holding. Yep, nothing like a kick-ass heroine on the cover to set the tone. Looking forward to this one. Release for Darkness Calls, the second full length novel in the Hunter Kiss series is June 30.

Here's the brief blurb from the author's website:

They are the obsidian shadows of my flesh - tattoos with minds, hearts, and dreams. By day, they protect me. But when night calls to them, they leave my body, dissolving into their true form - as demons…

Nomad born and bred, demon hunter Maxine Kiss has always relied upon herself to fight the darkness that surrounds her, the predators-human, zombie, and otherwise - who threaten the earth. But one man has penetrated her lonely life: Grant, the last of his kind. With music he is able to control any living creature…including demons. And now his life is in danger.

Haunted by the past, determined to change the future, Maxine soon understands that to save Grant, she has only one choice-to lose control, and release her own powers of darkness…

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Next Kresley Cole Releases...

No covers but there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for Murdoch and Daniela's story. It was suppose to be in the Not So Innocent anthology that was suppose to be released last year. Now it looks like it will be in a duology with Gene Showalter releasing this fall. Amazon shows it as being $14.95 USD. That's marked down from the 21.99 price so it looks like hardcover folks. There is also mention on Cole's website of the next full length book in the IAD series, Pleasure of a Dark Prince, due for release January 2010. This is Lucia and Garreth's story. No other info yet.

Here's the blurb for the story from The Deep Kiss of Winter, like that title a bunch!

A duology with Gena Showalter! Coming November 2009.

A brutal vampire soldier about to know love for the first time...
Murdoch Wroth will stop at nothing to claim Daniela the Ice Maiden--the delicate Valkyrie who makes his heart beat for the first time in three hundred years. Yet the exquisite Danii is part ice fey, and her freezing skin can't be touched by anyone but her own kind without inflicting pain beyond measure.

A Valkyrie aching to be touched...
Soon desperate for closeness, in an agony of frustration, Murdoch and Danii will do anything to have each other. Together can they find the key that will finally allow them to slake the overwhelming desire burning between them?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Library Haul and a Date with a Rat...

It's spring break here and you know what that means... the kids are home driving me crazy! I've been feeling a little guilty since we didn't travel anywhere this year but stayed home instead. So I offered to take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese. Yes, I actually said, "Who wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese? " It was like I was possessed! The boys were all for going and wanted to know when we were leaving. Teenage daughter had a look of horror on her face. I could have made her go but being the cool mom that I sometimes am, I let her stay home. : )

Before lunching with the famous rat we made a stop at the city library. (Did you really think this post wouldn't be book related?) I had two holds to pick up, Lora Leigh's Only Pleasure and Sydney Croft's Unleashing the Storm. I also wanted to see what new releases they had. While the boys were over in the children's section checking out the latest Captain Underpants and Star Wars books I found a few more books to take home.

*Zack by Cheyenne McCray
*The Courtesan's Wager by Claudia Dane
*Shattered by JoAnn Ross
*Darkness Revealed by Alexandra Ivy
*Crash Into Me by Jill Sorenson

All are new authors to me except for Alexandra Ivy. I've read the first three books in this series. The McCray and Dane books I liked the cover and the blurb. JoAnn Ross I've heard goods things about her writing and liked the blurb. And Jill Sorenson's is about surfing, the FBI and takes place in San Diego, La Jolla specifically. I miss San Diego bunches! Lived there for 15 years and even though we still go back in the summer it's just not the same.

I've got the first Sydney Croft book and the Lora Leigh I think have the first 3 or 4 books in this series but haven't read them yet. Don't know when I'll get to these since I still have quite a few already in my TBR pile.

The Chuck E. Cheese experience wasn't too bad. Not very crowded, like on the weekends *shudders*. And I got some reading done. The county library is holding Bone Crossed for me but I've got to get Iron Kissed read first. It was interesting to read while listening to the various kids songs playing (loudly) in the background. Not exactly my music of choice but I was still able to get into Mercy's book. All in all a pretty good day. The boys were good and had a ton of fun. They did get cotton candy and forgot to share with me. :( My favorite "fair foods" are cotton candy and funnel cakes. Love those to pieces. I'm always tempted to get one of those funnel cake mix packs at Christmas. Maybe this year.

Hope everyone has a fantastic reading weekend. I plan to get lots of reading done and some reviews written this weekend along with the usual cleaning, errands and hanging with the kids.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wicked Lovely ~ Free Online Read...

HarperTeen is offering Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely as a free online read. It's for a limited time so if you've thought of trying this series this is a good way to see if you like this author's writing.

Here's a blurb from the author's website:

Rule #3: Don’t stare at invisible faeries. Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty—especially if they learn of her Sight—and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don’t speak to invisible faeries. Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don’t ever attract their attention. But it’s too late. Keenan is the Summer King who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost—regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything. Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in this 21st century faery tale.

You can find more info about Marr and her writing at her website.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Angels' Blood

Title: Angels' Blood
Author: Nalini Singh
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Series: Guild Hunter/Book 1
Published: March 2009

There are angels among us. Though these are not the heavenly beings that usually come to mind. These are archangels who rule their territories with awe, fear and respect. They entice humans to sign away 100 years of their lives to become immortal... and vampires. But sometimes those vampires choose not to honor their contract. Sometimes they think they can get away. That's when the Guild Hunters go to work. They hunt the vampires and return them to their masters, the archangels. Elena Deveraux is one of the elite hunters. She was born a hunter and she is one of the very best. And only the best will do for archangel Raphael.

There's been a lot of buzz about Nalini Singh's new series. Many fans of her Psy/Changeling series have been eagerly anticipating the release of Angels' Blood (myself included). The Psy/Changeling series is Paranormal Romance, with a different hero and heroine in each book. Notice the genre above ~ that's what is on the spine of the book. I found it interesting that this is not simply marketed as Urban Fantasy but the "romance" is added. Could this be a marketing tool to get the fans who read PNR but don't want to read UF because of the lack of the HEA? Since there seems to be so much online talk of what is PNR as opposed to UF this might be the happy medium many have been craving. I think Singh's fan base is such that it doesn't matter what is on the spine as long as Singh's name is on the cover. And Angels' Blood does have a designated hero and heroine but do they get a HEA? Maybe...

Elena Deveraux is a total and completely kick-ass heroine. She's hard working and takes her job very seriously. She has a close, select group of friends that she knows she can always count on. Her home is her haven. The way she feels about her apartment tells a lot about her. It's more than just a place to crash, it's a place where she can take comfort from her surroundings after long days and nights on the job. When Elena finds out that Raphael wants her to hunt down another archangel she's not at all thrilled. Hunting down an archangel who's bent on destruction isn't exactly in her scope of experience. But she has no choice. She could refuse and try to hideout from Raphael but that's just not her style. Nor does she wish to put her friends in jeopardy. So she sucks it up and uses her talents to find the sick bastard. I love the fact that she does get disgusted and upset over the horrors that she sees and isn't afraid to show it. She even throws up a few times but shakes it off and gets right back to work tracking the rogue archangel.

Raphael is the archangel over all of New York. He's acquired a reputation for ruling with strength, respect and fear. He's not the easiest hero to get into. He's very reserved and projects a very cold, almost sterile, personality. It's as if he's seen and done everything and is now simply bored by it all. As he and Elena work together he begins to thaw. Singh shows the reader through Raphael's actions and thought how he is thawing. How his humanity is showing. Elena practically forces reactions from him. I loved it when he would get pissed off and Elena would basically tell him to deal with it or remind him that he needs her.

The story was a bit slow for me to get into-not in a bad way but more of an ease into the world instead of a jump. The jump happened for me when Elena shot Raphael(page136). Then it became difficult to put down. It's possible it happened at that point because Raphael became more real, more mortal with all the emotions that go along with possible mortality. Elena showed concern for Raphael, not only because if he dies she does too at the hands Dmitri but also because of what was a developing attraction on more than a physical level - no matter how much Elena denied it.

The world building was done in and around New York City as we know it today. The difference is that archangels, angels and vampires exist in the world Singh has created. Otherwise it felt like present day earth with cell phones, cars, elevators and references to the Titanic and the Soviet Union. The world is certainly darker with the powerful archangels and vampires inhabiting it. Angels' Blood undoubtedly makes use of it's UF stamp and has far more blood and gore than the Psy/Changeling series.

Elena's work takes her to a much darker world than what most of the human population in Angels' Blood is exposed to. She has such a strong heart to bear seeing so much pain and ugliness. Her good friends and Guild Hunter co-workers are there for her as much as they can be. There is no doubt they would stand beside her even if it means dying. In this we also see how Raphael learns to care for Elena and offer comfort. Something I'm not sure he thought he was capable of.

Singh's secondary characters are, as always, well developed and give this reader hope for many more books in this series. One character in particularly grab and held my attention. He's not a member of the Guild Hunters but a vampire. I absolutely without a doubt loved Dmitri. Why? I shouldn't like him. He threats Elena numerous times, not only with the biting and drinking from her but killing her. And I have no doubt that he would have killed her if he thought it necessary. Yet I liked him. Whenever he was in a scene I couldn't wait to see what he would say or do. When he wasn't in a scene I would be wondering where he is and when he'd be back. I think I got a little obsessed over him. *grin* He's the leader of Raphael's elite guard. He's nearly a thousand years old so he's more than served his 100 years yet he stays with Raphael. I liked that loyalty in him. He also mentioned a few little tidbits about his past that left me curious to know more and to believe there's more to him that the bad-ass imagine he projects.

Singh uses her magic to weave a fascinating world in the first installment of the Guild Hunter series. There's a whole bunch of cool characters and happenings that I didn't include in the review simply because you really should read the book for yourself and find out. I will definitely read the next book in the series, Angels' Judgement in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds. Next year the second full length book, Angels' Kiss is due out. No set date yet. For more info on both the Guild Hunter and Psy/Changeling series check out Nalini's website.

Rating: A-

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Review: Moon Called

Title: Moon Called
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Mercy Thompson/Book 1
Published: February 2006

Mercy's Garage. It seems like a ordinary place owned and run by an ordinary woman. But nothing and no one is what they seem in Mercy's life. She's not what she seems. Sure, she a great mechanic. She's also a skin walker but she won't tell you that. Just like she won't tell you her sexy neighbor is the local werewolf pack's alpha or the VW van at her garage is owned by a vampire. And her former boss is a Fae. No, Mercy likes to keep her secrets and is a just woman who sometimes changes into a coyote. Fluffy tail and all.

This is one of those series that has been sitting on my TBR pile for what seems like forever. After reading all the great reviews for Ms. Briggs latest book in the series, Bone Crossed, I thought it was about time to start reading Mercy's books before I got too far behind. Can I just say to anyone who's been putting off reading this series ~ start now!

Mercy is a woman that likes to "fly under the radar". She doesn't want to call attention to herself. She'd rather be left to work in her shop and mind her own business. In spite of this it was surprisingly easy to get to know and like her. Which is kind of strange since she likes to keep people at a distance. She seems to be wary of getting too close to anyone. It's not that she doesn't care about people, she just prefers to care from a distance. This all begins to change when a newly made werewolf comes by the shop looking for work. Mercy knows that she should send him on his way but she's a softy at heart. So she feeds him and gives him some work. She's able to send the new werewolf, Mac, to the local Alpha, Adam Hauptman, who can help Mac through his early years of learning to control his wolf.

Adam is such a multi-layered character. He's a Vietnam veteran who still holds many ideas from that era. Times have changed but Adam hasn't completely changed with the times. But he's learning. He is also a divorced father with a teenage daughter. Now how often do you hear about a divorced werewolf? But Adam comes complete with an ex-wife and a wonderful daughter named Jesse. She knows who and what her dad is and she's really cool about it. The other thing about Adam is that he reminds me of Roarke from the In Death series (this is a good thing). Both very alpha, smart, successful businessmen attracted to strong, independent women.

If things weren't getting complicated enough in Mercy's life there's Samuel. Samuel is the Marrock's son. The Marrock, Bran, is the Alpha over all of the North American Alphas. Bran is also the head of the pack that Mercy grew up in. So you could say that Samuel is Mercy's high school sweetheart, except that Samuel was long out of high school when Mercy came along. I'm not totally sure what I think of Samuel. He's a very old werewolf who is also a doctor. The thing about the werewolves in Briggs' series is that they all have regular jobs. Doctors, teachers, businessmen, computer techs... it just seems so normal.

The vampires in the series do not seem normal at all. Oh, they seem normal for vampires just not the types to take up jobs and blend with the human populace. The vamp with the van at Mercy's is Stefan. He's... not sure how to describe him. He's a kinder, gentler vampire. We don't see too much of him in Moon Called but what we do see is that he does have certain feelings for Mercy. He's still very much a loyal subject to his Mistress who is also his maker but he does look out for Mercy. Poor Mercy, two werewolves and a vampire after her.

The world that Briggs has created is diverse and complex with not only the weres but also vampires and beings of the Fae in the mix. The Fae came out to the world a few decades before. They downplayed their abilities and pass themselves off as harmless beings who only want to help mankind. The weres and vampires still maintain anonymity but the time for humans to find out who their neighbors really are is closing in fast.

Count me a fan of this series. I've already read Blood Bound, the second book and have Iron Kissed in my TBR pile and Bone Crossed on order from the library. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happened next to Mercy, Adam, Samuel and Stefan.

Patricia Briggs is not new to the publishing world. She is the author of a number of science fiction/fantasy novels. She also has another series set in the same world as the Mercy Thompson series. It's the Alpha/Omega series and features Charles and Anna. More information about Ms. Briggs can be found at her website.

Rating: A-

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: A Summer to Remember

Title: A Summer to Remember
Author: Mary Balogh
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency Period
Published: July 2002 (HC)/March 2003 (MM)
Nath's Re-Read Challenge

It's been a year since Miss Lauren Edgeworth was left at the altar, her world shattered and torn in two. She has come to London not to find another husband but to be with her aunt, the Duchess of Portfrey, during her confinement. Lauren has always been dutiful and this gave her the opportunity to leave Newbury Abbey and the close proximity to her former fiancé and his new bride. While in London she makes the acquaintance of Christopher "Kit" Butler, Viscount Ravensberg. When Kit proposes marriage Lauren offers a different proposal. She will pose as his intended if he agrees to give her a summer to remember.

The first time I read A Summer to Remember was when it was released in paperback. Mary Balogh has been one of my favorite authors for many years. Way back when I only read historicals *gasp*, Balogh, along with the likes of Roberta Gellis, Johanna Lindsey, Jude Deveraux and Jo Goodman were authors that I read everything they published. After reading One Night For Love, where Lauren is left at the altar, I was hoping she would get her own book and HEA. So when A Summer to Remember came out I knew I had to read it. After reading it the first time it became one of my favorite Baloghs and this re-read proved it's still one of my favorites.

When Lauren was still a baby her father died. Her mother remarried soon after and went on her wedding trip, never to return. Lauren was left to be raised by her step-father's family. A family of strangers who became her real family in every way. Growing up Lauren made sure to be the perfect child, to never give her family reason to regret taking her in and raising her. But she is not a simpering little mouse of a lady to hide in the corner. She can take control of a situation if she must. She is subtle, taking control of situations through her intellect, her words. She likes to be in control in everything she does and says. She is the perfect, proper lady. To loose control would mean to loose that facade of propriety that has helped her survive nearly unbearable situations. She would never dream of doing anything that would embarrass herself or her family.

The first time Lauren sees Kit she is shocked. He is shirtless, fighting three other men in public. The second time she sees him is in a ballroom and he is asking her to dance. While she knows he has a reputation as a rakehell she can't seem to help but be drawn to him. He is good looking but it's not only his looks that attract her. It's his determination. Kit is determined to court Lauren and make her his bride.

Kit has been order, by his father, to return to his ancestral home of Alvesley Park. The trip is for his grandmother's birthday celebration and also for Kit's betrothal. The betrothal that his father has arranged. Kit has other plans since he has no desire to wed his father's choice of a bride. So he decides he must find his own bride and bring her home with him. And so the idea to woo and wed Lauren comes about.

Kit is the second son of three boys born to the Earl and Countess of Redfield. Being the second son Kit was bound for the military which suited him just fine. But when his older brother dies Kit is forced to sell out his commission and return to London. Since his returned from the fighting in the Peninsula, Kit has spent his time making a notorious reputation for himself. He doesn't want the earldom and feels guilty for the fight he had with his eldest brother the last time he saw him. His relationship with his parents and his youngest brother is strained and in Kit's mind broken beyond repair. With that in mind Kit sees no reason to stop his less than honorable ways and marry someone other than his father's choice.

Lauren was perceived by many of the ton as cool and reserved which she was. But it was how she trained herself to be. Her overriding fear of making a mistake and embarrassing her family kept her in such rigid control. I wasn't sure how Kit could get her to loosen up some of that control and enjoy herself. Fortunately, Kit was very stubborn and determined that in order for him to fulfill his part of their bargain he needed to get Lauren to loose some control and get out of her comfort zone. One scene where Kit gets Lauren to climb a tree demonstrates just how far she has come from the lady who wouldn't dare let her spine rest against the back of a chair:

...He went up behind her, one arm linked about her waist, but she would not allow him literally to carry her up.

"I will do it myself, thank you," she told him curtly the only time he tightened his hold and would have hoisted her upward when she seemed to be paralyzed with indecision. "This is not what I meant at Vauxhall, Kit. There is nothing remotely enjoyable about this."

"But it is memorable, you must admit," he said into her ear with a chuckle. "Swimming in your shift and climbing trees all on the same day. You are in sore danger of becoming a notorious hoyden."

And later, when they are sitting on a branch, Lauren's back to Kit's front, Kit's arms holding her. Kit tells her to open her eyes and enjoy the view:

"Nothing could make the climb worthwhile," she said severely, "though the prospect is a good one, I will concede."

Well. Cool praise indeed. But a moment later she ruined the effect of her words. He felt a slight tremor beneath his hands, and then she was laughing softly. Lauren Edgeworth was laughing!

"I am up in a tree," she said. "Gwen and Aunt Clara will not believe it even if I should tell them. No one who knows me would believe it. Lauren Edgeworth up a tree, with out a bonnet."

She seemed to find the idea enormously tickling. For a few moments her laughter was almost silent. But she could not contain it. She burst into peals of glee, gales of merriment. And Kit, holding her safe, joined her.

"And loving every moment of it?" he asked when he could.

"Now that I will never admit to," she said and laughed again. But finally they were both quiet, and when she spoke again her voice held more wistfulness than humor. "I will remember today. All of it. For the whole of the rest of my life. Thank you, Kit." from pages 172-174

I really love this scene. Lauren is so surprised at her self. And at the end she makes it sound as if she doesn't expect much laughter in her life after she leaves Kit. But Kit is there, holding her, keeping her safe. This is what he does for her. He makes her laugh. Such an important yet often overlooked quality in a hero. Can you imagine not laughing? Being so confined in your shell that you never laugh. To never let go and laugh long and loud? Lauren didn't know how until Kit. That's what he gave her ~ the freedom to laugh. To be surprised when that unexpected giggle surfaces out of nowhere. Catching her off guard. Then being able to revel in it.

And how does Lauren help Kit? She uses her quiet dignity to help him overcome his sense of guilt for so many things. She helps him mend the relationships that he thought were beyond repair. This is really a story about relationships and the intricacies in not only forming them but maintaining them. Lauren sees her helping Kit mend the bond with his parents and brother as her part of their bargain. She had no idea she would come to care for Kit's family which makes it that much more difficult when she must leave.

Lauren and Kit's relationship changes during the course of the story. Surprisingly Kit is the one to fall in love with Lauren and decide he wants the marriage to be real. I loved the way Kit began to see Lauren in a different light. To see beyond that rigid control of a proper lady. To see what she could be, was meant to be if she just allowed herself to be happy. I really don't think Lauren knew how, she was too busy trying to be perfect, or at least what she perceived was perfection. Lauren too begins to see the Kit she met in London wasn't the real Kit. He is more than the notorious rake that the ton gossips about. He deeply loves his family and his honor is very important to him. But in the end Lauren insists on keeping her word and breaking off the engagement at summer's end.

The secondary characters of Lauren and Kit's families were drawn with Balogh's deft touch. You could feel their love and concern for Kit and Lauren even though some of them were at odds with the couple. The love of family is a very strong current running throughout the story.

I can safely say this is still a keeper and makes me want to re-read all my Balogh books. I would highly recommend Mary Balogh and A Summer to Remember. The prequel, One Night for Love, I remember as being very good also but it isn't necessary to read it before A Summer to Remember. Mary Balogh's extensive backlist can be found on her website.

Rating: A