Thursday, September 29, 2011

ARC Review: Animal Attraction

Animal Attraction
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance
Animal Magnetism/Book 2
Berkley/October 4, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Jade Bennett couldn't be happier to escape her past for the quiet ranching town of Sunshine, Idaho. Plus, there's nothing like working for veterinarian Dell Connelly. And though Dell has no intention of settling down, Jade's strength and sass are enticements no red-blooded male can resist.

Yes! We're back in Sunshine, Idaho where three very sexy brothers live. After reading Brady and Lilah story (Animal Magnetism), I was left wanting to know more about Brady's foster brothers Dell and Adam. It seems obvious that there is an attraction between Dell and Jade but something is keeping them apart.

Jade Bennett doesn't look the part of a receptionist at an animal clinic. She is far too sophisticated in her pleated pants, high heels and sweaters. But she doesn't mind getting cat hair on her designer clothes as long as she can wield her spreadsheets and keep the office under controlled chaos. I really loved how she is portrayed. She's not easy for other characters to get to know, sharing only bits and pieces of her life but never really letting anyone get too close. Her stay in Sunshine was always suppose to be temporary even though we see how she is, in spite of herself, making a life there. I liked how we see her slowly start to open up with Dell, making him want to get to know her even though he knows she's leaving.

Dell Connelly is such a wonderful, wounded hero. He loves animals and loves his job as a veterinarian. He also lusts after women but only on a short term basis. Dell is a hero controlled by his past. He grew up with very little stability and went through very tough times before finding an adult he could depend on. He only lets a select few get close and doesn't do long term relationships when it comes to women. I love when the hero insists he doesn't want to get serious with any woman but you can see him doing exactly that. Then he keeps telling himself and anyone who will listen that he doesn't do serious relationships. Dell is that guy! It was wonderful to see him fall head over heels in love with Jade.

The romance is this dance of two steps forward and one step back, leaving Jade and Dell wanting what they think they can't have. Jade has made promises to leave Sunshine and go back home and Dell doesn't want to be the one to stand in her way. I understood Dell's reasoning but man I wanted him to just tell her what he felt in the worst way! I thought how Jade's fears concerning the event that drove her to Sunshine were handled well. I found her reactions to situations believable based on her past trauma. I also loved how Dell didn't push Jade but let her know that he was there for her. Their sparing sessions were fun and sexy with Dell teaching Jade how to defend herself and kick some ass. They have their friendship as a basis to build on which made their romance that much stronger and convincing.

The setting of the clinic and Sunshine itself, make for a wonderful backdrop to Jade and Dell's romance. The animal characters add their own unique humor and charm to the story. The bonus of seeing Brady, Lilah and Adam again only adds to the overall feel of friendship and family. It never got too sugary sweet. That wouldn't happen with these guys, especially the way Dell and Adam tease and torment each other. They're such guys when it comes to showing affection but it comes through very strongly how much they close these brothers are.

Shalvis has a way of writing that is not only entertaining but makes you believe in these characters and want them to find happiness. Adam's book is next and I can't wait! This is a witty, sexy, romantic series filled with passionate alpha males and the women who show them loving someone is worth the risks.

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

Animal Magnetism
Animal Attraction (October 4, 2011)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Archangel's Blade

Archangel's Blade
Nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance
Guild Hunter/Book 4
Berkley/September 6, 2011

From Goodreads ~

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past...but Dmitri's need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel's right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality...the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting...and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more...

In the fourth full-length book of the series we get a marked change in the protagonists. Raphael and Elena are out of the country leaving Dmitri in charge of the Tower. I've been curious about the dark, brooding vampire. He's perceived as being cold and cruel, the humanity long gone from him. But we know he can't be all that and still be a romance hero. There is a dark history to Dmitri that explains so much of his remoteness.

Honor has been hiding from the outside world. She's been living at the Guild, keeping close to the one place where she feels some sense of safety. But it's time she gets out and back to work. She's given an assignment at the Tower and ordered to report to Dmitri. This is where Honor shows not only courage but sheer guts. She was tortured by vamps for two months and Dmitri is the vampire other vampires fear. This is where my emotions engaged, feeling a protectiveness towards Honor.

Dmitri is determined to keep this cold shell around him but I do think we see little cracks in the armor. Whenever he is talking to Raphael we can see a bond that goes beyond their working relationship into camaraderie and a deep respect and friendship. I liked that Dmitri didn't suddenly become this sweet, docile being once he accepted Honor's love and compassion. He stayed true to his nature but opened up and brought her into the small circle of beings he cares about.

The two external challenges Dmitri and Honor face are finding out who is leaving bodies for Dmitri to find and who was involved in Honor's kidnapping and torture. It's a matter of both Dmitri and Honor facing their ghosts. I liked how they each encouraged each other, Dmitri's method may have been harsher but it got the job done. Honor isn't timid when dealing with Dmitri, which worked. Had she been cowering in a corner half the time I don't see how Dmitri could have developed any respect for her let alone love.

The ending is where I had a problem. In trying to keep this spoiler free, I won't go into details but the secret of how Honor was able to connect with Dmitri and help him break out of that coldness that surrounded him didn't work for me. I felt let down and couldn't help but wonder if this had not been the case, would Dmitri still have fallen for Honor?

I don't know who the hero and heroine will be in the next full length novel or if Raphael and Elena will take center stage again. I'm kind of hoping they keep to the background a little longer since there are a few secondary character I would like to see more of. I do like this series, although it took me far longer to get into than Singh's Psy/Changeling series. It doesn't have the full power to completely suck me in just yet.

Rating: B

Books in this series ~

Angel's Pawn (special e-book prequel)
Angel's Blood
Archangel's Kiss
Angel's Judgement (novella in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology)
Archangel's Consort
Archangel's Blade
Angel's Wolf (novella in the Angel's of Darkness anthology)
Angel's Flight (3 previously released novellas, 1 new/March 2012)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ARC Review: Bad Boys Do

Bad Boys Do
Victoria Dahl
Contemporary Romance
Donovan Brothers/Book 2
Harlequin/September 27, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Olivia Bishop is no fun. That's what her ex-husband said. And that's what her smart bob and glasses imply. So with her trademark determination, Olivia sets out to remake her life. She's going to spend time with her girlfriends and not throw it all away for some man. But when an outing with her book club leads her to a brewery taproom, the dark-haired beauty realizes that trouble—in the form of sexy Jamie Donovan—may be too tempting to avoid.

Jamie Donovan doesn't mean to be bad. Sure, the wild streak in his wicked green eyes has lured the ladies before. Now it's time to grow up. He's even ready for a serious romance. But how can that be when Olivia, the only right woman he has ever met, already has him pegged as wrong?

The second book in Dahl's newest contemporary series features a sexy as hell, kilt wearing ladies man as our hero. But is he really the irresponsible modern day rake that everyone thinks he is? Not by a long shot. Jamie is getting a chance to tell his story and show his siblings (I'm looking at you Eric) that he is far more than just a sexy man in a kilt.

Olivia Bishop is thirty-five years old. That thought is most prevalent in her mind when she finds herself attracted to Jamie Donovan. Olivia has a hang up about her age when compared to young Jamie's twenty-nine years. Did she dwell on it a little too much? Yep. Did it bug me? Not too much but I don't see six years as a big difference. Olivia is an intelligent, successful woman but her split with an ass of an ex left her doubting her value. So it made sense that she would focus on the age difference as her reason for not getting serious with Jamie. Between that and Jamie's rep, Olivia tried to convince herself that it was just a fling. A very satisfying fling that wouldn't lead to anything serious. I thought Dahl did a good job explaining Olivia's fixation on the age difference and showed how Olivia was able to finally look past the numbers to the man she had fallen in love with.

Jamie Donovan loves women and women love him but it doesn't end with that. Sure he's had his share of physical relationships/one-night-stands/quickies. Whatever you call them, Jamie is ready to move on from those and into something deeper. You can see it in his actions, how he still welcomes, smiles and gives attention to his female customers but there is so much more going on behind that gorgeous smile of his. How he wants to be treated as more than just eye candy, asking his sister to stop with the tweets that encourage the women to fondle, grope and kiss him. When Jamie meets Olivia he knows she is different. I think that difference both scared and intrigued him, he wasn't sure how to treat her. Jamie is smart and he learns quickly, realizing Olivia is someone special.

Olivia and Jamie start their relationship acting on the mutual physical attraction. It becomes more than that for both which has Olivia panicked and Jamie deciding he wants more than just casual. Jamie is truly trying to change his ways and pursue what is important to him which is expanding the family business. Olivia helps him, realizing he has some great ideas. It's Jamie's siblings that need convincing and that's where I felt Jamie totally won me over. The treatment he endured from his siblings Eric (the ass) and Tessa made me feel so bad for Jamie. He's trying to be more responsible and they won't let him. Jamie showed a lot of restraint and maturity with Eric. Eric did reluctantly come around but I think a 2 x 4 would have been more effective (and more satisfying!).

In case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly fond of Eric. I did like him in the novella Just One Taste, so there is hope. Dahl has her work cut out to turn this ass of a brother into hero material but if anyone can do it, I believe she can.

I loved how Jamie and Olivia get to know each other through late night phone calls. And how Jamie finally opens up about what happened when his parents died. You can't help but feel overwhelming sympathy for him and everything he's been through. It's easy to see that Olivia is good for Jamie but he also has much to give in return. It was good that Dahl didn't give Jamie all the sexual power in the relationship and Olivia all the intellectual power but brought a nice balance of both between the two. There is a whole lot of heat going on between Olivia and Jamie. My goodness can Dahl write the steam. It's classy steam with a taste of naughty thrown in making for some very erotic scenes.

This is a contemporary series that keeps getting better. The relationships between the three Donovan siblings continue to change and progress. Jamie and Olivia, for all their surface differences, have real chemistry that was a pleasure seeing developing into far more than either imagined. Definitely recommend this series!

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Just One Taste (prequel novella in The Guy Next Door anthology)
Good Girls Don't
Bad Boys Do
Real Men Will (November 2011/Eric)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TBR Challenge Review: Doubleblind

Ann Aguirre
Romantic Science Fiction
Sirantha Jax/Book 3
ACE/September 29, 2009

*Spoilers for Previous Books
*Highly recommend reading in order

From the back cover ~

Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.

And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope.

Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…

I've had this book since its release nearly two years ago. I do remember starting it then putting it down. It had to do with the slower pace and lack of fight scenes. I had become accustomed to Jax, March and the gang getting into some serious trouble and fighting their way out of it. I'm thankful I gave Doubleblind another try because it was certainly worth it. This time, the fighting is there but on a mental level that tests Jax's abilities just as much, if not more, than jumping through grimspace and kicking ass.

Time for another road trip, this time to Bugland, home of the creatures of Ithiss-Tor. Bugs. But these are not bugs from our world. These bugs are highly intelligent, dangerous and real snobs when it comes to humans. They think humans are savages, beneath them. So it's up to Jax to form an alliance which is odd in itself since Jax isn't what you would call diplomatic. She's really out of her element which I think made her try that much harder. I loved seeing this side of Jax. Not only her ability to think quickly but she was also dealing with the fallout of March's breakdown and subsequently emotional shut down. Jax is walking a thin line between the two, giving the story the tension I craved.

The relationships in Jax's world are complex. None more so than her's and Vel's. Vel is one of the Bugs but he left Ithiss-Tor in disgrace many turns ago. He's different than others from his home planet. He doesn't look down on humans, not choosing to limit his small circle of associates. Vel is one of the very few Jax trusts and that's saying a lot since they first met when he was a bounty hunter and she was his prey. They've come a long way and I'm glad Aguirre didn't limit Jax to only the one important male relationship with March but gave her this deep friendship with Vel.

As the story progressed, I became quite interested in the outcome of Jax's diplomatic mission. You couldn't tell which way it would turn out since someone was committed to sabotaging the mission and it would go from looking positive to possible imprisonment for the gang. The relationship of Jax and March mirrored the diplomatic mission, with Jax making progress with March only to suffer a setback. I loved how Jax refused to give up on March. If their roles had been reversed, he would have done the same.

The ending of Doublind I will say left me relieved that Killbox, the next book in the series is sitting on my TBR pile. I have a feeling there will be more than enough action waiting for me in the next installment of this uniquely entertaining series.

Rating: B+

Books in this series ~

Endgame (September 2012)

Monday, September 19, 2011

ARC Review: A Night to Surrender

A Night to Surrender
Tessa Dare
Historical Romance
Spindle Cove/Book 1
Avon/August 30, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Welcome to Spindle Cove, where the ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are . . . nowhere to be found.

Or are they?

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men; it is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters . . . and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch—a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

My first Tessa Dare novel and what a joy it was! Dare has such a lovely, amusing voice, it was easy to be pulled into the world of Spindle Cove. A Night to Surrender is not just a beautifully written story about two people falling in love but also about a town embracing the misfits who deserve love just as much as anyone else.

It all started with the sheep. Then the explosion happened. Then they were in each others arms. It isn't exactly how Susanna Finch expected to meet her future husband and at the time she looked upon him as more of an annoyance than hero material. But Susanna is an intelligent woman who knows a good thing when she sees it. Susanna isn't a typical woman of her time. She practically runs Spindle Cove, the haven she's created for young girls and women who don't fit society's idea of acceptable. Susanna is an organized leader of her band of misfits. She's a unique heroine of her time in that she doesn't let Bram intimidate her, standing up to him while still offering her compassion towards him. She's a fixer and she wants to fix Bram.

Victor Bramwell, a lieutenant colonel in the British army, wants only to return to the war. He was injured, forcing him to spend time in England but now he's ready to head back. First he must secure the assistance of Sir Lewis Finch, Susanna's father. Sir Lewis has influence with the Prince Regent and Bram is hoping that will get him back with his regiment. Sir Lewis has other plans and Bram finds himself in charge of forming a local militia. Bram's hero-ness is stretched to the limit when he has few men to choose from and finds a lovely distraction in Susanna. I liked that Bram never lied to Susanna, he never pretends that he wants to stay in Spindle Cove - he still plans to return to his regiment.

Susanna and Bram have an instant physical attraction but I couldn't see them being together in the long term. Susanna is such a part of Spindle Cove and Bram is a soldier born. But as the story progressed, I could see them together. They don't always agree on topics but do develop a grudging respect for each others accomplishments. That, along with the physical attraction gives them a believable basis for a relationship. I do like how Susanna turns her nurturing instincts on Bram. He is is desperate need of nurturing, having had little care or kindness in his life. He in turn gets Susanna to release her adventurous side. Bram can get very alpha/caveman but in a way that is sexy, not irritating. So it turns out they are a good fit after all!

The village of Spindle Cove plays an important role in the story, giving Susanna confidence and Bram mostly headaches. It's the backdrop to their conflicts, with secondary characters lending a hand at either bringing Bram and Susanna together or trying to keep them apart. There is plenty of drama and comedy to ride alongside the romance with a few heroes and heroines in the making.

The pace of the story was a pleasant surprise in that it went fairly quickly. Usually, I have a tendency to read historical romances at a slower pace but I read A Night to Surrender a little over a day and on a very busy weekend no less! The romance is clever with Bram and Susanna giving an almost Tracy/Hepburn feel with their banter. A truly delightful romance. I only wish we didn't have to wait until next year for a return trip to Spindle Cove.

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

A Night to Surrender
A Week to Be Wicked (March 2012)
Untitled (Fall 2012)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

August Reads ...

I don't know where August went. It was here, then gone in a blink. Hot. Busy. Hot. Busy. That seemed to be the theme for August. Good time to stay inside and read.

Those are solar flares in the picture above. I think I can say I know how it feels. Surface of the sun - Phoenix, Arizona. Not much difference in August.


1. Attachments: A Novel/Rainbow Rowell/Contemporary/A-
2. Shift/Jeri Smith-Ready/YA/A-
3. Chasing Perfect/Susan Mallery/Contemporary/C
4. Almost Perfect/Susan Mallery/Comtemporary/C+
5. Delicious/Susan Mallery/Comtemporary/C+
6. Retribution/Sherrilyn Kenyon/PNR/C

As you can see, I went on a Susan Mallery binge which I've continued into September. I like certain parts of her stories but so far none have blown me away. The Kenyon was simply okay. I kept having a sense of deja vue. It felt like it was the same basic plot as the last few, only with the names changed.

Print/Electronic Books

1. Summer at Seaside Cover/Jacquie D'Alessandro/Contemporary/A
2. Kiss of Snow/Nalini Singh/PNR/A
3. Tempted/Elisabeth Naughton/PNR/A
4. Deeper than Midnight/Lara Adrian/PNR/B+
5. Good Girls Don't/Victoria Dahl/Contemporary/B+
6. Making Waves/Tawna Fenske/Contemporary/B+
7. Summer's Crossing/Julie Kagawa/YA Fantasy/B+
8. No Proper Lady/Isabel Cooper/Time Travel/B
9. Hexed/Kevin Hearne/UF/B-
10. Deadline/Mira Grant/Dystopian/C
11. Midnight Man/Lisa Marie Rice/RS/C

The Numbers

Contemporary ~ 3
Dystopian ~ 1
PNR ~3
Romantic Suspense ~ 1
Time Travel ~ 1
Urban Fantasy ~ 1
YA ~ 1


Print ~ 9
E-Book ~ 1

Well, I'm not sure how it happened, but I managed to review all the print/e-books I read in August. The fact that it's already mid September might have something to do with it. LOL That's okay, I'll take it. :) I've been trying to write the reviews within a day or so of finishing the book but that doesn't always happened. When it does, it seems like the writing comes quicker. Always a plus!

How's September looking for everyone? Good I hope!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Atlantis Betrayed

Atlantis Betrayed
Alyssa Day
Paranormal Romance
Warriors of Poseidon/Book 6
Berkley/September 7, 2010

From the back cover ~

A Warrior's Mission. A Woman's Desire...

What could Christophe, powerful Warrior of Poseidon, have in common with Fiona Campbell, the notorious jewel thief known as the Scarlet Ninja? Answer: The Siren, a legendary Crown Jewel that Fiona has targeted for her next heist. It's said to be worth millions, but to Christophe it's invaluable. For the Siren also happens to be one of the missing jewels from Poseidon's trident.

And The Unnatural Evil That Could Destroy Them Both.

But breaking into the Tower of London is a two-person job, and Christophe and Fiona must team up to commit the crime of the century. As new found passions fire their motive - and cloud their judgement - they realize they aren't the only ones after the priceless gem. A dark force is shadowing their every move and threatening to shatter their trust with revenge, betrayal, and a haunting revelation about the past.

Confession time: I only read this book because I wanted to read Vampire in Atlantis and I have a real hard time skipping books in series. I wasn't expecting to like this, it was more a read it so I could move on to the book that I really wanted to read. Boy was I in for a very pleasant surprise! I loved Christophe and Fiona! So far, they are my favorite couple of this series.

Christophe has a fuck it attitude and a big chip on his shoulder to go with it. He doesn't care about saving humanity but since that's what the warrior are sworn to do, he does it, if with reluctance. I didn't feel like I knew Christophe very well prior to reading Atlantis Betrayed. He seemed to stay in the background. It turns out that's were he likes to be. Christophe has a darkness from his past that colors his views of the world. I like that he's not exactly likable. You can see glimpses of his potential goodness - he just needs someone to unlock it. Then, Fiona comes along.

Lady Fiona is my kind of heroine. She's smart, loving and ballsy when needed but still manages to be a lady when it's called for. She's an interesting mix of proper lady and crusader. She's a thief that gives to the needy, looking out for those who need help. When she runs in to Christophe is friction and fire between these two. They don't waste more than a day before they get busy between the sheets. That surprised me but Fiona and Christophe both justify their quick turn in the sheets with the "it's just sex" and "I needed it really bad" logic. LOL Where have we heard that before? There is a lot of wickedly humorous banter between the two making for some amusing scenes.

There is one scene where Fiona uses her special ability while she and Christophe are getting hot and heavy on a balcony in Atlantis. It's sexy and funny and I'm so glad the author went there. No spoilers so you'll just have to read the book. :)

So the thief and the warrior have the same goal but for different reasons. Fiona wants the sword, containing The Siren to sell, Christophe wants it for Poseidon's Trident. The missing stones of the Trident need to be found before Atlantis can rise again. They're not the only ones after the Siren. The competition is fierce with the the Unseelie Fae and vampires getting involved. The action and romance are well balanced in this story, giving plenty of steam between Fiona and Christophe along with ample amounts of fighting, running and hiding to keep the plot moving.

The two secondary characters introduced in Atlantis Betrayed stood out for me. Fiona has a brother, Declan who is a computer geek extraordinaire with an exuberance for life while still holding onto a bit of innocence. He was such fun to read not only his interactions with Fiona and seeing their close relationship but also the friendship he and Christophe develop. Then there is Hopkins, Fiona's butler. But he is so much more than a butler. He keeps his composure in all and any crisis, offering tea when anyone else would be running for the door. You can see how much Fiona relies on him and how they are as close as father and daughter.

Atlantis Betrayed not only proved a highly entertaining story, it moved the series arc along quite nicely. The other warriors and their mates are still an integral part of the fight so I liked that they still maintain their importance. The vampires continue to escalate their plans to take over but they have to get past the Warriors and their allies. It should be interesting to see how the different fractions come to together to fight their common enemy.

Rating: A-

Books in this series ~

Atlantis Rising
Atlantis Awakening
Wild Hearts in Atlantis (Wild Thing anthology)
Atlantis Unleashed
Atlantis Unmasked
Shifter's Lady (Shifter anthology)
Atlantis Redeemed
Atlantis Betrayed
Vampire in Atlantis
Heart of Atlantis (May 1, 2012)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Outside In

Outside In
Maria V. Snyder
Young Adult/Science Fiction
Insider/Book 2
Harlequin Teen/March 1, 2011
Spoilers for Inside Out

From Goodreads ~

A Leader?
Okay, I did prove that there's more to Inside than we knew. That a whole world exists beyond this cube we live in. And finding that led to a major rebellion - between worker scrubs like me and the snobby uppers who rule our world. Make that ruled. Because of me, we're free. I thought that meant I was off the hook, and could go off on my own again - while still touching base with Riley, of course. He's the one upper I think I can trust. But then we learned that there's outside and then there is Outside. And something from Outside wants In.

If Trella thought the rebellion was hard, she had no idea that what came after would be just as difficult. The aftermath of a rebellion, the overthrowing of the current leadership, may get rid of problems but it also creates new ones. Leadership is still needed and determining that leadership can be tricky with different fractions having different beliefs and needs. Not everyone thinks things are better and getting the uppers and the scrubs to work together is going to take a lot more than simply changing who's in charge.

Trella didn't want to be a leader but she found herself thrust into the role when friends old and new, needed help against the rulers of Inside. Now that the rebellion is over she's ready to go back to keeping to the shadows, or the ducts while continuing her relationship with Riley. Instead, she is still looked to for advice and assistance. Part of Trella's reluctance to get more involved and take a role as a leader in the new society is her lack of confidence in her decisions and her fear that she might cause injury or death to someone she cares about. She still feels guilt for the arrest and death of her good friend Cog. Trella's reluctance is accurate since prior to the rebellion, she kept to herself, having few friends and fewer allies.

It doesn't matter what Trella wants, she finds herself right in the middle of what looks to be sabotage and is caught up in finding who is behind the destruction. This is when things begin to pick up. Prior to that, it was more of a recap of what happened in the first book, which is helpful if a bit slow. As Trella hits the ducts again discovering conspiracies and threats to her world, she begins to question who she can trust. Here's where we see again Trella's lack of confidence in her judgement. She's only 17 1/2 years old and was trained to clean the ducts not deal with political intrigue. I can see how she would begin to question everyone's motives but she stops trusting her instincts and trusting her instincts is one thing that the Trella from the first book did.

The relationship between Trella and Riley goes through some rough times. I was surprised that we didn't see more of them working together since they meshed so well in the first book. Their romance is definitely a sub-plot so don't expect there to be much from that front. Trella is pulled in so many directions from her conflicts with Jacy and his gang, to Doctor Lamont, who may or may not be Trella's mother, to Bubba Boom and his crush on her, to Anne-Jade and Logan. There are a lot of distinct relationships that Trella finds herself in. None really had much depth and I didn't feel like I got to know any of the characters very well except for Trella.

The pacing through most of the book is fairly quick with little down time. Trella jumps from one crisis to the next with a few stops for imprisonment and torture. There are some questions left from the first book that are answered here but there are also more questions brought to light with the threats that Trella and the other Insiders must face down. I look forward to seeing what comes next in this YA sci-fi series.

Rating: B

Books in this series ~

Inside Out
Outside In

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ARC Review: No Proper Lady

No Proper Lady
Isabel Cooper
Historical Romance/Time Travel
Sourcebooks/September 1, 2011

From Goodreads ~

England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and in 200 years demons will destroy it all. Unless Joan, a rough-around-the-edges assassin from the future, can take out the dark magician responsible. But to get close to her target she'll need help learning how to fit into society.

Simon has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell, and Joan may be his perfect revenge. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants her anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn't in it.

I love the premise of this story. It's one that we don't see too often. The heroine going back in time to save her world. This time around our heroine is the alpha, the kick-ass, weapon wielding time traveler who has a lot to learn about 1888 London. Simon Grenville is more than happy to show her how to fit in, along with a few other exciting things.

Joan's world is a harsh, bleak land of destruction with little hope of survival. We don't see much of it, mostly in Joan's thoughts and what she tells Simon and his sister Eleanor. It's not a place you would ever want to go but it's home and it's all Joan knows. It's also where her family is but at this point she doesn't know if they're still alive. Even with the responsibility of her world surviving, Joan holds a vitality of life that is surprising considering where she came from. I think it's what gives her the ability to enjoy the little things that many take for granted and overlook. She's a complex character, having to leave everything she knows and everyone she loves behind to attempt to stop a powerful man who might very well kill her. I liked her a great deal, she's very straight forward with no patience for fools.

Magic is a very big part of Joan and Simon's world. It's magic that takes Joan back in time and it's magic that has caused such destruction in the future. Simon is quite familiar with various sorts of magic, having studied it for many years. So he's not exactly surprised when Joan tells him that she comes from the future. It's what she's come back to do that surprises him. Simon is a proper gentleman who leads a secret life filled with magic. He's a decent beta hero, using his powers when needed and offering support and guidance to Joan but ultimately it's Joan who is in charge.

The plot brings not only Joan in contact with Simon but also has Joan forming a friendship with Simon's sister Eleanor. The relationship between Joan and Eleanor lets us see how Joan's life has been lacking in anything we would consider nice or frivolous. She's been trained to be an assassin, not attend balls and take tea in the afternoon. I liked how Joan tried to fit in to the London society but still maintain her independence and continues to rely on her training.

The romance is not at all a conventional romance with Joan posing as a widow from America and trying to get close to one of Simon's colleagues. Joan and Simon keep their potentially doomed romance in secret. Joan isn't what Simon is accustomed to when it comes to ladies. She is bold and experienced, she doesn't play coy but tells Simon what she wants. I think he really enjoyed that side of Joan! Joan doesn't expect to live long so she's making the most of the time she has with Simon. They fit well together even though they're from strikingly different worlds. They have their knowledge of magic and science in common. And a very strong mutual attraction.

The pacing is where I had the main problem. It's fairly slow, having Joan turn from a dangerous predator to a woman of fashion and decorum left me a bit bored at times. There are few action scenes until near the end. Joan spends more time learning and using her training in decorum instead of kicking ass. The antagonist and the man Joan is after did made things more interesting. He's very wicked and has no morals to get in his way.

No Proper Lady is an intriguing story with part My Fair Lady and part Sarah Connor (T2 version). I would have liked more action and more on Joan's family. Still, it was a good way to spend a few hours. I do hope we see more stories from Ms. Cooper, possibly in this same world.

Rating: B

Monday, September 12, 2011

Audio Review: Attachments: A Novel

Attachments: A Novel
Rainbow Rowell
Dutton/April 14, 2011

From Goodreads ~

Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office email. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can’t seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.

When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he thought it was a big opportunity. He hardly imagined he’d be sifting through other people’s inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company email, but he can’t quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can’t help but be entertained – and captivated – by their stories.

But by the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you.” After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it’s time to muster the courage to follow his heart… he can’t see exactly where it’s leading him.

Written with whip-smart precision and charm, Attachments is a strikingly clever and deeply romantic debut that is sure to earn a place in the hearts of readers alongside such memorable novels by Jennifer Weiner, Claire Cook, and Marian Keyes.

After reading Ames' review of Attachments: A Novel, I knew I wanted to check out this quirky novel. It turns out the library had it in both print and audio download. Since the print version required me to request it, I decided to go with the audio. You know how we'll say "I couldn't put it down" when referring to a good book? Well, in this case I couldn't stop listening. It was amusing, sweet, cute and even had a few sad moments. It also felt very real. As if you could add -'Based on a true story' to the title. I think it could make for a good date night movie too!

The story is told in the point of view of Lincoln and through the emails of Jennifer and Beth. At first I wasn't sure how this would work as far as the flow of the story. Would it be jarring to move from emails to Lincoln's current POV? It turns out it worked just fine with the emails about Jennifer and Beth giving plenty of insight into their lives and letting the reader get to know these two friends. It didn't feel like Lincoln was being a peeping Tom or invasive when it came to reading the emails. Heck, I would have had a hard time not reading them had I been in his shoes.

As Lincoln continues to read the women's emails, we get to know what Lincoln's home and social life are like. Oh, boy is this guy stuck in a never ending cycle of D & D and mama's home cooking. Lincoln wants to escape, you can feel it, but he doesn't know how and needs that push to make him take the jump. Lincoln is an intelligent man but unsure of how to use that intelligence. He's been doing the same thing for years and has a difficult time getting out of his comfort zone. Reading the emails puts him out of that zone and into a whole other world of women and relationships. He sees it as if from an observation room but as time passes, he wants to experience it.

The emails between Jennifer and Beth are far longer than any emails I ever sent at work. They know they emails are monitored but don't really care, figuring they're monitored for illegal activity and not women discussing sex, weddings, babies and men. You can tell they have a close relationship based on how personal the emails are. They give advice, comfort, cheer and a good does of reality when it's needed. They were very funny, with both women giving those quick jabs of sarcasm that only good friends know how to give with out truly pissing you off.

There were a few points when the dialogue between Lincoln and his friends and family became repetitive with "he said" and "she said". At those points I was looking forward to getting back to the emails. Lincoln does come off as a bit of a wimp in the beginning and I would have liked to give him a kick in the ass for being so complacent with his life.

It may not feel like a traditional romance novel, and it's not. But there is a romance in there, it's just buried under the need for both parties to come to the point where they're ready for a romance. I do think that if you are hoping for a lot of romance, this isn't it. It's much more about Lincoln discovering what he wants to do with his life and taking the steps to make it happen. Him falling in love with a woman through her emails, which are not even to him, is secondary.

On a personal note: I could relate to so much of what happens in this book. It takes place in 1999/2000 when people were worried about the computers crashing and the end of the world as we know it. (thanks REM) I worked in the IT department at the time and it was very anti-climatic when nothing happened. LOL There's talk about games like D & D (Dungeons & Dragons)which my husband still has his dice and Axis and Allies which we also still have. (We really are geeks!) There's also mention of Pikachu who I just happen to do a very good impression of. :)

Attachments is a humorous look at life with well developed characters and an interesting plot. It's definitely worth the listen or read.

Rating: A-

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: Forever

Maggie Stiefvater
Young Adult Paranormal
Wolves of Mercy Falls/Book 3
Scholastic/July 12, 2011

*Spoilers for previous books*

From the inside cover ~


When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from a curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.


That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.


Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

The final installment to this fascinating trilogy. When I started reading Forever I had a difficult time getting into it, knowing it was the last time I would read about these characters. (I'm still hoping for more books). I read a few pages then put it down. Once I did finally allow myself to read it, it went very quickly. There are some slow points to the story when I couldn't help but think "come on guys, you don't have much time" since that bastard Tom Culpepper was on the hunt again. But other than a few slow moments, the story arc continued, giving Grace and Sam a sort of happy ending.

Sam is holding on, barely. He's lost without Grace and he doesn't know when he'll see her again, if he'll see her again. Their positions have shifted with Grace the wolf and Sam the possibly cured human. Sam is questioning his position in life. He no longer has the pack to give him that sense of place but being human without Grace has left him adrift. I liked that Sam didn't slide easily into his human role but struggles with it. If he had made the adjustment easily, it would have lessened the importance of his wolf. Sam's wolf is still with him, under the surface, dormant until the right trigger occurs.

Grace is not the girl we first met in Shiver. She still has some of the same characteristics but she has also made some changes, and not just the fury kind. She's becoming less concerned with what her parents think of her and with trying to please them. She's always been portrayed as being mature for her age but now she's taken that maturity and used it to help herself and the people closest to her. I like how she's become the adult Grace and left the insecure Grace behind.

Cole is playing mad scientist, turning Beck's house into his chaotic lab. Cole's experiments are dangerous with possible fatal outcomes. Cole uses himself as the guinea pig with his usual recklessness. He's not this pampered rock star anymore but has morphed into a man driven by desperation to find the cause of the werewolf virus. I loved when Cole was on the page. He could be harsh and impulsive but it didn't come from being self-centered but rather from his need to know and to prove to his father that he could do this, could be more than a irresponsible rock star. Cole definitely brought a much needed edge to the story.

Isabel is the only one of the main four characters that is not a werewolf. That doesn't mean that she doesn't play an important role in the lives of Sam, Grace and Cole. She's still has an odd relationship with Cole. In another world where things were normal, they might have dated but in the world of Mercy Falls there is not room for normal. Still, I liked Isabel's role and how she finally stopped worrying about the consequences of her actions, how it would affect her, and did the right thing.

We learn more about Cole and Sam's backgrounds and what got them to this point in their lives. We also learn more of both of their relationships with Beck and how each saw Beck. There is something similar to sibling rivalry between these two when it comes to Beck. I found the dynamics of the four (Sam, Grace, Cole & Isabel) interesting in how they worked together towards a single purpose, setting aside any distrust or hurt they might have felt. It made the story far more interesting than having them cheerfully working together towards that goal.

As this is the final book in the trilogy, it didn't have that feeling of finality. It felt more like the end of a season, with a long wait until the return. I hope there are more books about these characters, there are certainly more stories to be told about them. I would say Forever gave us a for now ending with the potential for more.

Rating: B+

Books in the Trilogy


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Soldier on Her Doorstep

Soldier on Her Doorstep
Soraya Lane
Contemporary Romance
Harlequin/July 2011

From the back cover ~

One knock at her door will change her life forever...

Soldier Alex Dane promised his dying comrade he'd make sure his wife and daughter were okay, and so he finds himself on a doorstep with his heart in his mouth.

Lisa Kennedy loved her husband, but she must focus on her daughter, Lilly, who hasn't spoken since her daddy's death. Still, the least she can do is offer this battle-weary hero a place to rest.

When Lilly's little hand reaches for Alex's big, strong one, for the first time Lisa feels her buried emotions begin to stir...

When you have a heroine who was deeply in love with her husband and has been widowed for a matter of months, it can be tricky to have her fall in love again and make it believable. I did believe in Lisa's love for Alex by the end, and while she had her moments of missing William, the conflict she felt at falling in love with Alex felt very minimal. Which would have been fine but I couldn't help but think it had only been months since William died. Yes, he had been overseas for months prior to that but still...

Lisa Kennedy knew there could come a day when her husband William might not make it home. It still didn't make it any easier when she found out that William had been killed overseas while serving in the army. It's been months since his death and Lisa and her six year old daughter Lilly are trying to move on with their lives in Alaska. The way Lisa is portrayed you can tell she loved William very much and still does. But she understands that loving him doesn't mean she can't someday love another man. She's just not ready for it, instead concentrating on helping her daughter speak again. Lisa's reactions and thoughts were realistic for her situation but I was surprised at how quickly she fell for Alex. I did like that she's practical about it and I think that had to do with her being in love before and still believing in love. She could have become cynical and depressed but instead she continues to try to keep a positive outlook, if not for herself, then for Lilly.

Alex Dane is just passing through to fulfilling a promise. But instead of a quick stop, he ends up staying for a few weeks. Alex would be the last one to call himself a hero but that's what he becomes in the eyes of Lisa and Lilly. The way the relationship between Alex and Lilly developed was critical because there was no way Lisa would ever fall for a man that Lilly didn't trust or feel comfortable with. In creating that relationship Lane allows for Lisa to have a relationship with Alex. With both these relationships, Alex shows little bits and pieces of himself, letting Lisa, Lilly and the reader get to know this solitary man.

The romance is there but it takes a while to develop which makes sense since neither character is ready to jump in, feet first, to love. The problem is, for a short book (187 pages) it moved at nearly a snail's pace. I kept waiting for something, although I'm not sure what, to happen. There is some conflict from Lisa's family, specifically her sister, but it didn't play a large role in the story. Alex's feelings of guilt are lifted after a serious talk with Lisa and Alex finally has a home to call his own.

Soldier on Her Doorstep was a sweet, if a bit slow, romance. The writing is easy to read even with what I thought might be regional terms but now I'm thinking they might be due to the fact that the author is from New Zealand. Whatever is the case, I'm looking forward to reading more from Ms. Lane.

Rating: B

Monday, September 5, 2011

Audio Review: Shift

Jeri Smith-Ready
Young Adult Fantasy
Shade Trilogy/Book 2
Simon Pulse/May 3, 2011

*Spoilers for Book 1*

From Goodreads ~

Aura’s life is anything but easy. Her boyfriend, Logan, died, and his slides between ghost and shade have left her reeling. Aura knows he needs her now more than ever. She loves Logan, but she can’t deny her connection with the totally supportive, totally gorgeous Zachary. And she’s not sure that she wants to.

Logan and Zachary will fight to be the one by her side, but Aura needs them both to uncover the mystery of her past—the mystery of the Shift.

As Aura’s search uncovers new truths, she must decide whom to trust with her secrets…and her heart.

Even though I put "Audio Review" in the title I actually both listened and read the book. Sometimes when listening I get impatient with the speed and in this case I also had the book so I switched between the two, reading when I could and listening when I was driving since reading is frowned upon when driving.

In the first book, Shade, we learn about the Shift that gave the younger generation the ability to see and hear ghosts. Aura was the first born after the shift and she not only sees ghosts, she talks to them and translates for them to those who can not see or hear them. After Aura's boyfriend Logan died he comes back as a ghost instead of crossing over to the other side. Aura is torn over her grief of Logan's death but still likes having him around, even if it's only in a ghostly form.

It's been 10 weeks since Aura last saw Logan, since he changed from ghost to a shade. She's the only one that has any hope that he'll change back to a ghost - being a shade is like turning to the darkside, you're not suppose to come back.

But Aura still waits for Logan. Aura is not in an enviable position. She loves Logan, will always love Logan, but he's dead and you can't really plan a future with a ghost. Zachary is very much alive and very much interested in Aura. The way it's written you would think Aura has to choose between the two but there isn't any real choice, it's more a matter of letting Logan go, and of course, Logan actually going. That's the sticking point.

Aura and Zachary find themselves together not only in school but outside of it. The time they spend together only creates a closer bond, showing how strong their feeling are becoming. As the story progresses, I couldn't help but feel that Aura and Zach make a good couple. Then Logan would reappear and throw the whole teenage love cycle out of whack. The reality is, Zach can't compete with a ghost and Aura can't continue to date a ghost. Something or someone has to give and Aura really shows her maturity when she makes some tough decisions.

I like how the trilogy is moving forward and how Aura's relationship with Zachary is developing. Both Aura and Zachary have reasons to discover what happened in the past and what caused them to be the ones born right before (Zach) and right after (Aura) the shift. They also have some typical teen drama to deal with in addition to ghostly boyfriends. Smith-Ready brings a lot of emotions into play without turning it into a teen soap opera. The intricacies of the world building are coming together and we learn more about Aura and Zachary's uniqueness but there are still some mysteries for the final installment.

If you haven't picked this trilogy up or if you like Ms. Smith-Ready's adult novels, you should give this a try.

Rating: A-

Books in the Trilogy ~

Shine (summer 2012)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

ARC Review: Tempted

Elisabeth Naughton
Paranormal Romance
Eternal Guardians/Book 3
Sourcebooks/September 6, 2011

*Spoilers for Previous Books*

From Goodreads ~

DEMETRIUS — He’s the hulking, brooding warrior his fellow Guardians avoid. Too dark. Too damaged. And given his heritage, he knows it’s best to keep everyone at arm’s length.

Isadora is missing. The words pounded through his head like a frantic drumbeat. For her own protection, Demetrius had done all he could to avoid the fragile princess, his soul mate. And now she was gone—kidnapped. To get her back, he’ll have to go to the black place in his soul he’s always shunned.

As daemons ravage the human realm and his loyalty to the Guardians is put to the ultimate test, Demetrius realizes that Isadora is stronger than anyone thought. And finally letting her into his heart may be the only way to save them both.

I've been looking forward to Isadora and Demetrius' book ever since I finished Entwined (book 2). Isadora intrigued me with her quiet, almost childlike disposition she displays to her father and the public while in private she is a very strong, very determined woman. Demetrius made me sit up and take notice when he so adamantly refused to wed Isadora when the king proposed the match, in Entwined. The dude would rather kill himself than wed her. Jeez, sure know how to break a woman's heart! I knew there had to be a good reason because while he's rough and gruff, he's not really an ass. Turns out Demetrius had a very good reason.

Princess Isadora, the only legitimate heir to the monarchy of Argolea, is to marry the Argonaut Zander. But at the last minute the king allows Zander to be with his soul mate Isadora's half-sister Callia. Which is good except Isadora can't enjoy her reprieve because she's been kidnapped. If anyone can survive kidnapping by crazy witches, it's Isadora. She has a great inner strength and intelligence that Naughton showcases through Isadora's words and actions. I liked how she doesn't back down to Demetrius even though he has to physically save her a few times. Thankfully, she's stubborn and ends up saving him too even though he doesn't think he's worth saving.

Demetrius is the biggest baddest Argonaut around. He really is the biggest, at almost 6'8 but baddest... Well, Zander wasn't exactly Mr. Light and Love but he has mellowed a little so we'll give Demetrius the title. Even with all his gruffness, I couldn't help but like him. He's suspicious of nearly everyone, especially Isadora, but he still protects her and gets jealous when he thinks she's been doing more than studying with Orpheus. Loved that we got to see that vulnerable side of Demetrius. There is so much more to this man than the rough, scarey exterior and it came through here.

The romance is not a sweet, gentle romance but fierce in the emotions both Isadora and Demetrius have. Demetrius wants nothing to do with Isadora but they are forced by circumstances to stay close while fighting off the threats that continue to come their way. Even though they've known each other for ages, they really don't know anything about each other. That all changes as they begin to talk and each opens up, surprising themselves with what they share with the other. Loved these two together!

The series is continuing to grow along with the characters. I liked how Naughton gives the hero and heroine plenty of time to work out their problems instead of making the problems magically disappear. And Isadora and Demetrius have a lot of problems. We get to catch up with the previous heroes and heroines and learn more about the other guardians who have yet to get their stories told. I never felt there were there merely for sequel bait but played an intimate role in the ongoing story. The action is consuming, with the Argonauts battling enemies from without and within. I love the twists and surprises Naughton has woven into the story. Edge of your seat moments leaving the reader wanting to know more about these characters.

Naughton has created a fascinating world, blending myths and legends into a reality where humans, daemons and Argonauts wage fierce battles with metal and magic. Tempted was an exciting adventure with my favorite hero and heroine so far. This series has a lot going for it. Enraptured can't come soon enough!

Rating: A

Books in this series ~

Enraptured (April 2012)