Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cover Love: ICED by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning posted the cover for her next release, ICED, on her Facebook page. She also included a quote from the book.

[Dani] I figure the folks that are the most interesting get to go to heaven. I mean, if I was God, that’s who I’d want there with me. I also figure being eternally happy would be eternally boring so I try not to be too interesting, even though it’s hard for me. I’d rather be a superhero in hell than an angel in heaven. What the feck would I do all day if I wasn’t kicking demon ass?

ICED is scheduled for release October 30, 2012. The full title is ICED: A Dani O'Malley Novel. Those of you who read the Fever series are familiar with Dani, who more or less disappeared at the end of Shadowfever. Now she's coming back and I find myself looking forward to reading more about Dani and what has happened to Dublin and the characters from the Fever series. I don't think anyone who read the Fever series is surprised with the spin-off series. There were still a lot of loose-ends at the end of Shadowfever. Now we get this new generation of heroines and heroes and I find I'm starting to really look forward to the release. I do hope we catch up with Mac and Barrons but keep Dani, Christian and Ryodan as the main focus. I've always liked Dani's character and after reading the teasers Ms. Moning has posted on her Facebook page, I'm excited to get back into the Fever world!

What about all of you? Do any of you plan to continue with the spin-off series?

Monday, March 26, 2012

ARC Review: Born to Darkness

Born to Darkness
Suzanne Brockmann
Futuristic Suspense
Fighting Destiny/Book 1
Ballantine/March 20, 2012

Dishonorably discharged, former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin is down to his last ten bucks when he finally finds work as a test subject at the Obermeyer Institute, a little-known and believed-to-be-fringe scientific research facility. When he enters the OI compound, he is plunged into a strange world where seemingly mild-mannered scientists--including women half his size--can kick his highly skilled ass.

Shane soon discovers that there are certain individuals who possess the unique ability to access untapped regions of the brain with extraordinary results-including telekinesis, super strength, and reversal of the aging process. Known as "Greater-Thans," this rare breed is recruited by OI, where they are rigorously trained using ancient techniques to cultivate their powers and wield them responsibly.

But in the depths of America's second Great Depression, where the divide between the haves and the have-nots has grown even wider, those who are rich--and reckless--enough have a quick, seductive alternative: Destiny, a highly addictive designer drug that can make anyone a Greater-Than, with the power of eternal youth. The sinister cartel known as The Organization has begun mass-producing Destiny, and the demand is growing. But few realize the drug's true danger, and fewer still know the dirty secret of Destiny's crucial ingredient.

Michelle "Mac" Mackenzie knows the ugly truth. And as one of the Obermeyer Institute's crack team of operatives, she's determined to end the scourge of Destiny. But her kick-ass attitude gets knocked for a loop when she discovers one of the new test subjects is the same smoldering stranger who just rocked her world in a one-night stand. And although Shane quickly discovers he isn't a Greater-Than like Mac, as an ex-SEAL, he's got talents of his own. But Mac's got powerful reasons to keep her distance from Shane-and reasons to want him close. She's used to risking her life, but now she faces sacrificing her heart in the ultimate war on drugs.

A long blurb for a long book. There is a lot going on in Suzanne Brockmann's new futuristic romantic suspense series. There are not one, not two but three romances taking place and while I didn't disliked all three couples, I never felt as though I knew any of them very well. There is also a lot of information to take in regarding the current status of the world and more specifically the Greater-Thans and the Less-Thans and the Obermeyer Institute's (OI) role in this new world.

First up we have Mac Mackenzie who is a very powerful Greater-Than. She hooks up with former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin one night in a bar. Mac has a hell of a lot of issues when it comes to men, not the least of is her ability to manipulate them to be attracted to her. She has some very cool powers but you definitely get the feeling she resents them. She doesn't believe a man could honestly be attracted to her but instead believes it must be her power to make them think they are. This makes it very difficult for Shane to get Mac to let him be more than anything but a casual sex partner.

Shane Laughlin thinks he got lucky when Mac picks him up in a bar. He sees her as this amazing woman surrounded by mystery which only makes him want to find out more about her. Shane is pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you get type of guy. He puts his feelings out there for Mac and doesn't let her negativity deter him. While I liked him, I had a hard time seeing him with Mac. He was just too nice for her. In their relationship, Mac was the alpha and Shane was the beta. I wish it would have been more balanced.

The other two couples, who were not as center stage as Mac and Shane but very nearly so, didn't come as any surprised when they paired up. And if you're familiar with Brockmann's previous works it won't come as a surprised that one of the couples are two gay men. Brockmann is know for focusing on societal issues in her novels and she does so again in Born to Darkness but it's not as overt as some of her previous works.

The main problem I had with all three of the romances is that there wasn't enough time devoted to each individual couple to make me feel like I knew why they were together. The most believable of the three couples were the two men. They had know each other for years and had both been hiding their attraction so when they do confess their feelings, they simple expand on their friendship and become lovers. The other two couples developed their relationships during stressful situations which made it difficult to believe that the results would have been the same if the situations had been different.

There is a lot of information to take in. Brockmann gives extensive details as to how the OI works with the Greater-Thans and the Potentials to help them utilize their powers. It's a fascinating world but there was almost too much covered when you consider there were also the three romances and the fight against The Organization and their sinister plans. It is a dark and sometimes depressing landscape of a future that I'm still not sure what caused it. There didn't seem to be any one thing that brought this futuristic world to this point. There is mention of wars and stock market crashes but no one specific thing.

As for the various plots, there is a lot of jumping around that left me wishing more focused had been placed on only a few plots. I will say that I do like the world that Brockmann has created and the science behind it, I only wish it had offered a greater focal point and fewer romances.

Rating: C

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TBR Challenge Review: Guns & The Girl Next Door

Guns and the Girl Next Door
Helenkay Dimon
Mystery Men/Book 2
Romantic Suspense
Harlequin/January 11, 2011

Before the recovery project was even up and running, its first case exploded on the scene Agent Holden Price didn't have to go far to find his next case--it crashed right into his living room Not only had the beautiful blonde lost control of her car, but if she was telling the truth, someone was also trying to kill her. As a recovery agent, he had an obligation to investigate. And he couldn't deny that Mia Landers interested him more than she should.

Nothing made sense to Mia--especially not the attempt on her life. All she could do was trust Holden, the tall, dark and devastating agent who discovered that he and Mia had a common enemy...and a fierce attraction. But in order to act on it, they'd first have to come face-to-face with their darkest fears and a deadly revelation that might put their newfound love on the line.

Confession Time: I picked this one mainly because it's short. Yep, see I totally messed up and thought the challenge was last week so I read a book for it about ten days ago. Then, when someone (Nath) clued me in that I still had a week I went ahead and reviewed that book thinking I would simply pick another book for this week. But this week got here really fast so I had to pick one that I actually had a chance to read and review in two days. Good thing Guns & the Girl was fast paced and an easy read.

This one started out fast and kept up that momentum for most of the story. There was some downtime, the characters do need some sleep after having hot sex but the pacing overall was very well done.

Mia Landers has found herself in a boatload of trouble. Good thing she practically runs into Holden Price. The first impression of Mia was one of a woman completely out of her element. She's being chased in the woods and she's not sure why. She reacts in a panic and ends up in Holden's living room, car and all. From there the action doesn't slow down as Mia has really pissed some people off. Mia's moments of panic give way to some moments of composure when Holden needs her help. I did like how they worked as a team even though for the most part Holden was in charge. Which only made sense since he has the experience.

Holden Price is trying to relax and it's not working. He hasn't worked in two month, ever since the government agency he works for, Recovery Project, was disband. It's one of those "be careful what you wish for" moments for Holden when Mia comes bursting into his life. No more sitting around as Mia has brought some serious trouble with her. Neither Holden or Mia trust each other but that doesn't stop them from teaming up against the guys who are trying to kill Mia and anyone who gets in their way. Holden is a typical alpha hero but he does have some weaknesses which made him less than perfect and more human and easier to like.

The whole team from the Recovery Project gets involved and that team camaraderie is in full force when these guys are around. It's surprising how well Dimon has developed the bonds between the guys so quickly in this category series. You get the brotherly bonds along with a solid romance. Not easy to do given the shorter format. The romance is fast paced along with the action and given different circumstances Mia and Holden could have certainly falling for each other in a more normal time frame but these are stressful situations and Mia and Holden's quick romance was written in a believable way.

If I had any issues it was with the antagonists. Whiny, incompetent and naive, Mia's boss was an annoyance that I could have done without. The other was smart but not smart enough to handle the Recovery Project team. Which seemed out of sync since he had resources that the team didn't.

Guns & the Girl Next Door left me wanting more of the Mystery Men series. Even in the shorter format, Dimon gives the reader plenty of action and romance.

Rating: B+

Mystery Men Series ~

Under the Gun
Guns and the Girl Next Door
Gunning For Trouble
Locked and Loaded
The Big Guns

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Anything But Mine

Anything But Mine
Linda Winfree
Romantic Suspense
Hearts of the South/Book 4
Samhain/March 11, 2008

Will her need to do the right thing cost them everything?

Public Defender Autry Holton, honor-bound to defend an accused serial killer, is in a "shunned if she does, disbarred if she doesn't". To complicate matters, she's pregnant and hasn't yet told her ex-lover he's the father. The reason? She's pretty sure he won't want the baby.

After raising one family and suffering a failed marriage, Sheriff Stanton Reed never believed he was the right man for Autry. Then an attempted break-in at Autry's home highlights the real danger she faces, and all he can think of is protecting her. When she tells him the truth about their baby, the past doesn't matter. He wants both her and their child in his life.

But just as Autry dares to hope there's a future for them, an act of homegrown terrorism shatters her trust-and threatens their lives.

The fourth book in the addictive Hearts of the South series features defense attorney Autry Holton and Sheriff Stanton Reed who broke off their previous relationship months ago. Now Autry is being threaten and Stanton tries to keep her safe while keeping their relationship strictly professional. And we all know how well that works!

Autry tries to please everyone, she's always been like that. It's why she became an attorney. To please her father the judge. But now she's doing what she feels like she has to do and it pleases no one, not even Autry. She is defending a cop accused of murder in this small Georgia community and most residents are not happy about the fact. Autry feels like she has no choice and she will loose her job if she refuses the case. I didn't always understand Autry's actions, like why she didn't tell Stanton about the baby and the threats before the attempted break-in. She is gutsy but makes some mistakes that surprised me for what is otherwise an intelligent woman.

Stanton Reed is in the midst of taking a corrupt sheriff's department and turning it into one that the residents can trust. So when one of their own is arrested for multiple murders, Stanton must work extra hard to build the trust with the community. I liked Stanton but he could certainly be a hardhead! He supposedly broke it off with Autry because of their conflicting careers. He arrests the criminals and she defends them. The problem was that she was a public defender when they started seeing each other and Stanton was the sheriff. So, reality is, he got scared and lied to get out of the relationship. Not cool.

The suspense plot of the threats to Autry and her ongoing case involving the accused cop created enough tension to keep me interesting but it wasn't as focused as I had hoped it would be. There was almost too much going on outside of Autry and Stanton's relationship to allow enough time for them to not only reconcile but for that reconciliation to be believable.

While this isn't my favorite of the series it's still has some wonderful and heartbreaking moments. And there is the "Tick wisdom" as I like to think of it. Tick was the hero in the previous book and he's here again to impart his wisdom and humor to anyone who will listen.

Rating: C+

Hearts of the South

Truth and Consequences
His Ordinary Life
Hold On to Me
Anything But Mine
Memories of Us
Hearts Awakened
Fall Into Me
Facing It

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Ghost Country

Ghost Country
Patrick Lee
Science Fiction/Suspense
Travis Chase/Book 2
Harper/December 28, 2010

For decades, inexplicable technology has passed into our world through the top secret anomaly called the Breach. The latest device can punch a hole into the future ...

What Paige Campbell saw when she opened a door into seventy years from now scared the hell out of her. She and her Tangent colleagues brought their terrible discovery to the President - and were met with a hail of automatic gunfire after leaving the White House. Only Paige survived.

Fearing a terrifying personal destiny revealed to him from the other side of the Breach, Travis Chase abandoned Tangent ... and Paige Campbell. Now he must rescue her - because Paige knows tomorrow's world is desperate and dead, a ghost country scattered with the bones of billions. And Doomsday will dawn in just four short months ... unless they can find the answers buried in the ruins to come.

But once they cross the nightmare border into Ghost Country, they might never find their way back ...

INTENSE. Seriously, this book had me at the edge of my seat. As with the first book, The Breach, I knew it would be one hell of a ride. It takes place more than two years after the end of The Breach, with Paige Campbell still working for Tangent and Travis Chase trying to make a new life for himself, again.

Travis is pulled back into the freaky world of Tangent, the secret government agency that studies the objects, or "Entities", that come from The Breach. Paige Campbell is in trouble and needs help and Travis can't say no when it comes to Paige. When Bethany Stewart, a colleague of Paige's, tells Travis what has happened, he jumps right back into hero mode. The thing about Travis is that he is very capable. He was a cop for years, he has the experience to handle difficult, dangerous situations. But what he must deal with is out of his realm of experience. Which is why he is such a fascinating character to read when he encounters the weird and impossible-to-believe Entities that come from The Breach. Yes, he is the main character, the title character of the series, but you still doubt his safety at times which makes the experience that much more intense.

Both Paige and Bethany show equal amounts of brains and survival skills. They are very different in that Paige has far greater experience from her years with Tangent, not only in dealing with the government but her weapons skills are truly wicked. Bethany is the geek of the three and if you ever needed a geek, now is the time. She has mad computer skills but also excels in logic and reasoning when it comes to complex problems.

The action is fierce, intense and intelligent. There is no way good will triumph over evil without the intelligence of these characters. There is fighting, with fists, furniture and guns but there is also thinking, planning and plotting that must happen in order for Travis, Paige and Bethany to succeed. I loved the action but seeing the thought process of these characters added an even greater dynamic to already standout characters.

Patrick Lee has outdone himself with this suspenseful, action packed science fiction novel. Knowing there is only one book left has me wishing this wasn't a trilogy.

Rating: A

Travis Chase Trilogy

The Breach
Ghost Country
Deep Sky

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace
Megan Chance
Historical Romance/Western
Harper/February 1997

Lily loses her childhood the day the Sharpe gang murders her parents and "adopted" her. They brought her into their world, and taught her who to be ruthless and smart.

Soon, Lily the Cat is wanted by the law. But, in the act of revenge she has planned for twelve years, Lily betrays the outlaws. And then she deceived Texas Sharpe, reluctant heir to the notorious gang--the man who loved her, married her, and defied his father for her. But although he desired her like no other, she used him - and his love.

And he was about to show Lily just how ruthless a man betrayed could be...

Well this is certainly a different romance! In fact, the romance is subdued with Lily and Texas at odds and each others throats for a great deal of the time. Their life of crime not only brought them together, it's pulling them apart. Lily wants more but Texas doesn't want to give her up. Even if he wanted to he can't, his father has ordered Texas to bring Lily back and Texas won't go against his father.

Lily Sharpe's life changed dramatically when she was twelve. She went from a child with two parents who loved her to a tenuous existence in a gang of killers and thieves. Her one goal became to survive. Which she did, integrating herself into the gang and becoming a well known thief herself. Lily is such a unique heroine. She has become cold, calculating and ruthless at times. She knows she is all those things and while she doesn't necessarily like it, her reality is such that she needs to be those things to survive. I liked Lily for what she had survived but she has a cold side to her and the empathy I thought I should/would feel for her wasn't always there.

Texas Sharpe has a code of conduct he tries to follow. He doesn't always succeed and that success often depends on the action of others. Texas doesn't like to kill but he will when necessary. He will kill for the gang and for survival. He's not a cold blooded killer but he does use his upbringing to justify his actions. It can be hard to see Texas as a hero. He's a criminal, a killer and yet the author shows the reader why Texas makes the choices he does. He doesn't see a way out so he makes the best of the situation he's in. He's still nowhere near what I would consider an ideal hero but he did prove to be interesting if only to find out what he will do next with Lily and the problems she creates.

The story is dark with Lily and Texas at turns filled with love and mistrust of each other. The complexity of their relationship makes it hard to believe they could have a strong and loving marriage while still in the gang. There is just too much to overcome, with Lily's relationship with Hank Sharpe, Texas' father, being a huge obstacle. Lily hates Hank but part of her wants to be loved by him. The little girl who watched her mother gunned down is desperate to be loved again. For me, I merely waited and hoped Hank would be killed.

Chance is a skilled writer, giving the reader a distinct feel for the old west and the outlaw lifestyle. It's not pretty but brutal and grim with very little light except for the odd camaraderie these outlaws have for each other. Odd because they can not trust that they won't find a bullet in their back from one of their fellow outlaws at some point. But they still band together when they need to.

Fall From Grace isn't a light, happy romance but rather a look at survival and the cost of loving someone. It's an emotional story with some very serious situations that don't always turn out the way you would hope. Even with its unconventional characters and setting, I found it compelling in the intensity of emotions. It is a novel I think you would need to be in the right mood to truly appreciate.

Rating: B+

Monday, March 12, 2012

ARC Review: The Cowboy Takes a Bride

The Cowboy Takes a Bride
Lori Wilde
Avon/March 27, 2012

Ex-champion bull rider-turned-cutting-horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn't quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but his Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he's wide-awake, and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels toward the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-burned cowgirl roots...

This was a funny and sweet romance with a cowboy who's still holding on to his past love and a city gal who's desperate to get back where she thinks she belongs. Most of the time it's light, showing how humor and kindness can make even the biggest problems seem smaller. But it does have some serious moments as Wilde allows the characters to reveal their fears, making them more real and less the stereo-typical cowboy and big city gal.

Mariah Callahan is in for a surprise when she heads to Texas to take possession of the ranch her estranged father left her after his death. She doesn't hesitate to leave Chicago since she is out of work and nearly out of money. What comes as even more of a surprise than her sudden inheritance is her neighbor, good-looking cowboy Joe Daniels.

Joe Daniels has had a couple of rough years. He's recently widowed and now he's lost his best friend. He lives for his horses, one in particular that is the legacy from Dutch Callahan, his best friend and Mariah's father. Joe's focus is on winning the next competition but he manages to make time for Mariah. It's interesting to see how Joe feels responsible for Mariah and when he begins to fall for her, it's a combination of that responsibility and the attraction that keeps him near Mariah. Joe's still holding on to the past but slowly lets go as he sees a possible future with Mariah. Even with his faults, Joe is one of those heroes that's easy to like.

The relationship between Mariah and Joe is there before they meet. The attraction is certainly there, but more than that, Joe is a link to Mariah's father. Mariah learns more about her father, much from Joe, which causes some jealousy and resentment on Mariah's part. I did like how their relationship developed from annoyance to genuine respect for each other. Mariah did go back and forth when deciding whether to stay or go. She kept changing her attitude from a "can do" attitude to a defeatist attitude. Once she made up her mind to make a go of the wedding planning in Jubilee she was a force to be reckoned with. Then a few setbacks had her ready to pick up and leave. She seemed to give up too easily after working so hard.

Small town charm envelopes Mariah, giving her hope in her new business venture. Joe is there to help her, along with the group of eclectic cowboys or "cutters" as they are known. I did like the setting even if it was the quintessential small ranching town with cowboys coming out of the woodwork. The antagonist is weak and really didn't add much to the story. He could have easily been replaced or cut out completely and not missed. He created some friction but it could have been achieved in other ways, saving us from his lackluster depiction.

The Cowboy Takes a Bride is a tender, often humorous romance. It's an easy read, and enjoyable if you like small town settings and cowboys.

Rating: B

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Hold on to Me

Hold on to Me
Linda Winfree
Romantic Suspense
Hearts of the South/Book 3
Samhain/December 11, 2007

She keeps a secret buried in the past. He wants the truth—now. But an unknown killer could destroy their future.

For FBI profiler Caitlin Falconetti, immersing herself in her job is the only way to quell the memories of a vicious, near-fatal attack and all it cost her, including the only man she ever loved. Better to let him think she simply rejected him, rather than reveal a painful secret that she’s certain would have destroyed his feelings for her.

Investigator Lamar “Tick” Calvert is determined to clean out the corruption-riddled sheriff’s department in his hometown. While he understands Caitlin’s drive to excel at her job, it doesn’t mean he’s happy about the prospect of working with his former lover, the one woman he tried and failed to hold onto.

A rash of unsolved murders brings them together to find the murderer before another woman dies. Daily contact re-ignites the lingering attraction between them, but Caitlin won’t risk opening herself and revealing her secret. She plans to complete the killer’s profile, make an arrest and get out of town for good.

Tick plans to solve this case, too, but now that Caitlin’s back in his life, he also plans to finally dig up the truth about why she left him.

But there’s an added complication—the killer isn’t done, and Caitlin could be the next target.

Tick left his job as an FBI agent and came home to become an investigator for the Sheriff's department. He and his friend and former agent, Stanton Reed, are determined to clean up the police corruption in this small Georgia town. It's not long before they have a string of murders on their hands to solve. One of the victims is the daughter of a Senator, so FBI profiler Caitlin Falconetti is sent to assist with the investigation.

Tick has an intimate past with Caitlin and seeing her again brings all the unanswered questions of what happened to them rushing back. Tick still cares for Caitlin but doesn't know what to make of her break-up with him. Tick's reaction to seeing Caitlin again goes from surprise to anger. I liked Tick right off. Actually, I liked what I saw of him in the previous book, His Ordinary Life, Tick's brother's story. Tick's a down to earth type of guy who loves his family and loves to go fishing. He's uncomplicated and we see that in his straightforwardness when dealing with family, friends and coworkers. I liked how he told Caitlin what he thought about their relationship and he actually asked questions about what happened to them. Imagine, a guy that's willing to talk!

Caitlin is hiding some pretty serious things from Tick. When I found out what caused her to break off with Tick, I kind of understood why she did it but I still felt she made some bad choices. This was a man she cared very much for and to lie to him like she did, just didn't make sense. She tries to keep their relationship professional when she shows up in Tick's turf but that's hard to do when Caitlin and Tick are together so much. The sparks fly but even after they are intimate, Caitlin still won't open up to Tick. Her reasons are made clear but I think, had she really known him, she would have been able to trust him with her secrets.

The police procedural scenes are well done, Winfree does well building the atmosphere of the workings of a small police force in rural Georgia. It's a place where many knew the victims, including some of the law enforcement working the case. Winfree does try to misdirect suspicions but in the end, the murderer doesn't come as a surprise.

I think one thing that keeps bringing me back to this series is it has the small town feel but not everything is perfect. I know these characters, their backgrounds, their families. The characters I don't know well, Winfree makes me want to know more about them.

I did like Hold on to Me. While it didn't blow me away, it proved to be a good addition to the series. It also made me want to read the next book, Anything But Mine. Which I did immediately after.

Rating: B

Hearts of the South

Truth and Consequences
His Ordinary Life
Hold On to Me
Anything But Mine
Memories of Us
Hearts Awakened
Fall Into Me
Facing It

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Blackout

Two of my favorite things ~ Buddy review with Nath and the Cal Leandros series. Today, head on over to Breezing Through and read what Nath and I thought of Blackout, the sixth book in Rob Thurman's amazingly addictive series.

It's one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series, and with today being release day for Doubletake, book seven, now is the perfect time for a recap of Blackout.

I was alone, and I was lost. I didn’t know where I was; I didn’t know who I was. It doesn’t get more lost than that. Knowing what I knew and not knowing anything else at all, why would I want to be in the darkness where monsters hide?


Half-human Cal Leandros has always walked a bloody line between keeping his mortal soul free and clear (sort of) and unleashing the horror of his otherworldly heritage. The one thing that’s always saved him is the memory of his brother, Niko, his friends, and those he loves.

Until now.

Cal wakes up on a beach littered with the recently slaughtered remains of a variety of hideous creatures that were obviously looking for trouble. The fact that he was the one doing the slaughtering doesn’t bother him. The fact that he feels like a natural-born killer doesn’t either. What bothers him is that Cal doesn’t remember Cal anymore…


Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: The Breach

The Breach
Patrick Lee
Science Fiction/Suspense
Travis Chase Series/Book 1
Harper/January 1, 2010

Travis Chase, a man putting his life back together after fifteen years in prison, takes a solo hike into the Alaskan Rockies. He's just looking for a quiet place to think about his future, but what he finds is trouble: a 747, downed in remote wilderness, the wreck impossibly undiscovered by authorities. Those abroad are dead, though not because of the crash. They've been shot.

This aircraft, along with the terrifying object it was transporting, is only the beginning for Travis. Within hours he finds himself at the center of a violent conflict that spans the globe, and a secret war that dates back three decades. A war for possession of radically advance technology - that wasn't created by human hands.

This isn't my usual genre, but thanks to the reviews on Goodreads, I decided to give Mr. Lee's novel a try. Am I glad I did! I loved trying to wrap my mind around the science within the story.

A year after being released from prison, Travis Chase sets off on a hike, hoping to clear his mind and possibly make some decisions about where his life is going. He's an ex-cop who won't find work as a cop again. What Travis finds on his hike is nothing he could have expected. It's a gruesome sight, even for an experienced cop to take in. Travis' training comes in handy as he must fight for his survival and the survival of others.

Paige Campbell is a tough, intelligent and resourceful woman. She's dedicated to her work and the security of the country. She could have come off as cold and distanced, willing to do and sacrifice whomever with little or no feelings. And sometimes she did, which allowed her to get through some of the toughest parts of her job. But Lee also shows us Paige's weaknesses along with her strengths. She holds a lot of power but doesn't abuse that power the way some would.

Travis and Paige make a formidable team. They create an interesting dynamic in that Paige is the experienced one and Travis is the rookie in this secret world of the strange and alien. They definitely had to work at trusting each other, doing so while trying to stay alive and one step ahead of the enemy. I really enjoyed seeing how they dealt with building that trust and then taking it to the next level.

The enemy hunting Paige and Travis is disturbing in his almost normality, as if this was just a job. He's highly intelligent and willing to do anything to get what he wants. Getting inside his head, we see how he enjoys the hunt and the kill. He's not the only one they must look out. The must also unravel what is happening with the Breach.

From the moment Travis spotted the downed plane, I had a hard time putting this book down. Even before that, I was anxious to see how the story would unfold simply from reading the blurb and some of the reviews. It's very fast paced, the backgrounds of Travis and the other pivotal characters blended within the action. There is a lot to take in, not only the characters and their motivation but the science behind what is happening. If I had one complaint, it would be that there was almost too much to remember. Although, not everything is explained because not everything is known about the alien devices. The characters, like the reader, must take some things just on faith alone. Some of the explanations that are given are complex but Lee does well with breaking down the complex and making it understandable.

The Breach offers a mix of action, suspense and a heavy dose of stimulation for the mind.

Rating: A-

Travis Chase Trilogy ~

The Breach
Ghost Country
Deep Sky

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: Hunger

Jackie Morse Kessler
Young Adult/Fantasy
Riders of the Apocalypse/Book 1
Harcourt Graphia/October 18, 2010

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

Intense at times, Hunger looks at the desperate lengths some will go to gain control of at least one piece of their lives. Lisa is determined to control her weight by controlling what she eats and how much she exercises. She is vigilant in knowing every calorie of every piece of food that passes her lips. Her knowledge of not only the number of calories but how much exercise will be needed to burn those calories is astounding. So when she is chosen as Famine, it is beyond her reality. But Death convinces her that yes, she really is Famine, complete with a horse.

Lisa may look like a typical teenager but she is beginning to fall under the pressure of trying to be thin. It's becoming obvious that she has a problem, at least obvious to her friends. Her parents are less than involved in Lisa's life, partly because of their focus on their own obsessions. They also give the impression that they are willing to take the easy way out and take Lisa's at her word that she is fine. The only one Lisa feels comfortable around is her friend Tammy, who also has an eating disorder.

Lisa's responsibilities as Famine are quite simple - cause chaos by taking food away. This is to be done on a large scale. Lisa begins to love the power she can wield but in the end, hates the results. As if being Famine isn't stressful enough, Lisa still has her home life to contend with. She's not talking to her best friend. Her boyfriend is worried about her and there's her parents seeming lack of interest. Lisa's insights are thoughtful and terribly sad. This is clearly a teen in trouble who doesn't know where to turn. Her thoughts are dark at times but she still maintains a glimmer of hope.

Lisa's job as Famine brings her into contact with Death, War and Pestilence. She also meets her horse who takes her all over the world to bring hunger and chaos. Lisa not only names her horse but grows to feel affection for the beast. Theirs is an odd relationship, little girls who want a pony never imagined a horse such as Lisa's. Of the three other Riders, it's Death that receives the most page time and makes the biggest impression. He's a fan of Nirvana and even takes the likeness of Kurt Cobain. He projects a feeling of ancient power while still giving off an almost relaxed attitude.

Lisa learns much about hunger and control as she ventures out on her travels as Famine. She also learns that like her life, everything is not as it seems and she has more control than she thinks. Hunger does have dark, intense moments that will no doubt leave an impression on even the most jaded of reader. It did have some lighter moments but they were few which is not surprising given the subject. I would have liked to know more about Lisa and her relationship with her parents and her best friend. It did feel like things happened too quickly and were resolved with that same quickness.

Rating: B

Riders of the Apocalyse

Loss (March 20, 2012)
Breath (2013)

*Ms. Kessler is donating a portion of the proceeds of Hunger to The National Eating Disorders Association. If you think someone you know has an eating disorder, please help them seek help. NEDA is a good place to start.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

ARC Review: Believe It or Not

Believe It or Not
Tawna Fenske
Contemporary Romance
Sourcebooks/March 6, 2012

Do you believe in...accounting?

Numbers never lie, so Violet McGinn found safe haven in the most boring profession she could find. Until her renowned psychic mother lands in the hospital and Violet has to run her business. Now you can have your taxes filed and your aura read, in one convenient location.

Do you believe

Drew Watson is the jaded owner of the local hot spot next door, and doesn't need a single thing except a good crowd to dance to what he's spinning on Saturday night.

Do you believe

The only thing Violet and Drew seem to have in common is that neither believes in that psychic hoo—hah. Except Drew seems to play exactly the right song at exactly the right time. And truth be told, it makes Violet's heart dance just a little ...

After enjoying Ms. Fenske's Making Waves, I was happy to see she had another romantic comedy coming out. This time our heroine is a serious accountant with possible psychic abilities and the hero owns a strip club bar featuring male strippers two nights a week. You would think they wouldn't have anything in common but Ms. Fenske brings these two together and shows us how much they really do.

Violet heads back to Portland, Oregon to help her mom, Moonbeam while she recuperates from surgery. Violet isn't psychic but gets talked into taking over her mom's store and appointments. Violet decides to make the best of it, even if it requires her to fake her psychic predictions. Then weird things start to happen, like Violets predictions coming true. Violet was a hoot! She had a few "I Love Lucy" moments and only through sheer luck, avoided disaster.

Drew Watson shares a building with the crazy psychic next door. They've had an ongoing feud for years - he thinks she's a fake, she thinks he exploits the human body with his strippers. When Moonbeam's daughter shows up, Drew has an odd attraction for this serious accountant turned fake psychic. Drew is a funny, sweet hero with a preference for 80's hair bands which he calls "butt rock". I've never heard that term before and neither had Violet. Soon they find they have more in common than their tastes in music.

Violet and Drew have some clashes but they also have some hot and tender moments. Events and people cause some complications but Violet and Drew confront and discuss their problems, showing that while they know how to have fun, they can also be mature when it's called for. I liked how they each took responsibility for their mistakes. This was mostly Violet since, while she does try to do the right thing, it doesn't always work out the way she plans it.

I liked the secondary characters, a bunch of odd ducks with Moonbeam and her quirky friends, Violet's customers and Drew's employees making life interesting for all they encounter. I did find that some of those characters, mainly Moonbeam's friends were a little too cliché.

The plot has a few sub-plots running alongside the romance. Possibly one or two too many sub-plots that took some of the focus away from Violet and Drew. Since my favorite scenes were with Violet and Drew, there were times when I found myself wanting to get back to them rather than scenes with Violet's customers or her mother. I did like how Violet's relationship with her mother changed from Violet wanting to keep her distance to appreciating Moonbeam and all her quirkiness.

This is a light, funny read. A romantic comedy with peculiar characters in a different setting. If you're looking for an amusing romance, this could be the one for you.

Rating: B

The cover - not sure why it looks like they're on a beach with very little clothing. The story is set in Portland, Oregon. More rain than sunshine and the clothes came off inside. The cover makes me think of east coast beaches not the Pacific Northwest. Maybe this won't be the final cover.