Friday, May 30, 2014

Review- Moon Shine Book 4 Takhini Wolves

Moon Shine
by Vivian Arend

This is book 4 of the Takhini Wolves series. Preceding entries have been relatively light fluffy reads that are long in romance and sex but somewhat light on plot and character development, though they have shifted to slightly more serious toned as things have progressed.

In Diamond Dust Alpha Evan Stone sniffed out his mate and naturally dropped his long-term lover Caroline, which was great because that freed her up for her own mate, bear shifter Tyler Harrison. Unfortunately by the time Moon Shine rolls around not only hasn't Evan found his elusive mate, someone is seriously sabotaging his business. Enter Samantha Amy Ryda. She's the incognito Alpha of the Miles Canyon wolves and she has a serious beef with Evan.

I'll admit, based on the current Goodreads reviews I wasn't expecting much because generally Amy hasn't been considered a very attractive or sympathetic heroine. So, I guess it is fair to say I had low expectations, but Ms. Arend blew it out of the water for me. Amy was smart, strong and devious, and I really liked that about her, especially the devious part. And while I am not saying all of the conflict is completely Evan's fault, a good chunk is because of both his failure to communicate AND his failure to recognize Amy as an Alpha in her own right. The whole story is intricate and action packed with a healthy helping of psychology and I really enjoyed how Evan changed and grew, but while I know I am in the minority here, Amy was what made this story work for me. Yes, she may have made some less than stellar choices based and a lack of information, but it certainly wasn't her fault she didn't have the needed information. I enjoyed seeing a heroine who usually used her brain to get things done but wasn't afraid to get physical either. This quote at the end summed it up best for me:

"But the brightest part was having a pair of strong arms slip around his waist as Amy cuddled in tight. She was the absolutely perfect cherry on the top."

He didn't see her as soft, or sweet, or comforting, or sexy or any of the other insipid descriptions you usually have alpha heroes thinking of their mates as, he thought of her as strong and that makes this story rock for me.

Review- Lex Talonis

Lex Talonis
by R.S.A. Garcia

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

What made me request this book, was the eyes of the cover model. I suppose it is a rather generic sort of cover but it caught my attention. The blurb didn't repel or terribly entice me, but every time I saw that cover on Netgalley I just kept clicking it.

This book opens up with some political information about the Roulon sponsoring Earth into DiploCore so as "...not to become a pawn between more powerful civilizations...".

Next we find a wounded Michael trying to escape through air vents from some undescribed enemy. We then meet Desmond Obuki a businessman and a former soldier. He rescues a woman being beaten to death by an Elutheran, an alien describes as having a muscular proboscis and a short sharp beak. He takes her to Colin, the doctor who fails to save her. When she dies in the medbay a hairless green biped alien (accompanied by another alien, Andraju) raises her from the dead. Andraju is taking care of the biped for a man named Chris, but it freaks him out, so he leaves the little alien with the doctor. So starts a fairly exciting sci-fi novel.

Lex has between brutally beaten, raped, and stabbed. She awakens in the hospital with no memories. She chooses her name as the one thing on her mind, though she doesn't know the meaning.

There's political intrigue, genetic tampering, and betrayal. Heart stopping betrayal. I cried when she realized the betrayal dealt to her, even as she didn't realize the true depths of the betrayal. This is an incredibly intricate story that weaves its way through morality, ethics, forgiveness, and personal growth.

I had a few issues with this story. One is that there were entirely too many different types of aliens and characters introduced. They are all well written, but they are all written as if they should be noted as integral to the plotline, and unless there is a sequel, for some of these characters that doesn't seem to be the case. One of the other things I found so frustrating with this book is the over utilization of italics, it sometimes seemed awkward or misplaced, or inconsistently used. I also found the use of Roman numerals (I think to denote changes in sections) a bit bothersome.

Other than those few things, the story was entirely compelling, I couldn't put it down and when it came to the end, I read and re-read the last chapters wishing it weren't over and trying to eek every last nuance out of it. I'll be sorely disappointed if there's no sequel to this. I have to know where Lex's story goes from here. This book doesn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, the current story is resolved satisfactorily enough, but there's still so much to do and explore.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review- Air Bound

Air Bound
by Christine Feehan

This is book three in the Sisters of the Heart Series, which is a spinoff from the Drake Sisters series. While it is titled after the women, and they do all live together as "sisters of the heart", really, if you are following the series, this series is about the women who will be matched up with the six remaining Prakenskii brothers. The Prakenskii family is like the male version of the Drake family in that they have magical powers and the seventh child will have seven children to pass on the magical legacy. The first book in this spinoff featured a heroine who has autism and a hero with amnesia and I adored that book, but the second book just really fell flat for me.

Ariana grew up a child prodigy and genius. She was in a government-sponsored think tank/school when her mother was tortured and murdered which caused her to quit doing the work. The government finally released her when she was 20 at which time she met the other "sisters" in group therapy. Maxim Prakenskii who seems to be closest (if you can in any way consider the Prakenskii brothers "close") to Gavril, kidnaps Ariana as a way to protect her from other people who are trying to kidnap her to use her for her incredible mind and talents. This plan naturally backfires in a big way.

The first 50 pages or so are full of awkward info dumping about the series as it has been portrayed so far and about the main characters. Stick it out though, because from there it is pretty much a nonstop action packed ride. While this particular book did not quite reach the enjoyment level of Water Bound (for me anyway, YMMV) it is head and shoulders above Spirit Bound. I really enjoyed the chemistry between these two characters. Maxim is such an adorably befuddled alpha male. He's way more caring and intuitive than he thinks. And unlike Stefan/Thomas from Spirit Bound, he actually treats his mate like a human being with thoughts and capabilities rather than like a witless child or a pet. They argue, they compromise and it is really very sweet to see. I also enjoyed the way their relationship progressed, they didn't immediately decide they would become a couple (though it was still a standard Christine Feehan destined mate thing) and they didn't immediately hop into bed together. And when they finally did get physical, it wasn't perfect and magical and real life awkwardness ensued, at least the first time, which was rather refreshing to see.

This story also really furthered the series story arc with their own super villain and how the Prakenskii brothers are being drawn in to Sea Haven and how they are and will be integrated into the family and the community as a whole. This story also marks the turning point for how the Prakenskii's are going to be integrated into the Drake family. Jackson and Elle will be coming home soon, so hopefully that conflict will be fairly quickly resolved, though honestly I can imagine that their biggest problem may not be Jackson, but Joley, despite her marriage to another Prakenskii, she isn't exactly the forgiving type.

I think what I prefer about the Sisters of the Heart series is that these women seem a lot stronger, a lot fiercer and willing to get their hands dirty than the Drake sisters. And the way they interact with each other and how much more of a "match" their mates are makes it feel more balanced to me. The relationships just feel more connected in this series. So, while I was somewhat apprehensive about this series, this book is more than enough to keep me on board, and frankly, I was worried about that after Spirit Bound. A solid 4 stars from me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

OpenLibrary Review- A Soldier's Heart

A Soldier's Heart
by Kathleen Korbel

Blurb from Goodreads:

Over twenty years earlier, an unnamed nurse had struggled to pull Tony Riordan away from the brink of death. And now, Tony could see the confusion in Claire Henderson's eyes, could see her struggle with the same nightmare images that had haunted him for years. Claire Henderson had saved his life, and it was time to return the favor.

This book caught my attention when I saw the Dear Author Classic Review because it's not often you see a book with a female protagonist with PTSD from war. It was originally published in 1995, so may be one of the first, if not the actual first romance novels to tackle PTSD in women. This book is available to check out from OpenLibrary. As always with OpenLibrary, use Adobe Digital Editions to download the PDF version because it is a scanned copy of a physical book.

Tony Riorden gets the boulder moving when after 20 years, he finally seeks out Claire, the nurse who saved his life during Vietnam. Of course, that boulder was already tipping from the stress of her job as a supervisory nurse, trying to open her own bed and breakfast, and the fact that she has a 17-year-old son who is wild to join the military to become a fighter pilot all happening during the UN intervention in Somalia.

When Tony sees that he's caused harm by his visit, he decides to stick around to see if he can help. So of course, they fall in love.

The romance part of this book is fairly light because most of the emphasis, and rightly so, is on how Claire is handling or in some of the cases, not handling, her life. The intimate scenes are pretty meager as well and for all of the interest they added, should have just been completely fade to blacks.

What worked for this book for me were the cast of secondary characters and the experience of PTSD that rang true based on what I know of the people in my life. What also worked for me was the way Tony tried to help without being a macho overbearing alpha male and then when Claire finally did decide she needed help he gave her the information she was seeking and then stepped back to allow her to heal on her own. Naturally, this made him a bit of a Mary Sue; you can't win for losing with me.

Solid 4 stars for the story and the mustache ;)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Freebie- Darkness Falls.

Darkness Falls
by Erin Kellison

I originally reviewed this novella in Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance bundle and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Its currently free for Kindle

(As aside, I really hate posting from the blogger app.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Freebie- Mine to Take

Mine to Take
by Cynthia Eden

Cynthia Eden is an auto-buy for me. There aren't an real groundbreaking things in her works, but she writes an engaging story with interesting characters.

Mine to Take is a second chance romance with mystery and suspense and Goodreads gives it an average rating of 3.77. AND most importantly it is currently free from the following vendors:





So if you are a fan of romantic suspense and need some Memorial weekend reading material, this is the deal for you. 

Review- A Dangerous Madness

A Dangerous Madness
by Michelle Diener

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Duke of Wittaker has been living a lie...
He’s been spying on the dissolute, discontented noblemen of the ton, pretending to share their views. Now he’s ready to step out of the shadows and start living a real life...but when the prime minister of England is assassinated, he's asked to go back to being the rake-hell duke everyone believes he still is to find out more.
Miss Phoebe Hillier has been living a lie, too...
All her life she's played by society's rules, hiding her fierce intelligence and love of life behind a docile and decorous mask. All it's gotten her is jilted by her betrothed, a man she thought a fool, though a harmless one. But when she discovers her former fiancé was involved in the plot against the prime minister, and that he's been murdered, she realizes he wasn't so harmless after all.
And now the killers have set their sights on her...
The only man who can help her is the Duke of Wittaker--a man she knows she shouldn't trust. And she soon realizes he's hiding behind a mask as careful as her own. As the clock ticks down to the assassin's trial, the pair scramble to uncover the real conspiracy behind the prime minister's death. And as the pressure and the danger mounts, Phoebe and Wittaker shed their disguises, layer by layer, to discover something more precious than either imagined–something that could last forever. Unless the conspirators desperate to hide their tracks get to them first.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Freebie- Turning up the Heat

Turning up the Heat
by Laura Florand

After eleven years of marriage, Léa Laurier knew her husband. Knew how he could take on responsibility for a world-famous restaurant, a wife, and her two teenage siblings at nineteen years old and never falter, never tire. Knew his drive and his ambition, that took him to the stars. Knew how briliant his gray eyes looked when they met hers for just one moment across a host of cameras. She didn't know why she was so tired. She didn't know why she needed to just get away. For a while. Maybe a week or two. A month. She'd be back.
After eleven years of marriage, international superstar chef Daniel Laurier knew his wife. Knew how she could lavish caring on everyone, her siblings, his staff, and most especially him. Knew the way her face lit up when he won yet another television contest, and the way she hugged him for it. Knew how her hair smelled when he sank into bed exhausted at one in the morning. He didn't know what to do when he came home from a consulting trip to find she'd disappeared to remote South Pacific island: I just needed to get away for a little while. A week or two. I'll call you.
As the whole solid world under his feet turned into a sandcastle in the tide, Daniel knew only one thing: whatever was wrong with his marriage or his wife, he wasn't losing her. So as a top chef, he did the one thing he always knew how to do: turn up the heat.

This is a novella about how lack of communication can ruin relationships and how time together is the most important thing in a relationship.

It's currently available for free on Kobo and iTunes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review- The Cowboy and the Vampire: Blood and Whiskey

The Cowboy and the Vampire: Blood and Whiskey
by Clark Hays & Kathleen McFalls

I did not receive an ARC of this book, but liked the first book well enough, and am anal enough to read a series in order (I received ARC's of the first and third books), so I picked this up at amazon.

This book jumps right in after The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance. (IF you haven't read the first book you are going to want to stop right here and go back-major spoilers ahead)

We have Lizzie Vaughn the reluctant vampire queen and her erstwhile cowboy lover Tucker. Following the epic and tragic conclusion of the first book, they have returned to Lonepine, Wyoming to settle down with their impending family. Lizzie is still struggling with her new nature, including the fact that she will have to drink blood and kill. And Tucker is still struggling over basically everything, impending fatherhood, Lizzie's new nature, and his own mortality in comparison to Lizzie's immortality. Right when things seemed to be settling down, chaos ensues. Lennie needs a favor, finding his missing niece who has been kidnapped. And just when they are headed out, Rurik, a mysterious and powerful vampire pops up out of the woodwork to enlighten Lizzie on just how precarious the vampire situation is; if she can't turn more vampires, the whole balance of the world will be destroyed. Events are a whole lot more complicated than any of them were expecting challenging love, friendships, and loyalty.

This story maintained it's dark humor but showed us a whole more politically savvy side to Lizzie. The writing seemed a lot smoother and more polished than the first book, or maybe I just got used to it, but I didn't struggle as much to determine whose POV I was looking through. What worked for me was the snarky dialogue, Marion (Dad), Lennie, Elita, and the love and devotion between Lizzie and Tucker. I also enjoy how this series blends evolution, morality, ethics, and politics. What didn't work for me was the set up for a love triangle with Rurik coming between the two, I am just not a fan of this trope and I can see potential for this to be truly miserable.

Lizzie proved herself to the vampire nation in a most surprising way, heartbreak ensues for all the characters, and Lizzie and Tucker's relationship ends on a solid high point.

Another solid 4 stars for this unlikely duo.

Review- That Camden Summer

That Camden Summer
by LaVyrle Spencer

I remember reading this first on one of those rare breaks during college where I could not stand to write another paper but felt like I had too much to do and couldn't go home. So, I found myself on the second floor of the library where the scanty fiction section was. I wasn't expecting much because this wasn't an author that had ever interested me, but I was instantly captivated and re-read this book several times over the next several years, naturally I was pleased to find a copy of this on OpenLibrary. As with most books you can check out through open library, because they are scanned your best bet is to use Read Now or download PDF using Adobe Digital Editions.

In 1916, Roberta Hewitt returned to her former hometown newly divorced from her philandering and gambling husband, with her three daughters and a job as a nurse and a tendency for independence. The residents of the town are dismissive and critical, even her own family, and her brother in law is worse. Gabriel Farley is the town's handyman and jack-of-all-trades ACS he works on her house. Initially he is as crude as her brother-in-law, but over time they develop a friendship that sets tongues wagging.

So first things first on this. There's a trigger warning. There's a moderately graphic rape scene. It isn't gratuitous and is integral to characterization and plot for several reasons, but may be distressing to some readers.

Now on to the more pleasant things. I loved how much information we got about cars of that time period, the way they were run and serviced and the way people felt about women owning and operating them. It's a big part of the story, and while I was fascinated, and in the end, it actually did turn out to be integral to the plot, I can see why some people might get bored or frustrated. However, what I loved most was the characterizations and how the people changed throughout the story, or how our perceptions of them changed. Rarely have I loved and hated characters in such equal measure throughout a story while still feeling they were believable characters and not merely caricatures. Roberta was no Mary Sue; she was a strong and determined woman who even by her own admission was overly stubborn. She wasn't always as tidy, reserved or circumspect as women of her era were expected to be, but she was joyous and true to herself. Gabriel wasn't perfect either. He was just as crass and crude towards a divorcée as one might expect from men of that era, and he wasn't a perfect father either, being more reserved than a motherless daughter might need. But it didn't take long for Gabriel to open his eyes and take another accounting of the situation. And it was so lovely watching these two very different individuals first learn to be friends then to integrate their lives, and finally for Roberta to learn to lean and Gabriel to open up his emotions and play. And while Elfred, her brother-in-law was ultimately unredeemable, it was clearly his own choice. I despised him unreservedly. Myra, Roberta's mother, on the other hand, while I certainly couldn't like her, I did learn to understand, just as Roberta did.

So, I'll rate this as 4 stars for a touching and realistic journey into love the second time around.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review- The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance

The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance
by Clark Hays & Kathleen McFall

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This book was initially published in 1999, so if you were reading vampire romance before it was cool, you might want to double check your shelves and make sure you hadn't already picked it up. Fortunately for me, this was not something I had previously seen (small town libraries did not have this sort of fun when I grew up). This book was a wild ride even in today's market, so I can only imagine how wild it must have seemed 15 years ago.

Tucker is your any-man cowboy in Wyoming with his faithful horse Snort and his faithful dog Rex. Lizzie is an urbane and sophisticated New York City reporter. When they meet during an article she is writing on cowboys, irritation turns to attraction, attraction into lust, and lust into love. But when a different article she is writing, one on vampires, sets her on a dangerous path, she turns to the only man she feels like she can trust, Tucker. Because Lizzie harbors secrets, secrets that have even been hidden from herself. There's danger, drama, and change in this exciting and wild ride.

There's also a strong cast of secondary characters. Like Lennie, the paranoid conspiracy theorist who can create the most dangerous things using duct tape. For the record, in small rural towns, guys like this do exist, there's nothing coincidental about it. And Tucker's dad, a grizzled somewhat snarky older man. Or Lazarus, yes that Lazarus from the bible.

Overall the writing is really fairly good, my one issue is for the first half of the book it ping pongs between first person views and it can be a bit like whiplash trying to figure out whose eyes and head you are in.

The vampires of this world have a very interesting mythology complete with their own bible and prophesies and distant ways in which vampires can breed and feed. It's dark and funny with wicked insights into politics, ethics, and morality. It's is kind of like a darker and less vapid version of Maryjanice Davidson's Undead series, only with cowboys. Not like she ripped it off, but reading this made me seriously contemplate whether or not Davidson had read and been intrigued by this series prior to writing the Undead series.

A had a ball with this book and it rates a solid 4 stars. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book in this series.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review-Lay Me Down

Lay Me Down
by Erin Kellison

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I got into this series because of Darkness Falls in Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Maise has been working in the illegal side of Reve as a courier in an attempt to earn enough money to start her own business. Steve is the head of Chimera, an organization attempting to police the Reve.

What is the Reve? It is dreamscapes-personal and collective, and with the right hardware, or the right talent it is possible to link up with others to share dreams.

Honestly, I did not get quite the same buzz from this as I did Darkness Falls, because I knew what the setting was and some of what would happen. There were still a few new surprises that opened this world up though, plenty to keep the reader intrigued and wanting the next book.

Maise is such a fun character; she's strong, tough, practical, and vulnerable. Steve though, he's the mystery man. He has all kinds of complicated layers and secrets. I can really see Maise and Steve, as different from each other as they are, doing well together.

But Vincent must have some pretty serious skills and secrets too, and I'm really hoping the next book is his.

This fast-paced novella  gives the reader a slice of what looks to be a very complex world. There isn't any of that onerous info dumping, so you really need to read these in order to understand what is happening. Thoroughly enjoyable, I am giving this book 4 stars.

Review- Shattered

by Tracy Wolff

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second book in Wolf's Extreme Risk Series. At the end of Shredded Ash Lewis receives a call informing him that his brother is in surgery and his parents are dead. This book starts with Ash having thrown his career away and working in the rental shop, going down the same meaningless sex path Z, from the previous book was on. There he meets Tansy, a 19-year-old virgin who has spent the last decade battling rhabdomyosarcoma. She's got wild hair and a crazy love of life, which leads her to try to get him, involved with Make-A-Wish. As might be expected of this sort of angsty situation, Ash refuses to snowboard anymore because his brother is paralyzed and no longer can.

This book was much better than the first of the series, Shredded. The mix between child-like and adult-like behaviors was much more appropriate and the slang was toned down to levels that are more manageable, so the book didn't seem to drag as much.

Tansy and Ash were both characters you can have empathy for. Tansy is trying so hard to determine her identity now that she feels her identity is no longer just girl with cancer. Ash, who wasn't exactly Mr. Irresponsibility before, is still struggling to cope with now being the guardian for his younger brother. They felt like real people. And it was really nice to see Z being the grown up semi reasonable one.

I did have a few quibbles. First, there was a big continuity issue, in the last book, Z's sister is named, April, this book Ash is calling her Lily. Second, their resolution, while sweet, was just too fast.

What I want, but probably won't get, is the book 6-8 years from now with everyone settled, happy and grown up, and Logan is getting his HAE. I really want Logan's story, but instead we'll probably get Cam and Luc's story, which I just don't want. Luc's such a sweet guy I want a real HAE for him, and not just for him to get to be Cam's second choice.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review- Shredded

by Tracy Wolff

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Z (whose actual name we never do find out) is a 21-year-old world-class snowboarder with self-esteem issues and a death wish. Granted, he's had some effed up stuff happen in his life, so maybe he's slightly justified, though the people around him aren't for the way they've enabled his behavior. Ophelia is an 18 or 19 year old who is just trying to escape her past following a fairly traumatic event. Ignore the part of the Goodreads story blurb that says "But laying low is her only option after her ex, a rich boy who couldn’t take no for an answer, nearly killed her in a jealous rage." Because that's so far off base in its implications that I'm not sure whoever wrote it even read past the first few chapters. Every other blurb says "But after nearly dying in the same drag-racing accident that killed her boyfriend, she needs a place to heal, both physically and emotionally." They are two very damaged individuals who haven't even begin to work through their own issues and are either going to find a way to help each other or both have cataclysmic melt downs.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review-Plain Jayne

Plain Jayne
by Laura Drewry

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This author appears to have a slight obsession with John Hughes and the 80's, as the chapters start with movie quotes, he's referenced several times throughout, and hits from the 80's were featured prominently. Personally, I found it all amusing but younger readers are likely to be a bit confused.

This is a saccharine sweet friends to lovers story. Nick and Jayne have been best friends since kindergarten, but while Jayne has always loved Nick, he gets to win the prize for most clueless human being on the planet. Nick has spent the past 25 years seeing Jayne as his best bud and for 80% of this book he's in a relationship with another woman, a perfect, sweet beautiful woman just like his deceased wife. Jayne is long-suffering and doesn't do a thing about her feelings, but that's somewhat understandable considering her family history. That's actually the party of the story that worked for me-the resolution of her family background. When Jayne moves back to her hometown she finds a new perspective on the grandmother who raised her and as she makes friends she changes and grows. It was really lovely how the thing that seemed to be the most spiteful from her grandmother was actually meant to be a kindness, and that the bad parts of her life let her be there for one of her friends. Frankly, I almost wanted Jayne to realize she was perfectly fine without a man, even Nick.

While I found the pacing to be overly slow and repetitive, it was still a well-written book, and if you like a slowly developed friends to lovers saga that's not sexually explicit in the slightest this may be the book for you. I struggled on rating this because I think some of my issues are more because it's not my cup of tea than because of any inherent problem or inadequacy in the book itself. Nevertheless, in the end, no amount of 80's greatness could pull this up further than 3 stars, and I'll be honest, one of those stars is because of the 80's greatness.

Review- A Man Like Mac

A Man Like Mac
by Fay Robinson

This book is frequently found on lists about disabled heroes, particularly on positively rendered disabled heroes. It was published in 2000 and is not actually released as an eBook nor is it currently in print. While there are plenty of used copies for very cheap, isn't it better to be able to get things for free? So, I found a copy of this on OpenLibrary. It's available to anyone for check out with a free OpenLibrary account. There is only one copy so if you are looking for it, you may have a bit of a wait, but still, free is free.

So first, practical considerations. This is a scanned copy of an older book, so you will definitely want to read in browser or download the PDF version. It's well scanned and clear to read, but the color if the pages and some slight text fading is likely to make OCR text recognition for the epub version rather dodgy.

As for the story itself, it's pretty good. Mac agrees to train Keely following a devastating accident despite the fact that he knows she'll never run professionally again. Keely isn't a particularly sympathetic character, so that balances out the rather heart breaking situation so this isn't an overly saccharine book. Mac isn't perfect either, he's a little too irritatingly self-sacrificing and a bit too manipulative with Keely. He also has some of the worst timing known to man. I enjoyed how prosaically their respective disabilities were treated both in general life and in their intimate lives. It's discussed very frankly and in fact, there's one extremely humorous situation where Keely does something completely crazy to make Mac feel better when something embarrassing happens. There's also no magic cure for either of them. They certainly get their happily ever after, and their own version of miracles (It is a Harlequin Superromance after all), but they're practical and plausible sorry if miracle, which is refreshing in a romance novel.

If I were strictly rating this based on writing style and characterization I'd probably rate this 3 stars, but the deft handling of the disability gives added depth to what would otherwise be a somewhat mediocre book so I'm giving it a solid 4 stars.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review- New Pack Order

New Pack Order
by Eve Langlais

3 stars

This is the fourth book in Langlais' Pack series and Roderick is finally dead, but the consequences of his actions are still snowballing. Antonia is one of Roderick's experimental activated dormants, Marc is on a mission to redeem himself from the things he'd done as a minion, and Thaddeus is a vampire with a price on his head. There's quite a bit of action and the world building and story arc has progressed quite a bit with this entry, though it turns out that we've traded one villain for a new and scarier super villain, identity unknown. But, Nathan's character, from Defying the Pack has completely changed, and not in a good way.

This was a quick fun read that introduces new characters and new story arcs. The romance between the three protagonists was nice and steamy, and of course, since it is Langlais, it's humorous as well. I'm hoping the next turn in the series makes Nathan and his pack pull their heads out of their butts.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The much maligned and misunderstood 3 star rating.

There is quite a bit of variability in ratings systems on various platforms and this is compounded by the fact that people are averaging the responses on a Likert scale, which statistically is inappropriate. Most of the confusion revolves around what is a positive or negative review and which a 3 star actually is.

For Amazon 3 stars is "It's OK" and they count it as a critical review. On Barnes & Noble 3 stars is "Good". On Goodreads 3 stars means "I Liked it" and 2 stars means "It's OK. Personally, I rate books on how likely I am to re-read it. Books I love I will always re-read, books I don't love I never will. For me 3 stars means "This book is fairly decent. I am likely to read the rest of the series or other books by this author. However, I'm only likely to re-read this book if a new book is coming out for the series." In other words, my opinion is fairly neutral but the product still has value. It is NOT a negative ranking.

I think the biggest problem here is that none of the platforms recognize a neutral rating, a rating that is essential to the use of Likert scales. Basically, they are all doing it wrong. If they don't want a neutral rating, it should only be a 4 star system making it a forced choice scale. The second problem is the assumption that neutrality doesn't have value. It does, being in that "neither agree nor disagree" is precisely where one should be able to enumerate both the positives and the negatives and if they balance out, then that is when you are in the middle.

Think of it more like school grades.

A represents outstanding distinction and excellence. 90-100%
- These are not impossible to achieve but are rare and difficult to come by.
B signifies levels of solid accomplishment and goodness. 80- 89%
- Good is more common than excellent but more rare than average. While there is merit to hard work and long hours, it does not always guarantee success. Goodness refers to the combined results not just the effort.
C signifies "average- simple, common, adequate but ordinary 70-79%
- Average is not usually an appealing rank to artists who strive for extraordinary and unique. C is however a very respectable point. Recognize what more is needed; plan to move ahead, improve and grow.
D represents results less than standard and/or mediocre- just passable 60-69%
- Perhaps priorities about school or life have not been established. Recognize however, that a D can also mean that you truly do not understand what is expected. You should make an office appointment to discuss how you might take action on your future and upcoming assignment problems.
F is a clear failure. < 59%
-It represents lack of effort/interest. It is a cause for deep concern.

A 3 star review is like getting a C, and since when is a passing grade just not enough. Guess what, you have doctors and lawyers and engineers that you rely on every day who were C students, and they get the job done. Hell, we have had C-student presidents. That's what a 3 star book is to me, it got the job done, it entertained me, it neither repulsed nor enthralled me and there is room for improvement.

Personally, I don't tend to trust the 5 star reviews as much as I do reviews that are more critical. When I am reading reviews on Amazon, I tend to first look at the most helpful critical review and then I look at all the 3 star and below reviews.

The unfortunate side effect of honestly rating books on Amazon is that when people disagree with your rating or review, they will mark your review "unhelpful" no matter how well written or helpful it actually may be. Amazon might as well go ahead and call those buttons "like" and "dislike". So I guess I'll never be an Amazon Top Rated Reviewer, but that's ok, at least I'll know I am honest. I suppose prior to this I have been a bit naive and unobservant when it comes to the Amazon review system, I'll have to make more of an effort to actually mark reviews helpful and unhelpful, and I'll have to pay no attention to my scores because it's awfully tempting to retaliate.

Review-Beyond Repair

Beyond Repair
by Charlotte Stein

I picked this up after reading this blog post.

I'm not going to say much about the plot because honestly that's not the important thing here. It's the dialogue and Alice's inner monologue. It's the most fantastically comical surrealistic thing I've read in quite some time.

“Can you blame me? Your face is what magic would look like, if it were real. Harry Potter could probably use your jaw to destroy Voldemort.”

“Just ignore my voice. There’s a frightened nun living in my throat.”

“Is it weird if I find that weird?” “I think it’d be weird if you didn’t. I’m some stranger, soaking himself in your bathtub while you’re passed out on the bed. Sounds like the start of a horrible Lifetime movie about a crazed hobo.”

“Well, okay. Maybe not perfectly normal. You know in that movie Shame when he’s wandering around with it dangling away and everyone did a collective gasp? It’s kind of like that. I have a lot of excessive dangle. And you just can’t show excessive dangle in a romantic drama. Arthouse only, for sudden shocking penis.”

“I swear, I only do that if you don’t put the lotion on your skin.” She paused, pretending to consider. “Or is that when you get the hose again?”

(OK, maybe I'm the only creepy geeky one around here?)

Yes, yes, I know. There's a ton of angst, emotions all over the place, phobias, and suicidal ideation. There's also a rather real and gripping look through the eyes of a disable heroine, including what seems to me, a realistic depiction of a sexual relationship that actual includes the disability. While that's all well done, it's not what did it for me with this story. It was as if a big bag of sex got dumped right on top of an enormous pile of angsty nerddom. I didn't even have to spare any concentration on willful suspension of disbelief over the completely ridiculous plot device/story line that got them together and kept them together. I just didn't even care, and that's unusual for me when it comes to contemporaries. I hate to gush, especially when most everyone else is gushing, (I'm contrary that way) but I really enjoyed this book.
So a solid 4 stars, a new author I'll be checking out, and a thank you to Dear Author for putting this book out there.

Review- Rock Crazy

Rock Crazy
by Rochelle Weber

3 stars

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Katie is supposedly bipolar, and along with the common occurrence of her going off her meds when she feels well, even when she does take them they're not entirely effective. The only other option is surgical impntation of a chip in her brain, which she's afraid of and so refuses. So her husband, Scott, hatches a plan to take her to the moon where the only doctor who performs the brain implant surgery for her condition works. He works out an elaborate plan to divorce her and cause her to hit rock bottom so she'll have the surgery.

I didn't care for either of these characters in the slightest. Katie is spoiled and entitled and Scott is a shortsighted enabling ass. He enabled her for years and but finally gets fed up, and then instead of being a responsible adult he's a manipulative prick. And he's shocked that she doesn't immediately trust him him when he tells her he wants her back? It's ridiculous. I also had two other points of confusion. One, vomiting at 1/6 earth gravity should probably not be as easy peasy as it is here, and two, Katie really seemed to be schizophrenic rather than bipolar.

Additionally, it wasn't a very long story and the writing, particularly the dialogue, was kind of wooden. And except for Katie and Scott, the rest of the characters were one dimensional.

But, I don't actually have to like characters to enjoy a book, and that's the case here. The premise was really interesting, both having a heroine with a mental illness and the ideas of how the mentally ill might be treated in the future. I also enjoyed the world Ms. Weber has been building. And I would imagine that if I had read Rock Bound then I would feel more in tune with the rest of the characters.

Bottom line, I'm giving this three stars mostly because of the originality and the risk, but while I liked it, I didn't love it. And at the $5.99 price tag I'm not sure I I'd actually recommend it to anyone except people looking for a very different story or people on a disabled protagonist kick. However, if you are on what of those sort of reading kicks, go for it, this is definitely the book for you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Review-Midnight Crossroad

Midnight Crossroad
by Charlaine Harris

Despite the fact that this is marked "First in a new trilogy-Never before Published" one thing readers should know is that Manfred Bernado is NOT a new character in Charlaine Harris' worlds. He was a main supporting character in the Harper Connelly series and featured in Games Creatures Play. I'd highly recommend reading that series first so you get a better sense of who Manfred Bernardo is, but then I am biased because I quite liked that series, it is so very different from the Sookie Stackhouse series. Speaking frankly I think an extreme interest in at least one of the characters is the only thing that will drag anyone through the boredom that is the first few chapter's meet and greet. Truthfully, it's hard slog even if you are already invested in a character. I'm going to have to admit though, I picked this up fully expecting to lambast it as an awful, money bringing waste of my time, but I've been interested in the continuation of Manfred's story since I read the other series. I'm not going to gush, it wasn't that good, but it was entertaining, vivid, and a solid introduction to what should (assuming Ms. Harris has a plan and admits when to quit) continue to be an entertaining series. I give this book a solid 3 maybe 3.5 stars.

The whole town (which is pretty sparsely populated) is absolutely filled with people who have secrets and strangeness, and once you get past the meet and greet, Harris starts filling them in at a fairy steady rate. Pay close attention to Bobo though, he's going to be familiar to readers of the Shakespeare series. And while I haven't read the Aurora Teagarden series, I do believe Arthur Smith is from that series. Harris wrote a cast of the type of morally ambivalent characters so common in the Sookie-verse and paired it with a more grounded world view and a good mystery with an ending I didn't see coming, though the secondary mystery was no big surprise to those of us familiar with Bobo. In fact, this was as much Bobo’s book as it was Manfred’s.

Which I guess brings me to my final thoughts, I cannot quite decide if this is some sort of reward to faithful readers of the previous series or if it is a shameless grub to get people to look into Harris's backlist. I know I feel having read both the Shakespeare and the Connelly series enhanced my enjoyment of this book, and that I've never been particularly interested in the Teagarden series until now (I really want Arthur's back story now). I don't think you HAVE to have read any of these series to get into the book, I'm not even sure if a casual reader of this book would catch any of the connections. When Jayne Ann Krentz interweaves characters and worlds I always feel like it is a reward, here I'm not so certain. I liked it well enough though, that for the moment I am going to try to think positive and will be looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review-Magic City: Recent Spells

Magic City Recent Spells

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

This is a collection of previously published short stories, so really the only new information is Paula Guran's introduction and the way they are indexed. Each story is prefaced with the city and the type of magic it has.

It's a little hard to decide just how to rate a collection like this, especially when none of the material is newly published. However, considering how eclectic it is, it's likely only the most rabid of anthology collectors will have read every single story. I'm a bit rabid about anthologies myself, and have probably only read a third of the ones in this collection. It is also has a greater percentage of what I would consider sad stories in it. So, averaging it all out, this collection rates a solid 3 stars, but if you are thinking about picking it up just because it has one of your favorite authors in it, take a closer look and determine if it is a short story you already have in your collection.

Street Wizard by Simon R. Green

2 stars

No real substance or plot, just a night in the life of a street wizard, the magical equivalent of a traffic cop.

Paranormal Romance by Christopher Barzak

3 stars

A witch who specializes in love is set up on blind date by her interfering mother. Short sweet story with a surprise ending.

Grand Central Park by Delia Sherman

3 stars

I'm not quite sure how to describe this story, so I'll just say it didn't initially capture my attention, but the ending makes it worth the reading.

Spell Caster 2.0 by Jonathan Maberry

1 star

This one isn't new to me, I didn't care for it the first time I read it, and a re-read didn't improve my opinion. It's too...moralistic.

Wallamelon by Nisi Shawl

3 stars

This is a lovely, magical story of the costs of growing up and being different.

-30- by Caitlin R. Kiernan

DNF- Didn't hook me and the writing style felt awkward.

Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs

5 stars

I've probably read this story 100 times and it seems like I enjoy it more with each reading. It's so complete. The characters are fully fleshed and the story itself doesn't take short cuts. It also doesn't hurt that these are integral characters of a large series, so you get to continue their story through other character's eyes.

Stone Man by Nancy Kress

4 stars

Despite the fact that this story is sort of depressing, the world and the characters are well crafted and compelling.

In the Stacks by Scott Lynch

4 stars


"The inherent magic of all undergraduates-the magic of the last minute. The power to embrace any skein, no matter how insane or desperate."

During grad school it often felt as though the library was out to get me. This just took it to it's logical, magical conclusion. And it's chock full of quotes that will resonate with anyone who has spent too much time in an academic library.

A Voice Like a Hole by Catherynne M. Valente

3 stars

One of the oddest shorts I've read.

The Arcane Art of Misdirection by Carrie Vaughn

2 stars

This is another re-read, it's not bad, but some of the oomph is lost in the repeat.

The Thief of Precious Things by A.C. Wise

3 stars

A strange and fascinating peek at a post-apocalyptic dystopian world full of shifters, magic and defunct technology.

The Land of Heart's Desire by Holly Black

3 stars

A story dealing with the fear that love is ephemeral and how a person (or fairy) deals with it.

Snake Charmer by Amanda Downum

4 stars

Another sad story, this time about revenge and dragons, and maybe getting not what you want, but what you need.

The Slaughtered Lamb by Elizabeth Bear

3 stars

A werewolf drag queen finally finds acceptance.

The Woman Who Walked with Dogs by Mary Rosenblum

2 stars

Nighttime is a strange and magical place for the imaginative mind of a child.

Words by Angela Slatter

2 stars

Wordsmith witch annoys neighborhood parents, who try to annoy her back.

Dog Boys by Charles de Lint

3 stars

New kid in school story with a twist. Kind of cute and sweet.

Alchemy by Lucy Sussex

3 stars

Set in ancient Babylon, this story takes a look at how a person must determine the costs of knowledge.

Curses by Jim Butcher

2 stars

The Harry Dresden series just doesn't lend itself well to shirt stories in my opinion.

De La Tierra by Emma Bull

3 stars

An enhanced mortal hitman learns a lesson. Honestly, I'd like to see more about how this world plays out. The concept is intriguing.

Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund

3 stars

Sweet, heartwarming story about a very special dog and a very unique volunteer.

Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

2 stars

An Igbo, Nigerian, American lawyer takes a hell of a can ride to get to her sister's wedding 

Pearlywhite by Marc Laidlaw & John Shirely

3 stars

Another sad story about homeless kids. Well written and imaginative, it's worth the read as long as you aren't looking for happily ever after.