Monday, August 3, 2015

Advance Review - The Pilots of Borealis by David Nabham

The Pilots of Borealis
By David Nabham

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I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion or the contents of this review.

Top Gun heads to outer space in this throwback to the classic science fiction of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.
Strapped in to artificial wings spanning twenty-five feet across, your arms push a tenth of your body weight with each pump as you propel yourself at frightening speeds through the air. Inside a pressurized dome on the Moon, subject to one-sixth Earth’s gravity, there are swarms of chiseled, fearless, superbly trained flyers all around you, jostling for air space like peregrine falcons racing for the prize. This was the sport of piloting, and after Helium-3, piloting was one of the first things that entered anyone’s mind when Borealis was mentioned.
It was Helium-3 that powered humanity’s far-flung civilization expansion, feeding fusion reactors from the Alliances on Earth to the Terran Ring, Mars, the Jovian colonies, and all the way out to distant Titan. The supply, taken from the surface of the Moon, had once seemed endless. But that was long ago. Borealis, the glittering, fabulously rich city stretched out across the lunar North Pole, had amassed centuries of unimaginable wealth harvesting it, and as such was the first to realize that its supplies were running out.
The distant memories of the horrific planetwide devastation spawned by the petroleum wars were not enough to quell the rising energy and political crises. A new war to rival no other appeared imminent, but the solar system’s competing powers would discover something more powerful than Helium-3: the indomitable spirit of an Earth-born, war-weary mercenary and pilot extraordinaire.

I am not entirely sure what to say about this book. The writing is transcendently lush, so lush in fact it took me a couple of chapters to determine I had no clue what it was actually saying. So I went back and started over, realizing that the chapters were alternating between present and past. Or at least sometimes it alternated that way. It wasn’t always easy to tell which time stream we were visiting.

The crux of the narrative is the current ramping up of hostilities between the Terran Ring and the lunar settlement Borealis. As Borealis is responsible for the mining of Helium-3, the substance that powers virtually everything in the way that petroleum does in our time, and as the Terran Ring took over everything after the last great Earth war, sucking up resources just as greedily as the mother planet did, hostilities were inevitable. The other part of the story is Clinton Rittener’s history which lead him to acquiring honorary citizenship on Borealis and to take part in the sport of piloting. And tucked all in between were byzantine intrigues that fractured into a dizzying kaleidoscope. And it all coalesced back into something recognizable by the midpoint of the story, and then it sort of fractured off again, but perhaps not so unclearly, as if you could see the picture if only you looked through the corner of your eye.

This is a plot driven rather than a character driven story. But you got just enough hint of the main protagonist (I’ll not call Clinton a hero, because nothing could be further from the truth) to want to know more, and then with one final, heartbreaking thought, that was the last we see of him, and the wrap up of the story seem to be the final, and inevitable, conclusion.

There are no happy endings here. It is quite simply a social commentary on the nature of humanity and the consequences of that nature pushed to its horrible and logical conclusion. Or maybe it isn’t so horrible, I suppose that just depends on your perspective.

So, what do I say about this story? Did I like it? I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed the two main characters, Clinton especially, and enjoyed what character arc I could see. I even enjoyed the plot, again, what there was of it. But I will say categorically, it wasn’t enough. The best and most compelling stories are about people and how they shape and are shaped by the events around them, and not so much the events themselves. This read like a condensed version of what could, and should, have been an epic. And I easily would have read more. I also hated the ending, but I’m not certain any other outcome was possible once events were set in motion. But I am not going to rate it based on the ending, because when the blurb harkens to Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein you can’t exactly expect a fairy tale ending.

Final verdict, 4 stars, because I’m in no way disappointed to have read it, but it isn’t something I’ll be recommending to all and sundry. And when I do recommend it, I'll also say the last sentence of the blurb is somewhat misleading.

Monday, June 8, 2015

ARC Review - MIdnight Secrets by Lisa Marie Rice

Midnight Secrets
by Lisa Marie Rice

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Former Navy SEAL Joe Harris nearly died—twice—on a medevac helo after being blown up by an IED. He’s not moving too great these days, but if there was ever a woman designed to jump start a man’s hormones, it would be his new neighbor.
Meeting Isabel—loving Isabel—brought Joe back to life.
Isabel Delvaux came from one of America’s foremost political dynasties, until the greatest terrorist attack since 9/11 killed her entire family. She barely survived the Washington Massacre, only to become prey for rabid reporters. Fleeing to Portland and changing her name was a way out, a way to start over. The only way.
She knows she’s safe with Joe Harris. Not just because he's big and strong, not just because he's part of a security team that obliterates threats on the regular, but because he’s been to the abyss and back.

But as they help each other heal--through talk, through touch, through spectacular sex—the past comes back to play. When Isabel’s memory starts to return and a mysterious stranger sends Joe emails indicating she’s in imminent danger, he'll do anything to help her uncover the truth. Even if that truth is the most terrifying thing of all…
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley; this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I am just like an excited puppy when it comes to Lisa Marie Rice's Midnight series, and the excitement has not died down as I stare at book 6. Just picture the excited little puppy having a full body shake and wriggle over a milk bone. Yeah, that is me when it comes to this series. There is a repeatable format that just works for me. Damaged (in some way or another) hero who is totally sweet and protectively alpha. Damaged (in some way or another) heroine with a heart of gold. Some mystery or Machiavellian scheme that needs solving and/or thwarting where they save each other or at least each save the day, and then happily ever after. Honestly, with as much serious trauma and drama as these former Special Forces security consultants have in their personal lives, it is just amazing they can be so successful financially.

It seems repetitive, and I suppose if you read them back to back, it would be. However, the characters and the plots are all just different enough to make it fun, and it is just so energetically done, that you cannot help liking them. Plus, you have this really tight knit group of men who are like family, and they fold the women into their group seamlessly. Everybody just loves everybody, and it is happy and idyllic. Is it realistic? Absolutely not. But this is my happy time, so I suck it right up.

And oh, Isabel and Joe kept me all happy wriggly in the very best ways. Yeah Isabel is mentally/emotionally damaged, but despite the quickness it happens, you do see her healing arc. And Joe is physically damaged, but already getting better. So you see them as human, but it isn't all about the angst. It is often about longing, fun, and sexy times. And food, all the delicious food. There is also the aforementioned Machiavellian plot, but honestly, that was so ridiculously over the top I couldn't really take it seriously. It was just part and parcel of the whole over the top world we have here. Suspense without the angst or nerves, if you see what I mean. And even Isobel gets to kick butt. The only real niggle I have is the whole fetishization of going condom-less. It is idiotic and irks the hell out of me, and I would completely love more condom positivity from Ms. Rice.

Overall, 4 stars because it embraces what it is, and I enjoy the ride.

Monday, June 1, 2015

ARC Review Spiraled by Kendra Elliot

by Kendra Elliot

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

This is third in the Mason Callahan series, and thus far, I've really enjoyed reading about the lives of adults, and I really like her monsters (of the human variety).

This book though, I am really struggling on how to rate it. I enjoyed it, I really couldn't put it down, but it did frustrate the beejesus out of me.

The story starts out with a bang, literally. Agent Ava McLane is on vacation and with a friend at the mall when a mass shooting breaks out. The reader is dragged head first into the drama and suspense. And poor Mason is stuck outside waiting to find out if Ava is safe. It was an exciting start to say the least.

But then it slowed back down to the more contemplative pace that I have come to expect from Kendra Elliot, which threw me out of the story. It took me a minute to dial back down to it, but once I had, I was back into enjoyment mode. There is quite a bit of headspace time for both Ava and Mason, and the suspense was more cerebral than action oriented. And despite Ava's vacationer status, she was very much on scene for most of the procedural parts. Following the cops and the FBI as they tracked through the clues was interesting, and I didn't initially guess the villain, though I knew something was going on. It was pretty tricky, in a good way. And then it all blew to hell in a way I am not entirely sure I was expecting. Family is the damnedest thing isn't it?

And then the denouement went right back to being action packed and explosive. It was a hell of an ending for the monster. But we were left with a remarkably broken Ava.

I think that may be what bothered me the most about this book. While Bridged felt like a complete book, this one feels very much like we need another book to have any sort of resolution for Ava and Mason, despite the relatively high note.

3.5 stars and somewhat reluctantly recommending it until the next book comes out.

Blog Tour - A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall Excerpt and Giveaway

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OK, this is a little strange for me, but I jumped on this blog tour strictly due to the blurb, which kind of captivated me. I haven't read this yet, but it is absolutely on my TBR list. Take a look at the blurb, then hit up the giveaway rafflecopter, and then head on to the excerpt which has cemented my interest. I think any fans of fantasy romance will see why I find it intriguing.

From the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Immortal Guardians series comes an enchanting new series full of romance, danger, and loyalty: The Gifted Ones
Since the day Lord Dillon earned his spurs, rumors of his savagery on the battlefield have preceded him into every room, stilling tongues and sparking fear. Weary of battle, he wishes only to find a woman he can wed who will approach him not with fear, but with the tenderness that has been absent from his life for so long. Yet only the wisewoman seems invariably at ease in his presence. Perhaps because she garners the same fear in others that he does himself.
For seven years, Alyssa has been by Lord Dillon's side, counseling him from the shadows, healing him with her hands, and staving off the worst of his loneliness while his fearsome reputation keeps others at bay. Blessed—or cursed—with gifts that label her a sorceress, she is forced to conceal her youth and the love she harbors for him beneath umbral robes that lead Dillon and his people to believe she is the same aged wisewoman who served his father.
All is revealed, however, and passions flare when an enemy threatens Dillon's life and Alyssa sacrifices everything to save him. When Dillon discovers that the wisewoman is far from elderly, he is instantly entranced. And, as he and Alyssa work together to defeat an enemy bent on destroying them both, Dillon will risk anything—even the wrath of his king—to be with her.

Order Links:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Sorceress of His Own
The Gifted Ones Book 1


England, 1191

“Where is Father?” Alyssa asked, unable to bear the leaden silence a moment longer.

“Outside.”  Kneeling in the rushes that covered the earthen floor of the modest hut in which Alyssa had been raised, her mother completed one last stitch, then bit off the end of the dangling thread.

Alyssa glanced through the window, but did not spy him. 

A brisk, cool breeze wafted in, accompanied by morning sunshine.  Leaves the color of a golden sunset had just begun to fall in preparation for winter and painted the forest around the isolated dwelling with bright color.

“Is he angry?” she asked hesitantly.

“He is worried,” her mother corrected, “as we all are.”

Alyssa’s second cousin, Meghan, slumped in a chair by the hearth, brow furrowed, teeth nibbling her lower lip.  The two were of a similar age and had been the best of friends in their youth until Meg’s parents had been slain when Alyssa was ten.  Meghan had gone to live with her grandsire then, far enough away to limit the time the two could see each other.

Rising, her mother crossed to the table in the corner and tucked her needle away. 

Matthew, Alyssa’s father, may be blind, but he had lost none of his carpentry skills.  He had lovingly created every table, chair, stool, and chest in their small home.

Alyssa gave the folds of the long black robe she wore a little shake and checked the length.  Perfect.  Her grandmother was a couple of inches taller than Alyssa, so all of the robes had needed to be shortened.  “Thank you.”

The fear and sadness that shadowed her mother’s features when she returned tightened Alyssa’s chest.

“Please reconsider this, daughter.”

Swallowing hard, she shook her head.  “This is what I want.  I have made my decision.”

Male voices erupted outside, one soft and low, the other angry.

Alyssa’s brother, Geoffrey, yanked open the door and stomped inside.  His lips tightened when they fell upon her, garbed in her grandmother’s black robe.  “I did not wish to believe Mother when I received her missive.  What have you done?”

Alyssa raised her chin.  “What I have long wished to do.  I have taken steps to replace Grandmother as Westcott’s wisewoman.”

He swore foully.

“Geoffrey!” her mother reprimanded.

“Well, ’tis madness!” he raged.

Alyssa held on to her own temper, knowing his was fired by concern for her.  “’Tis not madness.  Grandmother grows weaker and more frail every year.  She cannot continue to serve as Westcott’s wisewoman.”

“Then Westcott can do without one.”

“I see no reason why they should when, shielded by these robes, I can take her place with none being the wiser.”

“They should,” her brother hissed, “because the path you have chosen will invariably lead to either heartbreak or death.”

Her mother’s and Meg’s expressions betrayed their agreement.

“I know not why it should,” Alyssa countered.

He took a step forward.  “Think you I know naught of your feelings for him, for the valiant Earl of Westcott?  Or the monstrous Earl of Westcott, if the rumors are true.”

She bristled.  “A victim of rumor yourself, you know people are always eager to believe the worst of others.  The false rumors told of mother’s supposed witchcraft nigh resulted in her death.  Yet you would place your faith in the lies told of Lord Dillon?”

“Violence follows him wherever he goes.  Can you deny that?”

“You would condemn him for defending his king?  Our king?”

He clamped his lips shut.

Meg ventured to speak.  “Do you not fear him, Alyssa?  The rest of England does.”

“With good reason,” Geoffrey muttered.

“Nay, I do not.  You are all well aware the rumors hold no truth.  I have seen with mine own eyes the kindness of which Lord Dillon is capable.  And Grandmother has said naught but good things of him.”

“Too many good things.  She has filled your head with foolish fancy.”  Geoffrey paced away a few steps.

Alyssa caught her mother’s eye.  “Know you where Grandmother is?”

“I think she is fetching her paints.  I shall see why she tarries.”

Alyssa waited for her mother to leave, then turned to her brother.  “Ask me again why I do this.”

“Why must you do this?” he asked helplessly as he returned to her side.

“Because I am tired of hiding.”

He motioned to the midnight material that covered her.  “This is not hiding?”

“Do not play the half-wit,” she snapped. 


“I love Mother,” she interrupted, keeping her voice low so it would not carry.  “But I do not want the life she has chosen.  I do not wish to live in total isolation, in constant fear for my life.  You know I have always wished to use my gifts the way they were meant to be used.  I wish to help others.  Heal others.  Guide them whenever I can.  And serving as Lord Dillon’s wisewoman will allow me to do that without risking my life.” 

Her brother snorted.  “You will risk your life the very night you begin to serve him.  You intend to help Lord Dillon take Brimshire, do you not?”

She nodded.  “Are you certain you can gain us entry?”

“Aye.  Mother sent me there ere the siege began, saying only that I would be needed.  They think me one of them.”

“She must have had a vision.”

“Aye.  And, had she seen the reason I would be needed, I would have refused.”


“You will die in his service,” Geoffrey predicted, his face full of torment.  “Violence does follow him wherever he goes.  And your love will drive you to heal every wound he incurs, fatal or nay.”  He shook his head.  “I do not wish to lose you and, again, ask you to reconsider this.”

She swallowed hard.  “I have made my decision.”

He stared at her a long moment.  “And ’tis yours to make.  I shall await you outside.”  He left without another word.

Alyssa looked to Meg. 

Ever her friend and supporter, Meg made no attempt to sway her from the path she had chosen.

Alyssa’s mother and grandmother entered. 

Her grandmother crossed to Alyssa and offered her a cloth bag.  “The paints for your hands.  Show me again you know how to use them.”

Alyssa obediently took them and, seating herself at the table, applied them the way her grandmother had instructed.  When she finished, her youthful hands bore the appearance of an old woman’s, the skin appearing thin and spotted with age.

Her grandmother nodded her approval.

“You taught me well,” Alyssa said.  “Thank you, Grandmother.”

Tucking the paints back in the bag, Alyssa rose.

Her grandmother clasped her hands and stared at her a long moment.  “I understand why you do this,” she said softly.

And Alyssa could see in her world-weary eyes that she did.  She understood all of the reasons that had driven Alyssa to take her place as Westcott’s wisewoman.

Alyssa’s mother took a step toward them.  “Mother, do not—”

“Beatrice,” her grandmother countered sharply.

Her mother quieted.

“Perhaps I did speak too fondly of Lord Dillon,” her grandmother mused.

Alyssa shook her head.  “You only spoke the truth.”

Sadness softened her grandmother’s voice.  “He will never love you, Alyssa.”

She knew her grandmother did not say it to hurt her, but it did, nonetheless.  “I am well aware of that.  He will think me the same aged wisewoman who served his sire and his grandsire.  He will think me you.  And will continue to believe such as long as I wear these robes.”

Alarm lit her mother’s face.  “You do not intend to remove them, do you?”

“Nay,” Alysaa assured her.  “Grandmother made me vow I would not, for my own safety.”

Her grandmother squeezed her hands.  “You are so innocent, Alyssa.  You know not what ’tis like to love one who cannot love you in return.  What ’tis like to love one who will never be free to love you in return.  The pain that accompanies the pleasure of being in his presence every day.  You know not the misery that awaits you when you inevitably watch the one you covet turn to another.”

“I know it well,” she insisted, and thought it worth the price she would pay.

Her grandmother sighed.  “Nay, you do not.  But I fear you soon will.”  She released Alyssa’s hands and crossed to the hearth.

Alyssa’s mother stepped forward, tears glistening in her eyes.  “We have sheltered you all your life from the hate directed at those who bear gifts such as ours.  I fear we sheltered you so much that you do not understand the true danger you will face once you leave here.”

“How can I not understand it, knowing your past and Grandmother’s?” Alyssa asked her.  The hate and fear of aught different had nipped at her grandmother’s heels all her life.  The same hate had led a man of the cloth to set Alyssa’s mother afire in an attempt to purify her of the devil’s taint when her mother was but a girl.  And a similar hate had driven men to hunt and slay Meg’s parents, who also had been gifted ones.  “But I will be safe at Westcott, Mother.  No one will chance earning the fierce Earl of Westcott’s wrath by attempting to burn his wisewoman at the stake.  All fear him too much.”

When her grandmother returned, she bore several wineskins.  “Are you certain you wish to begin your service to Lord Dillon with such a grand endeavor?”

“Aye.  If I succeed in taking Brimshire for him, he will be too distracted to notice any peculiarities that will arise during my transition.”

For the first time, her grandmother’s lips twitched with a faint smile.  “’Tis bold.  And clever.  You shall serve Lord Dillon well.”

Smiling with just a hint of nerves, Alyssa lifted her robe and secured the skins to her waist with a rope.

“You must be diligent, Alyssa,” her grandmother advised. “And maintain your guise at all times.  Never leave your chamber without the robes and cowl.  Never allow anyone more than the briefest glimpse of your hands.  And never slip and speak in your own voice.”

Alyssa adopted the elderly rasp she had been practicing for months.  “I shall be most diligent indeed, Grandmother.”

Meg’s face lit with awe.  “She sounds just like you!”

Alyssa grinned.

Her grandmother grimaced.  “Surely I do not sound as old as that.”

“Of course not,” Alyssa lied, returning to her own voice.

Her grandmother’s wrinkled features reflected her disbelief as she helped Alyssa straighten her robe.  “Should anyone at Westcott seek to harm you, all you need do is duck out of sight and doff these robes.  None will know a young woman resides beneath them.  When they find the robe, they will search for a doddering old woman, not one who blooms with youth.”

Alyssa nodded.

Her grandmother forced a smile and embraced Alyssa with frail arms.  “’Tis time.”

“Thank you, Grandmother,” Alyssa whispered past the lump that rose in her throat.

“Prove them wrong,” her grandmother whispered.  “Do not let your love for Lord Dillon cost you your life.”

When her grandmother stepped back, Meg rose and embraced Alyssa. 

Then Beatrice stepped forward and hugged her close.  “Be safe, daughter.”

Alyssa nodded, unable to speak as tears burned the backs of her eyes and thickened her throat.

As her mother, grandmother, and cousin watched, Alyssa straightened her shoulders and raised the black cowl that would conceal her features from that day forth.

* * *

Alyssa shivered beneath her dark robe as she and Geoffrey stole through the Stygian forest.  The light of a full moon dappled the foliage around them, enabling the two to negotiate the forest’s maze without the benefit of a torch. 

Though brittle leaves carpeted the forest floor, a light rain had softened them, permitting silent footsteps that enabled the two to elude the army encamped outside Brimshire’s walls.

Geoffrey touched her arm, bringing her to a halt.  Leaning down, he pointed and whispered in her ear, “The postern gate lies through there.”

“You are certain you can gain us entry?” she asked again.

He nodded.  “They think me one of them.  And, should any seek to prevent our entry, I shall use my gifts to attain it.”

“I must speak with Lord Dillon first.”

Geoffrey’s hand tightened on her arm.  “There is still time to change your mind, Alyssa.  You do not have to do this.”

She patted his hand, then gently removed it.  “I shall return anon.” 

Leaving Geoffrey, she once more crept through the forest until she reached the main camp.  Simple structures had been erected over the long months to protect the men from arrows should any be let loose by the guards atop the castle walls.  They also provided the men with shelter to stave off the illness that could be spawned by poor conditions arising from long sieges.

The light of the fires grew brighter as she approached the break in the trees.

Her heart began to pound when she located the Earl of Westcott.

He sat before a fire with a number of his men.  Armor encased his broad shoulders.  A sword, nigh as long as Alyssa was tall, lay at the ready beside him.  Flickering flames sent golden light dancing across his handsome features, providing a pleasing contrast to the dark stubble that coated his strong jaw and chin.  The scowl that creased his brow and made others tremble sparked no fear in Alyssa.  She was far too nervous and excited.

Tonight she would begin her service as Lord Dillon’s wisewoman.

* * *

Frustration beat at Dillon.  Months had passed and the lord of Brimshire seemed no closer to surrender than he had been when the siege began.

“Do you think they are as well-fortified with provisions as Lord Edward would have us believe?” Sir Simon asked.

Several dead cows had been launched over the walls today.  At first, Dillon and his men had feared they were diseased.  ’Twas a common tactic in sieges.

But the cows had instead been meant to convey a simple message:  Those besieging the castle would starve long before the inhabitants of the keep would.  They had food aplenty inside the stout walls.

Dillon shook his head.  “I know not… and have reached the end of my patience.  Tomorrow we will begin constructing siege towers.”  He had hoped to take the castle—one King Richard had granted him when Dillon had saved his life—without violence.  Without death.  Without destroying walls and structures he would then have to rebuild once Brimshire became his.

“Do you wish to send for the trebuchet?”

Ready to be done with it, Dillon nodded and started to speak.

A twig snapped in the forest.

Every man present leapt to his feet and drew his sword.

A small, black-robed figure stepped into the firelight, seeming to manifest directly from the darkness itself.

Several knights hastened to cross themselves.

Dillon motioned for all to stand down and waited for them to relax before the fire once more.  Sheathing his own weapon, he crossed to the wisewoman’s side. 

“My lord,” she greeted him in her raspy voice.

Dillon guided her away from his men.  “What do you here, Wise One?  ’Tis not safe.”  How had she traveled such a distance?  He saw none of his men with her.  Had she come alone?

“My gifts told me you have need of my services,” she whispered. 

He could remember a time in his youth when her voice had been stronger.  But age had gradually weakened it, first cracking it then reducing it to this faint relic of its former self.

None knew the wisewoman’s true age.  The more superstitious of his people, those who crossed themselves whenever she passed them, believed she possessed the powers of immortality and could claim centuries to her past.  Others placed her age nigh that of the elders, who all swore she had served the Westcott lords for as long as the oldest amongst them had walked the earth.  All Dillon knew with any certainty was that she had seen at least two-score and ten years, for she had advised his father throughout Dillon’s youth.

He recalled his intense curiosity as a boy.  She had stood straighter then, had seemed taller, almost grandiose to a precocious child who would not see his final height of a few inches above six feet for many years.  A floor-length black robe with long sleeves that fell beneath her fingertips and a cowl that shielded every feature and defied even the strongest gust of wind had been and still was her constant companion.  As Dillon understood it, none had ever looked upon her unmasked.  Not even his grandfather, beside whom the elders insisted she had first stood.

Since acquiring the title, Dillon had had little chance to speak with this mysterious woman who had served his family for so many years.  He had spent most of his time quashing a cousin’s rebellion, then attempting to claim Brimshire.  And, though he had known her peripherally all of his life, he had not yet decided how he felt about her coming to him as his advisor. 

“All goes well here, Seer,” he told her.  ’Twas not a lie.  There had been no losses on his side.  No sickness.  As far as sieges went, this had been an uneventful one.  “Tomorrow we will begin constructing siege towers—”

“Such will not be necessary.”

He stared at her, shocked that she had interrupted him.  Everyone else feared him too much to risk the fury they all believed would erupt if they did so.  “I know not—”

“Rest easy, my lord,” she whispered, interrupting him again.  “Brimshire will be yours by sunrise.”

So saying, she backed away and let the forest swallow her.

Nonplussed, Dillon heard no sound of movement but knew without grabbing a torch and thrusting it forward that she was gone. 

He turned to face his men.

Judging by their uneasy expressions, most had overheard.

“What do you suppose she meant by that?” Simon asked.

Dillon knew not and, retaking his place before the fire, decided to forgo sleep until she returned.

Hours later, as the sun rose and painted the land around them with a rosy dawn, a loud clanking sound disrupted the silence.

Dillon stood and faced the castle.

The drawbridge began to lower.

Waking his men with a single command, he mounted his destrier and drew his sword.

Squires fetched mounts.  Knights climbed into saddles and drew weapons that glimmered in the strengthening sunlight.

The heavy outer portcullis slowly rose as Dillon and his men took up a position some distance from the end of the drawbridge.

A charged silence followed.

The inner portcullis rose.

All waited in tense anticipation for men to pour forth with a battle cry.

Minutes passed as bird song serenaded them. 

Then a small black-robed figure emerged, face hidden by her cowl.  Striding boldly across the drawbridge, she halted when she reached Dillon’s side.  “As I said, my lord, siege towers will not be necessary.  Brimshire is yours.”

Dillon stared down at her in astonishment as his men all crossed themselves in a flurry of motion.

She had accomplished in one night what a six-month siege had not.

Just how far did her gifts extend?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review - Cat's Lair by Christine Feehan

Cat's Lair
by Christine Feehan

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The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leopard’s Prey returns to the feral underworld of her astonishing Leopard novels in an arousing new romance of forbidden animal instincts…
Cat Benoit has finally escaped the past—and the man who was the source of her nightmares. She’s off the grid, underground but watchful, and creating a new life for herself in Texas, far from the torrid dangers of her native New Orleans. She’s safe. He’ll never find her this time. Cat has to believe that. It’s the only thing keeping her sane.
Yet she can’t escape the attention of Ridley Cromer, the instructor at the martial arts dojo where Cat takes lessons. She arouses the animal in Ridley—and something feral comes to life when their body heat rises. Cat is in no position to let her guard down with anyone, especially someone who could be endangered by her past. But Ridley has secrets of his own—secrets only Cat would understand. If she dares to trust him..

Do you hear that shriek? That's the sound of being completely irked because you want to quit a series, but you're still waiting for one particular character's story.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Review - Never More by Dana Marie Bell

Never More
by Dana Marie Bell

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I enjoy the Gray Court series. Bell takes familiar Seelie characters, and then spins them a bit. Leprechauns, fairies, Oberon, Tatiana, and The Hob all have their roles, and within this world she incorporates vampires as a type of Sidhe, sirens, and dragon shifters. And somehow with all that mish mash, she makes it work and weaves it into something really cohesive and interesting. They have action, a story arc that ties it all together, lovely romances, and since these are from Samhain, a rather high steam rating.

Never More is the 6th story in this series and is not remotely a standalone. Honestly, this is the LEAST capable of being a standalone because it is one of those books that serves to bring the entire main cast back together to serve the overall arc, while still giving us a satisfying new romance. But it is a series I recommend to Fae and paranormal romance lovers. It is also a hard one to recommend because I think this series started out a little shaky and then really hit its stride around book 3. Unfortunately this a series that must be read in order. The first two books are by no means bad, I just don't think they adequately show how good this series gets.

As for this story, it features Raven Goodfellow (yes, related to THAT Goodfellow) and Amanda Pierson. Amanda played a pivotal role in the first book but has only been mentioned since then. She is a fire cracker with a penchant for dares and a smart mouthed attitude that I enjoyed tremendously. And in this story we get to see the sweetheart behind the bad-boy image Raven has previously presented to the world. There has been more than one heartbreaking incident in his past, and consider this your trigger warning, because Bell goes to a trope that is only rarely used on male characters. It is neither graphic nor gratuitous, but it is definitely a significant element of this story because it impacts what Raven does. With all the wedding shenanigans and appearances of other characters, the romance is a bit shoehorned in, but lovely nevertheless. I was so glad to see Raven get his happily ever after. And the thing I enjoyed most about this particular story, is how very playful the tone is. Raven has had a hard life but when given the chance and the freedom to play by Amanda, he goes full tilt toward it. This results in a barrage of goofy, groan inducing puns. If you are like me and adore some good groan worthy puns, you'll get a big kick out of it. If you don't you might just find this story "hawkward".

4 stars

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Monday, May 25, 2015

OpenLibrary Review - Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts

Carolina Moon
By Nora Roberts

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts—an utterly spellbinding tale about a woman who, though battered in both body and spirit, can never lose Hope…Tory Bodeen grew up in South Carolina, in a small run-down house, where her father ruled with an iron fist and a leather belt—and where her dreams and talents had no room to flourish. But she had Hope, who lived in the big house just a short skip away and whose friendship allowed Tory to be something she wasn’t allowed to be at home: a child. 
After young Hope’s brutal murder, unsolved to this day, Tory’s life began to fall apart. And now, as she returns to her hometown, with plans to settle in and open a stylish home-design shop, she is determined to find a measure of peace and free herself from the haunting visions of the past. As she forges a new bond with Cade Lavelle—Hope’s older brother and the heir to the family fortune—she isn’t sure whether the tragic loss they share will unite them or drive them apart. But she is willing to open her heart, just a little, and try. 
Living so close to those unhappy memories will be more difficult and frightening than Tory could ever have expected, however. Because Hope’s murderer is nearby as well… 

I love OpenLibrary, and as far as I am concerned it is one of the best and most novel approaches to book lending we've seen. Small disclaimer though, always checkout the PDF version (unless you are fortunate enough to have access to one of the partner libraries in which case I don't know exactly what is available), because OCR text recognition isn't great with scanned older books. But they do have a wealth of books available.

Today's feature is Carolina Moon. I'd consider this one to be one of Roberts' quasi paranormals, i.e. the whole world is contemporary as are all the characters except the heroine who has a bit of a twist.

Victoria Bodeen is one of those heroines where you just can't quite understand why or how she keeps geting up from the hits life has dealt her. Cade Lavelle is one of those poor little rich boy heroes. He's overbearing, and arrogant, and proprietary when he doesn't really have that right. So I'm not sure quite why I like him, I can just tell you that I do. And I found their romance and their relationship very satisfying. There's also a secondary romance that I found very enjoyable as well. You put those romances together with friendships and familial bonds woven into a very tricky mystery, and you have yourself a highly satisfying read. And considering the bargain price of free, it is more than worth the read.

As has often been said about Nora Roberts' books, they tend to be a bit formulaic. This one however is a bit more involved and trickier than usual. 4 stars

Friday, May 22, 2015

Movie Review - Mad Max: Fury Road

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This movie left me breathless. Literally breathless. I can’t remember ever being this sucked into a movie since reaching adulthood. I’ll grant you, I went in predisposed to like it due to the awesome, awesome, reviews. But I wasn’t prepared to be enthralled. I don’t know how long I stared entranced until the action slowed down a bit, all I know is a kept leaning forward, gripping the hand rests as though they were the only things keeping me grounded, my heart pounding in my chest, breathless. When the first chase scene ended the theater was filled with one whooshing out gasp. I think the entire theater was breathless alongside me.

Furiosa’s calm assumption of power right from the start was just shiver inducing. And then we really meet her, meet the wives, meet Max and Nux. Everyone is a person, no one is a thing. And all of these characterizations come about with incredibly stripped down dialogue. Few people had more than a handful of lines, and yet they were real. It was, in my opinion, masterful.

Some things were ridiculous. The wives are quite the McGuffin. And for a world so bare of water they seemed incredibly wasteful. And the whole mother’s milk thing strained credulity because of the sheer amount of calories needed to produce it. And looking back, the symbolism with the seeds is kind of eye rolling. None of that registered while I was in that seat. It was all action, and character growth, and emotions. And it hit me right in the feels. I am not ashamed to admit there were times I teared up.

So the question everyone seems to want to talk about, is this a feminist movie? That is going to depend very heavily on how a person defines feminism. I am falling on the side of yes, this is strongly feminist. We have a strong female warrior in Furiosa, one who made difficult choices in order to survive, and who risked everything for redemption. We have strong capable female nurturers. Splendid Angharad, Capable, Toast the Knowing, Cheedo the Fragile, and The Dag. Victims who decide to take a better path for themselves. No unnecessary killing, protect the children, work together, and defend when necessary and however they are capable. They are capable and have agency without being improbable warriors. Hell, even the Milk Mothers in the end have their agency. We have a man who neither oppresses nor cossets women. Max fights Furiosa just as he did the men, he assumes capability from all the women and acts accordingly. And Nux, a young man who learns, inescapably, how he is just as much a slave to this oppressive system as the women are, and remakes himself accordingly. Nux was a heartbreaking stand in for all the War Boys. And the thing that detractors of the feminist images point to most, Furiosa acceding to Max’s plan instead of her own, was to me a powerful feminist statement. Because feminism isn’t about subjugating either gender, it is about equality, and equality includes using your best allocation of resources and not relegating one person’s ideas or contributions to the backburner simply because of gender. A tribe of warrior women could have been made into a caricature with them relegating the supposed oppressing male to the inferior position. That didn’t happen, instead they listened, discussed, and decided. THAT is powerful, and I can’t see any way it is anti-feminist. He didn’t drag them by the hair, or decide for their own good, he didn’t tell them. He presented what he thought and knew, and THEY decided.

So that is a really long manifesto on feminism and a movie. And for all intents and purposes, it is useless. Because very little of that is WHY I loved this movie. It is just why I was able to start from a place of not disliking it or being frustrated enough to just want to quit. I loved this movie because I love high octane action movies. Guess what? I love the Die Hard franchise and the Fast and Furious franchise. And this absolutely works on that level, so long as you don’t mind badass women. I loved it because it was a wonderful blend of cinematically gorgeous and pseudo gritty that was a feast for my eyes. I loved it because of a music score that plucked my emotional and physiologic strings like a master harpist, leaving me at times breathless, heart wrenched, despairing, and euphoric. I don’t think I could say it was “good” music, but it absolutely worked. And I loved it for the dozen different individual stories that were SHOWN to me instead of told to me. I loved it for being a movie that just dropped me into the story and expected me to figure it out rather than guiding me through it, telling me all about it, and then monologueing me to death.

In short, this is the kind of movie that took me out of myself for the allotted time, made my heart pound and race, made me breathless, and made my cheap ass forget to eat my overpriced movie snacks. I am probably one of the cheapest people you will ever meet, and not only do I not regret the ticket price (as I so often do), I am perfectly willing to pay and see it in theater a second time. This is the must see movie of the 2015 summer, and I would hazard it is the must see of the entire year, if not the decade. Yes, if you like action, it was just that good.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ARC Review & Giveaways - Beyond Innocence by Kit Rocha

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Beyond Innocence
By Kit Rocha

For years, Jared has existed on the fringes of both Eden society and Dallas O'Kane's Sector Four gang. He travels between these worlds, protected by his money and power--money he earned selling his body, and power that comes from knowing secrets. He's untouchable—until he starts a new life gathering intelligence for the O'Kanes.
Lili Fleming walked out of Sector Five with a gun, the bloodstained clothes on her back, and an icy determination to survive. She finds herself in a world where people live hard and love harder, and nothing's more terrifying than how much the O'Kanes wake her up, make her feel—especially Jared.
Emotion is a risk he can't afford, and a complication she doesn't need. But neither can resist the lust simmering between them, and the sparks that could either melt the ice around both their hearts…or get them killed. Because the only thing more dangerous than loving an O'Kane is loving a spy.

This is book 6 in Kit Rocha's sexy post apocalytic series. Previous books I've reviewed in this series include Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond Pain, Beyond Temptation, Beyond Jealousy, Beyond Solitude, Beyond Addiction, and Beyond Possession. Needless to say, once I found them, I inhaled them. We've got a couple of giveaways here, and then my review.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review - Let it Ride by Vivian Arend

Let it Ride
by Vivian Arend

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

He’s her rock in the midst of the storm
When Maggie Ward’s world is torn apart by sudden tragedy, the only thing that makes her days bearable is Clay Thompson’s unwavering presence. He’s protective, caring, and everything she could ask for in a friend. But when she finds herself longing for more than friendship, it will take a little seduction to convince the stubborn mechanic she’s ready to start living again.
She’s his heart, whether he knows it or not
Clay Thompson’s got the taking-care-of-others business down pat, only he’s never faced this particular challenge before—the one woman he’s always wanted is unexpectedly his to care for. Suddenly it’s not just responsibility driving him, but a wild desire to make Maggie truly his. But following his heart might mean sacrificing the family he’s held together for years.

This is book 3 of the Thompson & Sons series, which is actually a spin-off from the Six Pack Ranch Series. You can read the Thompson & Sons series without having read the 6 Six Pack Ranch series, but I highly recommend both series because it paints a picture of the community life and the familial bonds when you put it all together.

Let it Ride has elements of second chance romance and friends to lovers. It is a good story, there just really wasn't enough of it. Maggie and Clay were friends in high school and possibly headed toward more, but when his life imploded with the death of his mother, and he stepped up to keep his family together, they drifted apart. Years later Maggie is back in town when tragedy strikes, and Clay being the big brother and stand up guy, he is there for her.

There are just some really lovely parts to their story, and some undeniable conflicts. The one in particular with his father was heart wrenching. It was believable that a man who hasn't stopped mourning his wife might feel some negative emotions toward someone who is willing to live and love again after tragedy. That part was believable. Some people might find the speed of Maggie and Clay's relationship problematic, but honestly I didn't. Where it broke down for me was in the speed of the resolution. It was a small let down though in what was otherwise an enjoyable book with characters I rooted for. 3.5 stars

Monday, May 18, 2015

ARC Review - Hot Alphas by Lora Leigh, Laurelin McGee, Shiloh Walker, Kate Douglas

Hot Alphas
by Lora Leigh, Laurelin McGee, Shiloh Walker, Kate Douglas

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In Erin’s Kiss by Lora Leigh, ex-Marine Turk has become Erin’s sworn protector. The consistent target of her CIA-operative brother’s deadly foes, Turk is the only port Erin has to cling to in a storm. He promised her brother long ago never to touch her—but how can he resist a woman who aches to be with him as much as he burns for her?
In misTaken by Laurelin McGee, Jaylene Kim is a strong independent woman whose feminist values run deep. Even though attractive men are her weakness the last thing she wants is one telling her what to do. Until she meets her mysterious new neighbor. He makes her realize that you can still be strong and relinquish control . . . in the bedroom. But as their passion consumes them both Jaylene isn't so sure he is who he says he is.
In Burn for Me by Shiloh Walker, Tate longs to spend his nights with Ali, a woman he’s loved for years. But while Ali’s heart pines to be with Tate, her head has reservations. Ali knows that Tate has never forgiven his father for the fight he had with his mother right before she left the house—and was never heard from again. Tate's unresolved anger is a force to be reckoned with . . . but the heat that blazes between them is undeniable. Now both Tate and Ali are left to wonder: Can love really conquer all?
In Tangled by Kate Douglas, Nate shows up to work at Tangled Vineyards ready to do all the things he loves best—work with his hands, grow the grapes, and craft award-winning, full-bodied wines. But when something better comes along in the form of Cassie, the winemaker and former owner of the vineyard, Nate becomes completely love-drunk. Getting involved with Tangled’s number-one mixologist is a bad way to start off a new job, but with Cassie as a constant temptation, Nate doesn’t stand a chance…
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Erin’s Kiss-Once upon a time I had a love affair with Lora Leigh, I devoured everything she ever wrote, then devoured it all over again. I even remember the other Wounded Warriors stories, and I remember really enjoying them. Especially Cooper’s Fall. So after reading Erin’s Kiss, I went back and reread that one. And I still really enjoyed it, it’s sexy and over the top, and it kind of owns it. Even Sheila’s Passion was pretty good. Erin’s Kiss just fell flat for me, it was kind of bland. Even the overriding story arc in this series was bland. You could probably read this as a standalone because the connection to the series seems fairly superficial, but you’re definitely going to know it is part, of a series.

misTaken, is an awkward blend of feminist diatribe and feminist apologetic. Noah was cute and socially awkward and not at all an alpha. I rather enjoyed this character, but he didn’t seem to fit the Hot Alpha theme. Perhaps Jaylene was meant to be the hot alpha? Then we get the diatribe by her about how worthless romance novels are, fairy tales for “Basic B----es” and the total dismissal and disgust of anyone of anything that doesn’t fit her notion of feminism, yeah, that’s going to endear me. I get that it is likely meant to be tongue in cheek and aggressively to one side of the position to show a dramatic change, but it is highly irritating, and foreshadowing much? Yeah, I saw that plot twist coming from a mile away. The whole thing was like a social parody or essay even, and it took me completely out of the story and the characters. Presumably Jay’s two friends will also be getting their own stories, but nothing about this one made me want to keep an eye out for them.

Burn for Me-While I don’t exactly understand a woman that lets a relationship she isn’t happy with just coast for three years, I really got into this story, I dig couples who communicate. The couple was sweet, the mystery was interesting, and the cozy feel of the town and characters all made me want to read more. With this short format, maybe I don’t entirely buy the sea change in the hero’s emotional outlook, but I enjoyed it all anyway. I’ll be checking out the other books in the series.

Tangled-This story has sort of a sad start, then Cassie and Nate sit talking like old friends and hop right into bed. I wasn’t expecting to like this, with that sort of start and the co-workers angle, but Kate Douglas has a way about her. So instead of a strict workplace romance conundrum, we ended up with quite a mystery for such a short story. The relationship was obviously almost ridiculously rushed, but I enjoyed it anyway.

This is not the strongest anthology I’ve read in a while, but on the relative strengths of Burn for Me and Tangled, I’m giving it 3 stars.