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.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Making room in my budget for books: Part 2

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Reading, especially if you are voracious, can be a remarkably expensive hobby. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I am perfectly willing to find ways to make the cost less onerous, or to squeeze money out of other parts of my budget. So here's a run down of most of the things I have included in my day to day habits to help finagle my finances.

OpenLibrary is a free online library open to quite literally anyone with an internet connection and the ability to use AdobeDRM. Handy tip: never get the epub, always stick with the PDF. The selection is bizarre, but there are some true out of print gems in there.

I've also finally renewed my library card and am using Overdrive. My library's selection is hit or miss, but a book I don't have to pay for is a different book I can purchase some other time. And an online library is a library that doesn't require pants, which is always a bonus.

I also started using apps and online printable coupons. There were quite a few on that last post, but I have added a couple more.

For Texas specific residents who shop at HEB, there is now an app, and there are digital coupons. A few key things to remember, when you buy something that you have a digital coupon for, if you also give them a paper coupon they will ALWAYS default to the paper coupon, even if it is worth less. Also, this means no doubling of store and manufacturer's coupons. However, and this is key, HEB does some really cool things with their coupons, like $2 off an $8 purchase of produce, or meat, or seafood. There are even coupons for things like bread and milk. So there are coupons for things you almost always buy but almost never get coupons for. Pairing the app/digital coupons with the email newsletter ones has resulted in some pretty incredible shopping deals. I have to eat, but at least now I don't have to spend quite as much. Plus, it has a grocery list feature and lets you add things to your list from the sale ads. It doesn't let you add things to your grocery list from the coupons list yet, nor does it take you to the coupons directly (grocery IQ is better for this), but if you add an item that does have a coupon it will highlight it to let you know you can go "clip" that coupon.

The other new app I have added is Shopkick (disclaimer: that will link to my referral code). This is an odd app and I had been resistant to getting it. Basically, you get points for walking into stores that offer "kicks", for scanning specific items, and for linking your credit card and purchasing from specific stores (this last one I have not done). There is not an amazon giftcard option or a cash option, so you can't directly buy books with your savings, but it is a relatively painless way to earn giftcards for stores like Macy's, Starbucks, or a variety of other places.

So this is where I'm at in the budget finagling. Anyone else have any suggestions?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Advance Review - Day Shift by Charlaine Harris

Day Shift
by Charlaine Harris

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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.

There is no such thing as bad publicity, except in Midnight, Texas, where the residents like to keep to themselves. Even in a town full of secretive people, Olivia Charity is an enigma. She lives with the vampire Lemuel, but no one knows what she does; they only know that she’s beautiful and dangerous.
Psychic Manfred Bernardo finds out just how dangerous when he goes on a working weekend to Dallas and sees Olivia there with a couple who are both found dead the next day. To make matters worse, one of Manfred’s regular—and very wealthy—clients dies during a reading.
Manfred returns from Dallas embroiled in scandal and hounded by the press. He turns to Olivia for help; somehow he knows that the mysterious Olivia can get things back to normal. As normal as things get in Midnight…
This is the second book in Charlaine Harris' Midnight, Texas Series. I enjoyed Midnight Crossroad, but had some concerns at the aims for the series.

And I think I was right to be concerned with the aims. While there were flashes of brilliance, and elements that I enjoyed in this book, great big old chunks of it seemed like nothing more than backlist baiting. We have one very popular character of a former series who has shown up with what appears to be a retconned back-story and completely stripped of any of his former personality. (As an aside, due to events in this story it is apparent Harris has decided that the Dead But Not Forgotten book of stories is not canonical-which I find insanely frustrating.) And a second character from that series also made an appearance but it seemed contrived and not anything that couldn't better have been handled with someone in this series.

I enjoyed seeing more of Manfred, and I definitely enjoyed getting to know Olivia (she's so delightfully morally ambivalent). And Fiji, Chuy, Joe, and the Rev were very integral to the story and we were able to see more of their character's hidden facets. Bobo was more of a side character this time, as was Lemuel, and that is okay because trying to make everyone take center stage would have made this book even more scattered than it turned out to be. I think Ms. Harris might be struggling with a series that doesn't just have one or two main characters. And Manfred's mystery was overall very entertaining as was the side plot involving the new business in town. There were some "what were you thinking?/why aren't you thinking?" type moments with Manfred and Olivia, but they usually acknowledged those and corrected. But a third shoehorned in mystery was just too much and done for no real purpose that I can see at this time.

Finally, the book just sort of ended. Only one thing was resolved, and the rest was just left hanging. I suppose it is to set up for the next book, but really it felt abrupt and unfinished and I kept paging back and forth looking for the rest of it. I'll probably try to catch this at the library to make sure there isn't something that was fixed for the publication from the ARC.

Overall, I am rating this 3 stars, but bottom line-get it from the library, wait for paperback pricing, or cost share with a friend.

If you enjoyed this review, please consider "liking" it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Because no one should be harried and bankrupted for having an effing opinion.

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Right now in Nevada, legislation is on the table that would effectively strip anti-SLAPP protections, which is one of the few things that stand in the way of honest people being punished unfairly for having a dissenting opinion. This affects every aspect of our public lives, whether you're doing the reviewing (even on something as basic and ubiquitous as Amazon) or trying to find reviews on something you're considering purchasing. Reliance on the public review process is already fraught enough with the surge of paid for positive reviews, and stifling negative reviews even further can only be a detriment to the consumer. So even if you never write reviews yourself, stop and think about how many reviews you've read and how they've affected your purchasing. There are plenty of other aspects that would be affected besides reviewing, but it's the aspect that's closest to me. And, I could probably pontificate for a while on this, but plenty of people have already done it better.

Her Hands, My Hands

Marc Randazza

Jacob Sullum

Ken White at PopeHat

Mike Cernovich

If you like free speech and the free market, this should concern you. Not all states yet have anti-SLAPP legislation, and rolling back one of the stronger examples isn't going to help matters any, so even if you don't live in Nevada, this affects you too.

Friday, May 1, 2015

2nd Shelly Laurenston Sale

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A week or so ago books 2-4 of Shelly Laurenston's Pride Series were on sale. Now, fortunately for the weeken, books 6-9 are on sale as well for $1.99 each in the USA. Happy Reading!