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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Blog Tour Stop: Sins & Needles by Karina Halle - Excerpt


Today we have an excerpt for you from the ever-fabulous Karina Halle's brand new Adult Contemporary Romantic Thriller, Sins & Needles! 

By the way, don't you just love that cover? When you read the book you'll realize just how "Ellie" that cover model is, right down to the hooded eyes. Click here to see it full size


Here's a brief blurb for Sins & Needles, and you can also read our joint review here.

Synopsis: Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents’ latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerously erotic road.

Excerpt:

I couldn’t figure out what to say because what he was saying was the truth. He removed his glasses and put them on the ground beside him. His eyes, heavy lidded with drink, drifted to my mouth. I gulped nervously, not liking the tension that was jagging between us.

“How do you think I should feel?” I asked thickly. My nerves were on fire. Everything was on fire.

“Like this,” he said. Slowly, he leaned over and kissed me. His lips were soft and tasted like bourbon. I couldn’t kiss him back if I wanted to; I couldn’t do anything but freeze. He pulled back a little, his eyes inches away. I could see my frightened reflection in the black hole of his pupil.
“See? You’re afraid.”

“You want to scare me?” I whispered.

He kept his lips an inch from mine. His fingers smoothed the hair off my face, tucking it behind my ear.

“Yes,” he murmured. His lips brushed mine as he spoke. My breath hitched as his other hand slid the strap of my tank top and bra off my shoulder. I shivered from his touch, from his eyes, from whatever was buried in his heart and eating him alive.

“Camden,” I warned, my voice shaking.

He placed his lips on my shoulder and started kissing down my arm. He was right. I was scared. I was so, so afraid. Yet a terrible part of me wanted him to continue. I was turned on and frightened, ready to run, ready to fight, ready to grab him and kiss him, devour every part of him. I didn’t know what was going on, but I was stuck in a cage with something that might or might not harm me, that might give me everything and leave me with nothing.



I know, right? Tingles all over.

You might also want to check out these other stops from the tour:

January 21st: Reading in Winter (guest post), Xpresso Reads

January 22nd: The Book Asylum (review + guest post), Reading Books Like a Boss

January 23rd: Letters Inside Out

January 24th: Alluring Reads, SupaGurl Reads (giveaway + review), Addicted to Heroines (review + excerpt)

January 25th: For the Love of Film and Novels, The Book Hookers

January 26th: The Demon Librarian, Beckoned by Books

January 27th: Your Urban Fantasy, Smardy Pants

January 28th: Reading in Winter

January 29th: Miss Vain’s Paranormal Fantasy, Reader of Fictions

January 30th:  Supagurl Reads (guest post) The Demon Librarian (excerpt)

January 31st: Ashley’s Book Nook, Sam’s Awesomeness

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Early Review: A Shimmer of Angels by Lisa M. Basso ★★★




A Shimmer of Angels by Lisa M. Basso
Genre: YA Paranormal
Series: Angel Sight #1
Publication Date: January 29th 2013
ISBN: 9780985029425
Page Count: 321
Rating: ★★★
Review Copy: ARC
Reviewed by: Janice


Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Rayna sees angels, and has the medication and weekly therapy sessions to prove it. Now, in remission, Rayna starts fresh at a new school, lands a new job, and desperately tries for normalcy. She ignores signs that she may be slipping into the world she has tried so hard to climb out of. But these days, it’s more than just hallucinations that keep Rayna up at night. Students are dying, and she may be the only one who can stop it. Can she keep her job, her sanity, and her friends from dying at the hands of angels she can't admit to seeing?
Review:

All's well that ends well

A Shimmer of Angels was a mixed bag for me. It's a surprisingly dark tale, and even now, I can't decide if that worked for or against it.

The story revolves around Rayna (aka Ray) who has just returned to high school after spending the last three years locked away in a mental facility. The reason she was there? She used to see angels, and according to her doctor and her family, that makes her a very troubled and delusional young woman. Now in "remission", Rayna is finally home to reclaim and rebuild her life. It isn't easy. Her dad is overprotective and watching her like a hawk, and her younger sister is openly hostile toward her. Rayna herself is terrified of regressing and earning herself a one-way ticket back to the SS Crazy, so when she sees glimpses wings on a new student in her class, she panics and tries very hard to deny what she has seen. But as she is about to find out, this is only the beginning. Her entire life is about to implode.

It's not that I was unsympathetic to Rayna's plight, because I wasn't. I felt for her, I really did. Her ability to see angels wasn't a gift; it was a curse that had caused her nothing but grief and pain, and if I was in her shoes, I'd be freaking out too. Unfortunately, so much page time was devoted to Rayna's fear, anger and denial, it actually pushed me away from the story, instead of pulling me into it. Momentum was lost, and sadly, so was a lot of my interest. It may sound heartless of me, but at a certain point, I didn't want to hear about Rayna's issues anymore; I just wanted her to get over them and move the heck on. And if she could lose the attitude somewhere along the way, that would be nice too.

Another problem I had was with the character of Cam. I was not impressed. He was too weak and wishy-washy for me, and more often than not, he failed - epically - to stand up and play the hero when it really counted. What Rayna saw in him, I cannot fathom. I suspect she was blinded by the glow of his sparkly white wings.

The real hero of the book was Kade. He was sexy and charming, helpful and informative, and when push came to shove, he always came through. He was, in short, a much-needed breath of fresh air. If Kade had been on every page, I would have been one very happy reader.

Where A Shimmer of Angels really redeemed itself was in its final pages. Beginning around the 50-60% mark, it started to slowly pick up steam, and by the 70% mark, it was practically flying. Kade was awesome, of course, but Rayna....I have to say, Rayna really surprised me. Not only did she restore a lot of the faith I'd lost in her, she also gave me hope for the future of the series. Enough that I've already added the sequel to my TBR list.

3 Stars ★★★
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewed by:

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Blog Tour Stop: Sins & Needles by Karina Halle ★★★★★


Sins & Needles by Karina Halle
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Thriller
Series: The Artists Trilogy #1
Publication Date: January 29th 2013
ISBN: n/a
Page Count:
Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewed by: Lynsey/Janice
Review Copy: ARCs provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.



Synopsis: Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents' latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerously erotic road.

**Sins & Needles is a dark and sexy contemporary ride about three flawed individuals caught in a world where it's so easy to justify the bad things we do. This is a pure adult read (Not YA or NA).**

Lynsey's Review:

So you think you like flawed characters, huh? 

Well, do ya? Punk? 

That there is the challenge Karina Halle lays down for you with this, the first of her new Artists Trilogy, Sins & Needles. And you will be challenged by it, make no mistake. I myself am a card-carrying member of the I Heart Flawed Characters Fan Club*, and yet still I was challenged. Almost to my limit. If you're familiar with Karina's other works, specifically her Experiment in Terror series, you'll know that unusual and quirky characters are something she excels at. They're layered, flawed and not always good, but they are always effective, engaging and real. I think she took that skill to a new level here with Ellie and Camden. There are times you may find yourself unsure if you like either of them, or at least, you probably won't like their actions. Some of which are extremely hard to reconcile. Halle pulls no punches, nor does she baby her readers with characters whose flaws are only puddle-deep and eclipsed by them being otherwise perfect in every conceivable way. Nope, with this book, you either take her characters as they are, or walk away now and we'll say no more about it. 

Still here? Well alrighty then. 

So, let's break it down a bit. Your main character is Ellie Watt, but that's only one identity of several she's lived under as part of her drifting, grifting, con artist lifestyle. But what's in a name, anyway? Well, when you're starting to lose sight of who you actually are because you've been playing someone else—or several someone else's—for so long, then quite a bit, actually. Reconnecting with her past, including reverting back to her real name and moving back to the town she considers home, the place where she spent her formative highschool years, may have seemed like the first step on the straight and narrow road to going legit for Ellie. Instead, what she finds is a one-way ticket to Oh Crapsville, and, a rather interesting fellow by the name of Camden McQueen. 

What to say about Camden... without spoilers, this will be difficult. Let's start with the basics. He's hot. He wears nerd glasses (*dies*). He's charming. He's confusing. He's a musician. He's a tattoo artist and is covered in them practically from head to toe (and all the yummy, muscular places in between). But really that's just scratching the surface. There's a ginormic plot twist in the first quarter of the book, and it's not until that point that you can really, truly get to know Camden. And when you do, I defy anyone not to be sympathetic to his character. 

As well as being told in 1st Person from Ellie's POV, there are regular flashbacks in third person featuring "the girl." It's obvious straight away that "the girl" is our Ellie. I don't think she's called "the girl" to try and hide her identity from readers. I think it was done to show Ellie's disassociation of herself from the girl in the memories; as though she's just another one of her fake identities. When in truth, only through gradually reading "the girl's" flashback passages and combining those with the Ellie of today, can we finally start to understand and appreciate her character. And don't worry if you really don't like Ellie at first. It's supposed to be that way, I think. I mean, she's a con artist, which means she's deceitful, sneaky, dishonest, untrustworthy and an opportunist of the highest order. But the flashbacks will help explain why she is what she is, and the reasons for her behaviour. As well as her complicated and emotionally fraught relationship with Camden. 

At several points during the read, I wasn't sure if Ellie was ever going fully win me over, but I can safely say that by the end, she definitely did. I'm also rooting hard for Ellie and Camden's romance, as intense and complex as it is. But be warned, as book one in a trilogy, the ending is left wide open and you'll be gasping and desperate for book two the second you're done. We do know book two is set to be called Shooting Scars, and that it's scheduled for Summer 2013. And before that, to stave off the withdrawals, there's a prequel novella called On Every Street coming in April. It may not be enough to completely dull the ache, but surely it will help.

To sum up, this book gets a full house from me. I stayed up til 2am both evenings I read it, and if that's not an indication of a good read, I don't know what is.

Now, someone pass me the matchsticks to help prop my eyes open....

5 Stars! ★★★★★ 
 ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
* I make things up.

Reviewed by:



Janice's Review:

Karina Halle At Her Finest! 

If you sit down with Karina Halle fans and ask them what they love best about Karina's writing, what you will hear first is a lot of fangirl gushing, and then, once we've gotten that out of our systems, we will tell you things like, "She dares to be different", or "Her characters are so unique and unforgettable!" The list could go on for days, and each one of us would have something different to say. But if there's one thing all Karina's fans will agree on, it is this:

KARINA IS EVIL. Instead of playing it safe and giving readers what they expect, Karina yanks us out of our cozy comfort zones and throws us into a dark or scary world of her making, wherein she proceeds to mess with our heads, play with our emotions, and introduce us to all sorts of "shady" characters. And when it's all over - when she sends us stumbling back into the light of our boring, everyday lives - all we can think is, "WTF did I just read?" followed closely by, "MORE, PLEASE!"

Case in point: Sins & Needles.

It's been a long time since a character tested me as much as Ellie Watt did. I spent the entire first third of the book alternately shaking my head in disbelief and grinding my teeth in frustration, because I had such a hard time stomaching her actions and motives. I came close to writing her off multiple times, but every time I thought for sure I was done with her, I'd catch glimpses of redeemable qualities. Little things that made me go "hmmm". As the story progressed, those glimpses became full-on flashes, and before I knew it, I no longer cared about Ellie's criminal past, the lies she'd told, or all the people she'd screwed over. I just wanted her to be happy. To find peace. Crazy, right? I went from not being sure I liked her to being a card-carrying member of the Ellie Watt Fan Club. How the heck did that happen?

Then there was Camden. Yummy, tattooed, messed up Camden. I adored him the moment he stepped onto the page. He seemed so sweet and charming and funny - and he was all those things. Except, of course, when he wasn't. Because like all of us, Camden has a dark side. He would have these moments when a shadow seemed to fall across him, swallowing all the light I'd come to associate with his character. It was equal parts jarring and fascinating. 

Dark and light; good and bad. Camden and Ellie are both.

As for Javier....*shudder*. He is one of the most charming and disturbing book villains I've come across in a long time. I didn't need to be told he was bad news; I felt it. In fact, I am pretty sure from now on, anytime I hear the name Javier, my first instinct will be to drop everything and RUN.

For me, the greatest thing about Karina's writing is her ability to create truly memorable characters that spring from the page. The kind of characters who define the word "flawed" and will challenge you, sometimes disappoint you, even make you angry at times. But in Karina's expert hands, those flaws become beautiful. Because flaws are real, and I don't know about you, but I'll take real characters over pretty, perfect ones any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Sins & Needles is Karina Halle at her diabolical, brilliant best. It's a crazy-intense, sexy, emotional ride from start to finish. The entire last half of the book, I was hanging on the edge of my seat, hoping and praying and feeling so many things, I couldn't begin to process them all. I was so caught up, the world could have ended and I wouldn't have noticed. Seriously. And that ending....OMG, that ending. I can't even talk about it.

I still think Karina is evil......an evil genius, that is, and damn, I love that about her!

5 Stars! ★★★★★ 
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by:



You might also want to check out these other stops from the tour. And don't forget to come back on Wednesday 30th to read our Excerpt reveal!

January 21st: Reading in Winter (guest post), Xpresso Reads

January 22nd: The Book Asylum (review + guest post), Reading Books Like a Boss

January 23rd: Letters Inside Out

January 24th: Alluring Reads, SupaGurl Reads (giveaway + review), Addicted to Heroines (review + excerpt)

January 25th: For the Love of Film and Novels, The Book Hookers

January 26th: The Demon Librarian, Beckoned by Books

January 27th: Your Urban Fantasy, Smardy Pants

January 28th: Reading in Winter

January 29th: Miss Vain’s Paranormal Fantasy, Reader of Fictions

January 30th:  Supagurl Reads (guest post) The Demon Librarian (excerpt)

January 31st: Ashley’s Book Nook, Sam’s Awesomeness

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Review: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier ★★★★★

Daughter of the Forest  (Sevenwaters, #1)
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Genre: Historical Fantasy Romance
Series: Sevenwaters series
Publication Date: 1999
ISBN: 9780765343437
Page Count: 554
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: Own Purchase
Reviewed by: Lynsey



Synopsis: Lovely Sorcha is the seventh child and only daughter of Lord Colum of Sevenwaters. Bereft of a mother, she is comforted by her six brothers who love and protect her. Sorcha is the light in their lives, they are determined that she know only contentment.

But Sorcha's joy is shattered when her father is bewitched by his new wife, an evil enchantress who binds her brothers with a terrible spell, a spell which only Sorcha can lift-by staying silent. If she speaks before she completes the quest set to her by the Fair Folk and their queen, the Lady of the Forest, she will lose her brothers forever.

When Sorcha is kidnapped by the enemies of Sevenwaters and taken to a foreign land, she is torn between the desire to save her beloved brothers, and a love that comes only once. Sorcha despairs at ever being able to complete her task, but the magic of the Fair Folk knows no boundaries, and love is the strongest magic of them all...

Review:


A Fairy Tale for grownups.

And so, my love affair with Juliet Mariller's writing continues. I'd been so looking forward to this. After reading my very first Marillier book, Shadowfell, last year and absolutely loving it to pieces, I decided to go right back to the beginning with this, her d├ębut novel, Daughter of the Forest. It's loosely based on the Brother's Grimm fairy tale, The Six Swans, about a girl who, had she been born male, would have been the seventh son of a seventh son. Instead, she is the much doted on sister of six older brothers, and daughter to a stoic but steadfast father. Set in a magical ancient Ireland, the beauty of Marillier's historical fantasy setting has once again completely captured my imagination, and Sorcha has won my heart with her determination against impossible odds, and the way she handled the nightmarish tasks set before her. A heroine worthy of respect, if ever there was one. The story spans 3-4 years and so feels quite grand on that scale, and yet the biggest aspect by far is the growth of Sorcha's character as she goes from a sheltered, protected girl of twelve, to... well, you'll just have to read it and see.

The cast of characters was quite large, Sorcha's six brothers alone making it so, not to mention everyone else she meets along the way. The secondary characters were all wonderfully realized a fleshed out. I made a comment in another review recently about cartoonish, over-the-top characterisation. I won't repeat myself, but let's just say that THIS is how your write subtly different siblings! You get to know a couple of them much more than others, but each had merit in their own way.

I found it impossible not to make comparisons to Shadowfell. Having read her most recent work first, then gone back to her earliest book, I was able to see the changes in her writing over the decade or so, particularly in the tone. This was a lot more formal, which occasional made it feel slightly stilted, but it was just as evocative and, once I'd found my flow, the hours slipped by without notice.

My favourite aspect, by far, was the romance. It was a long time coming, and the characters are painfully timid and awkward about it, but it was really beautiful. I may be slightly unnerved by Sorcha's young age, but those were the times, I guess. Their definition of "marriageable age" being very different from our own.

If I could wish for one thing, it would be that the beginning wasn't quite so slow to get going, and that Sorcha didn't spend so much of the book being 12. But I didn't feel that either of those things were enough for me to drop a star. The magic, the journey, the romance and the sense of triumph were more than enough to make up for any weak spots.

5 Stars ★★★★★

Reviewed by:

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Review: First Time for Everything by Aimee Carson ★★★

First Time For Everything
First Time for Everything by Aimee Carson
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: n/a
Publication Date: February 19th 2013
ISBN: 9780373207046
Page Count: 224
Rating: ★★★
Review Copy: ARC
Reviewed by: Lynsey



Synopsis: 

"So tell me, suit," she said, as lightly as she could. "What exactly is a virgin supposed to act like?" 

Jacqueline's new boss is none other than her friend's older brother—hot-shot lawyer Blake Bennington. His control freakery and his need to always, always be right would normally send fiery, unconventional Jax running a mile—but even she has to admit he looks edible in his bespoke suit!

She's quickly realizing she's way out of her depth…but with this contained, experienced guy, trying to get him to lose his cool is just a little too tempting….

Harlequin KISS has 4 new fun, flirty and sensual romance books available every month.

Review:


Cute but forgettable.

That's not necessarily a criticism, either. I imagine regular readers of Harlequin romances aren't looking for the next mind-blowing, award winning read; they're simply looking for a brief but fun romantic escape, and that's exactly what they'll get here with First Time for Everything.

KISS is a relatively new imprint from Harlequin pegged as "...fun, flirty reads featuring smart, sassy heroines, equally matched by 21st century alpha heroes!" and it will be popular with readers looking for relateable modern love stories. It's sensual and sexy, but not too over the top or explicit.

Your romance in this case is between slightly hippyish, cowboy boot-wearing care worker Jax, and uptight but very hot lawyer Blake. He also happens to be older brother to Jax's new BFF and partner in crime, and they meet when Blake sees them starting a flash mob dance routine in the park, which I thought was really cute!

Jax and Blake had plenty of chemistry, and the love scenes really sizzled. The rest of the plot concerning Jax's troubled past, however, I found slightly lacking. I wondered, as I read, if perhaps the idea was not to darken the tone or the fun, sexy vibe by delving too deeply into her issues, or if it was simply that I just didn't feel engaged in this aspect, but either way, that connection lacked and my rating reflects that.

3 ★★★
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by:

News: Yay! Happy Dance!

I appreciate this news won't be nearly as exciting for anyone else as it is for me. For you, it will likely be as exciting as me saying I managed to tie my own shoelaces this morning, But, but...


I am a TOP 1000 REVIEWER ON AMAZON!

As of today. This is something I have been hoping and striving for for over 12 months as I seemed to hover forEVER at around  the 1,200 mark. But this morning I suddenly went from 1020 to 988 overnight (I think from new "helpful" votes on my Ever After review that I was finally able to post).

It was also one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2013, so double woohoo!

Now excuse me while I go add this new badge of honour to my profile everywhere!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Review: Redemption by Susannah Sandlin ★★★★

Redemption (Penton Legacy, #1)
Redemption by Susannah Sandlin
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Penton Legacy #1
Publication Date: June 12th 2012
ISBN: 9781612183541
Page Count: 357
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Audiobook
Reviewed by: Lynsey



Synopsis: For vampire Aidan Murphy, life has never been so desperate. The vaccine used to treat a global pandemic has rendered human blood deadly to his kind, leaving them on the brink of starvation and civil war. In tiny Penton, Alabama, Aidan establishes a peaceful community of vampires and unvaccinated human donors. He dares to hope they can survive—until his estranged brother descends upon Penton and begins killing the humans. Determined to save his town, Aidan kidnaps an unsuspecting human doctor—and finds himself falling in love for the first time in nearly four centuries.

Dr. Krystal Harris thought she was coming to Penton for a job interview, but Aidan Murphy has other plans. Infuriated by his high-handed scheme to imprison her in the small town, Krys can't ignore the attraction between them. But is it love? Or does her dangerous, charismatic captor want only to bend her to his will?

Review:


A pleasant surprise.

This is another one of those paranormal romance series that seems to be just that little bit more refined, the characters a tad more sophisticated and mature, and the focus slightly less on sex and action and more on relationships, science, communities and...you know, grown up stuff. AND sex and action! There are plenty of PNR series out there following groups of hulking warrior-types who live together that would appear quite juvenile in comparison. More like a group of Frat Boys (to borrow an American term) than centuries old men born in a more dignified era. That's not to say one is preferable over the other, I've read and enjoyed both, I just thought it worth noting that this falls in the former category rather than the latter. If you've enjoyed series such as Dianne Duvall's Immortal Guardians and maybe even Kerrelyn Sparks' Love at Stake series, then you should like this series.

As well as being a Paranormal Romance, it's also got a Post-Apocalyptic thing going on. Something I wish had been detailed a touch more, actually. The setting was very insular—all set it Penton, as the series title would suggest—and the community Aidan Murphy has tried to build there. Yet we're told that the world has suffered a massive loss to its population through a virus. A virus that people are now vaccinated against, which for vampires is a disaster because it makes their blood poisonous to them.

This is the reason behind Aidan's newly-formed community in Penton. A nice place to be for the vamps who live there, but the ones out there starving, unable to find enough unvaccinated humans to survive on, aren't happy about it. They see the Penton vamps, each with their own blood-bonded human, well-fed and happy, and seek to destroy them out of jealousy and fear of Aidan's increasing power. Aidan, on the other hand, couldn't give a flying fig about power or any of their dominance games. He just wants a quiet, peaceful life. To provide for his humans and make sure his vampires are taken care of. That is all. In the search for this, he tries to employ a new doctor for the community after the last one was killed. Enter Dr. Krystal Harris.

Krystal was a pretty good heroine—Level-headed, a touch insecure—but really it was Aidan who stole the show for me. A sweet-natured man who doesn't seem to realise his own appeal. I enjoyed the relationship between the two and thought the background plot was strong even with the setting being so limited. Perhaps we'll see more of the the world and this elusive 'Vampire Council' in the next book, which I will definitely be reading:)

4 Stars ★★★★

Reviewed by:

Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson ★★★

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Genre: New/Young Adult Contemporary
Series: n/a
Publication Date: May 4th 2010
ISBN: 9781416990659
Page Count: 344
Rating: ★★★
Review Copy: Audiobook
Reviewed by: Lynsey



Synopsis: Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.
Review:


Strangely compelling.

I say strangely compelling, because really, not a lot happens in this book. It's a simple road trip story featuring two young people who come to know and like each other. Amy, during the trip, has some stuff to work through, having suffered a recent loss. Roger also has some stuff going on but nothing as serious as Amy's issues. To be honest, I wasn't really happy with the way Amy's family problems were resolved, or not resolved, as was the case. And I was really hoping for much more romance and a less ambiguous ending.

Even so, I kept reading (or listening, as it were) because the book seemed to be promising a reward if I did so; If I just listen a little longer, I'll finally get to the the flashback I want about her father. If I listen a bit more, eventually some romance will happen... Those were the only reasons I kept going and, as I said, I ultimately wasn't satisfied with either of them by the end of the book.

From an audiobook point of view, it was enjoyable. The reader was very good and sounded about the right age for the character, which is always a big sticking point with me. She had quite a tough task as well, having to read endless lists of songs and artists, text messages and emails and other bizarre things that were thrown in a random to mark the passing of the miles.

Would I read this author again....? Probably not. There are more interesting, more dynamic books out there. Still, it was a pleasant way to pass a few hours on audio.

3 Stars ★★★

Reviewed by:

Joint Early Review: Ever After by Kim Harrison ★★★★★



Ever After by Kim Harrison
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Hollows #11
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
ISBN: 978-0061957918
Page Count: 512
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: ARC - Thank you Harper Collins!
Reviewed by: Lynsey/Janice



Synopsis: The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It's up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing... for the worse.

While saving the world is important, it isn't Rachel's only motivation. There's also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It's also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He's already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn't give herself up soon, they'll die.

But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn't going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She's also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she's going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones... and prevent an apocalypse before it's too late. Or, at least that's the plan...


Lynsey's Review: 


Kim Harrison is the reigning Queen of Urban Fantasy!

One of the most highly anticipated reads of 2013 for many people, Ever After by Kim Harrison most certainly will not fall short of expectations. It will, in many areas, surpass them. It will also shock, it will thrill, and my goodness it will entertain. An outstanding instalment, easily replacing any and all past favourites as the new pinnacle of the series...so far.

As is usually the case, the story picks up a couple of months after the events of the last book, A Perfect Blood, and sees Rachel meeting up with Quen to discuss the prospect of becoming a part of Trent's workforce once again. Only voluntarily this time, and will no bodily threats involved. Which makes a nice change. Rachel's not too sure, though, and perhaps not for the reasons you might expect. It seems she puts more faith in Trent's abilities to protect himself than Quen does these days, and doesn't think he needs anyone else watching him. Quite the opposite, in fact. However, after a drastic and heartbreaking turn of events, the choice about working alongside Trent is taken out of her hands completely. It's now imperative, especially since she feels partly responsible for what's happened.

Fans of the series will recall Rachel's unfortunate experience with a ley line back in book nine, Pale Demon. For me, personally, those last few chapters of Pale Demon were where my appreciation of Kim Harrison's worldbuilding went from thinking she was simply fabulous, to thinking she might actually be some kind of supernatural creature herself. I mean, she must have been to the Ever After in person to be able to describe it so vividly. And not just visual descriptions, either, but the magic, the culture, the social structure, the history, the wars, the continual decline of the demons as a race. Which, incidentally, Rachel has managed to speed up exponentially by ripping a large hole in one of the ley lines. If only the demons thought it was so incidental. Strangely, they're rather annoyed about their impending doom, and in this book they use one hell of a bargaining chip to make sure Rachel fixes her mistake, and fast. The clock is most definitely ticking.

I'm reticent to highlight too many other plot points as I think it's best to just experience it as it unfolds. And it was a real roller coaster, that's for sure. Totally unputdownable with near-perfect pacing. There are some big shocks in store, as I mentioned earlier, some controversial returning characters, plenty of conflict—both internal and external—and a fair amount of introspection for our dear Rache, as well. There were a couple of instances where the plot moved a bit slower, but out of a 500-and-then-some page book, that's really not bad at all. Perhaps even a necessity. Overall, this instalment felt really meaty, with little filler and lots of massive plot twists and character progression that really change the game entirely for the last two books. And of course, being titled Ever After, you can expect to bask in yet more of Harrison's phenomenal worldbuilding for that setting, and also, get some fantastic insight into everyone's favourite demon, Algaliarept. Outstanding stuff!

For the Rachel and Trent shippers out there (much like myself) you'll be pleased with the amount of time spent together in this book. Gone are the days where Trent would make one, maybe two, brief appearances—usually managing to annoy the crap out of Rachel in the process—but it's clear now that, in whatever role, Trent is a part of Rachel's life. They make strange bedfellows in some respects, but in other's, they couldn't be more compatible. What's lovely to see as well is the developing trust between them; something we couldn't have ever imagined coming from Rachel even as little as three books ago. It's an amazing transformation and a fantastic journey Kim Harrison has taken us on. I'm sad to think there's just two teeny weeny little books left in this series, but judging by the ending of this book, they're gonna be good ones! Oh, yeah.

5 Stars ★★★★★
A special thanks to Harper Voyager for the ARC. I read many ARCs throughout the year, but to receive one for your favourite series is a special treat. Like Christmas come early!

And one last thing. Don't forget to check out Kim's blog post here about her book tour competition  for Ever After. By pre-ordering a book at one of two remaining cities still competing—ATLANTA and MINNEAPOLIS—you could ensure a visit from Kim to either Eagle Eye Books in Decatur or Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis. First one to reach 150 pre-orders, wins Kim!


Janice's Review: 

Another Hollows masterpiece!

Before I start my review, I would like to give a shout-out to the author. Kim Harrison, you are a genius. Eleven books into your uber-popular Hollows series and you haven't missed a single beat. The series is as fresh and entertaining now as it was when you first introduced us to Rachel and company way back in Dead Witch Walking. Thank you. You deserve a big pat on the back. And cookies. And a parade, complete with floats and marching bands. And....well, you get the idea.

Okay, now that the fangirling is out of the way (LOL), let's get down to business, shall we?

Remember Ku'Sox, that douchecanoe demon we met in Pale Demon? Well, he's back and causing serious trouble on both sides of the lines, and it's up to Rachel and friends to fix what he has broken. To somehow make things right again. For everyone. An impossible task, considering Ku'Sox was created to be virtually unstoppable. Even his fellow demons are afraid to take him on. So is Rachel, but unfortunately, she doesn't have the option of bowing out, and she can't afford to fail.

I know what you're thinking. Rachel is an old pro at this saving the world stuff. She's a kickass heroine who has squared off against several Big Bads over the course of the series, and while her victories may not always be clean or pretty, in the end she always prevails. This time will not be any different. Right?

Yes. No. Maybe.

Stakes are high. Higher, I think, than they've ever been before. Ku'Sox proves early on that he is willing to strike where it hurts the most, and strike hard. I was expecting him to behave badly, but to such a degree? Nope, didn't see it coming, and to be honest, it threw me off for the rest of the book. Suddenly, I was reading without a safety net. I mean, if this and that could happen, then anything could.

It was brilliant. Everything felt brand new somehow, like I was stepping into this exciting, wonderful world for the first time. And that feeling? It changed my entire reading experience. I didn't race to the finish, devouring the pages as quickly as I could. Instead, I slowed down. I bookmarked and highlighted like crazy. I reveled. 

A lot happens in Ever After. A LOT. It's a very busy book filled with all sorts of juicy Hollows goodness. I think, though, that what I liked best were those odd moments when it would suddenly hit me, just how much Rachel's world has changed. It's no longer as simple as making runs and crafting spells or curses. Her life is so big now, so different than it was when the series started. It's been an incredible journey so far, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

If you are a Trent fan like I am, start stretching and warming up now, because you've got a lot of happy dancing in your future. That's right, our favorite elf gets a nice chunk of page time in Ever After, and let me tell you, he makes the most of it! You think you loved him before? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Trent is more open, more tactile, more EVERYTHING in this book, and I couldn't be happier.

Action, emotion, character development, plot twists and surprises - you name it, Kim delivers it. In spades. Ever After is the best Hollows book yet and I loved it from beginning to end. Especially the end. In fact, the entire last chapter has become my favorite Hollows chapter of all time.

5 Stars ★★★★★
**A very special thank you to Harper Voyager for providing me with an ARC.


Friday, 18 January 2013

Review: Shadow's Claim by Kresley Cole ★★★★

Shadow's Claim (The Dacians: Realm of Blood and Mist, #1)
Shadow's Claim by Kresley Cole
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Realm of Blood and Mist #1
Publication Date: November 27th 2012
ISBN: 9781451650051
Page Count: 481
Rating: ★★★★
Review Copy: Audiobook
Reviewed by: Lynsey



Synopsis:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole introduces The Dacians: Realm of Blood and Mist, a new paranormal series following the royal bloodline of Dacia, a vampire kingdom hidden within the Lore of the Immortals After Dark.

Shadow's Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament—to the death.

He won't be denied...

Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people, striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore's most fearsome villains.

She's bound to another...

Desperate to earn her guardians' approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she's lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.

A battle for her body and soul...

Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina's heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium's worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina's own desires to a fever-pitch...


Review:

Classic Cole

Fans of the IAD series will have no trouble getting into this new spin-off. Other than it not being set in the human realm, and having a new type of "misting" vampire to learn about, it was pretty much business as usual. Which in Cole's case means a wonderful mix of outrageously alpha males, feisty yet strangely vulnerable females, off-the-charts sexual tension, and plenty of humour, which is about the only thing that makes these over-the-top men tolerable! They do and say some pretty jaw-dropping stuff, let me tell you!

This time, we have a half Sorceress Bettina in one corner, and Trehan, Prince of Shadows in the other, and, somewhat annoyingly, Caspion, her best friend since childhood whom Bettina thinks she's in love with, in the middle. Complicated, sure, but then these cross-species matings always are, which is part of the charm of the series. Seeing the conflicts, the seemingly immovable obstacles, the head-smackingly aggravating misunderstandings, all battling against overwhelming base instincts and primal urges. But nothing is ever a strong enough barrier against true love. Awww.

This story features an immortal contest which brought me back to the days of the Talisman's Hie from books two and three of IAD. During it, we caught glimpses of several werewolves which has me so excited for MacRieve, the next IAD book, which comes out in July. It's about time we were back with the Weres, don't you think? Yummy.

My only complaints were that this book was over-long and had slow parts. The Caspion thing dragged on a bit, and the mystery of her Sorcery powers fizzled out into nothing. So, while not one of my favourites, Cole simply doesn't know how to write a truly bad book, and I still found much to enjoy.

4  Stars ★★★★

Reviewed by:

Review: Easy by Tammara Webber ★★★1/2

Easy

Easy by Tammara Webber 
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: n/a
Publication Date: November 6th 2012
ISBN: 9780425266748
Page Count: 310
Rating: ★★★1/2
Review Copy: Audiobook
Reviewed by: Lynsey



Synopsis: 

Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.


Review:


Easy does it.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have read this straight after reading Slammed by Colleen Hoover as it has a similar storyline, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I thought it was quite steamy for a New Adult novel! Emphasis more on sexual tension than actual sex, but it was still pretty high on the smut-o-meter. The romance side of things was good and often sweet, but, being the twisted sister I am, I would have dearly loved for there to have been more emotional drama and turmoil. From the blurb, I was expecting it to be more of a gut-kicker than I ultimately found it to be. Oh well.

I enjoyed both main characters, Lucas and Jacqueline, and indulged in a nice bit of righteous indignation on Jacqueline's behalf when her ex delivered his "It's not you, it's me" speech right at the top of the story. Oyyy, what an asshat he was. As we join Jacqueline in the present, it's been about 3 weeks since this happened and she's still feeling a very raw and is having to adjust to the fact that all her friends were actually all his friends, so the split has disrupted her world in more ways than one. But, on the plus side, this leads her to attend a party where she meets someone who thankfully isn't an asshat, and that was Lucas. He was an interesting character with a mysterious, troubled past that is slowly uncovered by Jacqueline. While I enjoyed reading Lucas' story as it unfolded, I thought the ultimate reveal, the big showdown conversation, was incredibly rushed causing it to lack any real impact. I thought he forgave very easily and it was resolved too quickly.

I would definitely recommend the audio version. The reader was very good and sounded age-appropriate. I should also warn that it features an attempted rape that is described in detail, so definitely a book for older teens.

3.5 Stars ★★★1/2

Reviewed by: