Archive | March, 2012

Review: Untouched by Sara Humphreys

28 Mar

Untouched by Sara Humphreys
Sourcebooks (April 1, 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99; ebook: $6.99
ISBN: 9781402258466

Favorite Lines: “She had gone her entire life with almost no human contact–at least no normal human contact. If she did touch someone or they touched her, Kerry had become a master at disguising the pain. No one could put on a polite smile better than she could. Sometimes the physical pain was outdone by the emotional carnage. Seeing people’s deepest secrets or the evil they harbored in their souls was even worse.” (p. 31, egalley)

SHE SHOULD BE SEEN, BUT NEVER TOUCHED…

Kerry Smithson’s modeling career ensures that she will be admired from afar, which is essential since mere human touch sparks blinding pain and terrifying visions.

EVERY GOOD MODEL NEEDS A HEAVENLY BODYGUARD…

Dante Coltari is hired to protect Kerry from those who know who she is—or more importantly what she is—and want her dead because of it. Nothing could have prepared him for the challenge of keeping her safe. But, strangely, his lightest touch brings her exquisite pleasure rather than pain, and Dante and Kerry have an otherwordly connection that might just pull them through.

As seems to be the case lately, I didn’t read book one of this series. Regardless, I easily jumped into Sara Humphreys’ Amoveo series with book two, Untouched. As I write this I’m consumed with a feeling of deja vu. I could swear I’ve written this review before.

When I started reading the book it was clear that I missed an entire story. The heroine and hero from book one, Unleashed, are getting married. The heroine of Untouched is the bride’s best friend and is suffering from a major case of guilt resulting from the events of book one. The most important thing to know going into the book is that an Amoveo is an ancient race of shapeshifters. If you know that everything else will fall into place.

The heroine, Kerry, comes across as cold until the reader learns of her inability to touch people without sensing deep secrets about that individual. She has learned the need to keep to herself, but when she is forced to accept Dante’s help she learns there is so much more waiting for her in life. This knowledge makes her more human and I was willing to give her a shot.

Dante knew right away that  Kerry was the woman for him. Making her believe it, well that took much longer. He had to deal with her inability to let down her guard while protecting his mate from people who want her dead. These people are known as Purists, but it’s a while before details are known about them.

The story has action, but it isn’t the “grip your seat” type. Untouched is full of information. Vital to the series information, so it’s not a book you should skip. Different factions of Amoveos are introduced. Prejudices are exposed. Love is found, given and accepted. It’s a good story and I think those who love shifters will enjoy it.

Review: The Highlander’s Prize by Mary Wine

27 Mar

The Highlander’s Prize by Mary Wine
Sourcebooks (April 3, 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99; ebook: $6.99
ISBN: 9781402264719

Favorite Lines: “Maybe in France a weakling could wear the crown, but Broen was a Highlander and he’d never kneel in front of a king who wouldn’t keep his country united. Or any Scot who would buy himself a bastard daughter of the late king of England.” (p. 9, egalley)

BASTARD ROYAL DAUGHTER, PAWN IN A DEADLY GAME

Sent to Scotland to be the king’s mistress and produce an heir, Clarrisa of York has never needed a miracle more. But the brusque Highland laird who kidnaps her is a bit too rough to be considered divine intervention.

HE’LL DO ANYTHING TO THWART HIS KING

With rival lairds determined to steal Clarrisa from him and royal henchmen searching for her all over the Highlands, Laird Broen MacNicols has a mess on his hands. Worse yet, there’s a magnetic attraction between them, although he’s betrothed to another. But even an independent–minded lady like Clarrisa knows that a Highlander always claims his prize…

The Highlander’s Prize is a throwback to the classic highland romance stories I’ve always loved.  I’m not big on political romances, but in this case it worked. The heroine, Clarrisa has been raised to be a pawn. She knows that is her lot in life and longs to escape. She has just been given to the king of Scotland to be his mistress and is trying to outwit him when she is kidnapped by highland lairds. One of those lairds is Broen.

Broen is strong and determined. He never forgets his duty to his people as he warms to Clarrisa. But their relationship is hindered by the political machinations of all who surround them. Most of the secondary characters have agendas that rely on using Clarrisa as a pawn or getting rid of the possibility of Clarrisa being used as  a pawn. From castle to battlefield, The Highlander’s Prize introduces characters I want to know more about. So why aren’t I raving about it?

It isn’t anything new. It’s the warm comfy blanket you wrap around you in the winter; it’s familiar. That’s not bad, but it isn’t the “I’ll always come back to you” type of comfort. Read The Highlander’s Prize if you are looking for a straight-up Scottish Highlander romance. You’ll find betrayal, lust and a happily ever after.

Review: Eternity’s Mark by Maeve Greyson

26 Mar

Eternity’s Mark by Maeve Greyson
Kennsington (April 1, 2012)
Trade: $14; ebook: $11.99
ISBN: 9780758273390
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “Taggert’s attitude kept her plenty warm. There wasn’t any reason for him to be a jerk. He still owed her explanations. ” Well, apparently, you weren’t all that wild about kissing me anyway. I don’t remember anything about you pushing the advantage.”

Taggart rolled his eyes and held up a warning hand. “Oh, no! I am not taking that bait. Many a man down through the centuries has met his downfall by following that line of conversation with a woman.”” (p. 96, ARC)

A sexy Scot. A mystical inheritance. What could go wrong?

Veterinarian Hannah MacPherson knows better than to believe in love at first—or any—sight. True, being swept away by Taggart de Gaelson to the vast Scottish castle she’s mysteriously inherited is uber-romantic. The legacy is totally legitimate, and its messenger is big, broad-shouldered, and smokin’ in more ways than one . . .

Too bad Taggart forgot to mention that Hannah’s also a Guardian of magical dragons called the Draecna. And as Hannah’s sworn otherworldly protector, Taggart is honor-bound not to lay a hand on her, no matter how close he gets. . .

But turning duty into pleasure is just too tempting. And for Hannah, mastering her powers and saving two worlds from evil will be way easier than showing one hardheaded warrior that breaking all the rules means they are eternally made for each other . . .

Eternity’s Mark is a paranormal romance that mainly takes place in the human world, but at one point shifts to an alternate land where dragons and magic live. It’s filled with ancient creatures and evil beings, as well as loveable dragons and a man with a Scottish burr. Taggart is a man’s man in search of the guardian who can protect the Scottish castle which is home to a few dragons and a portal to the magical land of Erastaed. As he says:

“I am Taggart de Gaelson, eldest son of the Royal House of Cair Orlandis. I am seven hundred and seventy-seven years old and I come from another reality. I come from Erastaed, from the world on the other side of the portal of Taroc Na Mor, ancestral home to the race of teh sacred Draecna. I am chosen protector from the Guild of Barac’Nairn, watchers over the blessed guardian.”–p. 97

Hannah (lucky woman) is the “blessed guardian” Taggart mentions. She is also a widow determined to never love and lose again. With Taggart’s help she begins to soften and let the magic of Scotland heal her. Sounds pretty sedate, right? Well, it’s not. Once in Scotland things begin to get a little dark. A villain wants the ultimate power and he sees the heroine as his tool to getting it. He will use Taggart’s past as a means to grab hold of Taggart’s future. He is pure evil. The things he is capable of are shiver worthy.

I was having a good time reading this book up until things began to get dirty and the pacing of the story increased. Toward the end characters begin to die. Characters that I liked. Okay, let me clarify that. Characters who I got to know and laughed at were killed off page and WHAM! I’m told so-and-so is dead. WTF!!! Then the evil villain and his henchman are dealt with in such a mundane manner that I had to re-read it. Seriously? That’s all it took to off the big bad of this book? The man who was ultimate darkness was destroyed that easily? Most of this happens in the final chapter, along with a final shock which made me want to throw my book across the room. I’m dying to tell you what, but it’d ruin the story for you.

My enjoyment of Eternity’s Mark nosedived as matters were cleanly and simply resolved. I felt like the author decided it was time to end the book, took a look at all the open plot lines and said “I’m done” and chopped the lifelines of those plots. It was abrupt and jarring. Had matters been handled differently, such as the author showing me characters being killed instead of letting me infer “oh, it’s war and people die,” I would have enjoyed the book more.  The final page and a half left me in incredulity, and not in a good way.

While three fourths of Eternity’s Mark was excellent and exciting, the ending felt forced and put a damper on my enjoyment of the story. The hard work Greyson invested in making me get to know and care for characters evaporated with the forced conclusion of the book. Instead of being happy and content when I finished reading the book I was angry with the author for introducing me to vivid characters only to dispose of them in such an arbitrary fashion.

Review: A Perfect Storm by Lori Foster

24 Mar

A Perfect Storm by Lori Foster
Harlequin (March 27, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9780373776566
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “He made a soft, gravelly sound as he stretched that long, strong body His chin tucked in. Muscles flexed.
The sheet tented.
Eyes widening, Arizona stared, not really alarmed, but no longer at ease, either. She had a very dark history with aroused men, so she doubted she’d ever be unaffected by them. But she didn’t let it get in her way, not when she wanted something, not when she had a goal in mind.
She knew she should have taken Spencer’s gun, at the very least moved it out of his reach. But instead she’d found him in the bed, and before she’d even thought it through, she’d taken the empty seat and settled in to study him while he slept.
Since that fateful day when her destiny had been stolen from her, she’d seen  him only a handful of times. She’d tried to stay away. She’d tried to forget about him.
She hadn’t been successful.
Stretching, he brought his hand out from behind his head, around to rub over his hair, across his face, down his chest.
As he gave a sleepy, growling groan, that hand disappeared under the sheet.
Arizona’s lips parted, and her heartbeat tripped up. She cleared her throat. “Spencer?”
Freezing, without moving any other body part, he opened his eyes and met her gaze.” (p. 12, egalley) Continue reading

Review: Wanted: Undead or Alive by Kerrelyn Sparks

22 Mar

Wanted: Undead or Alive by Kerrelyn Sparks
Avon (March 27, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $4.99
ISBN: 9780061958069

Favorite Lines: “Phineas didn’t want his aunt and sister to know the truth. Aunt Ruth would probably drag him into church and insist the Reverend Washington perform an exorcism on him. Luckily, the female members of his family were out of town this weekend, singing with the choir at some event in Buffalo.” (p. 2, egalley)

He’s a vampire from the big city . . .

Phineas McKinney thought New York City was tough, until he was attacked by Malcontents—evil vampires who consider mortals to be snacks. Saved by the good vampires, Phin swore to devote his now undead life to stopping the Malcontents. He’s got his job cut out for him when word comes that their enemy may be hiding in Wyoming. What does a city boy like him know about horses and campfires? Good thing he’s got Brynley Jones with him . . . if only she didn’t hate every vampire on earth.

She’s a werewolf princess . . .

Bryn believes vampires are seductive and charming, and that makes them dangerous. So she’s more than a little annoyed about teaming up with Phin, even if he is the only bloodsucker able to make her inner wolf purr. But as they hunt down the new leader of the Malcontents, danger threatens . . . and Phineas and Brynley discover a passion that will rock the foundation of their supernatural world.

Within a couple of pages it was clear to me that I was not going to appreciate book 12 in Kerrelyn Sparks’ Love at Stake series. Wanted Undead or Alive irked me to the point that I put the book down before reaching page 42. The stereotypical language and ideas used by the story’s African-American hero irked the crap out of me. First of all WTF:

“Freemont shrugged on a purple velvet jacket trimmed with faux leopard fur, then plopped a leopard-skin fedora on his head. “Now I’ll look like your agent.”

Phineas winced. “You look like a pimp.”

“Pimp? Agent? What’s the difference?” Freemont flipped up his collar. “Show me the money.”

“Freemont–”

“I know what I’m doing, bro.” He grabbed a wooden walking stick with a gold knob on the end and twirled it through is fingers. “Should I ask Leroy to loan us a few party girls for the evening? You’ll look more like a celebrity with some pretty ladies on your arm.”–p. 22

Really? Why they gotta  be dumb? Nobody really thinks wearing purple velvet is fashionable, especially young black men. And to even insinuate that one has a connection to pimps with hookers was just annoying. Yeah, Sparks clears it up and says it’s all legit, but it sets the tone for Wanted: Undead or Alive. Unlike heroes of previous books in the series, Phineas and his people are cookie cutter black folks. They are uneducated inner city minorities. Fine. I’m from that crowd and I don’t know anyone who’d think it cool to wear purple velvet. Ever. Stereotype: Black men are tacky and think pimping is cool.

However, I kept reading. I read about the promiscuous black man with a frown. I could swallow it down because many romance books feature rakes who seduce women. So what did the inner me get from this? Stereotype: All black men have high sex drives.

“When I first discovered I was Undead and I could possibly live forever, it sorta went to my head, you know, like I was invincible and super-macho and could do whatever the hell I pleased with as many Vamp ladies as I pleased. But then I realized they were all doing whatever they pleased, too.”

“What’s wrong with that if you’re having fun?”

Phineas slowed his steps and lowered his voice. “They didn’t see me as a person. You think we’re a minority in the real world, you should try the vampire one. I was a curiosity that all the ladies wanted to experience, and once it was over, they moved on to the next form of entertainment.”

“So you got tired of one-night stands?” Freemont wrinkled his nose. “Is that even possible?”

“Yes, it is. Eventually, I realized that being wanted as an oddity is an insult. I want to be appreciated for  being myself.”–p. 36

I read until I got to the part where the hero dubs characters Rat Face and Blockhead. After that–it was over. I turned one more page, thought “I cannot do this” and put the book down.

“The Russian guy was the leader, Phineas figured. A Malcontent, no doubt, sent by Corky. He was armed with an automatic pistol and an AK-47. The guys flanking him were mortal judging from the bite marks on their necks. They either served Corky voluntarily, or she had them under vampire mind control. One was tall and skinny, with a narrow face and a long nose. Rat Face, Phineas dubbed him. And the other guy, short and square was Blockhead. The three thugs scanned the room before focusing on him.”–p. 38

Yeah, there’s no stereotype here. It irritated the crap out of me. If the characters’ names don’t matter don’t mention them. Rat Face and Blockhead? Am I really supposed to take reading this book seriously when the author doesn’t take naming the characters seriously?

Regardless, I was disappointed. I seem to be the only one who feels this way. I’ve found glowing reviews and no negative reviews what-so-ever. Sparks‘ series is hit or miss with me. Some of her books I’ve loved. I did not like Wanted: Undead or Alive. I could not even bring myself to finish reading it.

Stacia & Stacey Giveaway Hop

20 Mar

The winner is…laura588!

When Cat at Addicted 2 Heroines asked me if I wanted to participate in the Stacia & Stacey Giveaway Hop I had to say yes. Not just because my name is Stacy, but because both of the women are authors I read and enjoy. You may be wondering what the two series have in common other than releasing at the same time. I can clear that up for you. While Stacia Kane‘s series is set in a world where ghosts are a menace and Stacey Jay‘s series is set in a world with violent faeries, both feature a heroine who has a problem with addiction.

The heroines, Chess and Annabelle, both manage to pull it together long enough to save humans (and themselves) from death, but they haven’t kicked their chemical addictions. One is dependent on alcohol, the other on pills. It’s more than a habit or stress reliever. It’s a necessary tool needed for each woman to function. Above the women hang the lingering question: is either character capable of living a sober life?

I’m not sure I’d recognize either woman without their addiction. The traumatized heroines are far from perfect and that’s part of what makes them such great characters. I’m able to feel morally superior while rooting for them both to love themselves and take better care of themselves throughout the series. Kane and Jay’s characters are more realistic and avoid easily being placed in a generic “cookie cutter” type mold.

Stacia and Stacey are both releasing new books on March 27. Stacia is releasing book four in her Downside series and Stacey is releasing book two in her Annabelle Lee series. To celebrate I’ve put together a Vice Gift Package to giveaway. In it the winner will find a bottle of Jim Beam wing sauce, a metal pill box and some mints. To enter simply leave a comment and tell me if you read either series. If so–what you think about the series’ heroine. The giveaway begins now and will run until 11:59 pm March 27 and is open to those with mailing addresses in the US or Canada. 

Stacia/Stacey Giveaway Hop:

1. Addicted2Heroines
2. Goldilox and the Three Weres
3. Miss Vain’s Paranormal Fantasy
4. Underworld Love Addiction
5. Vanesmate the Bookaholic
6. Gizmo’s Reviews
7. Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks
8. Pages of Forbidden Love
9. Claire’s Book Corner
10. The Book Nympho
11. RhiReading
12. Booking It With Hayley G
13. The Bookaholic Cat
14. Nocturne Romance Reads

Review: The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

19 Mar

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens
Harlequin/MIRA (March 27, 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9780778312772
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “Did I cross his mind now and then? Not that it mattered. He was a man haunted by his dead wife and daughter, and I was a woman who saw ghosts. For as long as he clung to his past–and his past clung to him–I could not be a part of his life.” (p. 8, egalley)

Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town…My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I’ve been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I’m coming to think I have another purpose here.Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I’ve discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town—this withering kingdom—and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

The Kingdom is Amanda Stevens follow-up book to the creepy book entitled The Restorer. Both are part of the Graveyard Queen trilogy. According to Stevens’ blog she has just sold another trilogy in the Graveyard Queen series to MIRA. It will follow the same heroine, Amelia.

The story picks up months after Amelia was almost murdered. She has resumed her life as a graveyard restorer and accepted a job in a small town called Asher Falls. Once there, she learns she is not alone in her ability to see ghosts and discovers her hidden past.

The book is not as creepy as The Restorer, but it is full of slow burning tension. Unlike the first book, it doesn’t take long to realize where the danger is coming from. I was okay with that because I knew there was something going on that would hit Amelia on a personal level–much deeper than a possible new romance with a man named Thane Asher.

While book one felt like cold breezes in a silent night, The Kingdom felt like the intro to a new horror movie. The horror is in the descriptions used to instill a sense of dread. There were no OMG bloody sections, but it was the mind games sort of horror. I’m not a fan of horror, but Stevens managed to suck me in and hold my attention. That said, I had a huge issue with the heroine.

I don’t remember Amelia being quite so angsty. And I most definitely don’t remember Devlin the way she did:

“I wasn’t over Devlin, might never be over him, and an attractive stranger could do nothing more than momentarily ease my intense longing.”–p.15

Yes, she was interested in Devlin, but she didn’t have much time with him and she knew going in that he was haunted and harmful to her continued existence. I don’t get why all of a sudden Amelia is so obsessed with him. Devlin is blatantly unhealthy for her and the new love interest isn’t any better. It feels out of character for a successful woman who has had to be on guard all her life to fall for dangerous men within moments of meeting them during a few months time. There was never any information about that being a habit of hers. You’d think she’d be more careful after the events of book one.

Overall, I liked the slow burning tension in The Kingdom. I was happy Amelia was away from Devlin and hoped she’d learned sometimes what you want isn’t good for you and you have no choice but to stay away. I’m not so sure she came to that realization. As Amelia’s family history unraveled it became clear that much more was going on than the reader was exposed to.  I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion of the trilogy, The Prophet.

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