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Review: Enslaved by Elisabeth Naughton

23 Oct


4 out of 5 scoopers

Enslaved by Elisabeth Naughton
Sourcebooks (Nov. 6, 2012)
Mass market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781402262159
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “All her life she’d been alone. Even the few times she’d been in love, she’d still been alone, because she’d never opened herself all the way. She’d never admitted who she really was, never confessed her hopes and dreams, never shared her soul. This time, she would. This time, everything was different.” (p. 296, e-galley)

After being rescued from the Underworld, Gryphon is plauged by strange voices and an evil foreboding. He believes that his only hope for salvation is to track down the goddess who cursed him…until he meets Maelea.

A prisoner with no bars, Maelea encounters Gryphon on her quest to find Olympus. He’s about to test her loyalty to the gods, and she’s ready to find out if he still has a heart worth saving…

It’s hard to believe that Enslaved is book five in Elisabeth Naughton‘s Eternal Guardians series. I’m not a fan of Greek mythology, but I’ve really become addicted to this series which incorporates bits and pieces of the past with its modern word. I highly recommend starting this series with book one instead of jumping in with Enslaved. Every book is about a different couple, but we’re given information and introduced to a variety of characters prior to starting their story. For example, we read about Gryphon’s experience in Hades and learn all about Maelea’s existence in book four, Enraptured.

After reading all the damage done to Gryphon in Enraptured and learning of Maelea’s predicament I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Enslaved. I knew a story about two horrendously damaged people would be good reading and I was right. The emotional trauma paired with the feelings of loneliness made them a perfect match once they realized the attraction between them. Maelea has always been alone not out of a desire but because she was cursed by the gods. Her father, Zeus, didn’t acknowledge her and her mother, Persephone, didn’t have much to do with her either.

Her constant migration and inability to let others get close to her made me want more for her. Just imagine how she felt living forever with no family and no constant partner or friends. Then BAM! there’s Gryphon who was tortured and is now infected with the voice of a villainess. He is purposely separating himself from his friends and family. Sure it’s out of a need to protect them from him, but he feels dirty and dangerous. He used to be completely different. His transformation from light to dark is affecting everyone–but Maelea.

As the two find peace in the world and within themselves there are so many other things taking place. The villainess from book one is still around. Atalanta still wants the Orb of Kronos and is using Gryphon to get it. The gods are making a play for the Orb, as well. They are trying to get it through Maelea. One of the story lines that began in book one will finally be concluded in this book.

Enslaved is equal parts romance/relationship and action moving the book/series forward. It’s also a nice change from the average vampire or shifter paranormal romance. It’s a decent addition to a comfortable series that is on my auto buy list.

Review: The Reluctant Amazon by Sandy James

24 Sep

3 out of 5 scoopers

The Reluctant Amazon by Sandy James
Carina Press (Sept. 3)
ebook: $4.99 (On sale right now for $1.99)
ISBN: 9781426894305
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “Rebecca Massee was no longer the kindergarten teacher who had been abandoned at the alter. She was no longer the one who looked to others for her self-esteem. And she was no longer the woman who was afraid to take the lead, to charge to the front. Rebecca Massee was an Amazon. She was Earth. And she was here to save humanity.” (p. 224, egalley)

The last thing Rebecca Massee expects on her wedding day is to go from jilted kindergarten teacher to Amazonian Earth warrior. But when she causes an earthquake after her groom says I don’t, she discovers that not only does she possess incredible powers, she is one of four lost chosen sisters who must fight to keep humanity safe from rogue gods and demons. Luckily she has help: ruggedly handsome Scottish warrior Artair MacKay, her protector and teacher.

An immortal, Artair has trained countless warriors for more than four hundred years. He understands Rebecca’s confusion at the new world she’s been thrust into and worries she is too emotionally vulnerable, but that doesn’t stop his growing feelings for the beautiful and fearless woman.

When an evil force threatens to destroy the Amazons, Rebecca must claim her full powers—but they come at a cost. Can she sacrifice the man she loves if it means saving the world?

When I read the premise for The Reluctant Amazon it sounded different from what I’d been reading and piqued my interest. Usually when I’m into a book I can read it in a day, but that’s not what happened with the story. I began reading it, disliked the heroine and put it down. I waited a while and tried again with the same result. Finally, yesterday I decided it was time to woman up and pound through the book. At the midpoint of the story, I began getting into it. By the last quarter, I was happy and quickly flipped through the remaining pages.

See it’s all about characters with me sometimes. I absolutely couldn’t stand the heroine Rebecca. She worked my last nerve. The same day she meets the hero she is looking at him with “hope and trust in her eyes” causing the hero to feel “humbled” that she “could offer him those gifts after the way he’d manhandled her all day.” Seriously? It was too much, way too fast. It was superficial and the main reason I wanted to put the book down. However, I’m glad I gave the book another chance because I’d have missed a great hero had I not finished.

Artair is a manly man who’s been training Amazons for four goddesses for over 300 years. He is tired of war and watching the people he loves die so he tenders his resignation in hopes of becoming a mortal capable of settling down with a wife and raising a family. That’s all before he meets the Amazon who slightly changes his mind. He sees the strength underneath the weak front Rebecca wears. She’s a nurturer, beautiful and the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Artair is caring, intelligent and stubborn. I love that he is able to step back and let his woman lead the way. Time is allowed to pass before he acts on his feelings toward the woman he calls “Becca-mine.”

I liked the romance because it meant Artair would be happy and it evolved with a more mature Rebecca than we are initially introduced to. The growth made Rebecca a strong heroine capable of giving her hero the balance he needed in order to have a happily ever after. The passion is secondary to the action and mystery surrounding the characters, so when it shows up it feels realistic and not forced.

It’s not one I’ll be reading again, but I’m glad I took the time to finish The Reluctant Amazon.

Review: The Bloodgate Warrior by Joely Sue Burkhart

6 Aug

The Bloodgate Warrior by Joely Sue Burkhart
Carina Press (Aug. 6, 2012)
ebook: $3.99
ISBN: 9781426894183

Favorite Lines: “Maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty about the dreams if they weren’t so… Raw. Uncomfortable. Even violent sometimes. He scares me with his intensity, and yet I love every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong, my dream lover can be incredibly tender. The way he cups my face in his big, powerful hands and strokes my cheek with his thumbs makes me melt, but he’s relentless too. He won’t let me pretend to hide or lie about what it is that I’ve come to expect–and want–from him.”(p. 16, e-galley)

As the Mayan hero Técun lay dying, a sorceress cast a spell tying her bloodline to him, so that one day he could return and avenge their people…

Following a near-death experience, Cassandra Gonzales is haunted by erotic dreams of a mysterious man. As the dreams intensify, she is compelled to travel to Guatemala in search of him. There she learns that her blood has opened a gate—and she is the only one who can bring the great warrior back from the afterlife.

Once faced with Técun in the flesh, Cassie fears the need he stirs within her. She aches to submit to the pleasure he promises, but first she must learn to trust in him, and in her own desires. Their time for sensual exploration is brief—Técun’s killer has escaped, intent on sacrificing Cassie and wreaking havoc on the world. Now, only Cassie’s complete and willing surrender to Técun will give him the power to defeat the demon once and for all…

I started reading The Bloodgate Warrior  and the first thing I noticed was how short it showed up on my nook. My nook showed 137 pages and the story ended on page 132. I point this out because it means my expectations for a short story are different from those of a full length novel. I know there will be less depth and I adjust before reading.

The Bloodgate Warrior is book two in Joely Sue Burkhart’s Mayan Bloodgates paranormal romance series. It is told in first person and is written as additions in a family journal. Chapter one begins:

“Entry added August 2012 to the Guzman-Gonzales family journal by Cassandra Luisa Gonzales.”–p. 9

I’m not a fan of diary style romances but I knew it was supposed to be filled with erotic scenes and decided to give it a shot. First off let me say it’s not filled with as many erotic scenes as I expected. This isn’t necessarily bad. It’s just different. As it is, reading a family journal about “porn moments” just feels wrong. Like this:

“God, it makes my face hot with shame just writing this down. Yet I’m squirming in my chair, too,  and hurrying so I can slip between the luxurious hotel sheets and get to him as quickly as possible.”–p. 16

Can you imaging writing about your intimate encounters and dreams in a book for your descendants to read? I can’t and it affected my thoughts of the story. Instead of simply being a form of story telling, the journal idea yanked me out of the world Joely Sue Burkhart created. I realize this is a matter of preference, but my squicky feelings were reinforced throughout the tale by the story which is told in first person past tense. The Bloodgate Warrior should have been a quick read, it felt like it would never end.

I liked the idea of a Mayan warrior arriving in the present day to prevent a destructive evil force. The hero and heroine had explosive chemistry. Técun liked to dominate in sex and Cassie liked to submit. Both liked to please the other even more. My problem is that I never felt anything. I didn’t care if the good guys won or loss. I never felt the attraction more than I would notice two animals mating. I was extremely apathetic to the entire story.

In the end, I wanted to love The Bloodgate Warrior but I never quite made it past the “it’s okay” point. The book is inexpensive though, so if your library doesn’t carry the book pick it up from Carina Press, B&N, Amazon or where ever you buy your ebooks.

Review: Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

1 Aug

Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady
Kensington (Aug. 7, 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99; ebook: $5.99
ISBN: 9781420124569

Favorite Lines: “I will carry you when you grow weary…I will warm you when you are cold…I will shelter you when you seek refuge…I pledge my body to your protection, my soul to your happiness,  and my heart to your keeping.” (p. 327, ARC)

Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister’s murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies…and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He’ll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what’s left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.

Book one in Kira Brady‘s romantic Deadglass trilogy, Hearts of Darkness, is a new take on the paranormal world. In Brady’s world there are dragon shifters (Drekar) who lack souls and feed on humanity and shapeshifters (Kivati) on the verge of extinction who are battling the dragons. The shifters are also supposed to protect humanity, but that’s not high on their priority list.

Hearts of Darkness combines Babylonian, Native American and Norse mythology to create a world on the verge of destruction. Though set in the present day, the world has a steampunk feel due to the monocles, steam engines and clothing worn by the Kivati. There is a crack in Seattle’s Gate to the Land of the Dead. Damned ghosts and evil wraiths slip through the crack into Seattle longing to touch and feel again. Those spirits are capable of possessing humans, turning them into walking zombie-like creatures.

The paranormal aspects of life in the corrupt city of Seattle remains unknown to most of humanity, but Kayla is not allowed to keep her head in the sand. She want to find her sister’s killer and her very human attempt at compassion has placed her in debt to the Kivati. She is given three days to find an item her sister hid or face the consequences of not upholding her side of an agreement with the Kivati. She’s not what I consider a kick ass heroine, but an everyday woman thrown into a “crazy” situation. Kayla is pretty naive for being the woman who always cleaned up after her little sister. She takes things at face value, never looking below the surface which kept placing her in danger.Especially when it comes to the book’s hero, a Kivati man named Hart.

Hated by his fellow Kivati, Hart is enslaved to the leader of the Drekar. He is filled with self-loath and has little choice in many of the actions he is forced to take. He clings to threads of honor, unwilling to become completely warped by the evil he has been associated with for over 15 years. Hart wants to be a better man, however until his debt is paid off, he can do nothing but follow orders.

Hearts of Darkness is filled with suspense and action. I never became enamored with the romance thread though. I know Kayla and Hart were attracted to one another, but I didn’t see the appeal for more than a sexual relationship. It’s a book in which a man can earn redemption and love can be found and recognized in the darkest of situations. I enjoyed both the suspense and the happy ever after ending despite my ambivalent thoughts on the romance. I will be reading the next book, Hearts of Shadows, because its main characters (Grace and Leif) really interest me.

Review: Concrete Savior by Yvonne Navarro

10 Aug

Concrete Savior by Yvonne Navarro
Pocket (May 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781439191989

Favorite Lines: “They had it all wrong. The real Concrete Savior is you.” (p. 343)

THEY SAY NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED. BRYNNA MALAK IS LIVING PROOF .

A fallen angel in human form, Brynna is trying to earn another chance at heaven. So far, her road to redemption is littered with casualties, especially since Lucifer’s minions are intent on dragging her back to hell. And being mortal only got more complicated since Brynna became involved with Detective Eran Redmond.

Still, Brynna’s relationship issues—like the fact that one glimpse of her can drive men crazy with desire—may have to wait. A mysterious “hero” is saving Chicago’s citizens from certain death, with strange and sinister consequences. Brynna knows too much about demonkind to believe in coincidences. Some dark force is at work here, and Brynna may be the only one who can stop it. . . .

Book two in Yvonne Navarro’s Dark Redemption series, Concrete Savior, picks up a few months after the events in Highborn. Brynna is still determined to earn forgiveness for the crimes she committed after she fell from heaven. In book one she learned the best intentions don’t always equal a happy ending, but it hasn’t stopped her from trying to be good.

This go around there is even more action and plot lines to follow than in Highborn. However, the story is told in third person from various points of view and I felt like I was being dragged in several directions. As soon as I’d start to follow one I’d get pulled in another direction. While I read the story I didn’t feel a lot of character growth, but when I thought about it later I realized a few things and appreciated the way in which it was dealt.

Eran has feelings for Brynna that she is trying to ignore, Eran meets the brother he never knew he had, and some man is saving people who turn around and murder others.The story showed the possible hardship a relationship between Eran and Brynna might encounter, and shows the growth Brynna has made as a character. She is more “human” in this book. The change is stark because we have another character to compare and highlight the difference.

If I had to summarize the book in one word I’d have to say it’s complex. There are so many things happening that at times it’s confusing. The relationships are multi-faceted and everything is connected in a strange way. Don’t read Concrete Savior if you can’t focus. It’s not the type of book easily read when trying to balance family life, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking longer than normal to read it.

I never got happy feelings while reading this book, but I was satisfied with the last portion of the book and it involves feathers.

Review: Mystical Warrior by Janet Chapman

2 Jul

Mystical Warrior by Janet Chapman
Pocket Star Books  (June 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99; e-book: $7.99
ISBN: 9781439159903

Favorite Lines: “You will all shut the fuck up, or I swear, I’ll find my gun and shoot every damned last one of you.” (p. 137) Continue reading

Review: Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane

14 Jun

Goddess with a Blade by Lauren Dane
Carina Press (June 2011)
ebook: $4.99 (215 pages)
ISBN: 9781426891694

Favorite Lines: “Vampires, Goddess, you’re all fourteen-year-old girls.” (p. 139) Continue reading

Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

28 Apr

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
Simon Pulse (February 2011)
Hardback: $16.99
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0924-8

Favorite Lines: “it was snakes…claimed snakes were trying to poke through her head, that she could feel them growing and moving under her scalp. On several occasions, she scratched her head bloody. Tried to dig them out with a butter knife stolen from the cafeteria.” (p. 4)

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very…different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

Darkness Becomes Her is a paranormal young adult story which incorporates Greek deities in its plot. It’s set in post apocalyptic New Orleans. It’s an action packed, simple read; I finished it in about two hours. I had never heard of Kelly Keaton before this book and boy would I have missed out if I hadn’t read book one in the Gods & Monsters series. Darkness Becomes Her is told in the first person from the heroine Ari’s perspective.

I enjoyed all of the fully fleshed out secondary characters, especially Violet. It wasn’t hard to figure out whom Ari’s father was, but I had no idea of what the curse could possibly be until Keaton decided to lay it all out. Looking back I see the signs, but I never would have connected the dots had Keaton not told me.

Don’t expect a clear cut ending. There is definitely potential for this to be a lengthy series. According to Keaton’s Facebook page a sequel is planned and will be released in February 2012.

This is a young adult story which talks about child molestation and rape. The molestation hinted at, but the rape and its results are heartbreaking.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. I don’t normally seek out YA books, but I’m glad I did this one. Its complex story line paired with the well developed characters creates an exciting book which can be read in hours.

What others think about Darkness Becomes Her

Girls in the Stacks
Rex Robot Reviews
The Book Butterfly

Review: Ascension by Sable Grace

18 Apr

Ascension by Sable Grace
HarperCollins (April 26, 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99
ISBN: 9780061964404

Favorite Lines: “As she watched his bobbing body become smaller and smaller as distance separated them, her feeling of victory was washed away by the rage and self-loathing warring inside her. She hated Ryker, but at the moment, she hated herself more.” (p. 39)

The gates of hell have opened, and one woman will stand in the crossfire as the Dark Breed—vampyre, demons, shape shifters—and mankind fight their last battle for survival.

Kyana is half Vampyre, half Lychen . . . and the last of her kind. Determined, dangerous, and damned, she has no love for the mortals who have imprisoned and misused her. But when the Order of Ancients entrusts her with a mission—to find the key that will send the Dark Breed back into Hell for eternity—Kyana has no choice but to accept.

She is furious to learn her assignment comes with an escort . . . Ryker, a demigod and fierce warrior who long ago found a way under her skin and stayed there. In a shaky alliance, they discover an ancient cult with dangerous motive and a god who seeks to destroy all others. And as Kyana begins to feel the heat that threatens to bind her to Ryker, she knows she has to resist. For it could only mean the undoing of them both . . .

The writing team of Heather Waters and Laura Barone write under the pen name of Sable Grace. To avoid confusion I’m going to refer to the author as Grace throughout this review. Read an excerpt of Ascension.

I’m not a fan of urban fantasy’s that have a heavy mythological base. I’m not really interested in stories about the gods and their machinations. If you feel the same this book may be the exception to the rule. Yeah, there are fates and gods and demigods, but something about the way Grace has written them enhances her dark world and makes me want to know more.

Don’t worry if you aren’t immediately drawn into Ascension. It wasn’t until chapter five that I became interested in  the book because I didn’t like Kyana or how the world treated “her kind.” It’s not new, but the idea of vampires risking it all for a cause and then being treated like crap about drove me mad. The fact that Kyana came across as a shallow creature didn’t help. Around chapter five Kyana began to get a little depth. She became more than a character working to bring in the humans no other tracker could find. A little crack into what makes her a worthy heroine formed.

I think my favorite part of this book is the tension between Kyana and Ryker. Both yearn for the other and refuse to act upon their feelings because of who they are. The more they work together, the more they see positive attributes in the other. This is not a story in which the lead characters disregard consequences and jump into bed together.

There is plenty of action in Ascension, along with a mystery that could destroy the survivors. There is a traitor in the safety of the Below and discovering his/her identity becomes an important mission for Kyana and Ryker. I must have missed something, because I had no idea of who the final traitor would be. And the way the story ended, well it wasn’t a tidy little ball. I have to read the next book to find out what happens to a key secondary character. 

One reason why you should read Ascension: The scenes in which Kyana wears an illusion charm. I’m feeling embarrassed for Kyana just thinking about them. lol

Ascension is book one in Grace’s Dark Breed Novel series. It is urban fantasy with a nice romantic thread. I look forward to seeing what Grace creates in this new, dangerous world filled with demons, witches, vampires and gods.