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Review: Impulse by Moira Rogers

28 Aug

Impulse by Moira Rogers
Samhain (Sept. 4, 2012)
ebook: $5.50
ISBN: 9781609287672
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “One more thing, I don’t break, okay? I bend. The rest of you stand strong until you shatter, but I ride the rough spots so I can get back up when they’re over. But sometimes that means I don’t learn, because I never get hurt badly enough to teach me a lesson.” (p. 94)

Sera Sinclaire is a New Orleans rarity: a submissive coyote trapped in a town overrun by dominant shapeshifters. Worse, she lacks the willpower to deny the alphas-in-shining-armor who need her soothing presence, even when their protectiveness threatens to crush her hard-won self-reliance.

The only shifter she doesn’t want to push away is Julio Mendoza, a wolf so dominant he’s earned a place on the Southeast council.

Julio doesn’t have the luxury of indulging in the vacation his psychic shrink insists he needs. He can’t turn his back on responsibilities he’s beginning to wish he’d never shouldered. When an obsessive ex endangers Sera, though, instinct drives him to get her out of town. Watching her come to life outside the city makes him feel like he’s finally done something right, and her touch ignites desire he doesn’t want to ignore.

But soon, lighthearted flirting becomes a dangerous game of seduction, where every day spent falling into each other is another day avoiding the truth. Sera’s ex isn’t the only one who’d disapprove of their relationship. There are wolves who would kill to get Sera out of Julio’s life—starting with his own blood kin.

Book five (Impulse) in the writing duo Moira Rogers’ Southern Arcana series can be read as a stand alone, but you may want to read the previous books to get a feel for the world and its secondary characters. I read book five, then went back and read book one, Crux. I don’t think that was a good idea because they have too many similarities and while I liked Impulse, I didn’t like Crux because of those similarities. (Both have a thread about a male shifter chasing a female shifter to breed.)

But let’s talk about Impulse. It features a submissive fox shifter named Sera who is attracted to a dominate wolf shifter named Julio. Both are traumatized from past events. I think I’d have a clearer understanding of those things had I read book four. Rogers gives enough information that I was able to understand the damage done to both Sera and Julio without reading those events as they occurred. Those events are important because they set up the situation which leads to Sera and Julio to need a vacation.

Impulse is a character driven romance. Both Julio and Sera have emotional issues that they need to work out and a lazy vacation is their route to happiness.  Of course along the way there are speed bumps, but what kept bringing me back were the dynamics between Julio and Sera. Sera was more than a woman who liked to be dominated. She wanted to be seen as an asset who could fight when she needed too, but liked to offer comfort. She is capable of bending which is something an alpha can’t do. She’s a survivor who eventually learns to be confident in herself while living in a world in which many paranormal shifters consider her to be scum.

Julio is hard on himself. He feels guilty about not stepping up in the supernatural world while his father and uncle bullied and ran shifters into the ground. We meet him as he deals with his guilty conscience which forces him to accept all forms of responsibility. Sera doesn’t want to be his responsibility. She wants to be his lover and later–his partner. Once she gets through to him, the possibilities seem endless. It’s the paranormal world’s prejudice that affects them.

Julio is a good guy and I love it when the good guy wins. That’s especially true when he’s paired with a woman who fits him the way Sera fits Julio. She’s the grass to his wind. He blows hard and she bends to fit him no matter where he needs to go.

The plot lines were less interesting to me. There was a fear of Sera’s ex-husband showing up and worry that Julio’s family would make a violent move that never really reached the level I expected. I like my bad guys really bad, but the bad guys in Rogers’ world didn’t feel evil. I actually felt kind of bad for one of them.

The joy to be found in Impulse came from the interactions between Sera and Julio. Their sex scenes were hot, but their ability to just “be” while together were even better. I felt their attraction turn from lust to love and that made me happy with the romance.

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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.

Have you read: Lucy Snyder?

16 Mar

A few years ago I picked up my first Lucy Snyder book: Spellbent. It just so happened to be the first book in the Jessie Shimmer series. The heroine (Jessie Shimmer, duh) starts out as your everyday college dropout packed into a  cute body, but quickly transforms into a determined woman. She is far from perfect and remains so throughout the first three books of the series. How imperfect? Well in the first book her eye is burned out leaving her face disfigured and her hand is bitten off. There is a cure for the disfigurements if they are addressed immediately. Jessie’s are not. What does that mean? She attacks problems without the aid of a human eye or hand. She is a disabled, urban fantasy heroine whom many of the characters still find sexy and attractive.

The Jessie Shimmer series is not a romance or for lack of better word “soft” urban fantasy. The book is hardcore. There are moments while I read each book that I wanted to scrub my mind with bleach. Even now–days after finishing book three–I still picture a gruesome image as the villain makes good on her promise to the heroine. It is violent and disgusting goodness that I couldn’t set down. (I haven’t watched the Saw movies, but that type of graphic horror.) It is NOT for the weak stomached or those who will dissect it looking for the hidden message. It is entertainment.

I haven’t read many posts about Lucy Snyder, which surprises me. Maybe it shouldn’t since I read Spellbent when it was released and didn’t pick up Shotgun Sorceress or Switchblade Goddess until a week or so ago. In a way I’m glad I waited. (Y’all know I have a problem with waiting for books to be released.) However, I’m slightly confused at the lack of blog posts about this series. Are readers put off by the down and dirty secrets and scenes? What do readers think about the heroine’s limitations?

Snyder has a gift for creating disturbing scenarios and setting them in an urban fantasy world. She has created a woman who has grown so much and paired her with a man who has slowly grown on me. In book one, I thought he was rather self-centered; not that we got much time with him. By the end of book two, I found him to be damaged but salvageable. At the end of Switchblade Goddess I knew he was the perfect man for Jessie. He is far from perfect, but he recognized his faults and the things he had done wrong in his relationship with Jessie, told her about them without her pointing them out to him first and promised to do better. I believe him. While their relationship is never front and center as the main issue, it does burn slowly on the back burner almost to the point where I wanted to scream at Jessie to do something.

Snyder’s Jessie Shimmer series is not a feel good series. I never put down any of the books happy. I put them down grossed out and haunted by the vivid imagery of torturous scenes, but I never considered setting the books down and walking away. I wish I could wash away many of the images, so I could stop thinking about the books as “the book where this guy did this” or “the book with the electric drill.” Gosh, I’m grossing myself out thinking about it. The series is urban fantasy meet horror, featuring a heroine who often got lucky by not dying. What I’d really like to know is if you’ve read any of Lucy Snyder’s books and what you think about them.

Shout out to Dan Dos Santos! The cover art is excellent. I’ve bought all three of the books in paper form strictly to have access to the gorgeous covers.

Review: Demon Does it Better by Linda Wisdom

23 Jan

Demon Does it Better by Linda Wisdom
Sourcebooks (Jan. 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781402236723

Favorite Lines: “She mentally rehearsed opening dialogue if they had just “happened” to bump into each other. Oh, hello. Do you happen to know where Rangel’s Harvest Foods might be? Excuse me, but don’t I know you from somewhere? Actually, I know I’d remember you if you had been a patient of mine. No forgetting a body like that.” (p. 11-12, egalley)

Lovely witch Lili Carter takes a job at a paranormal hospital where patients have been disappearing. There she encounters Jared, a dangerously sexy demon on a mission that gets Lili into a world of trouble. Lili can’t avoid Jared for long and soon they find themselves creating a whole new kind of magick…

Book two in Linda Wisdom’s series about demons was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting much, but boy did she deliver a story unlike any I’ve read lately. Demon Does it Better is what I want from paranormal books: a good plot and great characters. There was some predictability, but the idea behind the story really worked quite well for me.

I don’t’ want to spoil the surprise (I’ll let someone else do that.), but the hero’s situation came out of the blue. At least it happened early. Early enough to make the entire story interesting. The bad guy was obvious, but figuring out how to save the hero took some doing and it was refreshing to read a story which revolved around a heroine saving her hero.

Don’t get me wrong. The hero is a man male demon capable of taking charge and solving problems. However, he is plagued by some major baggage. Baggage that often results in him getting the crap beat out of him. His salvation comes in the form of a witch who was expelled from “witch school” in the 1300s.

Lili is looking into the mysterious disappearances of nurses from Crying Souls Hospital. The hospital cares for the preternatural community and houses an asylum for those creatures in need of mental care. Lili’s duties take her into the dungeon to care for those with questionable mental issues. Throughout the story Lili is an advocate for all in need. Not just the preternatural, but humans too. She does not believe in turning her back on patients or reverting to the 16oos when Bedlam was considered the place to go to for medical aid. She’s strong and smart enough to ask for help when she needs it. In other words, she is a worthy heroine.

Demon Does it Better is a romance, but I was more interested in the action taking place. I wanted the heroine to solve the mystery and save her hero. I really didn’t care about their romance despite the attention given to it. The story revolves around the couple. They have a sizzling attraction for one another, yet I really didn’t care because the story as a whole was good. To be honest, I actually like this book better than book one (Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend). It was much darker than the introductory book in the series and had less fluff. A couple of characters from book one make an appearance in Demon Does it Better. It connects the stories without confusing those who have only read book two.

I’ll admit to being slightly confused for the first chapter of Demon Does it Better. I felt like I was dumped into a situation. The situation wasn’t explained until further in the story. As soon as I realized what was happening, I was cool. I wanted the heroine to succeed. No, I never made an emotional connection with the book. (So unlike me.) I still managed to enjoy the book more than the average story.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Review: Hold Me if You Can by Stephanie Rowe

8 Jan

Hold Me if You Can by Stephanie Rowe
Sourcebooks (Jan. 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781402241970

Favorite Lines: “She was desperate, she was still carrying way too much fear, terror, and generally debilitating phobia from her trek down “murder victim lane.”” (p. 15, egalley)

Without her passions, she has no magic…

It’s unfortunate for Natalie that Nigel Aquarian is so compelling. With his inner demons, his unbridled heat, and his “I will conquer you” looks, he calls to her in exactly the way that nearly killed her.

But losing control means losing her life…

That he’s an immortal warrior and that her powers rise from intense passions would seem to make them a match made in heaven, but unless they embrace their greatest fears, they’ll play out their final match in hell.

With a unique voice that critics say “carves out her very own niche—call it paranormal romance adventure comedy,” Stephanie Rowe delivers an irresistible pair of desperadoes dancing on the edge of self-control and pure temptation.

I only have a few things to say about Stephanie Rowe’s Soulfire series. First of all, I really liked the first book in the series (Kiss at Your Own Risk). It was hilarious and so different from other paranormal romances I’d read at the time. Best of all the heroine was not normal at the beginning or end of the book. Well, Rowe takes that great model and puts it back to work in book three of her Soulfire series. She also keeps her outrageous villains coming in book three, Hold Me if You Can; unfortunately, it was not a pleasant experience.

The over the top actions and language of the villains pretty much made me bust a gut when I read it in book one. When I read it in Hold Me if You Can I rolled my eyes and skipped over it. What do I mean? Well this:

His nuts had already swollen to the size of grapefruits, and they were red and inflamed. Elephantiasis on the way. “A man’s jewels of ecstasy are personal zones of safety, woman!”–p. 112

Dear Lord. His nuts were like watermelons with poison ivy.–p. 112

It felt silly and immature and worked as an irritant instead of comedic relief. That irritation kept coming as the book progressed. In book one, I leaned a lot about the villain’s lair which is called the Den of Womanly Pursuits. The unique methods of torture and the abominations created there caught my interest. This go around I wasn’t half as interested. For the most part, each visit to the den became an exercise in annoyance which disappointed me because there was so much unfulfilled potential to Hold Me if You Can.

I liked the heroine and the hero, but the story felt over blown and grandiose in a bad way. Things were taken to major extremes; instead of making me laugh they made me roll my eyes and sigh. I read and enjoyed book one. I missed book two and felt lost as to what was going on in book three. Once I settled into the over the top story I understood what was going on, but I can’t say it’s a book I’d recommend.

It’s kinda like the American Pie movies. The first one shocks you into laughing and you keep watching to see what’s coming. However, by the times American Pie 2 (2001), American Wedding (2003), American Reunion(2012), as well as all the American Pie Presents videos (Band Camp, The Naked Mile, Beta House, and The Book of Love) have been released the shock factor no longer works. What was amusing in a shocking and fresh manner comes across as immature.

Once again, I’m in the minority according to GoodReads. Fifteen of its members rated Hold Me if You Can four or five stars. I’d like to know what you think about it. If you’ve read it…comment. If you haven’t read it, pick it up and let me know your feelings about it.

 

Review: King of the Isles by Debbie Mazzuca

5 Jan

King of the Isles by Debbie Mazzuca
Kennsington (Jan. 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99; ebook: $5.99
ISBN: 9781420110074

Favorite Lines: “You’re just like your mother. Evil is in your blood.” (p. 100, ARC)

Some men are born to rule…

She’ll find him a bride if it’s the last thing she does.

And it very well might be. Evangeline may be powerfully persuasive in her way, but convincing the notoriously wild Highland king Lachlan MacLeod to strengthen his alliances with a strategic marriage seems to be asking the impossible. Stubborn and proud, Lachlan seems determined to go against her will, even if it means endangering the people he’s sworn to protect and the enchanted isle that has already seen so much discord.

Yet the battle-scarred Highlander cannot ignore his sultry advisor for long. When his mentor is kidnapped, forcing him to ride into combat alongside the beautiful Evangeline, he must choose between her safety and his own independence. It’s a choice he makes in an instant…but once wed to the woman he could not resist, he’ll soon find that his heart is in even greater danger than his kingdom…

Okay, I’m really sorry but I have to tell you something right now before you read this book thinking you’re getting a straight up Scottish romance like I did. It’s not. Not your classic historical Scottish romance. It’s a historical paranormal romance set in Scotland with little to make you think of Scotland. It’s a good book, but not the one you want if you’re feining for a Julie Garwood Highland warrior romance.

I think there are two other books in this series, but from the blurbs I’m not positive. Those books are Lord of the Isles and Warrior of the Isles.

Now that that’s out of the way you should know that Debbie Mazzuca’s King of the Isles is a romance about the fae and mostly takes place in the fae realm in 1607. The fae realm basically sits above the mortal plane if I understood correctly. In it is a young woman who is feared and hated by not only her father, but most of the fae people. The high king of the Seelie Council knows better and has placed her in the position of royal advisor. Determined to prove the fae wrong about the evilness they feel she houses, Evangeline strives to be analytical and always puts the fae as a whole above herself or any one individual.

Her hero is the Scottish king. A man who is half mortal and half fae. He has no magic, but he is a powerful and strong male specimen. He is so different from the powerful Evangeline that it takes a while to figure out they belong together.

Thrown into a situation with a man she feels is lacking, it’s amusing to watch her learn the man she disdains is multifaceted. On the flip side, it’s rather irritating waiting for the hero King Lachlan to figure out there is a tender woman underneath the pragmatic heroine. Like the general fae populace, Lachlan makes assumptions or only sees the surface of important issues until someone else points them out to him. Usually those misconceptions are focused on Evangeline.

The hidden gem within King of the Isles is Evangeline. She is a strong, stoic woman who thinks about issues before jumping into situations. This doesn’t mean that she always makes the right decision, but her ability to remove emotion from her actions is just as exciting as a passionate highland hero. I just really liked her character, especially after some secrets were exposed.

There are twists and unexpected turns which force the action into a fast pace, but my favorite part of the book revolves around a birthday celebration. It’s super sweet, but paired with information that makes me want the next installment ASAP.

If you decide to read it now you should know that there is an ebundle packaging Lord of the Isles, Warrior of the Isles and King of the Isles together for $13.99 (as I write this it’s available for $10.21 at B&N).

Review: His Darkest Salvation by Juliana Stone

26 Jul

His Darkest Salvation by Juliana Stone
HarperCollins/AVON (July 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9780062022639

Favorite Lines: “Stupid, weak woman. Your path was set, the only thing you needed to do was choose wisely. It should have been one of our own, and now…” He spit at her though his voice never deviated from a flat tone. “You’re damaged goods…nothing more than a whore who plays in her resort, fucking anything that moves.” (p. 70, egalley)

After six months in hell, Julian Castille has returned to the world a changed man. No longer the longer the calm, powerful CEO, but a shifter fully embraced by the blood of his clan. Julian has one goal: find the key to the portal that stands between the human realm and unprecedented darkness-in order to win back the pieces of his soul. The last thing he needs is a distraction like the beautiful, enigmatic Jaden DaCosta.

Three years ago, a forbidden night of passion left Jaden forever altered: mated to Julian Castill–bound to a man who despises her. But the temptation to trust this darker, more savage–and more captivating–Julian is overwhelming. And as they fight for their immortal souls, their insatiable desire for each other may prove their fatal undoing…

Book three in Juliana Stone’s Jaguar Warrior series, His Darkest Salvation, shows the dark side of paranormal romance while highlighting the effects of love. I have not read the previous books (His Darkest Hunger and His Darkest Embrace) in the series. I think I’d have been more intrigued had I invested in the characters by reading those books. As it stands, the story was not horrible, nor was it spectacular. It simply was.

References to the couple’s past intermingle with characters from the first two stories to create a beloved atmosphere to those who love the series. For me, it was added information but didn’t really make me feel anything. I didn’t know the man who existed prior to being sucked into hell. I didn’t know the girl who dreamed of love before having her feelings crushed. I met hardened characters. It isn’t a bad thing, I just wasn’t rooting for the couple in the same manner as those who may have met them in previous books.

Jaden, the heroine, is a double agent. She is a complex woman whom I took an instant liking. She survived a vicious home life, heart break and the machinations of those who want her dead. She just can’t seem to catch a break. Julian, on the other hand, was an arrogant ass turned into a deadly man on a secret mission.

My biggest issue with the story was the ease at which Jaden’s family crap was resolved. I expected so much more than I got. I knew Jaden’s father as a brutal man and her brother as a scheming murderer, but the end of their story line quietly slipped away. Sure there was a battle, but not the battle I’d hoped to read about.

The conflict between the two main characters is played out almost to the end of the book. Yes, it’s romance and there’s a happy ending. However, it felt like a lukewarm happy ending. Not all of the plot lines were ended, which left more questions than answers. And what was happy for the hero and heroine, was not so great for those who worked beside them. I guess all you really need to know is that the end of the book sets the scene for book four.

Read it or skip it?: Read it. It’s a mid-road type of book. If you love shifters and moody, alpha men, you’ll prob. adore this addition to the paranormal romance book shelf. For me, it’s not one that I see myself reading again.