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Review: Coveted by Shawntelle Madison

24 May

Coveted by Shawntelle Madison
Random House/Ballantine Books (April 2012)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9780345529183
Excerpt

Favorite Lines: “I had come to terms with the fact that hoarding had negative side effects. Buying ornament after ornament wasn’t normal behavior, but somehow part of me felt that it was right. As I gave the Home Shopping Network my credit Card number, I reveled in the delicious shiver within my belly when I knew my holiday cheer was on its way.” (p. 65, e-galley)

For werewolf Natalya Stravinsky, the supernatural is nothing extraordinary. What does seem strange is that she’s stuck in her hometown of South Toms River, New Jersey, the outcast of her pack, selling antiques to finicky magical creatures. Restless and recovering from her split with gorgeous ex-boyfriend, Thorn, Nat finds comfort in an unusual place: her obsessively collected stash of holiday trinkets. But complications pile up faster than her ornaments when Thorn returns home—and the two discover that the spark between them remains intense.
 
Before Nat can sort out their relationship, she must face a more immediate and dangerous problem. Her pack is under attack from the savage Long Island werewolves—and Nat is their first target in a turf war. Toss in a handsome wizard vying for her affection, a therapy group for the anxious and enchanted, and the South Toms River pack leader ready to throw her to the wolves, and it’s enough to give anybody a panic attack. With the stakes as high as the full moon, Nat must summon all of her strength to save her pack and, ultimately, herself.

I’m not sure how I feel about Coveted, book one, which is also the title of Shawntelle Madison’s new urban fantasy series. In some ways it is much different from other series on the market. It features a heroine with a diagnosed mental illness who yearns for the soon-to-be new alpha of her local werewolf pack. That man has some pull, but he is not in charge and thus can’t do all that I would like for a love interest to do.

Despite the large focus on the heroine’s love life, the series is not a romance. It is an urban fantasy. Do not expect a happily ever after. (Do expect the makings of a possible love triangle.) I think that’s part of the problem for me. I don’t see how this heroine could ever be happy. Mental illness does not just go away and its presence makes me question her acceptance by all who surround her. Madison attacks attitudes like mine in the book, but I’m imagining long-term effects and am not sure I want to stick around for the journey.

That said, I enjoyed many of the characters I met just as much as I hated a few. I wanted Nat to succeed. I wanted to kick ass for her. I wanted others to see the good in her and step up. I wanted her to find her backbone and stand proud. A reasonable amount of my wishes were granted by the time I turned the last page of the book, but I never felt good reading Coveted. I never felt an adrenaline rush or connection to anything or anyone.

I rated the book a three on GoodReads because it is so different from what I normally read and that I finished it. I never considered stopping even though I didn’t love the story. I liked little about the first half of the book, but the second half  picked up speed nicely. There was more action, but not enough to hook me.

Ending Thoughts: If I was out of books to read, and could borrow book two, Kept, from the library, I’d read it. Otherwise my journey into Nat’s world will be at an end.

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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: King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab

26 Jan

King of Darkness by Elisabeth Staab
Sourcebooks (Feb. 2012)
Mass Market: $6.99 (2/7/2012); ebook: $6.99 (2/1/2012)
ISBN: 9781402263156

Favorite Line: “Though he had gotten an instant soft-on from the muscleman by the bar wearing  nothing but a leather thong and a dog collar, his dick woke up and took notice when his stare fixed on a pair of long, peaches-and-cream legs that disappeared under a plaid skirt that stopped just shy of broadcasting her preferred brand of underwear.” (p. 13, egalley)

ETERNAL COMMITMENT IS NOT ON HER AGENDA…

Scorned by the vampire community for her lack of power, Isabel Anthony lives a carefree existence masquerading as human—although drifting through the debauched human nightlife, she prefers the patrons’ blood to other indulgences. But when she meets the sexy, arrogant king of the vampires, this party-girl’s life turns dark and dangerous.

BUT TIME’S RUNNING OUT FOR THE KING OF THE VAMPIRES…

Dead-set on finding the prophesied mate who will unlock his fiery powers, Thad Morgan must find his queen before their race is destroyed. Their enemies are gaining ground, and Thad needs his powers to unite his subjects. But when his search leads him to the defiant Isabel, he wonders if fate had gotten it seriously wrong…

Elisabeth Staab‘s new paranormal romance series is called the Chronicles of Yavn. It introduces a new world filled with powerful, and not so powerful, vampires. Book one, King of Darkness, does just what the title hints. It tells the story of the king of darkness, the king of the vampires, Thad Morgan. Well, it tells the story of him finding the mate the oracles proclaimed existed and boy is it steamy.

Yep, it’s filled with hot sex and violence. What do you expect from vampires? It also has a great human secondary character whose story I can’t wait to read. King of Darkness has bad guys capable of kicking the good guys butts and even more sexy vampire men. The vampires have abilities related to the amount of power each wields and the vampire king has little power until he gets with his queen. His queen isn’t used to being around other vampires and brings a breath of fresh air to the staid world of old school vampires. Unfortunately, she’s also TSTL at times. When you read the book you’ll see what I mean.

While there is no question that the story was entertaining, it was also forgettable. I won’t be re-reading it, but I am looking forward to more from this author. I’m hoping to care about the hero/heroine of each book to come in this series as it would definitely improve my opinion of the series. The books sound as if they will be individual love stories with an overreaching arc which will involve a battle pitting wizards against vampires.

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: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

6 Dec

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin/MIRA (December 20, 2011)
Trade: $14.95; ebook: $10.99 (pre-order for best price)
ISBN: 9780778313076
Excerpt
Favorite Lines: “Right before I was escorted to the jail, Fawn waved bye-bye to me. I smiled. My empty, pointless life for hers. Not bad.” (p. 15, egalley)

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life….

I think I’m gonna love this new series by Maria V. Snyder. What is it? The Healer series which begins in Touch of Power. We are introduced to a world decimated by plague and humanity. It is a fantastical world and the start of an epic journey.

Touch of Power is about Avry who is a healer, but it’s also about the kingdoms effected by the plague and the many people Avry meets on her journey. It is an action packed, enticing launch of a fantasy series. I plowed through the book and can’t wait to read book two, Scent of Magic.

Touch of Power establishes the setting and background needed to understand the treachery, trauma and traitorous actions which are normal in the apocalyptic, magic filled world. It is not a human world. It’s an alternate history in which characters travel by foot and live in medieval like buildings. Its people are superstitious and the actions remind me of those taken during the Black Death in medieval England. Every one has been effected by the illness, but it’s a magical sickness. Still the people turn on what they don’t understand which happens to be healers. Because it is an alternate world the healers possess a magical ability. They assume the illness of the person they heal (hey, it is magic), so if they heal a fever…they get a fever. The healers heal quickly, but they still feel pain. Healing is a major part of the story, but there is so much more.

There are many story lines which connect at different points in Touch of Power. Those story lines push the story, but the likeable heroine Avry carries the story. Maybe because everything is told from her point of view. As she discovers knowledge, so does the reader. She is a compassionate heroine who is intelligent enough to know when to press an issue and when to get out of Dodge. This is a survival technique she was forced to learn in order to survive; she had been in hiding for over two years. Her survival methods apply to all aspects of life, including family matters. Because Avry had a brain and a heart, I wanted her to live. Not just eek by. I wanted her to thrive.

Avry isn’t on her trip alone, however. She is rescued early in the story by a group of travelers. Out of all her traveling companions, I cared about her friend Belen the most. He is a bear of a man. He is faithful and trust worthy. Hell, he is just plain the perfect man. I really appreciate Snyder allowing her heroine to have a solid friendship with a male. There is never sexual tension between the two, simply a deep “I’d do anything for you” connection shared between them. It’s a refreshing change to stories which pair a homosexual male with the heroine or twist a friendship into a romance. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those stories, but pairing a straight man with a straight woman in a straight friendship doesn’t happen as much as it should. I’m always happy when it does occur because it reaffirms the idea that men and women can be friends without benefits. That said, y’all know I like romance in my fantasy and urban fantasy so you have to know there’s a trace of something in the book.

After my rant about Shadow Reader by Sandy Williams (you can read it here), I’d be remiss not to point out the heroine’s possible love interest in the man who physically injured her. In a way it’s different from my feelings I posted in Shadow Reader because the two know nothing of the other before they meet and they have no interest in the other which would lead to a relationship.

I’d gone too far. With a strangled cry, Kerrick lost his temper. Belen lunged toward Kerrick and I raised an arm to block Kerrick’s strike, but we were both too slow. Kerrick back-handed me across my cheek. The force of the blow sent me to the ground.–p. 41

The hero is on a journey to save his friend who is also his prince. He reacts to a threat which happens to be the heroine. However physical abuse is never acceptable which leads to my indecisive emotions about a romance between the two. There are other scenes in which Kerrick is less than salacious to the woman who unknowingly holds the world’s fate in her hands, but taken in context–I don’t really consider them as a man being abusive to a woman. I think they are a warrior trying to convince the enemy to toe the line.

Maria V. Snyder hooked me the story of a healer with the power to cure the world. I love the plant life, the characters and the action. There are so many things taking place that I think I could easily reread the story and find small things that I missed the first time. I will buy this in paper form to sit on my bookshelf.

I’m not the only one with an opinion on Touch of Power:
Tatiana on GoodReads
Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me
Sweet Tidbits
Joyous Reads

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: My Dangerous Pleasure by Carolyn Jewel

15 Jun

My Dangerous Pleasure by Carolyn Jewel  (I like cover)
Grand Central Publishing (June 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99
ISBN: 9780446563871
Excerpt: Read chapter 1

Favorite Lines: ” She knew it in her soul. Rasmus Kessler had found out where she lived, and the very last part of her life that belonged to her was about to go to hell.” (p.27 -eArc) Continue reading