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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,539
1. The All-New, All-Different Marvel Rundown #7: Still More Timely than SECRET WARS

The All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe is here, but the event that was supposed to kick off the brand new publishing line Secret Wars is still in production. We’re here to take a look at the brand new books in the line and tell you if they are worth the money. It’s week seven of the All-New, All-Different Marvel […]

4 Comments on The All-New, All-Different Marvel Rundown #7: Still More Timely than SECRET WARS, last added: 11/22/2015
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2. REVIEW: Why Batman: Europa #1 is a Gem, Despite Eleven Years of Development Hell

Sometimes great things are worth the wait.

2 Comments on REVIEW: Why Batman: Europa #1 is a Gem, Despite Eleven Years of Development Hell, last added: 11/22/2015
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3. Review: The Black Stallion by Walter Farley



May Contain Spoilers


I am often reluctant to reread childhood faves, because as I’ve aged, my reading tastes have changed.  Since The Black Stallion was written almost 80 years ago, the age of the novel also gave me pause.  I impulsively checked it out of the library anyway (I do have an ancient hardcover copy somewhere in my own book collection, but it’s so much easier to read a digital copy).  I remember the first book in the series being one of my least favorites, but after finishing it again, a gazillion years after my first outing with the Black and Alec, I must have remembered incorrectly.  I can’t see how later books can top the excitement and adrenaline rush of this one.

The book starts with young Alec on a freighter, headed home from a summer in India visiting his uncle.  During the journey, two remarkable things happen; a wild black stallion is loaded during a stop in Arabia, and the violent storm breaks the ship apart.  Saved inadvertently by the Black, Alec and the stallion are marooned on a small, desolate island.  Alec struggles with all of the life skills he possesses to keep himself and the horse alive while awaiting rescue.  They form a close bond, and Alec even braves several unplanned dismounts (he is quickly and powerfully tossed from the Black’s back and thrown to the ground) to ride him.

They are rescued, and when Alec and the Black finally, finally arrive back home in New York, the boy convinces his parents to let him keep the horse.  In an incredible convenience, the Dailey’s, an older couple that live down the street, have a run-down barn and an acre pasture, and they agree to allow Alec to board the horse on their property.  Henry Dailey, a former jockey and horse trainer, sees the potential in the wild stallion, and decides to  help Alec train him. 

I could not put the book down, and I’ve read it a number of times in the past.  It’s been decades since my last reread, and I had forgotten many plot details.  I completely forgot about the match race between Cyclone and Sun Raider, and was wondering how the Black would be able to race without papers.  Now that I have horses of my own, I know how important registration papers are if you want to compete in breed events.  That small detail wouldn’t have meant much to me during my first visits with the Black and Alec, when I was, what, eight? 

Alec’s adventures are harrowing and leave you on the edge of your seat.  Even his rides on the Black are exciting.  Walter Farley makes the most of drama, giving the Black speed that blinds Alec, brings tears streaming down his face, and even weakens him to the point of losing consciousness.  The Black is a wild, violent animal, always a hair-trigger away from coming completely unglued.  Only the special bond he shares with his human keeps events from escalating into disasters.  Is it very believable?  No, but it makes for tense, hard to put down reading.

One thing I missed from this version of the story where the illustrations in my old hardcopy.  They gave the story more depth and were just plain fun to look at.  That’s the only knock I have for this edition.  I’m glad I reread this, and I’ll probably read more of the series, because I have completely forgotten most of the other books.

Grade:  A

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

First published in 1941, Walter Farley’s best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black’s first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old.

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4. Review: The Black Hood #6 Introduces Howard Chaykin to the Dark Circle

Script: Duane Swierczynski Art: Howard Chaykin, Jesus Aburto, Rachel Deering THE ACCLAIMED DARK CIRCLE SERIES RETURNS! “Flor de Muerto” After the soul-crushing events of “Bullet’s Kiss,” disfigured cop Greg Hettinger leaves Philly and checks into a Southern California rehab clinic. But a plane ride can’t separate Greg from his troubles. A fellow patient believes her […]

2 Comments on Review: The Black Hood #6 Introduces Howard Chaykin to the Dark Circle, last added: 10/29/2015
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5. Elite Beat Roundtable: Is CBS’s new SUPERGIRL show hot or not?

The Supergirl pilot that debuted last night on CBS a lot of weight on its shoulders. The show tells the story of Kara Zor-El, played by Melissa Benoist, as she escapes Superman's shadow and comes into her own as National City's first superhero. It is the network's first major superhero endeavor, the first superhero show led be a solo female in more than 40 years and the pilot had a lot of ground to cover, attempting to endear characters to new viewers while also trying to re-envision elements of the mythos without alienating established comics fans. Does it succeed? The Beat is here to tell you with a hard hitting roundtable. We've always wanted to have one of those.

7 Comments on Elite Beat Roundtable: Is CBS’s new SUPERGIRL show hot or not?, last added: 10/29/2015
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6. Review: Axcend #1 Game On

Axcend from Image comics smashes two different story telling worlds together, but is it worth pushing start?

0 Comments on Review: Axcend #1 Game On as of 1/1/1900
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7. Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

May Contain Spoilers


I’m so glad my local library received this book so soon after release date!  I actually had an eARC, but a Kindle version wasn’t available, and I could not get the ePUB file to load on my iPad.  Talk about frustrating!  Vengeance Road was probably my most anticipated summer read, and having that broken file on my tablet was driving me nuts.  Turns out the library saved the day!  This book is so good, I urge you to run to your own library and borrow it right away!

After Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the no good Rose Riders, she does what any brave frontier woman would do.  She vows to chase them to purgatory, dresses like a boy, and sets off after them.  She makes a short stop on the way, because she promised her father that if anything ever happened to him, she’d seek refuge with his friend Abe.  Only she learns that Abe’s dead, kicked in the head by a horse.  His sons give her a letter, written by her father, that they had been keeping in case she ever showed up.  Discovering that her parents had discovered a gold cache in the Superstition Mountains before her mother’s death, Kate, pretending to be Nate, loads her guns and heads off in search of the gold.  Where there’s gold, she figures, there will be a thieving, murderous band of outlaws.

Kate gets unexpected company when Abe’s sons, Jesse and Will, stubbornly join her.  They argue that three riders are safer than one, and they can keep an eye out for each other, since they are traveling in the same direction.  They’ll ride with her until they have to veer off for a cattle drive they’ve been hired for, and since she can’t get rid of them, Kate reluctantly agrees that some company won’t be too bad.  Will it?

Kate is one angry young woman.  Her rage consumes her.  All she can think of is riding down the Rose Riders and killing them, slaughtering them as callously as they murdered her pa.  She rebuffs Jesse and Will’s overtures of friendship, afraid that they’ll figure out she’s a girl, and that they’ll cause headaches for her that she doesn’t need.  When the three are ambushed by the Rose Riders, Kate reluctantly fills them in on her missions, and the thought of all of that gold gets Jesse’s attention.  He’s tired of scrabbling in the dry earth to feed his siblings, and some gold would help make improvements to their homestead.  Despite Kate’s reservations, they head off for the mountains, looking for the gold cache and the outlaws Kate wants dead.  What she doesn’t tell Jesse or Will is that she has no regard for her own life; as long as she achieves her revenge, she’ll die a content woman.

Kate is the type of heroine I love. She doesn’t sit back and wait for someone else to solve her problems; she fixes things herself. Even when she makes a muck of things, she still focuses on achieving her goals. Does she let her anger get the best of her? Heck, yes. Is her goal productive, or going to make her happy? Heck, no! But still she charges forward, convinced that her pa’s spirit can’t rest, that she can’t rest, until the Rose Riders are dead.

Vengeance Road is packed with lots of great action, features a vivid Western backdrop, and is full of challenges, challenges, challenges everywhere Kate goes. This immersive story is high octane reading at it’s best.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  A-

Review copy borrowed from my local library

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate. 

     In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.

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8. Review: Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

May Contain Spoilers


My Mercy Thompson obsession continues.   Blood Bound picks up shortly after the events in Moon Called.  Mercy receives a late night call from Stefan, asking for her help.  Since she indebted herself to him while searching for Adam’s kidnapped daughter, she doesn’t really have much choice than to accompany him on an errand.  One of the things I love about Mercy is that her word is her bond, and she won’t go back on a promise or a debt unless dire circumstances force her to.

Stefan is on a mission from his Mistress; he’s to confront a vampire that’s just arrived in town to discover why he hasn’t informed Marsillia that he’s in her territory.  Stefan wants Mercy to go with him because she is immune to most vampire powers.  The encounter quickly devolves, and Mercy, in her coyote form, is helpless to assist Stefan when he is overpowered or the human the vampire has kidnapped.  A narrow escape that leaves Mercy injured and with nightmares and many questions follows.  Sam is furious with Stefan for putting her in that position, and that’s when Stefan reveals that the vampire is a demon-ridden sorcerer.  There is an evil demon sharing his body, and if they don’t kill him soon, there will be many, many lives lost.  Stefan is a very powerful vampire, and he was quickly under the other vampire’s control, so Stefan is going to need help to subdue him.

The sorcerer is a powerful foe, and Mercy is warned to back off and let the vampires and werewolves handle him.  Unfortunately, the team sent after him gets their butts handed to them.  When Sam, Adam, and Stefan disappear, Mercy knows that she has to do something, on the off chance that they are still alive. This is another thing I like about Mercy – she knows that she’s hopelessly outmatched, but she still is driven to do the “right” thing.  She won’t be able to live with herself if she could have saved her friends, but didn’t act because she was too frightened.  Instead, she gathers up her courage and a few magical gifts from friends and heads off on a demon-possessed vampire hunt.

One difference in Blood Bound is that Mercy is forced to work with the vampires.  While they don’t like her kind, they realize that her powers may prove useful in tracking down the rogue vamp.  Mercy’s clear confusion when dealing with them gave her an added challenge.  While she could read the werewolves well and understood their pack structure, the vampires and their politics are a complete mystery to her.  Can she trust them? Will they use her and turn on her? The werewolves can be hard to like given their brutal behavior, but the vampires are so much worse because they are so alien and it’s so hard to understand their motivations.  Their blatant disregard for human life is alarming, but I guess that makes sense because they’re dead

I’m finding the series very entertaining, and I’m looking forward to the next book. 

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy borrow from my local library

Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.

But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.

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9. Review: Dancing in the Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne

May Contain Spoilers


I enjoyed the first book in this series, so I decided to read more.  Dancing in the Moonlight is about Jake Dalton, the doctor (and the least interesting brother for me, at first glance, at least), and Maggie Cruz, a wounded vet returning home after being injured in Afghanistan.  Maggie is angry and wounded, pushing away the help offered to her by her concerned family and caring neighbors.  She is independent and wants to do everything for herself, even when it’s physically painful and not the smartest path to follow.  She’s determined to do everything on her own, but pesky Jake keeps interfering and getting under foot and on her nerves.  Maggie’s rage and her fears for the future are emotionally examined as she struggles to help her mother run their ranch.

Maggie was angry before her tour of duty.  She has blamed the Dalton’s for her father’s death for years and has avoided and snubbed them at every opportunity.  When she’s wounded in Afghanistan, she’s hurting again.  She doesn’t believe her life can ever be normal now that she’s not, and she’s quit the job she loves to return home to the family ranch.  Still in pain after spending months in the hospital, she is reeling from the rejection of her fiancé, a hot-shot doctor, when he’s confronted with her injuries.  Afraid of facing that look of revulsion ever again, she’s accepted that she’s going to spend the rest of her life alone, with the only person she can count on – herself.

A flat tire just a short distance from her mom’s home has her struggling to change the tire, in the dark.  Jake sees her vehicle at the side of the road and is surprised to see Maggie.  He didn’t know that she was coming home.  Maggie’s reception to him is less than friendly, but Jake insists on changing the tire for her.  That’s when he notices that she’s trying to hide how much pain she’s in.  Jake is a doctor, too, and he takes his job seriously.  The only doctor for miles and miles, he takes pride in the skillful care he gives to his rural patients.  Maggie isn’t having any of his doctoring, though, and storms off home to surprise her mom with her arrival.  At loose ends, Maggie didn’t even call her mom to let her know that she was moving back home.

What I liked best about this book was Jake’s patience.  He is a saint when it comes to Maggie’s brush offs.  All he wants is to ensure that her pain is manageable, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him or his doctoring.  What Maggie doesn’t know is that Jake has loved her since he was a teen, and he’s not about to give up on her, or let her give up on herself.  She survived a bombing and saved other people’s lives, all at a terrible cost to herself.  While everyone in their small ranching community looks at her as a hero, Maggie sees herself as broken and damaged beyond repair.  Jake slowly helps her to heal emotionally, so she can see that she does have a bright future waiting for her, instead of the bleak one she had resigned herself to.

Doctors are not my favorite heroes, but I’ll make an exception for Jake.  He’s caring, kind, and a part-time cowboy.  He’s also one of the most patient romance heroes I’ve run across.  Maggie is nothing but a black cloud of rage (justifiably), and she’s letting it diminish her plans for herself.  She no longer thinks she’s capable of continuing her own medical career, which she found fulfilling and satisfying.  With Jake’s help, she accepts that while she will never be how she was before her injury, that doesn’t mean that she can’t be whole and happy again.

Grade:  B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library


But it wasn’t the way she’d envisioned her return. And though all she wanted was to be alone, infuriatingly handsome Dr. Jake Dalton—of the enemy Daltons—wouldn’t cooperate. And she needed him to, because the walls around her heart were dangerously close to crumbling every time he came near…

Jake had spent most of his life trying to get closer to Maggie, with little to show for it. But she was the woman he’d always wanted, and no injury in the world could change that. Now if only he could convince her that the woman who stood before him was beautiful, desirable, whole…and meant to be his…

Previously Published.

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10. Review: Tempted by a Cowboy by Sarah M Anderson

May Contain Spoilers


This was an extremely challenging book for me.  I was drawn to the title because the heroine is a horse trainer, and I’ve had previous success with Sarah M Anderson’s books. Once I read “horse trainer” I didn’t read any further.  The plots of category romances can get pretty interchangeable. A prince here, a billionaire there, or a millionaire cowboy; sometimes it seems that the only thing that changes are the locations or the characters names.  Tempted by a Cowboy felt like a completely different read, and there were times I didn’t like it. 

I found Phillip a difficult man to like.  When he meets Jo, he’s three sheets to the wind, with a pair of bimbos plastered to his side.  She’s just arrived to the job that’s going to make or break her career.  Phillip just purchased a 7 million dollar stud that nobody can get near, let alone train.  With a reputation for “fixing” even the most foregone horses, Jo is counting on this job to give her a hefty deposit on some hand, as well as a killer reference.  When she meets Phillip, her sense of self-preservation goes into overdrive.  Phillip is everything that she has sworn off for the last ten years, and she’s afraid he’s going to drag her back down into the nightmare she only barely escaped.  Besides, she doesn’t save people, only horses.

Jo is a recovering alcoholic, and Phillip is denying that he has a drinking problem.  Jo gave up blackouts and anonymous hookups by turning her back on both men and liquor.   The thought of wallowing back into her addiction has her terrified, but when Phillip is sober, he’s sweet and irresistible.  It’s when he’s not that they have a problem.  Phillip, a second son, was largely ignored for his older brother, and then for his younger half-siblings.  He sought attention from a young age by acting out, and he’s never stopped.  To make matters worse, his family owns a brewery, and it’s his job to be entertaining at corporate events, ensuring that everyone is having a grand old time drinking the family’s beer.  Talk about a recipe for disaster.  Phillip won’t acknowledge that he has a problem, he shifts the blame for his mistakes on others, and his family isn’t there to support him.  Instead, they push all the wrong buttons to send him on another drinking binge.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t believe that Phillip was the right guy for Jo.  I don’t believe in their HEA.  I believe that they are happy for now, but geez, what’s going to happen when Phillip has another bump in his road?  He can’t stay on the ranch forever, and as he’s already learned, his plans for sobriety can shatter as easily as a dropped glass.

Still, this was an emotionally gripping read.  I couldn’t put it down.  Even when I thought Jo was making a mistake, I understood her reasons for it.  Phillip, I just couldn’t relate to at all.  He is easily the most unstable hero I’ve ever encountered, and it took a lot of work on my part to give him a break. 

Because this book was so unexpected, and it surprised me, as well as kept me glued to the pages, I highly recommend it.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

How can she resist the cowboy’s smile when it promises so much pleasure?

Phillip Beaumont likes his drinks strong and his women easy. So why is he flirting with his new horse trainer, Jo Spears, who challenges him at every turn? Phillip wants nothing but the chase…until the look in Jo’s haunted green eyes makes him yearn for more…

Sure, Jo’s boss is as jaded and stubborn as Sun, the multi-million-dollar stallion she was hired to train. But it isn’t long before she starts spending days and nights with the sexy cowboy. Maybe Sun isn’t the only male on the Beaumont ranch worth saving!

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11. Review: Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas


This morning I have a review of Jodi Thomas’ Ransom Canyon, but first, Jodi dropped by the virtual offices with a special greeting for all of you!

Greeting from Jodi:

The idea for RANSOM CANYON came from living in the Texas Panhandle.  I wanted to write about the real west of today.  I wanted my people to be like the men and women I grew up with, honest and true.  Not the cowboy on a book cover who has never been on a horse, but the cowboy who gets up at five to load his own horse and make it to the ranch before dawn.  He doesn’t work by the hour, but by the day.

As I began my first book in the series Staten Kirkland jumped off the page.  He’s strong and good, a rancher everyone looks up to, but he’s broken and only one woman can calm his heart. Shy Quinn asks nothing of him.  She offers understanding amid the storm of his life.

Their friendship develops into a gentle, loving affair that grows to rock both them with its depth.  Staten will have to learn to love again and Quinn will have to open up to someone.  The whole town watches the birth of passion and love as Staten stands beside her letting her be strong and quiet Quinn discovers one man’s love can wash away all the pain in her past.

Readers will feel, not like they came to visit, Crossroads, Texas, on the edge of Ransom Canyon, the town will start to feel like home.  My goal as a writer is to keep you up late reading because you have to know what happens next.

So come along with me on a series set in today’s West.  You’ll love it.

Jodi Thomas



May Contain Spoilers


One of the aspects of a Jodi Thomas novel that I enjoy is getting to know all of the characters.  There are usually 5 or 6 major characters, and their personal stories are told from alternating points of view.  Because of the small town setting, their lives often intersect, so we get so see how others perceive them, too.  Ransom Canyon takes place in Crossroads, Texas, a tiny town that most people just pass through without a second glance.  Staten Kirkland’s family has lived there for generations, running a large cattle ranch and investing their time and money supporting the small, close-knit community.  The story is mainly Staten’s struggle to learn how to live again after the tragic deaths of his beloved wife and teenage son.

Staten wasn’t my favorite character.  He’s emotionally detached because of his heartbreaking past, and I thought he was just taking advantage of Quinn, a childhood friend who has become his buddy with benefits.  Quinn was his wife’s BFF.  After Staten’s wife succumbed to cancer, and his son died in an accident just a few years later, his world crumbled.  He found himself seeking comfort from Quinn, a reclusive woman he’s known all his life.  Whenever the weather turned dark and stormy, just like the night his son was taken from him, he visits Quinn.  She never turns him away, and more times than not, they end up in bed.  Then Staten steals quietly from her small house and heads back home, firmly putting any feelings or deeper meaning to their hookups out of his mind. 

Quinn has loved Staten since grade school.  She has kept it a secret, because her best friend and Staten had already formed an unbreakable bond.  After Staten loses his family, Quinn is content to give what comfort she can, knowing that Staten will never return her feelings.  When unplanned complications arise, their friendship is put to the test.  This is when I decided that I really didn’t like Staten all that much.  The guy is completely clueless. Quinn lives like a hermit, and she is uncomfortable around other people, so for him to voice his doubts like he did got him exactly what he deserved.  While he eventually manned up, I wasn’t completely won over by his contrite apology.

The other characters are Lucas and Lauren, high school students who both have their stuff together.  Lucas wants to make something of himself, so he works on ranches, moving the cattle from one pasture to another, riding fence lines, and saving every penny he earns.  He has big dreams, and he’s not going to let anything get in the way of them.  He has a crush on Lauren, the sheriff’s daughter, but because she’s younger than him, and because the timing isn’t right, he decides that their friendship is going to be more important, right now, than dating her.  Lauren’s also an intelligent, caring young woman, and she agrees with Lucas.  They both have things to accomplish before they can even consider a romantic relationship.  Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time, and that is the theme of their relationship.  Of all the couples in the story, though, I thought they have the soundest foundation for a lasting relationship, and I hope we see more of them in later installments.

Yancey rounds out the cast.  He’s a young ex-con, in town looking for an opportunity to score a little cash and move on.  His plans are interrupted when his backpack and all of his meager possessions are stolen, and if it weren’t for the kindness of the small local retirement community, he’d be up a creek without a paddle.  Yancey is a fun character because he has so few practical life experiences.  He’s spent most of life on the wrong side of the law, in and out of jail because he can’t catch a break.  When the seniors take him under their wing, he finally discovers a sense of belonging that had been missing in his life.  It helps to ground him, and finding steady employment and a group of people who care for him make all the different in the world.  He’s goofy, naïve despite his rough edges, and he was probably my favorite character.

If you are a fan of Jodi Thomas, Ransom Canyon won’t disappoint.  If you haven’t read her yet, give it a try.  I find her books fast, soothing reads.  Despite how messed up a character’s life may appear at first, you can be confident that they will find the right person to love them and give them their HEA.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

From New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas comes the first book in a compelling, emotionally resonant series set in a remote west Texas town—where family can be made by blood or by choice

Rancher Staten Kirkland, the last descendant of Ransom Canyon’s founding father, is rugged and practical to the last. No one knows that when his troubling memories threaten to overwhelm him, he runs to lovely, reclusive Quinn O’Grady…or that she has her own secret that no one living knows.

Young Lucas Reyes has his eye on the prize—college, and the chance to become something more than a ranch hand’s son. But one night, one wrong decision, will set his life on a course even he hadn’t imagined.

Yancy Grey is running hard from his troubled past. He doesn’t plan to stick around Ransom Canyon, just long enough to learn the town’s weaknesses and how to use them for personal gain. Only Yancy, a common criminal since he was old enough to reach a car’s pedals, isn’t prepared for what he encounters.

In this dramatic new series, the lives, loves and ambitions of four families will converge, set against a landscape that can be as unforgiving as it is beautiful, where passion, property and pride are worth fighting—and even dying—for.

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12. Manga Review: The Desert Lord’s Bride by Sakumi Hanada and Olivia Gates

May Contain Spoilers


All of the sheikh stories I have been reading are starting to blend together. I think it’s time for a break, but there seem to be so many of them!  And I really did like the cover, so I jumped into The Desert Lord’s Bride with a great deal of anticipation.

Unfortunately, the plot was pretty forgettable.  I read this one night and I could barely remember any of the plot details the next morning! Shehab, the heir to the throne, is determined to con the newly discovered princess of a neighboring kingdom into marrying him.  That kind of makes her sound like a new species of flower or butterfly – unknown princess appears on the radar!  The whole marriage game is upended!  Which handsome prince can marry her and cement his place in the succession of his kingdom?  It wasn’t even as exciting as that.

Farah’s already turned down Shehab once, so he disguises himself and pretends to not be himself.  Farah is immediately drawn to him, then agrees to go out to dinner with him.  What she doesn’t realize when they hop on his private jet, is that they’ll actually be flying somewhere.  Uh, hello, what else would you do on a plane but fly it somewhere?  If I had been Farah, I would have put the brakes on when we pulled up in front of Shehab’s aircraft.  There would be no way I would get on a plane with a guy I had met an hour ago, but then again, I am to susceptible scary news stories about stranger danger, abductions, and murders.

To make things even more uncomfortable for me, Shehab whisks her away to his private island paradise, where they enjoy a multi-week vacation. I don’t have enough vacation days to miss that much time from work!  Apparently, princesses, whether they want to be royalty or not, don’t have to worry about mundane things like that. 

I thought Shehab was a bit creepy and stalkerish. He never seemed sincere in his pursuit of Farah, but then again, he wasn’t. He concealed his identity for almost the entire time and then ended up professing his undying love for her – I just didn’t buy it.  I liked the art, though, so the story wasn’t a total loss.

Grade:  C / C-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

“I promise to give you the best moment of your life,” whispers a beautiful, mysterious man after a passionate kiss. Those words make Farah throw all reason out the door. Career woman Farah is actually a desert princess, and had just found out that she is to be in an arranged marriage with a prince from a neighboring kingdom. Farah has always wanted to marry the man she falls in love with, and hoped that this man, who made her crazy, would be the one. Hot passion takes her over. Please, take me now! At that moment, the man’s eyes shine like a beast.

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13. Review: Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

May Contain Spoilers


I’m late to the Mercy Thompson band wagon.  I don’t know why I avoided the series, but I just didn’t find them appealing, despite the kickbutt covers.  Then I started reading the Alpha and Omega series, and I decided to give them a chance.  I think a big stumbling block for me was the 1st person POV, which isn’t my favorite (I am learning to appreciate it, though).  However, after listening to part of the audio book, I jumped to an ebook copy during last week’s marathon of pre-surgical appointments.  The audio book was very entertaining, but not practical to listen to in either the doctor’s office or the hospital, and that is the only reason I switched versions.  I highly recommend the audio book if that is your preferred reading method.

I loved Mercy.  She’s a a Walker, and she shapeshifts into a coyote.  Her ability to shift in not linked in any way to the cycle of the moon.  She was raised by Bran’s pack after her mother, scared and not quite sure what to do with a shapeshifting daughter, gave her to the werewolves with a plea for help.  Living with the wolves gave her a backbone, because they are constantly on the edge of violence and aggression, and it also gave her a very clear picture of how to behave when around them.  Though she was raised by the pack, she wasn’t part of the pack, and she wasn’t compelled to follow Bran’s orders.  So, to say that she’s a strong and independent, and certainly not a pushover, is somewhat of an understatement.

Mercy lives in Washington, where she runs an auto repair shop.  Her life takes a turn for the chaotic when Mac, a young werewolf, turns up at her door, looking for work.  Mercy senses that there’s something off about him, and her instincts prove correct.  When the alpha of the local pack is attacked and his daughter is kidnapped, Mercy suddenly has her hands full.  She fears a traitor in the pack, and with no other options, takes the grievously wounded alpha, Adam, to Bran to help heal him.  Then Mercy, Adam, and Samuel are in full out pursuit of Adam’s attackers.  Adam wants his daughter back, and he won’t let anyone stand in his way.

Having read the first two Alpha and Omega books, it was great fun to have someone else’s perspective of Bran and the other wolves.  Again, because Mercy isn’t part of the pack, she doesn’t necessarily jump at his every command.  She and Bran’s son, Samuel, also have a bittersweet history.  When Mercy was a teen, she loved Sam with all her heart.  Now that she’s an adult, she questions his motives for his interest in her.  When he gives indications that he wants to pick up where they left off, she’s not so eager to go along with him.  Adam adds to the tension between Mercy and Sam, because he thinks of her as his.  So, while these two tough, dominant wolves are posturing and trying to prove who’s the boss, Mercy doesn’t really have much time to spare for either of them.  One fear I have in future installments is that the love triangle will drag out, and I hate love triangles.  I think Adam is the wolf for her, and she needs to realize that sooner rather than later.

Part of the reason for the conflict in this book is Bran’s intention to make the existence of werewolves common knowledge.  As with in Hunting Ground, not everyone is on board with his decision.  This causes a lot of grief for Mercy.  Soon, not only are renegade wolves involved, but so is the local nest of vampires.  I love the world building in the series.  There are all kinds of paranormal creatures, some known to the general public, some still keeping a low profile and trying to blend in with the humans.  While Mercy is certainly a strong, powerful woman, many of the beings around her are doubly so.  I like that that Mercy is often outgunned, and that she has to rely on guts, brains, and pure old-fashioned luck to get herself out of some the messes she winds up in.  The world feels very believable, especially the pack politics and pecking order.  Even though Mercy is outside of that, it still affects her, and how she relates to other beings she encounters.

Now I am hooked on two Patricia Briggs’ series, and I’m looking forward to getting to know all of the characters better.  If you haven’t given them a try yet, I highly recommend both the Mercy Thompson and the Alpha and Omega series.

Grade:  B / B+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

Mercy Thompson’s life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn’t exactly normal herself.

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14. Manga Review: Limit V 3 by Keiko Suenobu

Contains Spoilers


It’s been a while since I read the first two volumes of LIMIT, but I didn’t have any problems jumping back into the series again.  This is a survival story; a bus of high schoolers is headed to the mountains for a camping trip.  There’s a terrible accident, and the bus plunges off the road and down the mountainside.  There’s only a handful of survivors, and they are all girls.  Bickering and power struggles begin at once, and Morishige, the only one with a weapon, quickly takes charge.  Morishige has issues.  She has grudges against the other girls, and establishes herself as the leader of her battered, hungry, and terrified classmates.  When Isui changes to power dynamic by running off with Morishige’s scythe, there’s a rebellion against Morishige’s cruel leadership.

Things are pretty grim for our tiny group of survivors.  Usui has run off into the fog and hasn’t been seen since.  There’s only a little food to share, and Morishige is still trying to keep herself in control through threats and violence.  Since she doesn’t have her weapon anymore, that is only getting her so far.  She and Ichinose fight, bickering about how misguided Morishige’s behavior has been.  In a fit of rage, Morishige storms off.

In the morning, Konno goes off in search of Isui.  Weak and cold, she falls into a lake and almost drowns.  At the last minute, she’s saved!  By Hinata, who everyone thought was dead.  And boy am I glad he’s not, because I really like Hinata!  If I was stranded on a mountain with bleak prospects for rescue, I’d want to see his cheerful face.  Hinata is a force of positive thoughts and good vibes, and if anyone can make the impossible come true, I firmly believe it’s him.  Of course, his sudden resurrection doesn’t sit well with Morishige, especially after he calls her out for her previous “leadership” skills.  Morishige, getting back to her issues, has a real problem with males.  After a flashback to her dreadful homelife, one can’t help but understand where her lack of people skills stems from.  The victim of abuse, she doesn’t know how else to deal with her problems other than to strike out against them.

LIMIT is a very fast read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s brutal, suspenseful, and creepy.  The dire situation isn’t bringing out the best in everyone, and in fact, the utter hopelessness is turning some of the cast into evil little monsters.  There’s very little one for all and all for one until Hinata shows up.  There’s a lot of self-destruction and back-stabbing, as well as resource hogging, because who wants to share when it means that you may not have enough to eat and starve to death?  Desperate times means really, really bad behavior! 

I love the art, which matches the tenor of the story perfectly.  It’s detailed and expressive, but also dark and brooding.  Moods change in an instant from hopeful to oh my gosh we are all going to die, and the art clearly reflects that.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

In the third volume of The Limit the survivors’ worst fears have come true. One of their members has fallen. And this death amongst them will test the limits of their unity. New fears will be born from this tragedy and instead of using their combined strength to search for a way home, their lack of trust will force them all to retreat into their own micro-cliques. The balance of power is now undone, and a new face-another survivor-will eventually turn things upside down!

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15. Manga Review: Tokyo Ghoul V2 by Sui Ishida

May Contain Spoilers


I am trying to get back into the swing of reading multi volume manga series again.  It has definitely gotten more difficult for me to maintain any level of enthusiasm when there is a wait of months, sometimes many, many months, between volumes.  When my favorite series go on hiatus, or get canceled by the US publisher, it breaks my heart.  I love comics, I get all caught up in the stories and the characters, and when all of that grinds to a premature halt, it stings.  I’m not a happy camper, and I’m reluctant to become invested in other series.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Harlequin manga adaptations so much; it’s usually only volume and you’re done.  I was also burnt out on all of the series I had been following.  Now, though, I feel the urge to dip a toe back into the manga waters. I’d like to finish up some series that have concluded, and maybe test drive a few new ones.  Tokyo Ghoul looked interesting, so I decided to give it a spin.

This is the second volume that I’ve read.  The story is finally starting to pick up some momentum for me.  The world building is getting more complex, and Kaneki has more to worry about than how he’s going to keep himself fed.  The Ghoul Investigators are descending on the 20th Ward, searching for ghouls trying to blend into human society.  When Kaneki witnesses the brutal murder of a customer of the café he works at by the ghoul police, he is distraught over his sense of helplessness.  After Touka takes matters into her own hands, and fails to achieve the vengeance she sought, Kaneki asks her to show him how to use his kagune, or weapon.  While he still refuses to kill humans, at least he’ll be able to defend himself or his friends if they are attacked.

The investigators are a shady bunch, and Mado is one creepy dude.  It will be interesting to see how Kaneki and Touka keep from meeting an unpleasant end from them, because they are as ruthless as the ghouls.  The series is starting to click for me as Kaneki struggles to fit into both human and ghoul society.  He is so passive that I didn’t find him a compelling character at first, but now that he is determined to not be a doormat, I am hoping that he blossoms into a stronger individual.  I don’t have prior knowledge of this series, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

I am not overly wild about the art, maybe because so many of the characters are so unpleasant to look at. It does have a dark vibe that is perfect for the story, but it isn’t a favorite of mine.

Grade:  B-

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Unable to discard his humanity but equally unable to suppress his Ghoul hunger, Ken finds salvation in the kindness of friendly Ghouls who teach him how to pass as human and eat flesh humanely. But recent upheavals in Ghoul society attract the police like wolves to prey, and they don’t discriminate between conscientious and monstrous Ghouls.

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16. Audio Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

May Contain Spoilers


I am not big on audio books, and prior to Hunting Ground, I could count the number I’ve listened to on one hand.  I had a long solo drive to a horse show, though, and thought that listening to a book would keep me alert and less stressed during the drive.  I picked this book because I loved Cry Wolf, but I haven’t had time to read any further in the Alpha and Omega series.  At first I was a little hesitant as I pulled out of the driveway and started my journey, but MY.GOODNESS!  I didn’t want the drive to end, I was that engaged in the story!

The narrator, Holter Graham, was incredible.  The different voices he used for different characters were spot on, and now I can’t imagine that they would sound otherwise.  He varied the cadence of the words depending on the pacing of the particular scene, and wow, I was so caught up in the story that I can’t imagine reading it instead of listening to it now.  The story translated well to audio; it’s fast-paced, exciting, and there’s a lot of action that is read with a staccato of sounds.  It was like listening to a long, intricate song, with changes in reading tempo and crescendos of action.  I loved the narration, and I’m so glad I picked it for my first foray into Scribd’s audiobook library.

The story, for me, is all about Charles and Anna, and their blossoming relationship.  They are sent to a meeting in Bran’s place, to discuss the Marrok’s plan to let the world know about the existence of werewolves with some of the foreign alphas.  Charles fears that something bad will happen to Bran, so he and his father had been fighting about Bran’s attendance.  Shy, quiet Anna forces the two to see reason, and soon, she and her new mate are headed to Seattle, Washington to meet with some of the biggest, baddest  werewolf leaders in the world.  As the snarling males circle each other, looking for weaknesses, Charles was right to be concerned.  There is a lot of animosity between the wolves, especially for Bran, and not all of the alphas are on board with coming out to the general public.  A gruesome murder doesn’t help, and Charles finds himself framed for a crime he didn’t commit.  Only Anna’s clear thinking and bravery helps root out the true villains.

The characters are what make this such a good series.  Anna is still suffering from her mistreatment with her previous pack, and Charles, his father’s enforcer, is feared by the other wolves.  Because he might be required to kill any one of them at any time, he also seeks to keeps himself emotionally distant.  Only with Anna does his wolf feel at peace. Anna is learning that being Omega doesn’t mean being a pushover.  She does not have to be submissive, she does not have to yield, and she has a strength she didn’t think herself capable of.  Anna’s mere presence in a pack brings it peace and a sense of calm.  While Charles’ job is to control the pack and protect the weaker members, Anna’s is to make everyone in the pack happy.

This was such a successful endeavor that I started listening to Moon Called, also by Patricia Briggs.  So far, it is also an engrossing listen; too bad I don’t have any long trips in the near future!

Grade:  B+

Review copy listened to on Scribd

About the book:

The first Alpha and Omega novel, Cry Wolf, unlocked the doors to a unique urban landscape in “a great…new werewolf series” (Darque Reviews). In Hunting Ground, #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs invites readers to follow her even deeper into that seductive realm of the unknown…

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son—and enforcer—of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be, either…

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan—and it seems like someone else might be, too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all—or risk losing everything…

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17. Review: The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg

May Contain Spoilers


I noticed The Girl Who Rode the Wind while trolling the shelves of my local library.  How could I ignore a book with a horse on the cover?  When I read that the book features Italy’s Palio, the world’s oldest, most dangerous horse race, I had to check it out.  I had just seen a video short about the race, and I’d read about it when I was a kid.  I have always found the race interesting, so I couldn’t wait to read this.

I have to admit that I was not immediately caught up in the plot, and I thought about putting it down.  But then Lola describes an altercation with a bully, and I was hooked.  After the academic achiever is suspended from school, her grandmother proposes a trip to Italy for the summer.  Her grandmother hasn’t been back to her homeland since just after WWII, and she’s finally ready to face her past.  She rarely discussed her childhood in Siena, and instead focused on the present and the family business; training racehorses.

The story revolves around horses.  Lola wants to work with them when she’s older, but her father won’t hear of it.  With her grades, he expects her to be a doctor or a lawyer.  The only time Lola is happy, however, is when she’s with the horses.  She’s angry because her older brothers are working on the track, training to be jockeys.  Her father was a jockey, and Lola wants to be one, too.  She doesn’t particularly want to go to Italy with her grandmother, but her father is so disappointed with her behavior that he refuses to allow her to help out at track over the summer.  Suddenly, a summer in Siena doesn’t sound so bad!

Lola meets a local boy whose father trains racers for the Palio.  They become friends, and Lola is invited to help work the horses.  As Lola learns about the race and makes friends with the other exercise riders, her grandmother slowly opens up about her own past, and her history with the Palio.  Her family bred horses for the race, and her older brother was a winning jockey several times. Then the war came, along with unbelievable hardships.  The race was canceled, and it was hard to feed themselves, let alone the horses in their care.  Her father was forced to join the army, even though he didn’t believe in the war, and her brother joined the freedom fighters.  By the end of the war, her nonna’s world was torn apart, and she fled Italy for America and the chance to start over.

I did have a few issues with believability.  I found it so difficult to swallow that a 12 year old American girl would be allowed to excise the horses, let alone ride in a dangerous race like the Palio.  Think of the bad press if she was injured, or worse, during the rough, no holds barred race.  Another thing that irked me was that everyone spoke English, a huge convenience for Lola, since she didn’t speak Italian.  This is the second book I’ve read this summer that the youthful protagonist was in another country, and everyone else spoke English.  It wasn’t believable in the first book, and I didn’t like it here, either, but that is a pet peeve of mine.  

Despite the highly unlikely premise, this was an enjoyable read. The horse races were exciting, and Nonna’s acceptance of the past, after so many years of guilt, was touching. Lola’s struggles with bullying rang true, and her father’s insistence that she become a doctor or a lawyer instead of a track rat gave Lola another conflict to solve. There were also great characters, including the horses.

Grade:  B

Review copy borrowed from my local library

About the book:

An epic, emotional story of two girls and their bond with beloved horses, the action sweeping between Italy during the Second World War and present day.

When Lola’s grandmother Loretta takes her to Siena, Italy, for the summer, Lola learns about the town’s historic Palio races – a fast and furious event where riders whip around the Piazza del Campo, and are often thrown from their horses while making the treacherous turns. Lola is amazed to learn her grandmother used to take part in these races – and had the nickname ‘The Daredevil’!

Nonna Loretta tells Lola that she used to race in a rival team to the boy she loved – who was captured by the Nazis in 1941. Lola develops a bond with a beautiful racehorse. She jumps at the chance to enter the Palio – can she win, in honour of her grandmother? And can she uncover the mystery of the boy’s capture and fate all those years ago?

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18. Novella Review: The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold by Peter V Brett

May Contain Spoilers


I had fond memories of The Warded Man when I saw this novella.  It was one of the first fantasy galleys that I ever received, and I was looking for a fix while I was waiting (forever!) for the next installment of GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire.  I gobbled up The Warded Man, finding it innovative, engaging, and oh-so-hard to put down.  Then I held off on reading The Desert Spear because I was still stinging over the wait for GRRM’s book, and I decided at that time to not read series until most of the books were released.  Lately I have broken that rule, but I’m not as anal about finishing what I started as I used to be.  Now, if it crosses my path, and I have the time to read it, I will, regardless of where it is in the longer series. The only series I won’t break the rule for is Song of Ice and Fire; they are just too long, the waits are interminable, and I can’t remember what happened from book to book.

I enjoyed Brayan’s Gold the best of the stories in this collection, and thought it a good representation of the longer series. Arlen is reckless and refuses to be cowed by the demons that rise from the Core at dusk every evening, searching for prey to tear to shreds. I love the concept of this series: being outside after dark is almost a certain death sentence, unless you are protected by magic wards. Arlen is a gifted warder, and he won’t live locked behind walls when there’s a whole wide world to see and try to take back from the corelings. Brayan’s Gold showcases his ability to think on his feet and not be ruled by his fears, though this almost costs him his life on several occasions.

The rest of the content, while entertaining, didn’t entrance me like Brayan’s Gold. If you haven’t started reading the Demon Cycle, this novella collection is a great place to start.  You’ll get an introduction to Arlen, as well as another major character in the series.

Grade:  B / B-

Review copy purchased provided by publisher

From the dangerous world of the Demon Cycle comes the early adventures of Arlen, Peter V. Brett’s quintessential fantasy hero. These exciting origin tales follow Arlen as he learns to navigate a world where the elemental forces of evil conjure themselves from the earth each night.

Humanity has barely survived a demonic onslaught by using magical wards that protect their cities and homes. Only a handful of mercenaries and explorers risk traveling after the sun sets. Arlen, seeking adventure and fortune, is barely protected by the warded armor upon which he has inscribed intricate defensive runes. From a journey ferrying a wagonload of dynamite to a mountain stronghold, to a dangerous mission to recover desert treasures, Arlen faces friends and enemies with a strong arm and a cunning wit.

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19. Review: The Texas Wildcatter’s Baby by Cathy Gillen Thacker


May Contain Spoilers


Continuing my Harlequin marathon, I discovered that the library has Harlequin bundles in their collection.  BUNDLES! Of HARLEQUINS!  It’s like being a kid in a candy store after hours, with no supervision and nobody to tell you to STOP gorging yourself with all of that yummy candy!  This discovery is the equivalent of finding King Tut’s tomb, so forgive me as I gleefully consume as many Harlequins as I can. Every day I read until my EYES BLEED!

Getting back to the topic at hand:  I borrowed the March 2014 American Romance bundle because it was actually available for check out.  These bundles are very popular, and I am on wait lists for about 4 others.  I love the opportunity to read new to me authors, because when I pick single issue titles, I go by authors I have already read, or a brief perusal of the blurb.  I don’t even look at that with the bundles.  I just start at the beginning and work my way to the end.  I have yet to encounter a title I disliked so much that I didn’t want to finish it, and it’s been fun just reading for the sake reading. 

As it turns out, I have read Cathy Gillen Thacker a few times before.  Each title has been a solid read.  The Texas Wildcatter’s Baby featured a great hero, but I had some trouble with Ginger, the heroine.  She is fearful of being betrayed after an unhappy marriage, so she has become super independent.  When she learns that she’s pregnant after a night with her serial hook-up Rand, she’s momentarily panic-stricken.  She is bidding on the biggest oil drilling project of her career, and she only has one shot to get it right.  This is a make it or break it moment for her fledging business.  Now that she’s pregnant, she’s afraid of how it will impact her career.  The oil business is dominated by men, and after her husband’s company humored her ambitions to build a career for herself, she’s afraid of anything that will make her look weak before the competition.

With a plan in mind, she confronts Rand with the news.  Then she proposes a temporary marriage to him, just until the baby is born.  It will be better for her business if she’s married when the pregnancy is common knowledge.  She also wants Rand to be a part of their baby’s life.  They agree to a quickie wedding at the county courthouse, but things don’t go exactly as they had planned.  Instead, they show up at Rand’s family home, where his family has already learned about the marriage and throws them a surprise wedding party.  It’s also a chance to catch up with a few of Rand’s brothers, who have been featured in other books.

Once they’re married, it’s all about work for Ginger.  She has to nail down her proposal for the oil drilling project, and work comes first for Ginger.  She now has a little one to worry about.  Forget about Rand!  He’ll be fine one his own.  That’s what drove me bonkers about Ginger.  Rand is one of the most perfect romance heroes that I’ve come across, and Ginger is too busy maintaining her independence to figure that out.  He’s kind, protective, and helpful.  What woman wouldn’t give her eyeteeth for a guy who FOLDS laundry??  Or lets her sleep in and catch up on her rest?  The list of his positive qualities is endless, but Ginger turns a blind eye to all of them.

To stir up trouble with the couple, they also have to deal with Ginger’s clingy mother and her devious ex.  Through it all, Rand has her back, and eventually, even Ginger begins to appreciate his presence in her life.  She’s just too afraid of losing her independence to admit it to him, let alone herself, so the grade took a knock because I was so frustrated with her.  It’s not until 4 or 5 pages until the end that she gives in to her feelings and confesses her love, and that was cutting it far too close for me.  Otherwise, this was an enjoyable read.

Grade:  C+

Review copy borrowed from my local library

Love Isn’t Part of the Deal

Ginger Rollins can’t believe she gave in to temptation—again! It’s time for her and Rand McCabe to face the consequences. Never mind that the geological engineer and sexy environmental cowboy are on opposite sides when it comes to the Texas land they both love. Now that she’s pregnant, they have one option.

Rand isn’t used to being proposed to by a woman—especially one as gorgeous as Ginger—but he’s all for getting married. Too bad the independent wildcatter sees their union as a nonnegotiable deal. Doesn’t she know they share more than hot chemistry? How long can he keep his feelings—and their baby—a secret? Rand vowed to love and honor Ginger forever. And it’s a promise he intends to keep….

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20. Micro Reviews: Pop Stars, Cowgirls, Zombies, and Beasties!


I have been reading up a storm, but I’ve been lax on writing reviews.  Here’s a quick catch up post with short reviews.

Hello, I Love You by Katie M Stout


This dragged for me, and I didn’t think there was any chemistry between Grace and Jason. I read this mainly for the setting, but the school might as well have been anywhere, which was a big disappointment. Cultural details were sparse and shallow.  I didn’t get a feeling that Grace was in a foreign country, and the fact that everyone she interacted with spoke English didn’t help make this unique or different. It also bugged me that Jason and his sister were the only Koreans to use Korean names.


The Surgeon and the Cowgirl by Heidi Hormel

C / C+

Both protagonists were all about “Me, me, me!” and it felt like it took forever for them to mature. I’m not completely convinced that they will ever effectively communicate, which made the ending rushed and not completely believable.

What Once We Feared by Carrie Ryan

Not enough here to even call this a short story. Lots of potential, but it fell flat because it felt so incomplete. This should have been called a teaser, not a short story.


Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

B/ B-

Fun, quirky read that somehow combines ballroom dance with mythological critters.

Verity comes from a long line of cryptozoologists, but her true passion is for competitive dance. She’s spending a year in Manhattan to pursue her dance career, as well as to keep an eye on the beasties living in the big city. When Dominic, a member of Covenant, arrives in town, his kill all non-humans before even asking them how their day is going attitude gets on Very’s nerves. Both Dominic and the sudden appearance of a snake cult in the sewers under the city have made her life extremely complicated.

Though it got a little draggy in places, and was over the top in others, overall Discount Armageddon was a fun adventure.

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21. Micro Reviews: Demons, Race Horses, Assassins and Majors

And here’s another catch up post of long overdue mini reviews.

The Shadow Ellysium by Django Wexler

B / B+

This short novella served its purpose as a teaser to generate interest in the Shadow Campaigns series. I loaded The Thousand Names on my Kindle – now I just need time to read it!


To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander

B / B+

This inspirational romance caught my eye because of the horse on the cover.  Maggie is dismayed when her father arranges her marriage to Cullen, an Irish immigrant.  She’s reluctant to marry a complete stranger, and an Irishman at that.  She’s also fearful that he’ll object to her training her mare to run in an upcoming race. 

I enjoyed the development of the romance, as well as the details of daily life on a farm in post Civil War Tennessee.  The author doesn’t shy away from describing the prejudices and terrible treatment of the Irish and African Americans.  At first I had a hard time with Maggie because her thoughts and views mirrored those of her neighbors, but as she got to know Cullen and the farm hands working for them, she began to finally see them as individuals deserving respect.  And the horsey bits were entertaining. 



Hit! by Deliah S Dawson


This just did not work for me. I can’t help but think that a huge banking conglomerate would have a better solution for deadweight borrowers than having them assassinated, or forcing them to be assassins. Meh, I didn’t care for HIT.

Mad About the Major by Elizabeth Boyle


Fun read with a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off vibe. Lady Arabella escapes the suffocating confines of her father’s estate to grab a small taste of freedom before she’s forced to marry a stodgy old bachelor. Her father is furious with her because a handsome stranger made a spectacle of her at a ball, and now he’s adamant that she marry before she’s completely ruined. She runs into the rakish Kingsley, the stranger from the ball, after he almost runs her down with his carriage. Arabella convinces him to accompany her on her day of freedom, arguing that he owes her three favors for his behavior at the ball. What follows is an enjoyable romp through London, as Arabella and Kingsley fall for each other during their unusual adventures. I really enjoyed this.

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22. Manga Review: The Secret Princess by Chikako Kawakami and Jessica Hart

May Contain Spoilers


I checked out The Secret Princess on a lark.  I was pressed for time with review books, but I saw the cover while browsing the virtual shelves at the library and was hooked.  It’s very cute, and I like the art style.  So I clicked the Borrow button and sat down to read it right away.  The story is cute too, so I’m glad I had a case of ADD.

Lotty has always behaved as her grandmother wished, and never rebelled against her.  The princess of Montluce, she has a reputation and public image to uphold.  When a series of threats against the throne make her grandmother nervous about the succession, she arranges for Lotty to marry her cousin.  Even though Phillippe is her best friend, she just can’t see herself married to him.  Besides, he’s in love with her friend, Caro, and she doesn’t want to come between them.  Taking Phillippe’s advice, she runs away from home, determined to use this opportunity to kick up her heels and experience the freedom she’s been denied for so long.

She goes to Scotland because her mother loved the country.  Unfortunately, her wallet is stolen soon after she arrives.  Penniless, she’s desperate to get a job, and asks Corran McKenna to hire her, despite the locals warnings to stay far away from him.  The grumpy guy is quick to point out that she isn’t strong enough to help him work his land, and he has no use for a woman employee.  Undeterred and persistent, she pesters him to point that he offers her a position.  If she can get a cottage in desperate need of TLC cleaned up and painted by the end of the weekend, he’ll hire her.  Not one to turn down a challenge, Lotty proves that Corran has underestimated her, and he reluctantly offers her a job.

Once she starts working alongside Corran, Lotty feels guilty for lying to him about her true identity.  Corran knows that there’s something off about her, but he just thinks that she’s a spoiled rich kid who has run away from home over some petty argument with her family.  As the two get to know each other, Lotty learns that the villagers think Corran stole the land from his younger brother.  He doesn’t hesitate to tell her that there is no love lost between his step-mother and his half-brother, and that his father turned his back on him after leaving his mother.  Corran ended up with the land because his father knew that the upkeep would be a financial burden, and he didn’t want to pin that on his youngest son. Instead, in spite, he left the land to Corran, who loved it and wants to make improvements, but can’t because he can’t get a loan. 

I enjoyed The Secret Princess because of the pretty art, seamless translation, and engaging story.  Lotty really is a kind person, and she’s determined to make the villagers see that they are wrong where Corran is concerned.  Before she leaves, she wants to repay his kindness by setting the record straight with the people who have basically shunned Corran.  Despite their rocky start, Lotty has come to care for her gruff employer.  She also loves the land, and wants to see Corran’s dreams come true.  She knows that they have no future together, so she’s decided to live for the moment, for the first time in her life.

The pacing is spot on, and the HEA, though highly unbelievable in this age of heightened security, is satisfying.  I was completely sold on their joyous future together.

Grade:  B

Review copy borrowed from my local library

From Amazon:

Princess of Montluce, Lotty, is very introverted and has never been able to express herself. Her grandmother wants to arrange an engagement for her, and she ends up running away. She wants to see what she can do on her own, and possibly fall in love for the first time… However, she loses her wallet in some town since she’s not used to having one, and ends up working for a man named Corran as a maid. At first, she is angered by his rudeness, but she ends up smitten by the kindness behind his crude demeanor.

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23. Review and Giveaway: The Veil by Chloe Neill

May Contain Spoilers


I wanted to read The Veil because it’s the first in a new series, and it’s written by Chloe Neill.  I haven’t had the pleasure of reading her yet, because the thought of jumping into her longer series is daunting, but then this came along.  I loved the dystopian New Orleans setting, and was curious to learn how the war with supernatural beings from beyond the Veil had changed life for the city’s inhabitants.  While I found the initial pacing slow due to all of the set up, the story did pick up and deliver a solid read.

Claire runs a shop in New Orleans, helping to provide the remaining inhabitants with both essential and luxury (things like butter) items.  Since the war with the paranormal inhabitants beyond the Veil seven years ago, life can be challenging in the city.  Electricity is unreliable, once common goods are almost impossible to get, and there’s a fear that the magic that ripped the city apart could cause further havoc.  To ensure that it doesn’t, anything remotely considered magical has been banned by the government, and punishment for breaking the law can be brutal.  Getting thrown into the Devil’s Isle, a walled off section of the city where anyone suspected of magic, as well as the stranded fae from beyond the Veil, is the usual punishment, and life there is very bleak.

Claire has a terrible secret.  She’s a Sensitive.  She has powers because her body absorbs the magic leaking from beyond the Veil.  She’s terrified of being found out and getting locked away in Devil’s Isle, so she goes to extreme lengths to keep her secret a secret.  When a woman is attacked by a wraith in front of her, though, Claire has to act.  Using her powers, she saves the woman, and then frets about the authorities coming to take her away.  To monitor illegal magic use, the entire city is wired with recording devices and alarms to alert the citizens to rogue paranormals. 

Luckily for Claire, Liam gets to her first.  He’s a bounty hunter, and he tracks down wraiths – Sensitives who have been consumed by magic, and now mindlessly prey on humans.  He’s gruff and tough, but he wants to give Claire a fighting chance, so he offers to show her how to use her powers and how to keep them concealed.  Claire also wants to help Liam track down the wraiths she encountered, because there was something off about them.  It seemed to her that they were communicating with each other, which means that they are getting smarter, something that is frightening to contemplate.

As they work together, they uncover a plot to reopen the Veil.  Now they are racing against time to prevent another war from breaking out between the humans and the fae.  To make their task even more daunting, they discover that there are humans trying to open the Veil, which will bring nothing but disaster to what’s left of New Orleans.

As I mentioned previously, the pacing until about the 50% point was a struggle for me.  It also felt like there was too much telling and not enough showing at first, but after the groundwork was established, that wasn’t a problem anymore.  I enjoyed the bleak city Claire lives in, where life is tough, but people have learned to get along despite that.  Claire’s friendships gives her a sturdy support system, and she and her circle of friends have learned to take the good with the bad.  When things are bad, well, things will get better sooner or later.  And when they’re good, what better excuse to get together to enjoy a good meal and bask in the glow of not being alone.

While The Veil wasn’t a total win for me, I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.  Now that all of the set up is done, I think the pacing will improve, and I’m curious to see where Liam and Claire’s relationship is going.

Grade:  B-

Review copy purchased provided by publisher

A brand new series from New York Times bestselling author Chloe Neill.

Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil’s Isle.

Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.

Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.

As more and more Sensitives fall prey to their magic, and unleash their hunger on the city, Claire and Liam must work together to save New Orleans, or else the city will burn…

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24. Blog Tour: Ruthless, Michelle St. James

It’s release day for Ruthless by Michelle St. James. We’re so excited for this sexy mafia romance! Michelle is sharing an excerpt and a fantastic giveaway so be sure to check out all the festivities! 

(My Review will be up soon! So come back! Make sure you read to bottom, awesome giveaway!!!-Laura)

About Ruthless:

front_6ix9i_RGB_300dpiTwo years out of college, Angelica Bondesan spends her time working as a barista, keeping in touch with her prodigal brother, and trying to figure out how to bridge the gap with her father, a wealthy real estate developer.

But all of that changes the night she’s kidnapped. Thrown into a windowless room, Angelica is positive there’s been some kind of mistake —until she meets Nico Vitale.

Gorgeous and frightening, Nico became the boss of New York City’s Vitale crime family after the execution style murder of his parents two years earlier. Since then he’s turned the old-school mob into a sleek, modern army of ruthless men who understand that physical violence —while always an option —isn’t the only way to get what you want.

Now Angel is forced to face the truth;

Her father is not the man she believed him to be.

Nico Vitale is dangerous, possibly lethal.

She is falling in love with Nico Vitale.


"From page one you're hooked and sucked into this corrupt thrilling world. A masterful romance of deep dark suspense, complicated emotions, and exciting action." - New York Times bestseller, M.J. Rose


Barnes and Noble

Exclusive Excerpt

Nico Vitale was kneeling in one of the pews at St. Monica’s, praying for his mother and father. They’d been gone two years, but the pain of losing them still lingered. He had only been twenty-eight when they’d been killed, and he’d expected to have them for many more years, to give them the daughter-in-law and grandchildren they had wanted.

Their future had been stolen. From all of them.

He forced down the fury that had become all too familiar. Anger was good. Productive. It’s what drove him to seek justice, to right the wrong perpetrated against his family, against the honor code that had survived decades under the rule of some of history’s most violent men.

But this wasn’t the place for anger. This was the place for peace. Repentance. He took a deep breath and tired to calm himself.

His mother had always gone to St. Patrick’s, but Nico made a point of moving around the city, sitting in any church with an open door. He liked the anonymity of it. Liked knowing that no one would know him or remember his parents.

His faith was only a shadow of the belief that had sustained them. Nico didn’t believe in the edicts of the Church. It had been organized by man to benefit man. He worshipped his own god, and his god didn’t turn the other cheek. He might forgive, but that forgiveness didn’t preclude a punishment justly earned. Still, he liked to sit in silence and remember, to send love to his parents, wherever they were, and to stand on the side of any god who believed in vengeance.

He was reciting the Lord’s Prayer when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He instinctively shook off the hand. When he turned to see who had interrupted him, he was even less pleased.

“What is it, Dante?”He forced his voice even as he took in the leather jacket and jeans worn by the man in front of him. A dress code was part of Nico’s organizational reboot, but keeping cool was a point of pride, part of his mission to remake his father’s business for the twenty-first century. And having a reputation for being calm only made him more formidable when the situation called for his wrath.

Dante shifted in his seat, his face flushed, eyes feverish with excitement. “We got her,”he said. “We got the girl.”

Nico looked around before tipping his head at the church’s massive double doors. “Not here.”

Dante stood, hurrying down the aisle. Nico followed slowly, letting the peace of the church wash over him as he made his way out the door.

He took his time following Dante down the steps of the church. When they reached the sidewalk, they stepped back to stand near an adjacent building.

“Any trouble?”Nico asked.

Dante shook his head. “She didn’t see it coming.”

Nico didn’t like the note of excitement in Dante’s voice. Nico’s father had ingrained old-fashioned chivalry in his bones, and Nico never sanctioned hurting women. These kinds of things were a necessary part of doing business, not something he enjoyed.

“You didn’t hurt her.”It wasn’t a question.

Dante sighed, and Nico caught a hint of annoyance in the other man’s face before he could hide it. “We did it just like you said. Knocked her out, put her in the van, took her to the basement. She’s fine.”

Nico nodded. “Good. Make sure she’s comfortable.”

“Comfortable?”Dante’s laugh was bitter. “Why do we care if that bitch is comfortable?”

Nico clamped a hand on Dante’s shoulder and squeezed until he flinched. “We don’t call women bitches in this organization. Ever. Understand?”

Dante nodded, his eyes lit with the fire of indignation.

“Good.”Nico released his grip. “Now go make the pick-up.”

“Will do.”Dante rolled his shoulders, like doing so would free him of Nico’s grip when they both knew only death or dishonor would do that. “Want a ride back to the office?”

“No.”He didn’t owe Dante an explanation.

Dante nodded and headed for the car double parked at the curb. Nico watched him get in and drive away. He waited for the car to disappear into traffic before he started walking.

Dante was a problem. Nico understood it, but he was still trying to settle on a strategy for dealing with it. He knew Dante resented him. That Dante believed his father, Gabriel Santoro, should have been Underboss to Nico’s father before his death. If that had been the case, Dante’s father would be Boss now, and Dante himself would be the crown prince of the New York territory.

Instead, a year before his death Nico’s father had inexplicably turned to Nico, pleading with him to step in as Underboss. Only twenty-seven at the time, Nico wasn’t ready to take on the mantel of responsibility held by his father. He didn’t even believe in the mob. Not the way it was then; stealing and killing and raping in the name of money. In the name of power.

But his father had been unsettled. Even Nico, as young and wrapped up in himself as he’d been at the time, could see that. And his father -- his family -- meant everything to him. So he’d gotten his act together and joined the business, learning it from the inside out. He was just beginning to feel like he had a handle on the basic operations when his parents were murdered, execution style, outside the restaurant where they’d met over three decades ago. They had been celebrating their thirty-second anniversary.

Nico had spent the two years since remaking his father’s legacy. Raneiro Donati, head of the Syndicate that acted as governing body to criminal organizations all over the world, had stepped in as a mentor and father figure, guiding Nico through the early stages of grief and the rage that threatened to undo him. Gradually, Nico had found a focus for his fury, and he’d poured every ounce of his energy into targeting that focus and reimagining his father’s legacy.

Some of Nico’s soldiers embraced the change. Others, like Dante, clung to the old ways. Nico understood, but the reorganization wasn’t optional. They would comply or they would be gone.

Nico didn’t like taking the girl. A decade ago, something like that would be off the table, a blatant breaking of rules that had been in place since before the Syndicate formally existed. But nothing could be rebuilt without first dismantling the rotting foundation of what had come before.

And unfortunately, the girl was part of that foundation.

He checked for traffic on 2nd Avenue and crossed just before a taxi barreled through the intersection. He felt liberated by his time at the church. Lighter on his feet. Maybe he would call one of the women who acted as a physical companion when he felt the urge.

After all, he wasn’t a saint.

Michelle St. James Bio:

Michelle Zink
Michelle St. James aka Michelle Zink is the author of seven published books and six novellas. Her first series, Prophecy of the Sisters (YA), was one of Booklist's Top Ten Debut novels. Her work has also been an Indie Next selection and has appeared on prestigious lists such as the Lonestar List, New York Public Library's Stuff for the Teen Age, and Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best. Her character, Alice, won the Teen Read Awards for Best Villain against Harry Potter's Lord Voldemort.

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25. Review: Frozen in Amber by Phyllis Ames

May Contain Spoilers


I wanted to read Frozen in Amber because it’s about shifters, and I generally enjoy shifters stories.  Also, Phyllis Ames is a debut author, and I like discovering new authors right as they hit the ground running.  This book didn’t start successfully for me, but as I became more embroiled in shifter politics and the secrets Amber’s grandfather had been keeping, I found myself caught up in the story.  By the end I couldn’t put it down, and I thought the ending, despite some loose ends, was a perfect solution for Amber.

When Frozen in Amber starts, Amber has been hunted by a group of unknown men the night of her shift.  She is a WerCougar, and she hates shifting and her beast.  She wants to be human, and she rejects everything about her other self.  She’s a vegetarian, she avoids hunting after her shift and prefers being locked in a padded room to prevent her cat from hurting anyone, and she spent seven years in exile after killing a human.  She hates her lack of control when she’s a cat, and far prefers her life as a human.  She’s a defense attorney at her family’s prestigious law firm, and she relishes in the order and routine of her career.

Then all of that blows up after she’s hunted and shot with a tranquilizer.  In her cat form, she experiences the fear and hopelessness of capture and human hands on her, but the next morning, she awakens in her bed and wonders if she imagined the whole thing.  She rarely remembers what happens when she shifts, so she thinks she’s just had a weird nightmare, until she notices the welt on her backside that won’t heal and won’t go away.  Even with her shifter healing abilities, the wound is painful and troublesome, and it just won’t go away.

As her current case defending a suspected killer begins to tumble out of control, she knows that she can’t trust or believe her client, but she can’t smell a lie on him.  There’s a vested interest for the Wer community to get Bergman off on the charges, because he claims that he’s developed a cure for the Wer condition.  The Wer Court would like to get their hands on it, for when bitten pups can’t get control of their Wer.  Amber is intrigued by the prospect of giving up her cat and living as a normal human.  But Bergman hides an explosive temper behind his charming demeanor, and she starts to wonder how much she can trust him.  Her Wer senses are also becoming erratic, and she wonders if she’s been targeted to test the experimental drug.

There’s a lot of office politics at the law firm, as upstarts challenge Amber’s authority.  There’s also interest by the FBI and CIA, with the agencies battling for control of the Wer community.  There are rumors that a new, unstable alpha wolf is having humans bitten, turning them into members for her growing pack.  There is a lot of concern at the idea of so many unsanctioned wolves running around town, because newly turned shifters have zero control over their Wer self.  Attacks on Amber make her even more determined to figure out what’s going on, and who’s behind ambushing her during her nighttime hunt.

While I couldn’t embrace Amber’s rejection of her shifter side, I slowly started to like her.  I read these kinds of stories because I like the struggle between the human side and the animal side of the shifter, but Amber flat-out kept her cat on a tight leash.  While she hates shifting, she does make good use of her enhanced senses every moment she can.  I thought that was hypocritical; if you deny your Wer self, you shouldn’t be able to exploit the traits of your caged cat.  It seemed to me that she was cheating, and I had a hard time accepting that.

Once the action got going, though, I had a hard time stepping away from the story.  Amber’s love interest is extremely likeable, and the office politics were engaging.  Her urgency to discover the identity of the person who shot her becomes even more pressing after her grandfather becomes ill, and Amber suspects that he, too, was hunted during the last full moon.  The pacing improved as the story unfolded, and I was glad that I stuck with it.  In the end, even after the rough start and not being Amber’s biggest fan, I thought this was a gripping read.

Grade:  B / B-

Review copy purchased provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Amber Treganis constantly reinvents herself. New clothes, new hairstyle, new car—anything she can do to exert a level of control over her life. What she can’t control is her shape-shifting other self: the WerCougar that sinks its claws into her brain during the three nights surrounding the full moon.

Though she is a natural-born shifter from a prominent WerCougar family, Amber has been unwilling to change into her cat form ever since a terrible tragedy cost her the man she loved. And she has little patience with Wers of any species who embrace their otherness more than their humanity. She focuses on her life as a defense attorney in Mt. Hood, and stays out of Wer politics.

But after a blurry night of hunting, Amber begins to notice changes in her transformation. When she hears rumors of research to discover a treatment for shifting, she suspects she may have been unknowingly given the experimental therapy.

With the help of Adler, a WerEagle active in community politics, Amber tries to hunt down the truth about this cure, while staying off the radar of the FBI, which tracks and manages Wer communities in secret.

But Amber doesn’t realize how much she depends on her Wer sense until, one by one, they begin to fade. And Amber is left increasingly ill—and increasingly human. Can shifter who is losing her abilities survive for long in either human or Wer society?

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