Tuesday, July 31, 2012

PUSHING THE LIMITS Read-A-Long: Week 1

This fabulous event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and Bewitched Bookworms.

Please check the intro post about the “Rules” and the Grand Prize (which is the cutest prize ever). If you do not have a copy yet,
Pushing The Limits just came out today!! Happy Book Birthday!
Get a copy: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound |Book Depository
Find Katie McGarry:  website | Facebook | Twitter
And… for those who would rather win a copy and join the discussion later, we have a finished copy for you to win.

Schedule:

Special Event: Evening of August 28th – Live Twitter Chat with Author Katie McGarry!

Week 1 Questions:

1. The story starts out with Echo’s thoughts on how she wants to answer her therapist’s questions (snarky and caustically truthful) which are quickly juxtaposed to how she does (milque-toasty and banal). Who do you think she hides the truth for more, her parents or herself?

Ooh, good question. Echo has had to become adept at hiding things from everyone, blending in and not drawing any attention to herself, if she can help it. But I think she hides the truth from herself more than anyone else because she can't face that truth. Even though, at this point, we don't know what happened in the past with Echo and her mother, we can guess it's something terrible, scarring, and traumatic. I'm pretty sure I'd want to hide from the truth, if something like that ever happened to me.

2. We see Mrs. Collins, the school therapist, interact with both Echo and Noah in the first few chapters. From those interactions, what do you think of her? Is she a prototypical caricature of state care? Or do you think she’s there to make an honest difference in the lives of those she’s there to help?

I really like her. While she's stuck within the confines of her job and all the red tape it entails, she seems to want the best for her kids. She's a bit pushy but I think it's what both Echo and Noah need. They've been just surviving for so long, they need someone who's going to show them what they're capable of.

3. Noah has two friends, Beth and Isaiah, who have his back no matter what--through thick and thin--and he has theirs. Consequently, his life is a little easier because he has two people who know about his situation. Echo only has one close friend, and Lila will barely speak to her in school. Do you think Echo would have had an easier time coping and moving on if she had friends like Noah does?

Oh, most definitely. Life is always easier when you have someone to talk to, someone who knows what you're going through and is there to support you through thick and thin. Her life is made so much more difficult because of her parents and her friends and, really, those people should be the ones she can count on. God, Lila is a horrible friend! I mean, I understand peer pressure sucks but your friend needs you quite badly and you won't even talk to her at school. Horrible.

4 . Echo fixates on a colorful ribbon that sits on the school counselor's desk during their one-on-one sessions. Do you think this is a case of "Oh, look at the pretty ribbon. Let me zone out while staring at it" , or could it have a deeper significance!

A little of both. Lectures totally make me zone out and I usually focus on one object when I'm doing so. But...because Echo has so many repressed memories, I think that ribbon draws her eye more than it normally would because there might be some significance there.

5. Noah and the jacket... Already when Noah and Echo meet for the first time, Noah got angry when Echo forgot her Jacket (pg 34). Then on Echo’s Birthday party Noah gave Echo his jacket when he saw that she forgot hers (pg 54). There is a significance behind his anger when Echo has no coat and it tells already so much about Noah!
a) Why do you think is Noah so focused on Echo and her Jacket and what does that tell you about Noah's character?

With the missing jacket, Echo is inadvertently sharing bits of herself with Noah, telling him things like she's not really aware of the world around her (doesn't notice when it's cold or that she doesn't have a jacket) and she's also not aware or doesn't care about her personal health. Because Noah, despite his very prickly demeanor, is at heart a caregiver, he worries about Echo not taking care of herself. (So sweet!)

b) Show us your favorite jacket! Either with you having it on or alone!

I'm not a big jacket/coat wearer (living in the South, I can usually get away with something light or avoiding one altogether) but, if I were, I'd love this Kate Spade coat:
Kate Spade Website (ah, if only...)
6. Echo wears gloves all the time to hide her scars. Not only for her sake, but obviously also for the others. When Noah sees Echo’s scars for the first time he’s shocked.
a) Do you think this was the moment he began to see Echo in a different light?

He always knew she was hiding something but when he saw her scars, he knew it was more than he expected. Having something like that right in his face, really made him acknowledge it on a deeper level so, yes, I do think this is *that* moment.

b) Show us your favorite pair of gloves!

My hands always get so cold in the winter and, because my house is old and hard to heat, I wear gloves much of the winter (yeah, I don't wear jackets but I wear gloves inside. I'm weird. I admit it.). These aren't mine, since mine are packed up (yeah, a small, old house with little closet space) but this is what I wear:
You can get a pair like this on etsy!
For next week's questions, visit BEWITCHED BOOKWORMS (this week's host) or THE PAGE TURNERS (next week's host)!




Monday, July 30, 2012

Two Novellas: THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED by Kelley Armstrong

Urban Fantasy
101 pages, ebook
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Penguin/Dutton
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley for honest review

In Off-Duty Angel , dark witch and half-demon Eve Levine is desperate for a little entertainment while her lover, Kristof Nast, is detained in afterlife court—enough to volunteer an extra week’s worth of angel corps duty just to pass the time. Luckily something even better comes up: a real celestial bounty-hunter mission to trail a shaman, someone who might prove to be a useful lead in Kristof’s court case. Following the target goes smoothly, until he leads Eve to the British Museum, where she inadvertently steps into a secret dimensional passage and stumbles upon a far more enticing puzzle . . . and a much greater danger.

This collection also includes Stalked (Otherworld #7.3), previously printed in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon. It’s not a good sign when Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers resort to everyday activities on their long-awaited honeymoon in St. Louis. But their encroaching boredom is about to take a backseat to an unexpected threat that catches Clay’s attention. A non-pack werewolf is clearly stalking them—out to claim Elena for himself—and Clay has no intention of letting the upstart mutt spoil their romantic getaway, even if that means deceiving Elena as he pursues the rival werewolf on his own.

OFF-DUTY ANGEL: I've always been fascinated with Eve and Kristof's story. They appear sporadically throughout the Otherworld series but it's always good to see even a novella with two such intriguing characters. Eve, in particular, is such an extreme character--bad to the bone and then redeemed, hurting those she loved to helping with every ounce of her power--fab. Kristof, sadly, doesn't make nearly enough of an appearance in this story. The life of a busy lawyer, and all that.

As with most novellas, this one cooks along pretty quickly, tossing Eve right from the fry pan and into the fire. She needs a mission and ends up with more than she expected when she ends up in a very bad place. Fast-paced and fun, this novella is a bit of a teaser, making me want to read some more Kelley Armstrong ASAP.

STALKED: Now this really was a fast story with not much depth but I still really enjoyed it. Elana and Clay are such a great pair--they've got a great understanding of one another, they appreciate one another's abilities, and they're still seriously in love after years together and twins at home. A mutt stalking Elana? Playtime for the werewolf couple!

Available on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reading Road Trip and Giveaway: CANADA





Today's stop on the Reading Road Trip takes us to the wonderful country of Canada! I'm not from Canada (I do have a great-aunt and extended family up there) but I've spent a lot of time up there and it's fabulous. Nicest, most polite people ever, beautiful, national healthcare, and super-duper cold.
Cool Facts about Canada:
  • Size of Canada: 9,984,670 sq. km
  • Population: 34.6 million (2011)
  • Basketball was invented by a Canadian – Dr. James Naismith
  • Canadians consume more mac and cheese than any other nation on the planet (SOURCE)
  • A Tuque is a type of hat
  • Money includes coins called Loonies ($1) and Toonies ($2)
  • Poutine--fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds--originated in Quebec
  • Famous Canadians include: William Shatner, Keanu Reeves, Kiefer Southerland, Pamela Anderson, Alexander Graham Bell, Sarah McLaughlin
  • Famous Canadian Authors include: Margaret Atwood (HANDMAIDEN'S TALE), Emma Donoghue (ROOM), L.M. Montgomery (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES)
Because this stop of the road trip is a YA giveaway, I'm highlighting my two favorite Canadian authors:
Moira Young (BLOOD RED ROAD)
Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld series)

GIVEAWAY: A book of your choice from either author (can be a pre-order, if that's whatcha want)!
  1. You must be thirteen or older to enter.
  2. Open to Internationally (some exceptions). I’ll be ordering the book from Book Depository!
  3. The contest will run from July 29 to August 5.
  4. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email. After that, I will choose a new winner.
  5. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below:

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Don't mess with the bouda: GUNMETAL MAGIC by Ilona Andrews

    Urban Fantasy aka Mary's Crack
    448 pages, paperback
    Available July 31, 2012
    Publisher: Ace Fantasy
    Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

    Some people have everything figured out — Andrea Nash is not one of those people. After being kicked out of the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, Andrea's whole existence is in shambles. All she can do is try to put herself back together, something made easier by working for Cutting Edge, a small investigative firm owned by her best friend, Kate Daniels.

    When several shapeshifters working for Raphael Medrano — the male alpha of Clan Bouda and Andrea's former lover — die unexpectedly at a dig site, Andrea is assigned to investigate ... and must work with Raphael. As her search for the killer leads her into the secret underbelly of supernatural Atlanta, Andrea knows that dealing with her feelings for Raphael might have to take a backseat to saving the world ...

    Oh, Ilona Andrews, how do I love thee? (Well, actually, it would be more of a "y'all", considering this is actually a husband/wife team.) I've been kind of scatter-shot about reading the Kate Daniels books but that's changing. Right. Now. Because I seem to have forgotten how awesome this world is and how much I adore Kate and Curran (who make an appearance in this novel and have a novella together as a bonus in this novel, too).

    And Andrea. In the previous Kate Daniels books, Andrea is so very broken, crushed by a horribly abusive childhood, people who wouldn't accept her for what she is, and the loss of her place with the Order when they found out she wasn't human but a shifter. But in GUNMETAL MAGIC, she finds a new, stable place at Cutting Edge and begins to build herself a life she can be proud of.

    With places like the Glass Menagerie, an area of the ATL where glass grows and twists and hiding deadly creatures, and Centennial Park and the Central Library, where nature has gone wild and enveloped the area, supernatural Atlanta is a tricksy place, harboring many secrets. When one secret is unveiled, people die. That's where Andrea and her investigative skills come in. While Kate's a slash-and-burn kind of girl, Andrea's a strong hunter, puzzling out the pieces, following the trail until she gets her man (or creature). 

    Tagging along on these investigations is Ascanio, beloved male child of Clan Bouda and intern at Cutting Edge. He adds so much humor, curiosity, and teenaged surliness to the story, and he assists Andrea in ways she never knew she needed, keeping her moving forward, even when she's ready to rip things apart with her bare claws.

    Because the need to rip things apart arises more than you'd think, and life is never simple, especially when it involves your ex-boyfriend. An alpha ex who just recently hooked up with an empty-headed human, flaunted her in front of you in your place of business, and is quite possibly engaged to said airhead. An ex who hasn't forgiven you for leaving him or choosing the Order over him. Oh, and who needs your help figuring out what happened to some of his people. Awesome. The claws and teeth definitely make an appearance.

    GUNMETAL MAGIC slides effortlessly into the series line-up, creates a very distinct voice with Andrea, and adds depth and color to the world of Kate Daniels.

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Speed Date with Paris: PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James

    Thursday is Speed Date Night. What's a Book Speed Date? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book. If you want to join in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. The speed date is all about "meeting" new books.

    Memoir
    272 pages, hardcover
    Available now (April 2012)
    Publisher: Random House
    Review copy provided by publisher for hones review

    In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

    With no classes to teach, no committee meetings to attend, no lawn to mow or cars to park, Eloisa revels in the ordinary pleasures of life—discovering corner museums that tourists overlook, chronicling Frenchwomen’s sartorial triumphs, walking from one end of Paris to another. She copes with her Italian husband’s notions of quality time; her two hilarious children, ages eleven and fifteen, as they navigate schools—not to mention puberty—in a foreign language; and her mother-in-law Marina’s raised eyebrow in the kitchen (even as Marina overfeeds Milo, the family dog). 

    Paris in Love invites the reader into the life of a most enchanting family, framed by la ville de l’amour.

    Wouldn't be awesome to pick up and move to a foreign city like Paris for a year or more? This idea has always appealed (though I wouldn't be able to go anywhere without my dogs) so, when PARIS IN LOVE appeared in my mailbox, I immediately picked it up. Eloisa James, romance novelist, wife, and mother of two, did just that. And she brought her entire family. Now *that's* an experience!

    Told mainly in little snippets of around fifty words, this story follows the author and her family as they discover beautiful places, tasty nibbles, intriguing people, and the intricacies of navigating a foreign city. Gorgeous and interesting, PARIS IN LOVE will indeed make you fall in love.




    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    Waiting On...THE CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson

    Did y'all read THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS? It was one of my very favorite books of 2011--fantastic and creative and I wanted MORE! Well, lucky for me (and all Fire and Thorns fans), it's just about time for the second book in this series. The cover's a little busy for me but I like how it follows the design of the first novel, with the jewel prominently displayed.

    Oh, and Rae Carson is doing a guest post on The Book Swarm August 21st as part of Authors Are My Rockstar tour! Super-excited about this! Plus, there will be a giveaway--woot!

    YA Fantasy
    410 pages, hardcover
    Expected publication: September 18, 2012
    Publisher: Greenwillow Books

    In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

    Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Pushing The Limits Read-A-Long – Link up for Participation!

    It's time! It's time!

    The Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry Read-Along

    is finally here and you are all invited to read along with us! No matter if you haven't read the book before, or if you (like us) read it already and just want to spend some more time with Noah and Echo!
    This fabulous event is hosted by Candace Book Blog, Natalia @ Dazzling Reads, The Page Turners, Mary @ The Book Swarm and The Bewitched Bookworms.
    For 6 weeks, we will discuss the amazing emotional roller coaster that is Pushing the Limits. We will tear up with Echo, swoon over Noah and thoroughly enjoy this unbelievably fantastic book! Every week will have awesometastic giveaways sponsored by HarlequinTEEN and we have an epic, unique and absolutely adorable Grand Prize sponsored by Bewitched Bookworms and Katie McGarry herself!
    Ready for some fun?!
    Then grab your copy of Pushing the Limits and buckle up! It's one hell of a ride!!

    Schedule:

    Special Event: Evening of August 28th - Live Twitter Chat with Author Katie McGarry!!!!

    We would be incredible happy if you'd join us! Pushing The Limit comes out July 31th, so if you pre-order, get the eBook or have an ARC you will be ready to get started with the first Chapters and read a long with us!
    So, right now all you need is the book (..duuuh) and an outlet where to post your answers!
    (Blog, Goodreads, Tumblr or even Facebook - wherever you can post the answers!!!)
    "Rules" of Participation
    • Link up here with the outlet where you want to post. All types of Blogs, Goodreads, Facebook - anywhere where you can post your answers.
    • Questions are posted the week before. (You have one week to post your answers)
    • Every week a new linky will be posted to link up your weekly post.
    • You must answer at least 5 questions to get an entry for the giveaway
    • Have Fun and Spread the word ! ;)
    • To make new friends, meet the other participants and leave some comment love!
    Giveaways!
    Of course we will have some awesome Prize Packages for you to win!

    Grand Prize Package

    The winner will be drawn from all participants during the course of the Read-Along. Of course, if you participate every week, you'll have 6 chances to win! This Prize Package is sponsored by Katie McGarry (we love her so much!!) and the Bewitched Bookworms and is special, unique and totally inspired by our loves: Echo & Noah!
    • 1 personalized, signed, finished copy of Pushing The Limits!(Katie will sign it to the winner!)
    • Fudge brownie mix since that's Lila's favorite and she always buys them when she is with Echo
    • Pushing the Limits Bookmark
    • A small Hot Wheels Corvette - VROOM!
    • CD from Angela McGarry. Katie's sister-in-law wrote and recorded a song called Can You. The song is inspired by Pushing the Limits and is from Echo's POV. Part of the chorus is: I'm broken, I'm shattered, I'm scarred. Can you really save me? It's an amazing song.
    • Cinnamon Lip Gloss (Bath& Body works) Noah loves that Echo smells like Cinnamon ...
    • Cinnamon Room Spray (Bath & Body Works)
    • Pair of Fingerless long Gloves
    Isn't this a cuteness Prize?!?!

    Weekly Giveaways!

    Each week, each host blog is going to host an individual giveaway during the week!
    Sneak peak of the books you can win:
    Speechless by Hannah Harrington, Circle of Silence by Carol M.Tanzman, Temptation by Karen Hopkins, Confessions of An Angry Girl by Louise Rozett.

    And now onto the Questions for the first week:

    1. The story starts out with Echo’s thoughts on how she wants to answer her therapist’s questions (snarky and caustically truthful) which are quickly juxtaposed to how she does (milque-toasty and banal). Who do you think she hides the truth for more, her parents or herself?


    2. We see Mrs. Collins, the school therapist, interact with both Echo and Noah in the first few chapters. From those interactions, what do you think of her? Is she a prototypical caricature of state care? Or do you think she’s there to make an honest difference in the lives of those she’s there to help?

    3. Noah has two friends, Beth and Isaiah, who have his back no matter what--through thick and thin--and he has theirs. Consequently, his life is a little easier because he has two people who know about his situation. Echo only has one close friend, and Lila will barely speak to her in school. Do you think Echo would have had an easier time coping and moving on if she had friends like Noah does?


    4 . Echo fixates on a colorful ribbon that sits on the school counselor's desk during their one-on-one sessions. Do you think this is a case of "Oh, look at the pretty ribbon. Let me zone out while staring at it" , or could it have a deeper significance!

    5 .) Noah and the jacket... Already when Noah and Echo meet for the first time, Noah got angry when Echo forgot her Jacket (pg 34). Then on Echo’s Birthday party Noah gave Echo his jacket when he saw that she forgot hers (pg 54). There is a significance behind his anger when Echo has no coat and it tells already so much about Noah!
    a) Why do you think is Noah so focused on Echo and her Jacket and what does that tell you about Noah's character?

    b) Show us your favorite jacket! Either with you having it on or alone!

    6. Echo wears gloves all the time to hide her scars. Not only for her sake, but obviously also for the others. When Noah sees Echo’s scars for the first time he’s shocked.
    a) Do you think this was the moment he began to see Echo in a different light?

    b) Show us your favorite pair of gloves!
    Posting day is Tuesday, but feel free to post whenever it first best for you during the week. Each week we will post the questions for the upcoming week so that you have a full week to get your post ready and think about the answers.

    Please feel free to grab the Button and help us spread the word about this feature!



    Link Up for participation!! Just add your Blog or outlet where you are going to post your answers! Thank you so much for participating!

    The Game is Afoot: THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR by Lilith Saintcrow

    Steampunk Historical Paranormal
    320 pages, paperback
    Available August 7, 2012
    Publisher: Orbit
    Review copy provided by publisher via BEA

    Emma Bannon, Prime sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t much help that they dislike each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen. In an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs.

    The game is afoot…

    I'll say it: I'm a Lilith Saintcrow fangirl. I know, I know. She's not for everyone. Her writing can be seriously dark at times, her characters go through hell and sometimes struggle to make it even halfway back, and her action scenes are dizzyingly fast and brutal. But for me? Love. And I love the fabulous Orbit people for finally caving to my groveling...*hugs (but not in a creepy way)*

    That being said, THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR is a departure for Ms. Saintcrow, leaving behind the grittiness of her modern urban settings for the somewhat more urbane gas-lit streets of an alternate Victorian England, Steampunk style. This story is told through the points of view of Emma Bannon and Archibald Claire, two very different characters. Both brilliant and outcast in their own ways, Emma and Archibald must work together to solve the puzzle of who is killing the mentaths and why--before Archibald becomes one of the victims.

    Both Emma and Archibald are such intriguing characters. Emma may present herself as a decorous gentlewoman on the surface, she is more than capable of holding her own and taking down her opponents with a carefully slung spell or venomous come-back. As a Prime Sorceress, she also has Mikal, her Shield--a protector who would lay down his life for her. Mikal and Emma have a convoluted relationship with distrust warring with love/lust. As a mentath, Archibald is brilliant, ruled by numbers and logic, but close to insanity due to boredom. Shades of the intrepid Sherlock Holmes? Most definitely. And most fabulous.

    One thing Ms. Saintcrow is adept at is building a detailed, realistic world and the world in this story is no exception. There is very little in the way of backstory or info-dumps--a good thing, though it does leave the reader with the challenge of puzzling out the meaning of words or how things came to be (use your context clues, children!). The mash-up of genres--steampunk, paranormal, fantasy, historical--leads to a very unusual story, a world that I'm dying to delve back into, and characters I can't wait to visit again. Long live the splendiferous detective duo of Bannon and Clare!

    Monday, July 23, 2012

    Love/Hate relationship: THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas

    I like this cover better--very bad-assed
    YA Fantasy
    416 pages, hardcover
    Available August 7, 2012
    Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
    Review copy provided by publisher via BEA

    In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

    The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. And a princess from a foreign land will become the one thing she never thought she'd have again: a friend. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world. (back copy via ARC)

    There were times I LOVED this book, and there were times I just wanted to shake that conceited, self-centered beyotch Celaena. Oh, I do enjoy when a book plays with my emotions like that, even if the main character did completely drive me up the wall more than half of the time.

    Bear with me here. First off, it's a very medieval, interesting world. There are hints of magic, which grow stronger as the story progresses. A power-hungry dictator rules the kingdom and wants to rule the entire world, burning and destroying it until it's shaped exactly the way he believes it should be. There are the stereotypical airheaded social climbers and mean girls as well as some very mysterious and intriguing characters, which balance the stereotypes out.

    The main character, Celaena, is an eighteen-year-old assassin. She's trained for this role with one of the best since she crawled out of the river when she was eight. She's feared across the entire kingdom and, though she's been captured, tried, and sentenced to life in the salt mines, no one knows she's "just" a girl. She knows how to do most things so much better than anyone else in this crazy assassin competition the king's cooked up, she's practically filing her nails during the Tests. She's awesome and she knows it.

    Of course there are two guys who like her, too. Her. A convicted felon and assassin. *sigh* One is the stalwart Captain of the Guard and the other just happens to be the kingdom's Crown Prince. She mostly lusts over the prince and, for the most part, ignores the much more interesting Captain. There are strong hints that she's much more than a lowly river rat but the two men don't know this. Oh, love triangle. How you muddy up the plot.

    Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed this story. I wanted to know what was up with the strange markings around the castle, who was killing all the combatants, wanted to know more about the odd foreign princess with a mysterious agenda, and about the magic that whispers around the edges of the kingdom. But this story also induced moments of eye-rolling on my part. Overall, however, THRONE OF GLASS is an action-packed, intriguing novel with a strong set-up for future stories.

    Friday, July 20, 2012

    Sparkles are so 80's: TEAM HUMAN by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

    YA Paranormal Anti-Romance Romance
    352 pages, hardcover
    Available now (July 2012)
    Publisher: HarperTeen
    Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine

    Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity

    On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

    Acclaimed authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan team up to create a witty and poignant story of cool vampires, warm friendships, and the changes that test the bonds of love.

    Pretty damned funny. Yep. There's my entire review in a nutshell. *jazz hands*

    Yeah, right. (I can't resist a good ramble about a well-written book!) While at first glance, this story sounds like it might fit squarely in the over-saturated vampire market, it doesn't. It's a parody, poking and prodding at the tropes and themes found in a zillion vampire books glutting the shelves. While there are vampires, they're weird and quirky and have decidedly human traits. While there is insta-love, Mel the main character rails against it, upset that it's happening to her friend Cathy. Vampires don't sparkle but to go outside in the daylight, they do suit up in a protective suit that's "a cross between Darth Vader and an astronaut" --p.2, ARC. (Oh, and double points for the Star Wars reference.)

    Mel hates vampires, believing they destroy people. So when her best friend falls in insta-love with Vampire Francis, Mel does everything in her power to convince her to fall out of love with him, that he sucks (both literally and figuratively). Because of her blind hatred and prejudice, she doesn't see that she's destroying her friendship every time she rants against him and his people. The interplay between Mel, Francis, Cathy and Kit (Francis's human "nephew") keeps the story moving quickly along in the fascinating world Larbalestier and Brennan created. 

    It is amazing to me how close-minded and completely sure in her opinions someone who's only seventeen can be: Cathy proves stubborn in her love for Francis, despite him being so much older than her and a vampire while Mel remains inflexible in her opinions about vampires. One (yes, just one) learns to open her mind to other possibilities. Francis and Kit are pretty intractable in their own ways, too. But a story can't move forward if no one is willing to change or grow, especially one that features an evolving friendship.

    Snort-worthy dialogue, a quick-thinking and witty narrator, non-sparkly vamps who may or may not be the good guys...what's not to like?

    Thursday, July 19, 2012

    Speed date with Shane: BORN TO DARKNESS by Suzanne Brockmann

    Urban Fantasy
    513 pages, hardcover
    Available now (March 2012)
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    Review copy provided by publisher via Amazon Vine for honest review

    Dishonorably discharged, former Navy SEAL Shane Laughlin is down to his last ten bucks when he finally finds work as a test subject at the Obermeyer Institute, a little-known and believed-to-be-fringe scientific research facility. When he enters the OI compound, he is plunged into a strange world where seemingly mild-mannered scientists—including women half his size—can kick his highly skilled ass.

    Shane soon discovers that there are certain individuals who possess the unique ability to access untapped regions of the brain with extraordinary results—including telekinesis, super strength, and reversal of the aging process. Known as “Greater-Thans,” this rare breed is recruited by OI, where they are rigorously trained using ancient techniques to cultivate their powers and wield them responsibly.

    But in the depths of America’s second Great Depression, where the divide between the haves and the have-nots has grown even wider, those who are rich—and reckless—enough have a quick, seductive alternative: Destiny, a highly addictive designer drug that can make anyone a Greater-Than, with the power of eternal youth. The sinister cartel known as The Organization has begun mass-producing Destiny, and the demand is epidemic. But few realize the drug’s true danger, and fewer still know the dirty secret of Destiny’s crucial ingredient.

    Michelle “Mac” Mackenzie knows the ugly truth. And as one of the Obermeyer Institute’s crack team of operatives, she’s determined to end the scourge of Destiny. But her kick-ass attitude gets knocked for a loop when she finds that one of the new test subjects is none other than Shane, the same smoldering stranger who just rocked her world in a one-night stand. Although Shane isn’t a Greater-Than like Mac, as an ex-SEAL, he’s got talents of his own. But Mac’s got powerful reasons to keep her distance from him—and reasons that are just as strong to want him close. She’s used to risking her life, but now, in the midst of the ultimate war on drugs, she must face sacrificing her heart.

    Wow. That blurb is like three times longer than my speed date is going to be!

    Given its bulk (and in hardcover, too), this book could double as a nighttime protection weapon. The story inside is no less powerful, packing a major one-two-three punch within its pages. There's a kick-ass heroine for those who love their urban fantasy. *fist pump* There's a hot-hot-hot love story for those who want some paranormal romance. *woot* There's even a dystopian society in the wreckage that is America for those who go for that. *yeah, baybee*

    Mac and Shane have major sparkage but, of course, both are damaged goods and do their best to stay away from each other--a lost cause. As Greater-Thans, they've got to learn to use their powers to defeat The Organization and the horrible drug that's decimating anyone who uses it. Brockman knows how to create some burn and some chemistry, y'all. Seriously. A fantastic read and a great start to a new series.


    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Waiting on...RIVETED by Meljean Brook

    So far, I've really enjoyed Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series, a Steampunk romance with awesome alpha males and feisty heroines. While this cover doesn't display the glimpse of glistening, muscled masculine chest I prefer on my romances (of any genre), I kind of like it! The Steampunk elements are firmly visible, you get a look at both the hero and heroine (who looks pretty bad-assed, if you ask me), and the overall coloring is quite appealing. I'd pick it up even if I didn't know who the fabulous Meljean Brook was.

    RIVETED (The Iron Seas #3) by Meljean Brook
    Steampunk romance
    416 pages, paperback
    Expected Publication: September 4, 2012
    Publisher: Berkley Trade

    A century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced Iceland’s inhabitants to abandon its shores, the island has become enshrouded in legend. But the truth behind the legends is mechanical, not magical—and the mystery of the island a matter of life and death for a community of women who once spilled noble blood to secure their freedom.

    Five years ago, Annika unwittingly endangered that secret, but her sister K√§lla took the blame and was exiled. Now Annika serves on an airship, searching for her sister and longing to return home. But that home is threatened when scientific expedition leader David Kentewess comes aboard, looking to expose Annika’s secrets. Then disaster strikes, leaving David and Annika stranded on a glacier and pursued by a madman, with their very survival depending on keeping the heat rising between them—and generating lots of steam.

    Waiting on is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Livin' On the Edge: FATE'S EDGE by Ilona Andrews

    Urban Fantasy
    372, paperback
    Available now (November 2011)
    Publisher: Ace Books
    Review copy purchased

    Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge, and she's determined to stay on the straight and narrow. But when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades... 

    Kaldar Mar-a gambler, lawyer, thief, and spy-expects his latest assignment tracking down a stolen item to be a piece of cake, until Audrey shows up. But when the item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job, he's going to need Audrey's help...

    Audrey tried to escape, attempting to make a life for herself in the human world and avoid her family. Too bad for her that her family is a bunch of fools who get in too deep and blackmail her back into the trade which, in turn, ruins her new life. Kaldar is out to destroy those who murdered his entire family and destroyed his way of life, pledging his life to the Mirror in order to get what he wants.


    The device Audrey steals is extraordinarily powerful and, in the wrong hands, can do serious damage. As an agent of the Mirror, Kaldar is tasked with finding this device and to keep it out of the wrong hands. While Audrey wants nothing to do with Kaldar--she really wants to return to her life outside the Edge and forget the whole thing ever happened--she's got to join Kaldar to set things right.

    There's great banter between these two--quick back-and-forth dialogue that's both funny and flirty. As they're both con artists in their own way, neither one is sure if they're playing each other or if the affection is real. They're also really good for one another, balancing out their sharp edges and character flaws and making them stronger together than they are apart. 

    Another fabulous addition to the odd world of the Edge, FATE'S EDGE brings together two very different yet similar people with plenty of sparks and chemistry.


    Available on Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble

    Monday, July 16, 2012

    Thea Harrison Elder Races Novellas Triple Shot

    I've got to say, I love this new trend of snacks (novellas) between meals (novels). Even though it's a lot of work for the authors, it's so worth it--it keeps the author's name out in front of the public, and builds excitement for the upcoming novel. As for Thea Harrison, she's one of my auto-buy authors. If you like paranormal romance or urban fantasy (or if you're a junkie like me, always searching for the next fix), I highly recommend the Elder Races series.

    Paranormal Romance
    93 pages, ebook
    Available now (Dec. 2011)
    Publisher: Samhain Publishing
    Review copy purchased

    Meeting your soulmate? Great. Preventing your possible murder? Even better.

    Alice Clark, a Wyr and schoolteacher, has had two friends murdered in as many days, and she's just found the body of a third. She arrives at the scene only minutes before Gideon Riehl, a wolf Wyr and current detective in the Wyr Division of Violent Crime—and, as Alice oh-so-inconveniently recognizes at first sight, her mate.

    But the sudden connection Riehl and Alice feel is complicated when the murders are linked to a serial killer who last struck seven years ago, killing seven people in seven days. They have just one night before the killer strikes again. And every sign points to Alice as the next victim.

    Product Warnings
    This book contains a hot police detective, a violent murderer on the hunt, and a heroine that can blend in anywhere...

    Hot police detective, indeed! Gideon is gorgeous, sure, but he's also smart and compassionate. As sweet as she is, Alice is much less dominant than most of Harrison's characters, and she definitely needs that compassionate side in a mate. In this world, there is such a thing as a true mate, one recognizable to the Wyr by sight and/or scent (there's a little nod and wink up there in the blurb recognizing this classic PNR theme). Even though they're different types of Wyr--Gideon's a wolf and Alice...oh, you'll just have to wait and see what she is (though you might guess or read the multiple spoilers on Goodreads)--they're still destined to be mates.

    This is a super-quick read taking place over a very short time period so they do fall for each other and fall into bed pretty quickly. But there's also an interesting murder mystery involving a serial killer who's targeting Alice which brings all of Gideon's wolfy instincts into play. TRUE COLORS is a little amuse bouche with plenty of flavor and spice.

    Available on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    Paranormal Romance
    102 pages, ebook
    Available now (March 2012)
    Publisher: Samhain Publishing
    Review copy purchased

    Claudia Hunter is on a road trip through the Nevada desert when she sees the body of a dog on the side of the highway. Pulling over to investigate, she quickly determines that the enormous animal is clinging to life. While working to save him with the help of the local vet, Claudia realizes there's something about the creature that seems "more." Other. "Wyr." Which makes this case of animal cruelty attempted murder.

    Too injured to shape shift, Luis Alvaraz is reluctant to tell Claudia what he knows about his attack, afraid it will only make her a target. But the sheriff is corrupt, and his attackers know Luis is alive and vulnerable. To make matters worse, a sandstorm is sweeping into town, and if they're going to survive the night, Luis will have to place all his trust in Claudia.

    Warning: Take a gorgeous man temporarily stuck in the dog house, add a strong, take-no-prisoners woman, mix in encroaching enemies and a raging sandstorm and stir to combine. Enjoy with a freshly opened can of whoop-ass.

    I wanted to spend a lot more time with these two. They're fierce, they're hot for each other, and there was amazing chemistry as well as an intriguing snippet of story. Claudia Hunter is one of my favorite female characters of this series so far. For one, she's older than most PNR characters. She's been in battle, she's been a soldier, and she's incredibly capable. Girl doesn't take crap from anyone. Luis, when he's not injured, is pretty much the same way (as I recall from other stories he's made an appearance in). But, because he is badly injured, Claudia steps up into the role of protector. I loved that!

    Oh, and quite a nice cover, huh? I wish this one weren't residing on my Kindle, which isn't color and might short out if I lick it too much. *wipes away drool* NATURAL EVIL is a filling snack, crunchy and well-seasoned with a couple big dashes of hot sauce.

    Available on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    Paranormal Romance
    97 pages, ebook
    Available now (June 2012)
    Publisher: Samhain Publishing
    Review copy purchased

    As a coroner, medusa Seremela Telemar has always felt more comfortable chatting over a dead body than over drinks. But when her wild niece, Vetta, runs off to Devil's Gate, a lawless town that has sprung up overnight in a modern-day gold rush, she knows she has to extricate her before the rebellious girl gets into real trouble. Though she's confident in her head snakes' ability to defend her against attackers, Seremela is still a bit nervous about braving this modern-day Wild West by herself.

    Vampyre Duncan Turner is not about to let his new co-worker go into that chaos alone. His Vampyric power and lawyer smarts make him the perfect ally, and the fact that he already had his eye on Seremela for more...personal reasons, doesn't hurt matters. Any romantic thoughts pull up short, however, when they arrive at Devil's Gate and learn Vetta is set to hang by morning.

    In order to save Vetta and themselves, Seremela and Duncan are going to have to fight fire with force and magic with fangs. And pray they make it out of Devil's Gate alive.

    Warning: Contains mother effin' snakes in planes, cars, tents, and beds. Luckily, our hot Vampyre hero doesn't mind them one bit...

    One of the things I enjoy about these novellas is they bring in characters from novels that otherwise wouldn't be the center of attention. Take Duncan and Seremela, for instance. They're both relatively bit players in the world of the Elder Races but a novella is the perfect place to bring them together. Plus, there are little threads from other stories woven throughout this one (the tarot cards, for example) and an intriguing new place--Devil's Gate--that I have the feeling we'll see in later novels. 

    The romance between Seremela and Duncan is more sweet than fire-y. Duncan is a take-charge kind of guy but he's not overtly alpha about it while Seremela is both stubborn and very loyal to those she loves. Even though I am not a fan of snakes, I liked how Seremela's head snakes had cute little personalities, showing their attachment (and Seremela's) to Duncan by playfully wrapping themselves around his arms when he's near.

    Another satisfying between-meal snack!

    Available on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    Sunday, July 15, 2012

    Yummy, yummy: SCRUMPTIOUS by Amanda Usen

    Romance
    320 pages, paperback
    Available now (Jan. 2012)
    Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
    Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

    Joe Rafferty is just as mouthwatering as the food he cooks. But if he thinks he's going to waltz in and take over her kitchen, he's denser than a thick slice of chocolate ripple cheesecake. Marly has invested too much of her life in Chameleon to hand off the restaurant to someone else—especially a cocky–as–all–get–out superstar chef. But there's no denying the man knows how to light her fire. Question is: Can she have the sizzle without feeling the burn?

    Sometimes you just need a really good contemporary romance and SCRUMPTIOUS delivers. I mean, the name alone calls up sumptuous meals filled with flavor, fruit tartlets, chocolate ganache cake, vanilla bean cheesecake, and other delectable delights. Hungry yet?

    Wait until you get in the kitchen with Joe Rafferty, hottie chef extraordinaire. You'll want to lick it, suck it, slam it all over the place. A known womanizer (reformed, thanks to his mother's dying wish), Joe blows into town and sweeps Marly off her clog-covered feet. Except he's reformed and, as much as she wants to sleep with him and he wants to get it on with her, he's just saying no...until she can change his mind.

    What I really liked about this story is that Marly is unapologetically sexual--she uses men for her own pleasure and purposes then moves on with her life, leaving them sobbing in her dust. Joe is also very sexual, a string of very satisfied women in his wake, but, after losing his mom to breast cancer, he's trying to be a better guy. There's none of that innocent virgin or inexperienced stuff going on in this book--Marly even pulls out her vibrator to take care of her needs. Go Marly!

    Besides all the fabulous tension and back-and-forth between Joe and Marly, there's the heat in the kitchen. Olivia, the restaurant's owner and Marly's best friend, finds her husband giving it to the bartender and sends him packing. Soon after, a string of strange incidents in the kitchen make life difficult for them all--and it's not the almost-ex doing the damage.

    A loser soon-to-be-ex-husband, a super-busy kitchen, surprise health inspections and food critics, and connections to the mob make this a fun and fast read. Oh, and don't forget the sizzle between Joe and Marly!

    Saturday, July 14, 2012

    Pretty in pink: PILGRIMS DON'T WEAR PINK by Stephanie Kate Strohm

    YA Contemporary
    204 pages, paperback
    Available now (May 2012)
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley for honest review

    A story of crushes, corsets, and conspiracy.

    Libby Kelting had always felt herself born out of time. No wonder the historical romance-reading, Jane Austen-adaptation-watching, all-around history nerd jumped at the chance to intern at Camden Harbor, Maine’s Oldest Living History Museum. But at Camden Harbor Libby’s just plain out of place, no matter how cute she looks in a corset. Her cat-loving coworker wants her dead, the too-smart-for-his-own-good local reporter keeps pushing her buttons, her gorgeous sailor may be more shipwreck than dreamboat — plus Camden Harbor’s haunted. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Libby learns that boys, like ghosts, aren’t always what they seem.

    If you're looking for a cute, fast read, check out PILGRIMS DON'T WEAR PINK. While there's a bit of a history info dump at the beginning (this girl really loves her history), once you get past that, the story flows quite nicely.

    Libby heads off to Maine, to be an intern at a living history museum and teach a group of little girls how to cook, sew, and act like 18th century kids. While the campers are adorable, her roommate definitely isn't. So, when a nerdy boy reporter tracking a story of local ghost sightings asks permission to camp out, intern Libby volunteers to keep an eye on him. But she's also keeping an eye on the super-hottie who chops her wood (literally, people) and lights her fire, much to the dismay of nerdy boy.

    There are hints of Mary Sue when it comes to light that Libby is not only well-versed in early colonial America but she can also cook a mean pie among other things, sing and dance, and capture the attention of two guys with her size-six, blonde-haired self. Oh, and of course, she has a flamboyantly gay BFF. But Libby's a bit of a mess and tends to get herself in sticky situations, which prevents her from being a complete Mary Sue.

    PDWP is a very pleasant way to spent an afternoon.