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Review + Giveaway: Sealed with a Curse by Cecy Robson (ends 01/21)
Enter to win an ARC of Sealed with a Curse.

Please Note: New Holiday Review Policy! (extended indefinitely)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Month in Review: December

By reading eight books in December, I've bought my total of the year up to 85, which equals out to around seven a month. Not the greatest, but I can't complain.

December: 8

State of Decay by James Knapp 3.5 Stars
Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie 4.5 Stars
Blood Prophecy by Stefan Petrucha DNF
Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin 3 Stars
Hellforged by Nancy Holzner 4.5 Stars
Sleepless by Cyn Balog 4 Stars review coming soon
Sea Crossing by Virginia Kantra 3 Stars
Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell 4 Stars review coming soon




So what did everyone else read in December?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: Hellforged by Nancy Holzner

Title: Hellforger
Author: Nancy Holzner
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 12/28/10
Summary:
A demon is stalking Vicky's dreams-just as several of Deadtown's zombies are viciously attacked and become really dead. And when Vicky realizes she is the only connection between the victims, she suspects that the demon is somehow working through her dreams to become Deadtown's living nightmare.


Plot: 5 Stars
I love, love, love the world that the author has created. From the non-traditional zombies to the different kinds of demons, it's all very unique and creative. I also enjoy the politics surrounding PAs, or Paranormal Americans. Their fight for civil rights really rings true to me, because in a way it's a lot like what the LGBT community is fighting for right now. It almost brings a personal aspect to the novel for me, the way I relate so well to these Paranormal Americans that just want to be treated fairly. But back to the novel at hand... It was amazing for me to read this novel with so many strings of different plot elements blowing in the wind, and then watch all of these seemingly random events wrap up together so succinctly in the end.

Pace: 4 Stars
The first third of this novel flew by. One event after another had Victory going in every direction. But the second third sputtered for a minute. While Victory was in Wales, studying and practicing with Mab, there were times were it got a touch repetitive. There was just a tiny bit too much reading from The Book of Utter Darkness, a tiny bit too much learning to control Hellforged (the athame). It just needed a bit more action packed into it. But the final third of the book kicks off with a punch (or glitch) while they're flying back to Boston and it doesn't let go until the end. It was a race to the end, full of twist and turns and more questions.

Characters: 4 Stars
As much as I loved the plot of this novel, I wish more of the events could've taken place in Boston. Victory spends so much time in Wales, that many characters don't get nearly enough face time. I really, really missed Tina throughout this book. As much as she can annoy me at times, I still find her character hilarious, and would've liked to witness a bit more of her rise to stardom. Although Kane was around a bit more than I thought he would be, I still want to know more about him. It was great to see more of Mab, and to get to visit her in Wales. And I can't wait for the next novel, because I really want to know what's going on with Juliet.

Cover: 5 Stars
Again. I will say it again. Two words: Flaming sword. Although Victory never uses the flaming sword in this novel, it still exists, therefore it is welcome on the covers. So many of the details on the cover are 100% to the story, and it amazes me. The athame on her thigh, the crows in the sky, the slate headstones... Even the cover model's haircut. It's not very often such accuracy happens. The color palette for this novel is very eye-catching, although after reading I would've expected something darker considering the darkness surrounding the morfran and the book. But my favorite part is the celtic-like design behind the title.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the author.

Review: Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin

Title: Low Red Moon
Author: Ivy Devlin
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: 09/14/10
Summary:
The only thing Avery Hood can remember about the night her parents died is that she saw silver -- deadly silver, moving inhumanly fast. As much as she wants to remember who killed them, she can't, and there's nothing left to do but try to piece her life back together. Then Avery meets the new boy in school -- Ben, mysterious and beautiful, with whom she feels a connection like nothing she's ever experienced. When Ben reveals he's a werewolf, Avery still trusts him -- at first. Then she sees that sometimes his eyes flash inhuman silver. And she learns that she's not the only one who can't remember the night her parents died.


Plot: 3 Stars
I really love shapeshifters, so this novel is right up my alley. But for all of the werewolf talk, we never really learn much about the lore or the creatures. Avery learns they exist, and accepts it as fact a bit quickly. She barely denied it for a day before accepting it as normal. But with that easy acceptance, there was ample opportunity for her to learn all about them, and that just didn't happen. All we learn is a few details about the change. Although I was disappointed about that aspect, I did enjoy Avery's struggle with memory loss and moving on from her parents' deaths. The ups and downs she experiences seemed genuine and realistic for a teenager.

Pace: 3.5 Stars
This novel was a quick read, but not as quick as it seemed like it should be. It's a pretty short novel, but it read more like a 350 page novel that was a quick read. The story starts out strong, and grabs you right away. Somewhere in the middle though, it seems like Avery keeps repeating herself (both in thought and in action). There is a point around two-thirds of the way through in which I wondered if the plot had stalled. But then it picks right back up and slaps you upside the head. Although there weren't too many twists and turns throughout, the ending and the events leading up to it were definitely a surprise.

Characters: 2 Stars
I wanted to enjoy these characters as I read, but I feel like we don't learn too much about anyone. We learn the most about Avery, as she is the main character, but it just doesn't seem like enough. We get bit and pieces about her past and her parents, but not a lot of detail. Instead, she's too engrossed in trying to remember the murder. I wish we could've learned a bit more why her father and grandmother stopped speaking, because that played a big part considering Avery goes to live with her grandmother. Ben was a complete mystery. I normally like mysterious characters, but Ben was mostly a mystery because we didn't really learn anything about him. We find out what he is, but never much about his past or personality.

Cover: 3.5 Stars
The cover was a little simple, but really gets the feel of the novel across. The forest was such an important aspect of the story, that I can't imagine the cover not including the trees and branches. The red chosen for the novel was a good choice when mixed with the shine from the foil. I think a darker, more blood-like red wouldn't show up quite as well. The font choice for the cover isn't my favorite, but it does stand out against the branches. My favorite aspect of the cover is the moon that takes the place of the second "o" in moon. Although it's not a part of the cover, every time the word "moon" came up in the novel, it was in red, while the rest of the text was black. Normally little touches like this really make a novel for me, it was a bit disconcerting at first, but I did eventually get used to it.

Overall: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Abigail of All Things Urban Fantasy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In My Mailbox (65)

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for hosting In My Mailbox every week.



Bought:

Managing Death by Trent Jamieson
Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Library:

Sleepless by Cyn Balog
The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
Shifter anthology featuring Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day & Virginia Kantra

Won:

Haunted Honeymoon by Marta Acosta
Twelve by Jasper Kent (not pictured)
Thanks to Jackie at Literary Escapism! There were prizes from one of her BBAW Giveaways! And the novel not pictured is currently being read by a friend.

Gift:

The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (from my mom)


And a holiday treat: Riley and Rupert snuggling!

Review: Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie


Title: Crusade
Author: Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: 09/07/10
Summary:
For the past two years, Jenn has lived and trained at Spain’s Sacred Heart Academy Against the Cursed Ones. She is among the few who have pledged to defend humanity or die trying. But the vampires are gaining power, and the battle has only just begun.

Forced to return home after death takes a member of her family, Jenn discovers that San Francisco is now a vampire strong-hold. As a lone hunter apart from her team, Jenn is isolated -- and at risk. She craves the company of her fighting partner, Antonio: his protection, his reassurance, his touch. But a relationship with Antonio comes with its own dangers, and the more they share of themselves, the more Jenn stands to lose.

Then Jenn is betrayed by one who was once bound to protect her, causing her to doubt all she had held as true. To survive, Jenn must find the courage to trust herself -- and her heart.


Plot: 5 Stars
I will always love a young adult novel in which the vampires are evil and scary. I also really enjoyed the way the vampires, or Cursed Ones, wormed their way into governments and basically took over. Some areas had a real martial law feel to them, and it was an interesting take. The Salamancan Hunters were also a very interesting mix. Where most areas had one hunter, these six individuals worked as a team, even if they didn't always get along. The string of events in this novel brought them across the Atlantic and had them running all over the United States in a race against time. The revolutionaries they ran into in New Orleans were an interesting addition to the martial law idea. All in all, this novel had a lot of depth and creativity.

Pace: 4 Stars
This novel was a bit slow at some points. I think it had to do with the separate story lines in the first half of the novel. While Jenn was back in the states, the rest of the team was on another mission. Bouncing back and forth between the two different events seemed to drag each of them out. But once the whole team was brought back together, the pace picked up. There was a bit of slowing down here and there while they're in hiding, but the end picks up the pace to a sprint and is action packed.

Characters: 5 Stars
The interaction between the member of this vampire hunting team really made the book for me. Not only did you get to see them interact from the eyes of other team members, you also got to see the interactions from each characters' head. I feel like I got a pretty good understanding of each character as the novel progressed. Some characters were hiding things that wouldn't have come out if the story was only from one or two characters' points of view. My favorite character was Jenn because she was vulnerable and questioned herself, but still came out fighting. I also really liked Skye because there was a lot more to her than the other members of the team knew. I wasn't a big fan of Jamie, but he did balance the group out in his own way.

Cover: 4 Stars
There were many important characters in this novel, so I'm glad they didn't pick and choose which to include or try to jam them all into this cover. The wrought iron gate makes sense as the cover image for this novel, even if I don't remember one being specifically mentioned. It still brings to mind the idea of these hunters hiding from and fighting against the Cursed Ones. Although the gray on gray of the gate and the sky blend into each other a bit, the blood red accents really draw the eye to the cover and give it an ominous feel.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this book for my own enjoyment.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Review: State of Decay by James Knapp

Title: State of Decay
Author: James Knapp
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 02/02/10
Summary:
Just because you're dead doesn't mean you're useless...

A thrilling debut novel of a dystopian future populated by a new breed of zombie.


They call them revivors -- technologically reanimated corpses -- and away from the public eye they do humanity's dirtiest work. But FBI agent Nico Wachalowski has stumbled upon a conspiracy involving revivors being custom made to kill -- and a startling truth about the existence of these undead slaves.


Plot: 3.5 Stars
The zombies in this novel were very interesting and original. And so were the regular citizens. There were different tier to citizenship, depending on your job and whether or not you decided to allow yourself to become a revivor, or zombie. It was an interesting play on the normal class structure. Some parts of the novel were a touch confusing or glossed over, but I love a good government conspiracy theory. Something plot points left me scratching my head for chapters on end, but most came together at the end, and the rest will hopefully play into the next novel.

Pace: 3.5 Stars
The multiples points of view really helped bring all the events of the novel together. I really enjoyed how the string of events throughout the novel really wove these four lives together. The pace of this novel was a bit weird. The beginning took a bit to grab me, but the middle was action-packed, and then the ending seemed to drag on a little too long. Not the normal pacing for me; the middle of a novel is where I tend to drag in my reading.

Characters: 4 Stars
Niko was an interesting main character. I haven't read too many Urban Fantasy novels with male main characters, so it was a nice change of pace. I didn't have trouble relating to him (but I'm not the girliest in the world). He has a troubled past that I hope we get more than a glimpse of in future novels, and it gave him a slight vulnerability that many male characters don't have. The three women whose stories intertwined with Niko's were each intriguing in their own way, and essential to the plot. They each had their ups and downs, and really made the novel for me.

Cover: 3.5 Stars
I like the overall feel of the cover. It really fits, even though it's not depicting a certain scene. The cover model is as good a choice as any considering Niko was never described in too much detail. The hand streaking down the window is a nice touch. It makes me think of zombies, rather than vampires or werewolves, without having to actually picture the zombies. I just wish there had been a woman or two on the cover considering three of the four points of view were women. Niko was the main character and the link between the three women, but they played pretty big parts nonetheless.

Overall: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library for my own enjoyment.

New Giveaway Winners

The Happy Holidays giveaway ended last weekend, and I had two winners never contact me back. I sent each two e-mails and gave them almost an extra 24 hours (since I was at work anyway). So, using random.org, I randomized the lists of entries, and then randomly selected two new winners. The winners are...

First Place (signed Crusade): Teresa Warner!
Third Place (Touched by an Alien): Lisa Richards!

You have until 3pm on Monday December 27th (I can't go to the post office any earlier due to work) to respond to my e-mail with your mailing information. If you see this post and somehow didn't get my e-mail, please contact me by Monday at sara_UFblog [at] yahoo [dot] com. Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Books of 2010

My Top 10 Books of 2010 just so happen to be the 10 books I gave a 5 Star rating this year. Imagine that. :) Anyway, I posted them in order I enjoyed them. There were 4 YA novels, one of which was my overall favorite of the year. There were 4 UF novels, and Jennifer Estep has the honor of being on this list twice. And there were 2 PNR novels. I'm hoping to read a couple more books before the year ends, so who knows, I might have to add another book to this list by New Year's Eve.

1. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready
I gobbled this book up in less than a day, which is amazing for me. The whole idea of the Shift and the ghosts is one of the most unique stories I've ever read, and I adored all of the characters.

2. Stormwalker by Allyson James
My favorite part of this novel was the Native American influence in the magic and lore of the novel. The main characters played off of each other really well, and there were some really hot scenes.

3. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
Gin is such a likeable character, even though she's an assassin. She loves her "family" and I do as well. The elemental powers in this series is very unique and well thought out. And the best part was that the first three books all released this year.

4. When Blood Calls by J.K. Beck
This novel is an example of multiple points of view really working for a novel. It allowed the reader to really get into each character's head. I can't wait to read the next two books.

5. Embers by Laura Bickle
One word: Sparky! That little newt brought this book from good to great. I also thought Anya's powers as a lantern were another unique take on the UF genre.

6. The Darkest Edge of Dawn by Kelly Gay
It's not too often I don't enjoy the first book in a series the most. But this novel was even better than the first, and I didn't think that was possible!

7. Venom by Jennifer Estep
Jennifer Estep continued to deliver all year! I enjoyed this third installment because you get to learn more about Gin's past. And she really steps up her assassin game.

8. Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
This was a very interesting take on faeries, which tend to be a hit or miss paranormal creature for me. Avalon was a very interesting place to read about.

9. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
I love Paranormal YA novels that include boarding schools for the supernatural, and this novel was one of the best I've read. I really liked that many supernaturals were included at the school.

10. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
This novel grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go. It was refreshing to read a novel where the paranormal aspect wasn't in your face and a bit more plausible. I really liked the parts that showed the past, when Violet found bodies as a kid.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

There were 11 participants for a total of 48 total entries in the Black Wings giveaway. Using random.org, I randomized the list of entries, and then randomly selected the winner. The winner of a copy of Black Wings by Christina Henry is...

Robin K (Intense Whisper)!

There were 11 participants for a total of 48 total entries in the Taken to the Limit giveaway. Using random.org, I randomized the list of entries, and then randomly selected the winner. The winner of an e-copy of Taken to the Limit by Nico Ross is...

Jami Gold!

The Happy Holidays giveaway involved a lot of calculating since I allowed everyone to choose which books they'd like to be entered for. There were 34 participants for a total of 149 total entries for the signed copy of Crusade, 25 participants for a total of 94 total entries for the copy of The Monstrumologist, and 17 participants for a total of 75 total entries for the gently used copy of Touched by an Alien. Using random.org, I randomized the lists of entries, and then randomly selected the winners. The winners are...

First Place (signed Crusade): Rachelle Hayes!
Second Place (The Monstumologist): Breanne!
Third Place (Touched by an Alien): Ashley!

The Black Wings and Happy Holidays winners have 72 hours to respond to my e-mail with your mailing information. The Taken to the Limit winner will be contacted shortly by Nico. Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In My Mailbox (64)

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for hosting In My Mailbox every week.

I wasn't joking earlier when I tweeted that I was going to the bookstore to celebrate the defeat of DADT. I stopped by the used bookstore, which I hadn't done in a while, and walked out with seven books (I had more, but restrained myself and put a couple back). Two of them were in the clearance section, so they were only a dollar each. Them I went across the street to Books-A-Million because I hadn't been there in about a year (Nothing is ever in alphabetical order there and it bothers me... Plus it's far away). I found three hardcovers for six dollars each, and couldn't say no (I also forced myself to put some back here). I figured my grandma would rather I spent my Christmas money on something I wanted than my bills (my paycheck can pay those). Of course, it wasn't until I got home that I realized Daemons Are Forever is book two of a series, so hopefully book one will be here for next weeks IMM. And my copy of Last Sacrifice is FINALLY here. It only took like eight days to get here. Anyway, I'm probably boring everyone, so here's this week's haul:



Bought:

Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
Tempest Legacy by Nicole Peeler



Hardcover Bargain:

Daemons Are Forever by Simon R. Green
Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Bad Moon Rising by Sherrilyn Kenyon



Used:

Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole
Just Another Judgement Day by Simon R. Green
A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare
Prey by Melina Morel
A Perfect Darkness by Jaime Rush
Bound by Shadow by Anna Windsor
Bound by Flame by Anna Windsor
Bound by Light by Anna Windsor

Review: Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder

Title: Spellbent
Author: Lucy A. Snyder
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 12/29/09
Summary:
Jessie Shimmer's roguish lover, Cooper, has been teaching her ubiquemancy, the art of finding the magic in everyday things. But things go terribly wrong when the couple try to call a rainstorm in downtown Columbus. A hellish portal opens, and Cooper is ripped from the world. Worse yet, a vicious demon invades the city. Jessie barely manages to slay it, but she's gravely wounded and the capital's center is destroyed. As if losing an eye and a hand isn't bad enough, the city's ruling mage, Benedict Jordan, brands her an outlaw. With only her ferret familiar to help her, Jessie must find the dimension Cooper's trapped in and bring him back alive before sinister machinations make both of them vanish for good.


Plot: 4.5 Stars
My favorite aspect of this story was the different types of magic and how adaptable it was to different situations. Many, many things go wrong in this novel, but every now and then Jessie got a tiny break. I liked that it wasn't one of those "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" novels, because those are often unrealistic. Since things kinda worked in Jessie's favor a tiny, tiny bit once or twice, it made her goal seem more attainable. My favorite scene was when Jessie goes to a large retail store and steals a bunch of stuff by doing a spell that shrunk the items and hiding them in a drink cup. It really made me laugh, but mostly because I work for that company.

Pace: 4 Stars
Although there were a couple of scenes that didn't seem to add much to the plot, overall, it moved along pretty smoothly. Time passed in a relatively believable amount of time, without way too many events crammed into a short period of time. There was a part near the middle where my interest started to wane a tiny bit, but then the plot picked up again. The events leading up to the final conclusion seemed a bit muddled, but I'm hoping some of the events will be elaborated on in the next book.

Characters: 4 Stars
Jessie was a very likable character, even if she wasn't always the most moral. She was a bit younger than your average Urban Fantasy main character, which I liked since I'm twenty-three. I haven't found that many main characters closer to my age that are still in school or just finishing. I liked the little bit of Cooper I got to see, and hope there's more of him in the next novel. Pal was a great asset to the story. He helped guide Jessie through some sticky situations without doing everything for her. There were also a number of smaller characters Jessie crossed paths with that were pretty well developed for their shorter roles.

Cover: 5 Stars
This cover is fabulous and one of the most acurate I've seen. From the dragon-looking creature to the ferret to the shotgun to the wound on the cover model's shoulder, everything on this cover portrayed a part of the story. The orange color palatte fits the tone of the novel and makes you think of hell, which comes into play. The font was really eye-catching. The font itself was very unique, the size grabbed your attention, and the color went well with the cover. All in all, this is a great example of a cover really doing justice to the novel it represents.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this book for my own enjoyment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Few Updates

Just a few things I want to let everyone know about:

I have three contests ending this week. I know the bottom of each post says that I'll be posting winners the next day, but I've decided to just make things a bit easier on myself. So now the winners of all three contests will be posted on Sunday 12/19.

Nancy Holzner was supposed to be stopping by with a guest blog and giveaway this Friday, but due to personal matters, it has been pushed back to January 5th. Be sure to swing by in the new year for your chance to win Hellforged.

I also have a bunch of reviews I need to write, and I'm hoping to knock a couple of those out tomorrow (since I'm off of work), so look out for those in the next couple days.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox (63)

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for hosting In My Mailbox every week.



Won:

Blood Lust by Zoe Winters
Thanks to Zoe Winters!

Review:

Hellforged by Nancy Holzner

Bought:

Bone Gods by Caitlin Kittredge
Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward (hardcover bargain)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guest Post + Giveaway: Nico Rosso

First off, I'd like to thank Nico Rosso for dropping by with this interesting guest post. Nico is the husband of romance author Zoe Archer, who dropped by the blog last month. He's here today with a guest blog about writing science fiction romance, and is also offereing up an e-copy of his novella, Taken to the Limit.




The battle is won and the hero and heroine kiss. Satisfying. To little boys, it’s gross. They don’t want to see the hero getting all mushy and emotional. He’s supposed to be stoic and forever alone, unattached and wandering from victory to victory. Sure, there’s some appeal to that kind of character, but he isn’t completely satisfying. When I was a boy, I didn’t shy away from the hero and heroine showing their feelings for each other. It completed the story for me.

Now that I’m a man and a writer creating those stories, having that emotional aspect is critical to creating the drama. My first novella, TAKEN TO THE LIMIT, is a Sci-fi romance. It’s the introduction to the Limit War between the Core Army and the world-destroying Dusk. The story begins on Earth, where an unwitting Dr. Korina Antonakis is swept into the conflict by an elite space commando, Sergeant Morrow. I could’ve written it as a straight up Sci-fi. Highlight the action and the technology and the world-building. The emotional story would just be there to give a little motor, a bit of tension when the hero or heroine was in jeopardy. But that would only be half the story.

Being married to a romance author, ZoĆ« Archer, I’ve learned a lot about the genre. If you ever see us walking in the neighborhood, you can bet we’re talking about some aspect of writing (either that or we’re planning our next meal). The romance genre has great appeal for me. There’s incredible latitude in the kinds of stories that can be told in various subgenres. And all the while, the core of the narrative is the emotional journey of the hero and heroine.

Romance stories feel complete to me. I didn’t decide to make TAKEN TO THE LIMIT a romance because I thought it would sell better that way. There isn’t any other way to tell the story of Korina and Sergeant Morrow. I need their attraction to be real and foregrounded. For me, it would be much less dramatic if we didn’t live through the emotional struggles of these two on their way to their final victory.

Because it’s Sci-fi, I made the obstacles for them to overcome dramatic and very challenging. It’s a great stage for Morrow to be a larger-than-life space commando, and for Korina to step up and fight past her fear to battle the Dusk. And we get to see how much in love they really are. Their developing love is literally and figuratively the heart of the story.

That’s another reason the romance genre is so appealing: it’s inherently positive. Even if the stories involve something as dangerous as the Limit War, or delve into dark paranormal corners, the love the characters have for each other creates hope at the end. Not only do we get to ride along with the adventure of the story, but we also get the vicarious satisfaction from the completed bond between the hero and heroine.

So let them kiss. Yes, let them battle the evil aliens together to save the Earth. But let them show their love for each other with that kiss. What better way to end a story is there?

QUESTION: Are there any stories you’d like to have the romance highlighted, rather than taking a back seat to the action?




Thanks again to Nico for stopping by! He has also offered up an e-copy of his novella, Taken to the Limit to one lucky reader! All you have to do is answer his question above.

E.R. Doctor Korina Antonakis thinks she has mastered the chaos of her work and life. In a flash of light, everything changes. A man appears, a soldier from another world. Sergeant Morrow is a Nightfighter, an elite soldier who always battles alone. But he needs an ally on Earth, a doctor. In the dark of night, he opens Korina's eyes to The Limit War. And Earth is on the front lines.

More amazing than the interstellar war, is the soldier before her. He is strong and stoic, a veteran, but beneath the armor, Korina finds the heart of a man. And in Korina, Sergeant Morrow finds the soul of a warrior to match his own. Their lives had started light-years apart, but the attraction between them pulls like destiny. Their desire is real, but the enemy needs to be driven from Earth.

Can Korina and Sergeant Morrow's passion survive in the Limit War?


Giveaway Rules:
Open internationally.
Must answer the question at the end of the guest post.
Must leave a valid e-mail address.
Contest ends at midnight on Friday 17th.

Extra Entries:
+1 Blog Follower
+1 Twitter Follower (@sara_UFblog)
+1 Follow Nico on Twitter (@Nico_Rosso)
+3 Tweet the giveaway (Must link @sara_UFblog)

To Enter: FILL OUT THE FORM

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Author Interview + Giveaway: Christina Henry

First off, I'd like to thank Christina Henry for dropping by to answer some questions. I really enjoyed her novel, Black Wings which released on November 30th. You can see my review here.



Sara: How would you describe your Black Wings, for readers who haven’t heard of it before?

Christina: Maddy Black is an Agent of death. It’s an inherited job with no pay. She’s broke, she’s stressed and she’s got to rent the apartment in her building if she wants to have some income. She takes on a new tenant who winds up bringing a whole host of new supernatural problems with him. She’s also got a very mouthy gargoyle with a bad popcorn habit who loves to express his opinion on everything.

Sara: How would you describe each of your main characters in three words?

Christina:
Maddy – intelligent, sarcastic, and vulnerable
Beezle – hungry, grumpy, and overweight
J.B. – cranky, handsome and cryptic
Gabriel – gorgeous, mysterious and tortured

Sara: What sets your series apart from the rest of the Urban Fantasy genre?

Christina: I really enjoy writing action. I know action is a major part of UF but some other writers emphasize more mystery or more romance in their stories. I like to have just a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance and a LOT of action. I always want something exciting to be happening! This makes it fun for me to write and hopefully fun for you to read :)

Sara: Tell us a little about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Christina: Definitely a panster! I write chronologically, so I started from the first scene and just kind of let the story unspool from there. I’m usually not too sure about what’s going to happen more than a couple of chapters ahead. This keeps the writing fresh for me, but it also means you run the risk of writing yourself into a corner if something isn’t working. I’ve had to throw out two or three chapters at a time and go back and start over at the last working point.

Sara: Where did the idea for Black Wings come from? Did you always want to write Urban Fantasy, or did this idea sneak up on you?

Christina: I originally had an idea to write a story about the Grim Reaper. As I started writing and working out the mythology for the Agency I decided I could work in the Fallen – it seemed like a natural fit. Plus, at the time there weren’t really any fallen angel books out on the market and I wanted something to distinguish the book from all the vampires and werewolves (not that vampires and werewolves are bad – I just wanted to do something a little different).

Sara: I absolutely loved Beezle and his love for popcorn. Is the little gargoyle based on someone you know, or are his quirks straight from your imagination?

Christina: I was looking for a character that Maddy could talk to when she was at any stressful point in her life, and also a character who would be around to add humor when necessary.

Beezle is kind of like a pet, kind of like a best friend and kind of like a dad-stand in, so he fills a lot of roles for me. He's also really fun to write because he says whatever he thinks!

Sara: Can we look forward to more books in your Maddy’s world?

Christina: Yes, there will be at least two more books. The next book, Black Night, is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2011.

J.B. is definitely going to play a bigger role in the next book. You also get to meet his mother - he has a cryptic comment about his mom in Black Wings that I never expanded on. His mother is a major player in the world of Black Wings and both J.B. and his mom will be around for the foreseeable future. I can’t tell you too much more than that without giving away some of the twists in the sequel.

Sara: What are your influences both in and out of Urban Fantasy?

Christina: Richard Russo is one of my favorite writers. He writes absolutely incredible characters and Nobody’s Fool is my favorite book of all time.

Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris are my two favorite UF writers. They both have a real mastery of voice and pacing.

Sara: What are you currently reading?

Christina: I’ve been in the mood for mysteries lately, so I’ve been checking out some new (to me) mystery series. I’ve got the third book of Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series in my TBR pile and I’m about halfway through Isis Crawford’s A Catered Murder.

I also just finished Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir which was extremely funny. I read it in one afternoon.

Thanks so much for having me here today!




Thanks again to Christina for stopping by and answering some questions. She has also offered up a copy of Black Wings to one lucky reader! All you have to do is leave Christina a question or answer her question: What new authors have you discovered this year (in any genre) that you really like? I'm always looking for recommendations!

Title: Black Wings
Author: Christina Henry
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 11/30/10
Summary:
As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It's a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.

Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.

Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.

Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell...


Giveaway Rules:
Open to US only.
Must ask answer the question or leave a question.
Must leave a valid e-mail address.
Contest ends at midnight on Thursday 16th.

Extra Entries:
+1 Blog Follower
+1 Twitter Follower (@sara_UFblog)
+3 Tweet the giveaway (Must link @sara_UFblog)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Product Review: Media Cabinet in Espresso by Atlantic

Last month, I was approached via e-mail to review a product from one of the stores at CSN Stores. I was running short on space for my massive amounts of books, so I thought it would make sense for me to review a bookcase of some sort. I didn't find a bookcase, but I did find an entertainment cabinet whose dimensions would also work for mass market books. I decided that I would review the Media Cabinet in Espresso by Atlantic.

When the package arrived, I was surprised at how small the box was. It was barely longer than my cat, as you can see from the picture (click picture for larger image). Although the outer shipping box was in good condition, the actual box for the product was a bit banged up. Luckily that didn't affect the product inside because it was packed very snug with lots of styrofoam. If I include the time it took to unpack the materials and to fill it with books after I was finished, it took me about one hour and fifteen minutes to assemble. And that included chasing the cats away because they HAD to know what I was doing. Oh, and the box it came in was a perfect toy for the cats.

All of the panels were labelled with letters and all of the hardware was portioned out. The only tools I needed was a phillips head screwdriver and a hammer. The instructions were very easy to follow. I just have three small complaints. Part of the panelling was peeling off one of the shelves, but it isn't noticeable. The two back pieces don't line up perfectly, so there's a tiny crack that you can see over the middle shelf. This was easily fixed by putting books on that shelf. And the last thing was that after turning my back for a few minutes, one of my cats knocked it over. I don't know how they did it (although I'm assuming the cat tried to jump onto one of the shelves), but it just shows how lightweight the product is that a ten pound cat could bring it down. It is a bit wobbly, but where I placed it in my room should have it leaning against the wall.

Overall, it's the perfect size for mass market books. This worked out great for me since I keep my mass markets separate from my trade paperbacks and hardcovers. I've always hated how my mass markets look so small in regular bookcases, so the skinnier shelves in the media cabinet were the perfect size (CDs, DVDs, or video games would also fit). Although I still prefer the sturdy Ikea bookcase I got for Christmas last year from my dad, this product fits in my room a little better and doesn't dwarf the mass markets. I just have to make sure my cats don't try to climb on it again.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Holidays Giveaway

Happy Holidays everyone! As you may already know if you've read my latest In My Mailbox post, Debbie Viguie (co-author along with Nancy Holder of the Wicked series and Crusade) was signing at our local Borders last night, and I picked up an extra copy of Crusade to be signed for this giveaway. She even personalized it to say "To the Lucky Reader of Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog" which I thought was cool.



But I wanted to make this giveaway even better since it's the holidays, so I've decided to add in two more books, for a total of three winners. First prize will be the signed copy of Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie, second prize will be a new copy of The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, and third prize will be a gently used copy of Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch.



Giveaway rules:
There will be three winners.
You may enter to win any or all books.
Must include a valid e-mail address.
US/Canada only.

Extra entries:
Blog Follower +1
Twitter Follower (@sara_UFblog) +1
Tweet the Giveaway (Please link to @sara_UFblog) +3

Giveaway ends on Saturday December 18th at midnight. Winners will be chosen using random.org and posted on Sunday December 19th.



Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

In My Mailbox (62)

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for hosting In My Mailbox every week.

This was a very interesting week for me. First, I received a few review copies from SQT over at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. In exchange, my reviews for these novels will be posted over there, but I'll link to them on here once they're posted. I purchased my first dystopian YA novel since reading Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series years ago, after contemplating it for a while. It's not a genre that really calls to me, but I decided to give it a shot. Plus, the cover is sooo pretty. Finally, last night, Debbie Viguie (co-author of the Wicked series and Crusade with Nancy Holder) was signing at my local Borders (she's a local to the area). I brought in my copies of Crusade, which I started reading this afternoon, and The Eternal Kiss, which she was surprised to see. I also bought a second copy of Crusade to be signed that I will be giving away in my Holiday Giveaway that I will be posting soon. She even personalized it to "The Lucky Read of Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog" which I thought was cool. Anyway, on to the books I received this week:



Review:

Amazon Queen by Lori Devoti
Falling Under by Gwen Hayes (ARC)
The Silent Army by James Knapp
Thanks to Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews!



Won:

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
Thanks to The Book Smugglers!



Bought:

Right Hand Magic by Nancy A. Collins
Matched by Ally Condie
Demon Underground by S.L. Wright



Library:

The Silent Army by James Knapp
Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Jennifer Rardin
Another One Bites the Dust by Jennifer Rardin
Biting the Bullet by Jennifer Rardin

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Month in Review: November

Everything seemed to take me forever to read last month. I blame Black Friday. (I had to be at work at 3:45am that day...) But at least everything ended up being a good read. Anyway, here are the books I read in November (along with links to their respective reviews):

November: 5

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur 3.5 Stars
Sea Witch by Virginia Kantra 4.5 Stars
Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus 3.5 Stars
Black Wings by Christina Henry 4 Stars
Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder 4.5 Stars review coming soon




So what did everyone else read in November?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review: Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Title: Shadow Hills
Author: Anastasia Hopcus
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: 07/13/10
Summary:
After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles. Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA -- a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.

Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town. Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal. Even Zach -- the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after -- seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills.


Plot: 3.5 Stars
There were many aspects to this novel that were fresh and exciting. The biggest thing: it was a paranormal young adult novel without a love triangle. Amazing, I know. Not that I have anything against love triangles, but it was nice to see a main character have one love interest. I also liked the paranormal aspect of the story. It was the little details that I enjoyed most, like how they attracted metal and could read a whole page in the blink of an eye. But there were also a few parts of the novel that fell short for me. For one thing, about halfway through, Phe just seems to forget she has a sister to be mourning. Plus, the whole plot with Hecate's Wheel needed more. It was mentioned about a third of the way in, and then didn't come up again until near the end when Phe just seemed to know what needed to be done. Nothing was really explained and the details were a bit spotty.

Pace: 4 Stars
This novel had it's ups and downs, but for the most part, it kept me interested and the story kept up a nice pace. I didn't really read anything quickly this month, so I can't really take that into consideration, but I think if the circumstances were different (in other words, I worked less this month) I probably would've finished this book in about two days.

Characters: 3.5 Stars
I enjoyed many of the characters in this novel, but it felt like many of them could've used with a bit more depth. There were many characters introduced early on that didn't end up playing nearly as big a part as it seemed like they would. I really enjoyed Phe as a main characters. Although I didn't know a lot of the music she listened to, I always enjoy when details like that are included. It took me a bit to get into Zach's character, but I blame that on my brother also being named Zack. He came across a little odd at first, but as we saw more and more of his character, I warmed up to him. Phe's friends were interesting and eclectic, but I wanted to see more of them.

Cover: 3 Stars
This cover confuses me. Although the colors are striking against the black cover, I don't really know what they stand for. I was hoping there might be a scene in the book that explained the cover at least a little, but that never happened. I almost didn't pick this book up because of the lackluster cover. There was nothing to draw me in, and I didn't know anything about the novel until I started seeing some reviews because I was never interested to click through and read the summary. Overall, there were many directions they probably could've gone in for the cover that would've portrayed the story much better.

Overall: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this book for my own enjoyment.