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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (42)

This book blog meme is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: The Shadow Reader
Author: Sandy Williams
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release date: 10/25/11
A Houston college student, McKenzie Lewis can track fae by reading the shadows they leave behind. For years she has been working for the fae King, tracking rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn't her only secret. She's in love with Kyol, the King's sword-master -- but human and fae relationships are forbidden. When McKenzie is captured by Aren, the fierce rebel leader, she learns that not everything is as she thought. And McKenzie must decide who to trust and where she stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

Month in Review: August

August was a record for the year. Not only is my total of 12 books for the month the most I've had all year, but the four DNFs is also a record for me. I tend to hold on and try to finish a book (especially if it was highly anticipated for me), but this month I tried the "50 page rule" in which I put a book down if it didn't grab me by page 50. Of the DNFs, two were YA and two were UF. The other eight novels included four YAs, one MG, and three UF (one being a graphic novel). There was a lot of YA this past month because a lot of recent releases were available at the library, and I only brought library and used books on vacation so that nothing happened to my books. I'm weird about my books. I didn't realize that there were no PNRs for August and will try my best to read more of those. Christen tends to read more PNRs, so at least we'll still have some reviews.

August: 12

First Frost by Jennifer Estep (4 Stars)
Vampire Crush by A.M. Robinson (DNF)
Demonkeeper by Royce Buckingham (2.5 Stars)
Possession by Elana Johnson (4 Stars)
Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris (3 Stars)
Key to Conflict by Talia Gryphon (DNF)
Entwined by Heather Dixon (DNF)
Heist Society by Ally Carter (4 Stars)
Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux (DNF)
Blood Rights by Kristen Painter (4.5 Stars) review coming soon
Blood Work by Kim Harrison (3.5 Star)
Surrender the Dark by L.A. Banks (2 Stars) review coming soon

So what did everyone else read in August?

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Title: Heist Society
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Heist Society #1
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Release Date: 07/06/10
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre... to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria... to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own -- scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history -- and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Plot: 4 Stars
Normally, I'm not a fan of Contemporary Young Adult, but this novel stood out against the rest of the genre and intrigued me. The idea of a group of teenagers pulling off a heist that even seasoned adults think is impossible sounded like it would be a roller coaster ride. The author definitely didn't disappoint. The twists and turns in this novel were on a much grander scale than many novels because they brought the characters all across the globe in search of answers. The progression of Kat's re-entry into the world of heists was accomplished in a great way. As she runs into more and more characters from her former life, we get to see glimpses of the past and learn more about Kat and her world. The reader is left guessing until the very end, unsure of whether or not Kat and her cohorts are going to make it out scott-free or in handcuffs.

Pace: 4 Stars
I really liked how the novel was split up between each day, counting down until time was out. It also gave the reader a better feel of how much time was elapsing and where the characters were travelling to over the course of the two weeks. It helped keep the timeline in perspective. The author also did a great job making sure the amount of travel and action in each day wasn't excessive and unrealistic for a twenty-four hour period. Due to the time constraints of the heist, there was never a dull moment throughout this novel. Whether Kat and her friends were travelling to another country on a lead, or plotting their next move, there was never a point in which the plot slowed down or became boring.

Characters: 4.5 Stars
My favorite part of this novel was the progression in which the reader gets to learn about Kat's past. Many questions are answered, and we learn a lot about her and her family. But there are also some things that are only hinted at, which will hopefully be addressed further in the next novel. Her cousin was her complete opposite, which made for a bit of humor. Hale was a very interesting character, and I hope he continues to have a large role in the next novel. I also hope that Kat isn't as oblivious to the signals Hale sends her way in the next novel. I also hope that we learn more about the rest of Kat's crew because they were very interesting characters.

Cover: 3.5 Stars
This cover was a bit straightforward and simple. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I just think it needed something added to help grab the attention of someone browsing since it kind of blends in to the novels around it on the shelves. The image could've been zoomed out a little bit and possibly included some details of the background. I do like that Kat is wearing large sunglasses, because it gives off a secretive vibe that fits the novel very well. My favorite detail of this novel is the painting reflected in the sunglasses, which I didn't notice at first. It was a great hint as to what the plot of the novel involved without being too blatant. The bold red chosen for the title definitely stands out against the cover model, and the font was a great choice.

Overall: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this novel for my own reading pleasure.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Title: Bad Taste in Boys
Author: Carrie Harris
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Release Date: 07/12/11
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Someone’s been a very bad zombie.

Super-smartie Kate Grable gets to play doctor, helping out her high school football team. Not only will the experience look good on her college apps, she gets to be this close to her quarterback crush, Aaron. Then something disturbing happens. Kate finds out that the coach has given the team steroids. Except... the vials she finds don’t exactly contain steroids. Whatever’s in them is turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless, flesh-eating... zombies.

Unless she finds an antidote, no one is safe. Not Aaron, not Kate’s brother, not her best friend... not even Kate...

It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Plot: 3 Stars
My favorite part of the novel was the twist on zombies. I liked that the zombie virus was spread via a steroid given to some of the football players. I really enjoyed the internal struggle Kate had in regards to actually admitting what was happening was indeed zombies. She often referred to it as the "z-word" and didn't want to say it. Aaron, Kate's crush, gets caught up in all of the mayhem as Kate is trying to figure it out, and it felt like he accepted what was going on a bit too quickly and without enough questions. The ending of this novel definitely caught me by surprise, but I felt like a few things wrapped up a little too nicely.

Pace: 4 Stars
I read this novel in one day, while on vacation, so I think it's safe to say that the pace was pretty good. The novel was on the shorter side, but it didn't feel rushed. There was no downtime for Kate once the steroids were given to the football players. A couple scenes, including the pancake breakfast at the high school, added a bit of much needed humor as the zombies were going around biting everyone. This was one of those rare novels that sped by as I was reading.

Characters: 3 Stars
Kate was a very interesting character. I liked that she was a bit more of a nerd than the typical Paranormal Young Adult heroine. Her love of science was a very interesting character trait, and ended up helping once the zombies were loose. Her seizures also added some depth to her character. I've never read about a character that suffers from seizures before, but I really enjoyed Kate. Other than Kate, the rest of the cast of characters in this novel were a bit flat. Kate's brother added some humor when he was around, but we didn't get to learn much about him. Her friends at school didn't have big parts and we only learned what Kate tells us about them.

Cover: 3 Stars
This cover confused me a bit. I would have never guessed it belonged to a zombie novel without reading the jacket. The main focus is a set of lips that is covered in what looks like sugar. While the zombies in this novel do bite each other, sugar-covered lips never come into play. There was never a point in which any character's lips were focused on for any reason. But it is a striking image that makes you want to know more. I really enjoyed the title. The font was a great choice because it kinda looked like it could've been Kate's handwriting. I also liked how the color of the title echoes the color of the lips behind the sugar.

Overall: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I borrowed this novel from the local library.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

Title: Possession (ARC)
Author: Elana Johnson
Series: Possession #1
Genre: Dystopian Young Adult
Release Date: 06/07/11
Reviewed by: Sara
Buy the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn... and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them... starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Plot: 4 Stars
Once I got the hang of the tech and its vocabulary, I really enjoyed the world that the author built. The technology and terms for said technology could have easily been confusing, but the author's choice of terms weren't too complex. The technology also wasn't too out there; many of the devices described may not be that far from existing for real. The different areas of the city were also interesting, and I liked how the reader got to learn about each as Vi did. Vi spend the majority of the novel being pulled in different directions; between the voice in her hear, the Thinkers trying to catch her, and the resistance, it was amazing at times that Vi could think and make decisions. There were some aspects to her rule-breaking and abilities that I figured out, but there was also a lot to this world that took me by surprise.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
I could not put this novel down. And considering I was on vacation at the time really tells you something. We were at the beach for a week (and I'm not the biggest fan of the beach), but I could have been a bit more social. Instead, I had my nose in this novel for about three days of the vacation. I even brought it with me to the beach when my friends dragged me out there. Vi takes the reader on a wild journey as she is on the run and trying to escape, all the while figuring out who she is and what she can do. I was often blindsided by the turns this novel took, and couldn't wait to see what was around the corner.

Characters: 4 Stars
Vi was a very strong character, but her flaws made her a great character. She didn't follow the rules as well as other teenagers, but as you learn about her past you realize that may not be a totally bad thing. Vi is faced with some big decisions in this novel, and she does her best to do what is right for her. From what we learn about Zenn through flashbacks, he seems like the perfect boy for Vi, but the Zenn we actually meet is not the same boy. I wish we could've seen a little more of the past Zenn before he becomes brainwashed. I absolutely loved Jag from the moment he was introduced. He had an attitude that fit his character's past, and he gave Vi a hard time while she was adjusting. There were a large amount of smaller characters to keep track of, and there were a couple points in which I got them muddled a little. But in the end, it didn't affect the story for me and I figured out what was going on.

Cover: 4 Stars
The best part of this cover is the bright, saturated teals and purples of the butterfly. The image of the butterfly in the ice cube is striking, and it's symbolism makes you think without giving anything away. I also like how the colors of the text match the butterfly without taking the eye away from the image. I'm not the biggest fan of large amounts of white on covers, but when I saw a finished copy on the shelf I liked it more because the white background is slightly glittery and shiny. There is a lot of empty space around the main image of the cover. It may have been a little more balanced if the ice cube and butterfly were a bit larger, but I can understand not wanting the image to be too large and overwhelming.

Overall: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I won an ARC of this novel from The Apocolypsies.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (97)

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

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep [Buy now]
(Jennifer was kind enough to send me a signed ARC along with a pile of bookmarks! One set was signed to me, but there's also an unsigned set not pictured that may be a part of my blogoversary giveaway.)

Eternal Hunger by Laura Wright [Buy now]
(Thanks to Laura! I won this through a twitter giveaway she ran.)

Purchased by Sara:
Grimspace by Ann Aguirre [Buy now]
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs [Buy now]
Bargains and Betrayals by Shannon Delany [Buy now]
Eternal by Gillian Shields [Buy now]
Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent [Buy now]

Skin Heat by Ava Gray [Buy now]
My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel [Buy now]
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann [Buy now]
Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh [Buy now]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Demonkeeper by Royce Buckingham

Title: Demonkeeper
Author: Royce Buckingham
Genre: Paranormal Middle Grade
Release Date: 10/02/08
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Ever since his mentor -- the original Demonkeeper -- mysteriously disappeared, Nat has been in charge of the demons that live in his house. Most of them are just nuisances, but the Beast who lives in the basement is very dangerous. When Nat goes out one night, a clueless burglar breaks into the house and unwittingly sets the Beast free. Meanwhile, a vicious villain, the Thin Man, wants to use the Beast for his own evil purposes. Can Nat defeat the Thin Man and return the Beast to the basement without any major casualties?

Plot: 3 Stars
This novel was my second middle grade novel (the first being The Lightning Thief). I wanted to love it, but it was a bit lacking in details. We know that Nat's mentor has passed away, but we do not really know what happened. He is now in charge of this house full of demons, but we don't really learn much about the demons, except for Nat's three minions and the Beast. Nat's minions are interesting, but even their powers are barely mentioned. At one point, a comment is made that having three minions means the Demonkeeper is very strong, but it is never elaborated on. Outside of these lack of details, the story was quite enjoyable. There were some twists I wasn't expecting, but there were also a few I saw coming.

Pace: 2 Stars
For such a short novel, there were a lot of chapters. Some of these short chapters felt a bit choppy, especially when they kept jumping from one point of view to the next. I feel like this novel could've been a bit longer and included a little more information without really slowing down the pace. The point of view jumping wasn't a problem because it helped get to know each character, but it sometimes seemed like chopped the timeline up. There would be a chapter involving Nat then the next couple would jump to other character, and when it got back to Nat a couple chapters later, almost no time had passed.

Characters: 3 Stars
What we learned about each character was very interesting and unique, but I wanted more. It felt like we only skimmed the surface of each character, like it was more important that they fit the roles needed to further the plot than to actually become their own person. We didn't get to learn nearly enough about Nat's past for him to be the main character. And the Thin Man didn't really have any characteristics besides being the evil antagonist of the story. It's not that these characters were bad. I actually enjoyed them. I just wanted more from them.

Cover: 2.5 Stars
I really enjoyed that Nat's three minions were included on the cover, especially since they look exactly how they were described. Their details and colors really catch the eye. Other than the minion, the cover is a bit boring. The background is flat black. There's no detail in the background to give a better idea of the story and setting. And Nat is only included in profile. This would work if his minions had played a bigger part, but Nat was the focus of the novel so it would've been nice to see more than just his outline. The font and color choices for the title and author fit in with the minions, but take up a bit too much of the cover.

Overall: 2.5 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this novel (from the bargain section) for my own reading pleasure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Dark Embers by Tessa Adams

Title: Dark Embers
Author: Tessa Adams
Series: Dragon's Heat #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: 07/06/10
Reviewed by: Christen
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
A new erotic paranormal series, starring dragon shapeshifters, kicks off with a very sexy debut...

Prince Dylan MacLeod is one of the last pure-blood dragon shape-shifters -- and ruler of a dying race, the Dragonstar clan. It falls to him to protect his people and their ancient magic. But he has one important duty: to provide an heir...

Like all dragons, Dylan, who has a dark, rampant sexual appetite, can only procreate with his destined mate -- for whom he's searched for the last five hundred years. But his quest is delayed when a disease sweeps through the Dragonstars, and Dylan must venture to the human world to find a cure. He tracks down bio-chemist Phoebe Quillum, never imagining the beautiful scientist would be the mate he's been seeking. But even with the fate of the clan on their shoulders, Phoebe and Dylan are overcome by their sexual desire.

Their passion turns to something truer, but when Phoebe is kidnapped by Dylan's oldest enemy, he must risk everything for his love and his clan...

Plot: 2.5 Stars
This was my first dragon read, and it wasn't bad. But I think it definitely could have been better. Never, not once, could I picture in my mind what these dragons actually looked like. I kept waiting for the big information drop, where the reader and the human character gets the inside scoop on dragons and what it's like to be this dragon in particular, but I didn't get that. The human character did at some point off stage, but it would have been helpful to the reader as well. Also, I would have liked a little more explaination about both of the character's pasts, Dylan's in particular. A couple of things happen in order for Dylan to be king, but they are only mentioned in Dylan's mental monologues, which comes across a bit biased. Just an explaination from a secondary character would have been nice.

Pace: 2 Stars
In the summary, it tells you that Phoebe and Dylan are destined mates. Guess when they figured that out? The last page. When could they have figured it out? On page 85. All he had to do was look at his arm, he would have noticed that his tattoo had changed. I don't understand how anyone can go almost three months without looking at your arm. That was very frustrating. Besides that, all of the action was packed into the last fifty pages, which means my attention wandered a bit through the first 300 pages or so.

Characters: 3 Stars
Both Dylan and Phoebe were good characters. They had pasts, they had attitudes, and they had their hang-ups. They were believeable characters. The author spent a lot of time introducting them to the reader and added new layers to each character, just like you would if you were getting to know them. The secondary characters, however, weren't as well done. The few secondary characters that actually had lines were pretty much just that, lines. They were never explained and hardly introduced, just thrown in to help the story progress.

Cover: 3 Stars
The cover model is okay, but he kinda needed a shirt. The tattoo, although pertinent to the story, looked completely fake. The dragon belt buckle was an interesting way to tie in the dragon shifter aspect of the story. Without the belt buckle, the cover didn't really say paranormal. The city in the background helps you place that this is happening in or near the desert. But as far as I could tell, they were never in a city. I really liked the colors chosen for the color, especially the purple at the top.

Overall: 2.5 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this novel for my own reading pleasure.

Waiting on Wednesday (41)

This book blog meme is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Sins of the Angels
Author: Linda Poitevin
Series: The Grigori Legacy #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release date: 09/27/11
A detective with a secret lineage. An undercover Hunter with a bullet-proof soul. And a world made to pay for the sins of an angel...

Homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis answers to no one. Especially not to the new partner assigned to her in the middle of a gruesome serial killer case -- a partner who is obstructive, irritatingly magnetic, and arrogant as hell. Aramael is a Power -- a hunter of the Fallen Angels. A millennium ago, he sentenced his own brother to eternal exile for crimes against humanity. Now his brother is back and wreaking murderous havoc in the mortal realm. To find him, Aramael must play second to a human police officer who wants nothing to do with him and whose very bloodline threatens both his mission and his soul.

Now, faced with a fallen angel hell-bent on triggering the apocalypse, Alex and Aramael have no choice but to join forces, because only together can they stop the end of days.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Title: Touch of Frost
Author: Jennifer Estep
Series: Mythos Academy #1
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Release Date: 08/01/11
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Gwen Frost is an outsider at Mythos Academy, a school of myths, magic and warrior whiz kids, where even the lowliest geek knows how to chop off somebody's head with a sword. Gwen is an outsider both to the students of the Academy and the rest of the world. But when her gift of psychometry -- the ability to know an object's history just by touching it reveals dark undercurrents and danger afoot, she has no choice but to get involved.

Plot: 5 Stars
First and foremost, I love a good paranormal boarding school novel. Hands down, it's my favorite trope in Paranormal YA. Also, this novel had less annoying teenage drama than many Paranormal YAs I've read lately. Now, don't get me wrong, there was definitely drama in this novel. But it was a more paranormal, lives-at-stake drama and a lot less does-he-like-me, what-should-I-wear drama. Gwen is dealing with her grief and moving to a new school, and she's not exactly sure what to believe. Everyone around her acts as if all of the myths they're learning about are real, and she's seeing some things that she can't explain. I can't wait for the myths and how these students play into them to be elaborated on further in the next book. The plot took a number of twists I wasn't expecting, and had me guessing until the very end.

Pace: 5 Stars
There was never a dull moment throught this novel. From the moment we meet Gwen as she confronts another classmate in the restroom, it a rollercoaster ride straight through to the end. Even her job at the academy's library is a full of surprises. Definitely more eventful than most library jobs. As Gwen learns more and more about the world she has stepped into, it could've easily become overwhelming and jumbled for both her and the reader. But the author does a great job of showing and explaining all of the details to the reader as Gwen learns new things about her classmates, the academy, and the myths.

Characters: 5 Stars
Gwen's character growth in this novel was fantastic. Not only is she dealing with her grief, but she's also thrown into a new environment. She starts the novel off very isolated, with no friends and no reason to really talk to anyone unless they want her to use her psychometry to find something for them. As the novel progresses, we get to follow Gwen as she gets to know a couple classmates. One in particular is a bit surprising considering the earlier interactions between them. It was nice to see Gwen open up after being a bit of a loner in the beginning. Gwen also starts to believe a little more about the myths she's learning about in class, especially after she sees little things here and there from other classmates that support these myths. Her grandmother was an interesting character that I hope to see more of in future novels. And it was a nice surprise to learn that one of her teachers has a connection to her mother.

Cover: 4 Stars
Although I was a fan of the original cover, I can see the broader appeal of the one printed. I liked the blues and greens of the original, along with the gargoyle being front and center. I'm glad it was included in the final cover because I think it really draws the eye. The cover model is a good representation of Gwen. I just wish she had on a hoodie, because Gwen was barely seen without one. My only small criticism of the final cover is the overwhelming use of black. There just seems to be a bit too much dead space between the images, although the title and author's name cover the majority of it. My favorite part of the cover, besides the gargoyle, is the sword that takes the place of the word "frost" in the title. Not only is it a cool detail, but it also has significance to the story.

Overall: 5 Stars

Disclosure: I received an eARC of this novel for review from the author, and also purchased a copy for my own reading pleasure.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (96)

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

Blood Work by Kim Harrison [Buy now]
Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder [Buy now]
Outside In by Maria V. Snyder [Buy now]

Purchased by Sara:
Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers [Buy now]
Nocturne by Syrie James [Buy now]
Green-Eyed Envy by Kasey Mackenzie [Buy now]
Concrete Savior by Yvonne Navarro [Buy now]

Purchased by Christen:
Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole [Buy now]

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (40)

This book blog meme is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Blood Bound
Author: Rachel Vincent
Series: Unbound #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release date: 08/23/11
By blood, by word, by magic...

Most can't touch the power. But Liv Warren is special -- a paranormal tracker who follows the scent of blood.

Liv makes her own rules, and the most important one is trust no one.

But when her friend's daughter goes missing, Liv has no choice but to find the girl. Thanks to a childhood oath, Liv can't rest until the child is home safe. But that means trusting Cam Caballero, the former lover forbidden to her.

Bound by oath and lost in desire for a man she cannot have, Liv is racing to save the child from a dark criminal underworld where secrets, lies, trauma and danger lurk around every corner... every touch... every kiss.

And more blood will be spilled before it's over...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

Title: Hard Spell
Author: Justin Gustainis
Series: Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 07/26/11
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.

Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Dial V For Vampire | Forbidden Spells | Bite Club | Scranton By Night ]

Plot: 4.5 Stars
This was my first Angry Robot title (although I have a few waiting on my TBR pile), and I definitely wasn't disappointed. I'm always drawn to their books when browsing because of the little box on the back where they explain the genre it should be filed as and include four buzz-phrases that are always amusing. It makes them stand out and guarantees I'll pick a new title up. But back to Hard Spell. This novel was non-stop cop drama with a nice dose of paranormal. I liked that the paranormal elements didn't take over, which allowed the cop drama to shine through. I also liked that the paranormal creatures were frightening and not to be messed with. I also love a good Urban Fantasy with a male main character.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
This novel has no chapters. As mind boggling as that sounds, you did not read that wrong. This novel had no chapters at all. I put off reading this novel a little due to this fact, but it ended up not being a problem because there were tons of page breaks. The longest the novel ever goes between page breaks is 16-17 pages. I've read chapters twice that length. It took maybe fifty pages for me overcome my issue with the lack of chapters, and then I was hooked and couldn't put the novel down. This novel had more twists and turns than I knew what to do with, and kept me guessing until the very end.

Characters: 5 Stars
Stan had so many layers. It seemed like every time I thought I had figured him out, he peeled back another layer and surprised me again. I really liked that the beginning of the novel gives a bit of background into Stan's career. The reader gets to meet his first partner, and read some of the events that brought him up to the present investigation. His family life, or lack there of, will definitely take readers by surprise. Karl, Stan's partner, was a great character to balance Stan. Sometimes it seemed like Karl was a friend to Stan, and not just a partner, which Stan definitely needed at some point. I wish Rachel had played a larger part in the novel, because it was a predominantly male novel, and I hope she comes back with a bigger role in the next novel.

Cover: 4 Stars
This cover describes the novel perfectly. The two detectives on the cover are a great fit for Stan and his partner. I love that the cover is an image from a crime scene. It tells you right away that police procedural will be highlighted in this novel. And it wasn't just a crime scene, it was a paranormal crime scene, which makes sense given the department Stan works for. The only element (and it's very tiny) that didn't completely work for me was the vampire victim. Not gonna lie, his expression freaks me out a tiny bit. Luckily, the image is small enough that he doesn't freak me out too much. The bright yellow title will definitely draw the eye, and stand out against the novels next to it on the shelf.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for review from Angry Robot.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Damned Book Tour

I know I'm a little late posting this, but here is the tour poster for the Damned Book Tour. I'm very excited to take part in this tour because I read Crusade by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie last year and loved it.

My stop on the tour is September 10th. I'll be posting my review of the novel, along with a giveaway!

Giveaway Winner: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis

There was a total of 7 participants in the giveaway for a copy of Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis. Using, I randomized the list of entries, and then random selected the winner. The winner is...


Congratulations! Please respond to the e-mail I sent with your mailing information within 72 hours.

Didn't win? Haven't started the series yet? You can pick up a copy from The Book Depository and have it shipped for free!
[Hard Spell]

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (95)

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

So, I'm back from vacation. I got more reading done at the beach than I thought I would, so it was great. Anyway, this week's mailbox is pretty big because it covers the past two weeks. I picked up a number at Borders and the library (I was only supposed to drop a couple off that were due before the trip, but went inside due to my car's A.C. being on the fritz). I received a surprise for review, and also received my signed Mark Henry books that I got through the Romantic Relief auction for L.A. Banks. I'm very sad that she has passed away and hope to read some of her books that have been sitting on my shelves soon. And I apologize for the sideways photo. I don't know why that happens when I use my iPhone... Plus, it only did it to one. :/

The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith ARC [Buy now]
Thanks to Pyr Books!

What a Goddess Wants by Stephanie Julian [Buy now]
Thanks to Anna from Anna's Book Blog!

The Vampire Voss by Colleen Gleason [Buy now]
Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris [Buy now]
Torn by Erica O'Rourke [Buy now]
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens [Buy now]

Romantic Relief Auction for L.A. Banks:
Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry [Buy now]
Road Trip of the Living Dead by Mark Henry [Buy now]
Battle of the Network Zombies by Mark Henry [Buy now]
Thanks to Mark Henry!

Purchased by Sara:
Bad Blood by L.A. Banks [Buy now]
Dark Enchantment by Anya Bast [Buy now]
Demonkeeper by Royce Buckingham [Buy now]
Working Stiff by Rachel Caine [Buy now]
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester [Buy now]
Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis [Buy now]
Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison [Buy now]
Wildefire by Karsten Knight [Buy now]

Purchased by Christen:
Atlantis Awakening by Alyssa Day [Buy now]
Primal Law by J.D. Tyler [Buy now]

Giveaway Winner: Black Night by Christina Henry

There was a total of 12 participants in the giveaway for a copy of Black Night by Christina Henry. Using, I randomized the list of entries, and then random selected the winner. The winner is...

Barbara E.!

Congratulations! Please respond to the e-mail I sent with your mailing information within 24 hours.

Didn't win? Haven't started the series yet? You can pick up a copy from The Book Depository and have it shipped for free!
[Black Wings] [Black Night]

Review: Black Night by Christina Henry

Title: Black Night
Author: Christina Henry
Series: Madeline Black #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 07/26/11
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Madeline Black is an Agent of death, meaning she escorts the souls of people who have died to the afterlife. Of course, not everyone is happy to see her...

If obstinate dead people were all that Maddy had to worry about, life would be much easier. But the best-laid plans of Agents and fallen angels often go awry. Deaths are occurring contrary to the natural order, Maddy's being stalked by foes inside and outside of her family, and her two loves -- her bodyguard, Gabriel, and her doughnut-loving gargoyle, Beezle -- have disappeared. But because Maddy is Lucifer's granddaughter, things are expected of her, things like delicate diplomatic missions to other realms.

Plot: 4 Stars
In the first novel of this series, Black Wings, the reader is introduced to the world of the angels and demons, along with the Agents of Death, like Maddy. In this novel, the world is expanded on as Maddy learns about portals and takes a trip to the Faerie Realm. She learns more about the politics involved in being Lucifer's granddaughter as she is sent on a diplomatic mission that she may not live through. Added to that is the problem of a missing bodyguard and a missing gargoyle, and Maddy has a lot on her plate in this novel. There were a few points in which I had no idea if Maddy was going to figure things out, or keep herself alive for that matter. All in all, this was a great follow up to Black Wings that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
This novel had a great pace that didn't leave me with much of a desire to put it down. I didn't exactly speed through it, but there was never a point in which I got a bit bored or distracted. Maddy is running back and forth throughout this novel trying to find her friends and do the job Lucifer has given her, along with keeping herself alive. She is definitely overwhelmed as some points, but the novel never became muddled. I wasn't always sure what lay around the next corner (and neither did Maddy), and this novel definitely kept me guessing.

Characters: 4.5 Stars
Beezle continued to bring a bit of humor to the story exactly when it was needed with his witty banter and love of all things snack food. He is still my favorite character of this series, but Maddy and J.B. definitely grew on me during this novel. Not only do we learn more about J.B. and his heritage (including meeting his mother), but he is also less severe than in the previous novel. Maddy continues to have more and more hefted onto her plate, but she deals with all of the craziness as best as she can. A few dangerous characters from book one came back into play with some interesting and surprising circumstances, and I can't wait to see what will happen next.

Cover: 4.5 Stars
Maddy looks like a total badass on the cover. The look on her face screams "don't mess with me" and she's carrying a pretty awesome sword. The ornate fence detail in the background is a nice touch. It resonates with the stone gargoyles from the first cover without being too similar. My favorite detail of this cover is the light behind the cover model that is vaguely shaped like wings. It grabs the eye and makes you wonder if they are wings, and why Maddy would have them. Although I normally love the color blue, I think this cover could've benefitted a tiny bit by being a different cover since book one was also blue, but it still fits the feel of this novel. I'm glad the cover artist brought in a touch of yellow in the title to counterbalance the red in the first cover. A small part of me wishes Beezle could make an appearance on one of the covers because he's such a cool little gargoyle, but I'm not sure if it would actually work.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for review from the publisher.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (39)

This book blog meme is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Shadow Kin
Author: M.J. Scott
Series: Half-Light City #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release date: 09/06/11
On one side, the Night World, rules by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages...

Born a wraith, Lily is a shadow who slips between worlds. Brought up by a Blood Lord and raised to be his assassin, she is little more than a slave. But when Lily meets her match in target Simon DuCaine, the unlikely bond that develops between them threatens to disrupt an already stretched peace in a city on the verge of being torn apart...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Author Interview + Giveaway: Justin Gustainis

Today, I'd like to introduce Justin Gustainis and thank him for stopping by the blog. I recently finished Hard Spell, the first novel in his new Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series that released on July 26th, and I loved it. Look for my 4.5 Star review coming soon.

Sara: How would you describe Hard Spell, for readers who haven’t heard of it before?

Justin: In this “alternate” universe, the supernatural really exists –- and everybody knows it. Supernatural creatures are accepted –- if not always loved. The “supes” are citizens, but that means they have to obey the law. In Scranton, PA, when a supe crosses the line, Detective Sgt. Stan Markowski of the Occult Crimes Unit is the one they call.

Somebody in Scranton is killing vampires, leaving the corpses covered in occult symbols. It appears that a wizard is using the vampire deaths as sacrifices in some really big, nasty spell. And nobody, including Stan Markowski, knows which vampire sacrifice will trigger the Big Bad: the next one –- or the last one?

Think Dragnet meets Dracula –- that should give you a pretty good sense of the book (and the series).

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

Stan Markowski: brave, experienced, cynical
Karl Renfer (Stan’s partner): young, eager, impulsive
Christine Markowski (Stan’s daughter): young, estranged, “different”
Ernst Vollman (vampire “King” of Scranton): ancient, jaded, worried
Lacey Brennan (Stan’s counterpart in nearby Wilkes-Barre): foul-mouthed, hyper-competent, hot
Sligo (the wizard): evil, eviler, evilest

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

Justin: You mean, apart from the fact that it’s set in Scranton? Well, it has some characteristics that, while not unique in the genre, are less than common: the protagonist is male, without supernatural powers, and a cop; there’s none of that icky love stuff (this is not Paranormal Romance, people); and Markowski’s family relationships are... complicated.

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

Justin: More the latter. I start with a situation, and a character. Then I throw the character into the situation and follow him/her around, watching what happens. Plotting is the hardest part of the writing process for me.

Sara: Where did the idea for Hard Spell come from? Is it a novel you have always wanted to write or did it sneak up on you?

Justin: It’s hard to say exactly when it developed. On paper, it originated as a short story (called “Demons Don’t Die”) that I wrote at the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2008. I think the idea began some time earlier, with a phrase that popped into my head one day while I was thinking about something else: “The mean streets of Scranton are haunted now.” Don’t ask me where that came from, although I was recently re-reading Stephen King’s Salems Lot and came across this line: “These roads are haunted now.” When I steal, I only steal from the best, even when it’s subconscious.

Sara: If Stan could work together with any Urban Fantasy heroine, who would you want him to work with?

Justin: Anita Blake, I think. Stan needs to get lucky, and I understand that every guy who hangs around with Anita gets lucky, sooner or later. Usually sooner. The only thing against him is that he’s human, and not a were-leopard, or something. But I still think he’d have a chance.

Sara: Can we look forward to more books after Hard Spell?

Justin: I’m already behind schedule on the sequel, Evil Dark. It’s supposed to be out in February. We’ll see. And I have a contract for one more book in the series. After that, it’s up to the publisher.

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

Justin: Outside of urban fantasy, most of my influences come from mystery writers, including Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, Ross Thomas, Thomas Perry, and Robert Crais. Within urban fantasy, early influences would include Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker (the movie, not the series – either one), a Gene Roddenberry pilot that never got made into a series, Spectra, and Tanya Huff’s “Blood” novels (Blood Price, Blood Trail, etc.). And Stephen King, if he can be considered an “urban fantasy” influence.

Sara: What are you currently reading?

Justin: I usually have several books going at the same time (it’s a great way to postpone writing). Right now, they include Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey, Ghost Story by Jim Butcher, and Ellen Datlow’s new anthology, Supernatural Noir.

Thanks again for stopping by, Justin! And don't forget to check out the trailer for Hard Spell.

I enjoyed Hard Spell so much, I'd like to pass my copy on to one lucky winner. To enter, just leave a valid e-mail address and answer the following question: Scranton was a very interesting choice of setting for an Urban Fantasy. What is a city that you would like to see as the center of an Urban Fantasy series that hasn't been done yet?

Giveaway Rules:
1. US only
2. Must leave a valid e-mail address
3. Giveaway will be open until midnight August 14th
4. Winner will be chosen using August 15th

Title: Hard Spell
Author: Justin Gustainis
Series: Occult Crimes Unit Investigation #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 07/26/11
Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.

Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Dial V For Vampire | Forbidden Spells | Bite Club | Scranton By Night ]

***Please note that the copy of Hard Spell comes from my personal collection. It is un-signed and very gently used, although there was some damage to the back cover in shipping.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Giveaway Winner: Incarnate by A.C. Ruttan

There was a total of eight participants in the giveaway for two e-book copies of Incarnate by A.C. Ruttan. Using, I randomized the list of entries, and then random selected the winners. The winners are...

Stephanie M. Loree
Bethany C.

Congratulations! I have passed your e-mail addresses on to the author so that she can contact you about what format you would like the e-book in.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Month in Review: July

July started out slow, but picked up after I gave up on the DNF. I kept trying to force myself to give it one more chapter, but I just couldn't connect with the characters. Once I stopped forcing myself, I started gobbling up books. It was a really great month. Six out of eight books were 4 Stars or higher, two being 5 Stars. My choices were also very skewed towards Urban Fantasy this month due to review requests. Of the right books, six were Urban Fantasy, one was Paranormal Young Adult, and one was Steampunk. I know I say it every month, but I'm gonna try to read more Paranormal Romance this month.

July: 8

Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong (4 Stars)
Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz (3 Stars)
My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland (5 Stars)
Dead Iron by Devon Monk (DNF)
Blood Law by Jeannie Holmes (4.5 Stars)
Black Night by Christina Henry (4.5 Stars) review coming soon
Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis (4.5 Star) review coming soon
Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep (5 Stars) review coming soon

So what did everyone else read in July?

Waiting on Wednesday (38)

This book blog meme is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Title: Trance
Author: Kelly Meding
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release date: 10/25/11
Kelly Meding’s war-ravaged Los Angeles is ground zero for the ultimate Meta human showdown in this sexy, action-packed new series.

Fifteen years ago, Teresa “Trance” West was a skilled telepath and a proud member of the Ranger Corps. But ever since the Rangers were inexplicably rendered powerless at the climax of the devastating Meta War, she’s bounced from one dead-end job to another. Now her powers have reappeared just as mysteriously as they vanished -- only they’re completely transformed and more potent than ever. And they’re threatening to destroy her.

Trance heads to Los Angeles to track down the surviving Rangers and discover who restored her powers -- and why -— but a phantom enemy is determined to kill them before they can reassemble. As they dodge his deadly attacks and come to terms with their new role as heroes, Trance and the rest of the team set out to annihilate the sinister madman... only to discover their own powers are his greatest weapons.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Blood Law by Jeannie Holmes

Title: Blood Law
Author: Jeannie Holmes
Series: Alexandra Sabian #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 07/06/10
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
To stop a vampire killer, she’ll have to slay her own demons first.

A provocative and savvy vampire, Alexandra Sabian moves to the sleepy hamlet of Jefferson, Mississippi -- population 6,000, nearly one-half vampires -- to escape the demons lurking in her past. As an Enforcer for the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation (FBPI), Alex must maintain the uneasy peace between her kind and humans, including Jefferson’s bigoted sheriff, who’d be happy to see all vampires banished from town. Then really dead vamps start turning up -- beheaded, crucified, and defanged -- killed in the same gruesome manner that Alex’s father was murdered decades ago. For Alex, the professional has become way too personal.

Things get even more complicated when the FBPI sends in some unnervingly sexy backup: Alex’s one-time mentor, lover, and fiancĂ©, Varik Baudelaire. Still stinging from the betrayal that ended their short-lived engagement, Alex is determined not to give in to the temptation that soon threatens to short-circuit her investigation.Like it or not, though, as the body count grows, and the public panic level rises, Varik may be her only hope to stop a relentless killer who’s got his own score to settle, and his own bloody past to put right.

Plot: 4.5 Stars
Some of my favorite paranormal novels involve the supernatural creatures being out to the general public. This novel does a great job of explaining how the vampires came out to the humans in between the action. And as much as they frustrate and aggravate me, I also enjoy when novels include religious groups that rally against the supernatural. The investigation that the novel centers around was a wild goose chase of epic proportions. Even with the different points of view used in the novel, I was still thrown for a loop when the bad guy was found due to the epic twists and turns throughout the novel.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
Sometimes switching between a number of points of view can be a bit confusing, but this novel employed it very well. There were certain scenes that Alex was not present for that brought the novel together, and it allowed the reader to get into the minds of more characters and learn the motivations behind their actions. It also helped move the novel along. Any time Alex seemed to hit a wall in her investigation or the story would slow down a bit, the point of view would switch and get the pace going again. The mystery of this novel involved so many players, so many pieces, and a number of twists and turns. Without the different points of view, some clues wouldn't have come to light and some of the scenes would've been confusing. This novel was definitely one of the best examples of multiple points of view (three or more) that I have read in a while.

Characters: 4 Stars
Alex was a very interesting character. She dealt with the humans that were less than enthusiatic towards vampires very diplomatically (even when I would've punched them in the face). I wish we could've seen more of her brother and mother. Alex deals with her past and her father's death throughout the book, and I would've liked to learn a bit more about her surviving family members as well. The intereactions between Alex and Varik were pretty volitile, and I can't wait to see what their relationship turns into in the next novel. There were also a number of local human police officers that Alex dealt with throughout the novel, some more helpful than others. What could've easily been a jumbled mess of characters, was actually a great cast of supporting characters. The author did a great job making sure they were all unique and stood apart from each other, even if they weren't all likeable.

Cover: 4.5 Stars
The composition of this cover is what makes it stand out. I've never seen a cover with such an interesting angle used. Most covers either involve a cover model facing the reader or facing away from the reader. This is the first cover I've ever seen in which the cover model looks as if she is standing over the reader. When looking at this novel, I got a feeling like I was laying on the ground and the cover model was standing over me, almost like I was a part of a crime scene. The mix of blood splatter, lightning, and a police badge made the background very interesting. The cover model was a fantastic representation of Alexandra with her striking read hair. And the skull detail on the belt was a nice touch (even if the character never specifically wore the belt). It made you wonder if the cover model was a human or a vampire before reading the back of the book.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this novel for my own reading pleasure.

Random Acts of Kindness: August (& July Wrap-Up)

If you haven't checked out the Random Acts of Kindness program, hosted by the Book Soulmates, then you're really missing out. Basically, book bloggers sign up with their wish lists and other generous book bloggers can send them a something from that wish list. I didn't receive any RAKs this past month, but I sent a bunch out.

Right after I finished Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong, I passed it along to Anna @ Anna's Book Blog. I also sent a box of books containing Almost to Die For by Tate Hallaway, Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus, Deception by Lee Nichols, and Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin Ashley @ BookAHolics Anonymous.

Now onto August. Below, I have posted both information about the Random Acts of Kindness program along with my wishlist for August.

Here are the details for August Sign Ups. And the Book Soulmates are even hosting a giveaway for a $20 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky patricipant this month!

Simple Giveaway Rules:
•The giveaway is open to participants ONLY.
•Please post about RAK and the giveaway info on your blog and paste link in the same google doc that you use to sign up for RAK
•If you don't have a blog, you can still be entered by tweeting about it or Facebooking it and TAG US
•{If you don't have the link by the time you sign up for the RAK itself, then please email me and I'll add it}
That's it :)
IMPORTANT: If you do not wish to sign up for the giveaway then please leave a comment in the comments section of the google doc.

• Sign up each month you'd like to participate in.
• Show off your participation! Grab one of the buttons available :)
• Create a wish list and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month. (Post on your blog, Amazon, where ever as long as there's a link to it.)
• If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger for their address.
•NEW REQUEST: Please, once you receive a RAK, email or tweet me {Vanessa} so that I can update the Google doc. There are a lot of requests for this!
• At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K! Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it with us :)

Let's keep our International bloggers in mind and in our hearts.
Remember, there's always the Book Depository and they offer FREE shipping!

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard
Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer
Crux by Moira Rogers
Devil Without a Cause by Terri Garey
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Nightfall by Ellen Connor
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Haunting Violet by Anyxandra Harvey
Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison
After Midnight by Lynn Viehl
The Vampire Voss by Colleen Gleason
Dead Girls are Easy by Terri Garey
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

***Note: I do not have an eReader, but I am all for used books and ARCs.