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Review + Giveaway: Sealed with a Curse by Cecy Robson (ends 01/21)
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Please Note: New Holiday Review Policy! (extended indefinitely)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Books of 2011

My wanted to do a Top 11 of 2011, but my Top 11 books of 2011 is technically 13 books, but I lumped the three Jennifer Estep titles together so that I could include all of my 5 Stars books for the year. I love love loved Hounded and My Life as a White Trash Zombie SO MUCH that I could not choose an overall winner for the year, so my top read is a tie between them. Here's the breakdown of my top 13: nine Urban Fantasy, one Paranormal Romance, and three Paranormal Young Adult. It's no surprise to me that Urban Fantasy takes up the majority of this list, because it is my favorite genre.

1. Hounded by Kevin Hearne & My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland
The reason these two novels were my favorites of the year was their humor. It was just the right balance of giggles for Urban Fantasy. Plus, each novel was a great addition to the genre with their unique paranormal creatures. And don't get me started on the covers. Hands down two of my favorite covers of the year as well.

3. Coyote's Creed by Vaughn R. Demont
This was my first M/M novel, and I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. My favorite part was that the main character was believeable as a bisexual, so I related to him.

4. Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay
Awesome take on killer faeries! And the main character's alcohol addiction made her feel very real. I really enjoy novels that take place in New Orleans because it's such an interesting place to read about.

5. Trance by Kelly Meding
I love when authors give us new takes on the traditional super heroes, and this was one of the best. There aren't nearly enough novels like this.

6. Grave Witch by Kalayna Price
This novel had some of the strongest secondary characters of all the books I read this year. Plus, I love when a character's magic takes a physical toll on them. It makes it more interesting, and limits how much they can and can't do with their powers.

7. Spells by Aprilynne Pike
It's not very often that the second book in a series holds up to the first for me. I enjoy the introduction to new characters and worlds so much, that books ones are almost always my favorite. But this novel was just as good as the first.

8. Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
This was by far the best mermaid books I've ever read, and makes me want to add some more to my shelves. It was a sweet love story that I really enjoyed.

9. Tangled Threads/Touch of Frost/Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep
What a year for Ms. Estep! I love both of these series and can't get enough. She's obviously doing something right if three out of four of her 2011 releases are on this list.

10. Beauty Dates the Beast by Jessica Sims
The dating service aspect to this novel was very interesting, and the reason I picked it up. It added a bit of humor to an edgy PNR. There was never a dull moment, which is rare for me and PNR.

11. Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn
I think this one may be my favorite Kitty Norville book of the series (although I haven't read the most recent). The reality television aspect to this novel was a great plot. Ms. Vaughn always surprises me by using aspects of every day life and mixing in the paranormal.

Month in Review: December

I was very naughty in December. I really neglected the blog and didn't write a single review. I still have a few from November that need to be written. Working in retail during the holidays is just such a stressful bummer, and I took it out on my blog. I apologize. Tomorrow, I will be putting together a Blogging Resolutions for 2012 post in hopes that it motivates me to catch up and stay caught up.

Outside of my lack of posting, I read a pretty decent amount of books this month. Here's the breakdown of the eleven titles: three Paranormal Young Adult, four Urban Fantasy, and four Paranormal Romance. There were four DNFs this month, but the two with stars are just books that I couldn't finish by the end of the year but plan to pick up again in the new year. I know I don't normally review DNFs, but I may have to make a post about Tyra Banks' Modelland because I just have to talk about it. It was just so ridiculously random. I also read my first M/M this month with Coyote's Creed, and found my #3 best book of the year.

December: 11

Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep ARC (4.5 Stars) review coming soon
The Hunter by Theresa Meyers (4 Stars) review coming soon
Blood Trinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love (DNF*)
The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith (DNF*)
Tempest by Julie Cross ARC (3 Stars) review coming soon
That Thing at the Zoo by James R. Tuck (3.5 Stars)
Modelland by Tyra Banks (DNF)
Coyote’s Creed by Vaughn R. Demont (5 Stars) review coming soon
Beauty Dates the Beast by Jessica Sims (5 Stars) review coming soon
Ocean’s Touch by Denise Townsend (3 Stars)
Radiant Desire by Inara Scott (DNF)

So what did everyone else read in December?

My Christmas List

First off, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy Holidays! I know I kept saying I'd catch up on my days off around Christmas, but it was so nice to just chill out and read. I doubled my total reads for December this past week.

Next, I'd like to explain my Christmas List a little. I use In My Mailbox, and other posts like this to keep track of how I receive all of my books because I'd never remember how I got each and every one when writing my reviews. I would also like to say that this post is not me bragging in anyway. I like to share the titles I find each week, in hopes that readers will come across something new they hadn't heard of yet. Also, I don't know about anyone else, but my favorite part of the holidays is shopping to find gifts for friends and family, wrapping the gifts (except when the cats intervene), and watching them open the gifts (especially if they're surprises).

I was blown away by the generosity of my family this holiday season. My mom went a little crazy because she knows that she won't be able to afford any sort of gifts next year (she lost her main source of income when they downsized at the newspaper). My dad surprised me with three huge giftcards (and surprised everyone else with equally generous gifts). He received a large check from my grandpa, who has been cashing in some of his investments. I don't know if he knows something he's not sharing (health-wise, not finance-wise), but I think it's freaking everyone out a bit.

And lastly, I also found quite a few awesome deals on Kindle, which allowed me to stretch the giftcards much further than I thought I would. I don't know if the deals are still available, so I'm not going to link anything. But Angel Burn was $3.19 and Haunting Violet was $2.45 just to name a few.

From Christen:

Devil Without a Cause by Terri Garey
Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey
Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston
Legend by Marie Lu

From my grandparents:

Lightbringer by K.D. McEntire
Serpent's Kiss by Thea Harrison
Beauty Dates the Beast by Jessica Sims

From Dad:

Target ($50 giftcard)
Lost in Time by Melissa de la Cruz
Dark Prince by Christine Feehan
Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Amazon ($50 giftcard)
Blood, Smoke and Mirrors by Robyn Bachar
Prince of Air and Darkness by Jenna Black
No Proper Lady by Isabel Cooper
Head Rush by Carolyn Crane
Blood of Eden by Tami Dane
Something Secret This Way Comes by Sierra Dean
Coyote's Creed by Vaughn R. Demont
Bad Blood by Lucienne Diver
True Colors by Thea Harrison
The Zero Dog War by Keith Melton
Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

Barnes and Noble ($50 giftcard)
Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Night Reigns by Dianne Duvall
All that Bleed by Kimberly Frost
Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead
To Walk the Night by E.S. Moore
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

From Mom:

Being Human Season 1
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2
The Vampire Diaries Season 2

Amazon ($25 giftcard)
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey
My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Ocean's Touch by Denise Townsend
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In My Mailbox (111)

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

The past two weeks have been nuts at work. I apologize for my lack of activity, but the holiday shoppers have left me completely drained. I find myself not even wanting to read some days. I promise that I'll be back with a review or two later on in the week, once I'm done with work until after Christmas. I didn't particularly want to post an IMM due to my lack of anything else recently, but I wanted to get these out there because next week will be my holiday mailbox.

Anyway, the bulk of my mailbox this week are contest wins. I was really surprised at how huge the bag of books I won from Elizabeth Boyle's blog was. Besides the huge pile of swag (not pictured), there was also eight books (five of which were signed). It was like she snuck into my house to check out my bookshelves because every book that wasn't a first in series, was somehow the next in the series I needed. I didn't buy too much for myself because it's the holidays. But I did find a couple good Kindle deals. I wanted to have more money to spend on family and friends. Plus, I'm sure I'll have giftcards to spend next weekend. I also finally got a copy of Modelland from the library. Everyone keeps laughing at me for wanting to read it, but I just have to know. Tyra Banks is crazy, and I want to see how crazy her YA novel is. It's the next book I plan to read, but I peeked already and the first line is so wrong it's almost right. I read for enjoyment, and a book doesn't have to be a masterpiece to be fun, so I hope I enjoy it.

Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla [Buy now]

Kindle Deals:
StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Plain Fear: Forsaken by Leanna Ellis
That Voodoo You Do by Jodi Redford (free)

Modelland by Tyra Banks [Buy now]
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey [Buy now]

From Carrie Lofty (half of Ellen Connor) via her Twitter:
Daybreak by Ellen Connor [Buy now] (signed!)
Midnight by Ellen Connor [Buy now] (signed!)
Nightfall by Ellen Connor [Buy now] (signed!)

From Elizabeth Boyle via her blog: (swag not pictured)
Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper [Buy now] (signed!)
Trinity by Lauren Dane [Buy now]
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers by Angie Fox [Buy now] (signed!)
Harvest Hunting by Yasmine Galenorn [Buy now] (signed!)
Ascension by Sable Grace [Buy now] (signed!)
Scarlet by Jordan Summers [Buy now]
Tsunami Blue by Gayle Ann Williams [Buy now]
Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson [Buy now] (signed!)

From The Qwillery, made by Cemetery Cat Jewelry:
Lady Caroline necklace

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Giveaway Winners: Unleashed by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie

First off, I'd like to apologize for my lack of posting recently. Work has been crazy and stressful due to the holidays, and I haven't felt like doing much of anything when I get home. I haven't been sleeping well, so I tend to come home and fall asleep on the couch. The next six days are gonna really suck, but then I'm off again until after Christmas, so I'm hoping to become a bit more active somewhere in there. Anyway, on to the reason you are here: Giveaway winners!

There was a total of 32 participants in the Unleashed by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie Giveaway. Using, I randomized the list of entries, and then random selected the winners. The winners are...

12.It's a Meow World!

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

Didn't win? You can pick up a copy from The Book Depository and have it shipped for free! Just click here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In My Mailbox (110)

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

I was very surprised to get Dead Alert in the mail today. I won that giveaway on Goodreads months ago, and had all but forgotten about it, so it was a great after work surprise. I think I did much better spending wise this week. :)

The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper [Buy now]
The Hunter by Theresa Meyers (Kindle)
Demon Bait by Moira Rogers (Kindle)

Dead Alert by Bianca D'Arc [Buy now]
Thanks to Goodreads and Kensington!

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch [Buy now]
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente [Buy now]
Shifting by Bethany Wiggins [Buy now]

Month in Review: November

So NaNoWriMo was a bit of a bust for me. After about a week and almost 9,000 words, work became a bit overwhelming. I've decided that NaNo being in November is a bit ridiculous for me since I work in retail. I really like what I started, so I think I'm gonna do my own NaNo in January or February when work slows down (and Christen will be keeping me on track). Anyway, November was a pretty good reading month, all things considered. This past month consisted of two Urban Fantasies, one Paranormal Romance, one Steampunk Romance, and five Paranormal Young Adults.

November: 9

Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep 5 Stars
iDrakula by Bekka Black 2.5 Stars
Drink Slay Love by Sarah Beth Durst DNF
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin 4 Stars
Kitty Goes to War by Carrie Vaughn 4.5 Stars
Miss Bramble and the Leviathan by Kristen Painter 4 Stars
Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore 5 Stars review coming soon
Crux by Moira Rogers 3.5 Stars review coming soon
Unleashed by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie 4.5 Stars (+ giveaway)

So what did everyone else read in November?

Review + Giveaway: Unleashed by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie

Title: Unleashed
Author: Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie
Series: Wolf Springs Chronicles #1
Genre: Paranormal Young Adult
Release Date: 11/22/11
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Katelyn McBride’s life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted from her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains. Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It’s a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything.

Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night -- welcome to Wolf Springs.

Plot: 4.5 Stars
There was a cloud of mystery surrounding this entire novel that gave it a fantastically creepy feel. Wolf Springs itself was a pretty mysterious and creepy place filled with mysterious and creepy people. The setting really gave a lot to the rest of the novel, and allowed for some storylines that may not have worked in a more urban setting. Although I figured out pretty early what the paranormal creature in this novel was, it was still interesting to follow Katelyn as she figured it out. And I was definitely surprised by who was and wasn’t said paranormal creature. There were many twists and turns in this novel, many of which I didn’t expect. I really liked how some of the mystery was figured out, but other parts have been left to explore more in future books. It really makes me antsy in anticipation for the next novel. This is definitely a great addition to Paranormal Young Adult.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
This was a fast-paced novel that I read in only a few sitting. What sucked me in so quickly was the weirdness of Wolf Springs and its residents. I wanted to know what was going on and why everyone was so strange. Katelyn’s grandfather’s strict rules about not going in to the woods after dark only furthered my curiosity. Just when things seemed to be getting a bit more normal with schoolwork and parties, something crazy would happen to suck me right back in. Although the novel didn’t end with a cliffhanger exactly, it did end right as Kat had a revelation that could definitely change things. And it left me wanting more. I can’t wait for the next novel in this series to come out.

Characters: 4.5 Stars
In a small town like Wolf Springs, everyone knows everyone, so it was the talk of the town when Katelyn showed up after her mother’s death to live with her grandfather. She had a lot of her plate: dealing with her grief, leaving her home and best friend, starting at a new school, and trying to make new friends. I think she dealt with everything pretty well, especially when thrown into weird positions. I would have liked to learn a bit more about her late parents and best friend, Kimi, and hope more information about them appears in future books. I also don’t feel like I learned that much about her grandfather, considering Kat was living with him. But the air of mystery surrounding him made him an interesting character. Trick was Kat’s ride to school, and kind of a weird dude (in a good way). He didn’t always make sense and didn’t get along with some of the other kids, but he was a great character. Cordelia, on the other hand, was a very frustrating character. Her moods flip-flopped constantly and she was always very vague when answering questions. She was hiding a big secret, but sometimes it was too frustrating. And her family was all kinds of dysfunctional.

Cover: 4 Stars
The top half of the cover works a lot better than the bottom half. I like the full moon in the woods. It gives the cover a mysterious feel that really fits Wolfs Springs. It also hints at the paranormal aspect of the novel. The bottom half comes across very over-dramatic vampire movie to me. The hands gripping the cover model’s head, along with the way she leans her head back to expose her neck, just screams vampires instead of werewolves. There’s also a bit of dead space around the cover model and the mysterious arms. But I absolutely love the font chosen for the title, and really like when the series title is included. The way the title splits the cover in half is very unique, and really draws the eye. The navy blue color chosen for the cover is a great choice because it really fits the mood of the novel.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

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

I have three (3) copies of Unleashed to giveaway! To enter, just answer the following question: Would you rather live in a tight-knit small town, or a large urban city?

Giveaway Rules:
1. Must leave a comment answering the question.
2. Must leave a valid e-mail address.
3. Giveaway is open to the US only.
4. Giveaway is open until midnight on Wednesday 12/14.
5. Winners will be chosen on Thursday 12/15 using

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: Miss Bramble and the Leviathan by Kristen Painter

Title: Miss Bramble and the Leviathan
Author: Kristen Painter
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Release Date: 10/19/10
Reviewed by: Sara
The last thing she planned to steal was his heart.

The Company. Military institution, protector of Praeton and the nation of Grand Isle. Dirty rotten thief.

When Pandora Bramble steps aboard the Company’s premiere airship Daedalus it’s not for the exclusive VIP tour. It’s to secure proof that the Company stole the regulator valve her father designed -- even if it means tearing the engine apart. Foiled by the unexpected appearance of a handsome crew member, she despairs of ever getting another chance -- until he kisses her.

Captain Theolonius Hatch, sentenced to engine room duty for refusing to take part in the Company’s fleet week activities, never dreamed a woman like Pandora existed. Her brains match her beauty, a combination that adds up to more trouble than he ever expected.

As Pandora allows Theolonius to sweep her into a whirlwind courtship, her wildest dreams come true. As do her greatest fears, leaving her to decide what matters most. Loyalty... or love.

The clock is ticking.

Warning: This book contains airships, mechanical owls, women who are good with tools, men in and out of uniform, steam generated by engines and people, and some hot carriage scenes.

Plot: 4 Stars
My favorite part of this story outside of the romance was the Steampunk details. I liked the scenes in which the inventions were involved and I got to learn more about the world the story took place in. The inventions and gadgets are almost like their own brand of paranormal creature to me, which is probably why I like Steampunk more and more with each story I read. The romance in this story had its ups and downs, even in the short amount of time. There was a couple twists and turns at the end that took me by surprise. All in all, this novella was a great story for romance and Steampunk lovers.

Pace: 4 Stars
Although this novella was on the shorter side, it never felt rushed. There was great character development in the beginning, along with great information about the technology of the world. It didn't take long for the two main characters to meet and get to know each other. The synopsis of the novel describes it as a whirlwind courtship, and I think that's the perfect way to describe it. There are parts of the relationship that seem a bit rushed, but in a realistic way that can happen when two people instantly connect. There were no dull moments in this novel, and even a couple surprises.

Characters: 4 Stars
Pandora Bramble was a great character. She didn't fit into gender norms. She had to work at her father's shop fixing things due to his drinking and gambling. It made her more interesting than the rest of the female characters in the story. I really connected with her since I'm definitely not a girly-girl. Captain Hatch was also an interesting character. He definitely met his match with Pandora. Pandora's father, although a very small character, affected the story in a number of ways. It was his invention that the Company stole, and it was his invention that Pandora was trying to steal when she met Captain Hatch.

Cover: 4 Stars
Is it me, or does the cover model look a lot like Kirsten Dunst? Probably does now that I mentioned it... Anyway, besides the possible celebrity look-a-like, the cover model is a great representation of Miss Bramble. Although you can’t see a lot of detail in her clothing, what you can see definitely gives off a Victorian feel which fits perfectly with the Steampunk aspect of the story. My favorite part of this cover is the background details. The clock, the light posts, the bridge all fit in very well with the story. There’s also a bit of fog layered over the cover that gives it a mysterious vibe. I wish the cover hadn’t been quite so monochromatic, but the blue is a very striking and lovely color. The font choice for the title worked very well, except I would have made “Leviathan” a more masculine font to play off of the cursive of “Miss Bramble”. But this is definitely one of my favorite covers from Samhain Publishing.

Overall: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I bought this novel for my own reading pleasure with a gift card I received for my birthday.

Review: Kitty Goes to War by Carrie Vaughn

Title: Kitty Goes to War
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville #8
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 06/29/10
Reviewed by: Sara
But the Book:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Kitty Norville, Alpha werewolf and host of The Midnight Hour, a radio call-in show, is contacted by a friend at the NIH's Center for the Study of Paranatural Biology. Three Army soldiers recently returned from the war in Afghanistan are being held at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. They're killer werewolves -- and post traumatic stress has left them unable to control their shape-shifting and unable to interact with people. Kitty agrees to see them, hoping to help by bringing them into her pack.

Meanwhile, Kitty gets sued for libel by CEO Harold Franklin after featuring Speedy Mart -- his nationwide chain of 24-hour convenience stores with a reputation for attracting supernatural unpleasantness -- on her show.

Very bad weather is on the horizon.

Plot: 4.5 Stars
There's never a dull moment in Kitty Norville's life. My favorite part of every novel is the beginning, when she's doing her radio show. It's such a great concept and the reason I fell in love with this series in the first place. I really enjoyed her radio show this time around, as she did a segment on Speedy Mart, a convenience chain, and whether or not there was something paranormal happening with the business. And of course, this gets her into a bit of trouble with the CEO. Before much can come of the libel suit, she is asked to help with a group of military werewolves. The alpha of the military werewolves was killed and in Afghanistan, and the now the pack is unable to function. It was very interesting to see how Kitty and her pack dealt with these newcomers to their territory.

Pace: 4 Stars
This book took a bit longer to get into than the past couple of the series. Given the two main story lines being so different, there was a bit more introduction than the average novel from this series. Although the two story lines came together in the end, for the majority of the book they seemed to be happening parallel to each other, with Kitty bouncing from one to the other as needed. This isn’t a bad thing; it just led to a bit more explaining before we could get to the action. But once the metaphorical crap hit the fan, this novel was action packed and kept me on the edge of my seat. It was definitely one of those novels in which I seriously did not know how the good guys were going to come out on top. I have to remember not to bring any books in this series to work because I end up taking longer than I should for lunch because I can’t put them down.

Characters: 4.5 Stars
The past couple novels had focused a lot on Ben and Kitty and the growth of their relationship, so I was glad to see this novel focus a little more on their pack, Cormac, and some newcomers. Kitty didn’t try to deal with everything on her own, which allowed members of her pack to come into the spotlight a bit. If it wasn’t for her pack and their reach, the bad guy would have ended up with much more power. It was also really fun to read about the pack dynamic after the last couple novels focusing more on Kitty. My favorite part of this novel was that Cormac was back and ready for action, although he did seem a bit different than the last time we saw him outside of a jail cell. He’s very quiet and seems to know a bit more about certain supernatural things. When Kitty finally got some answers out of him, it definitely wasn’t anything I expected, but it makes his character even better. The military werewolves that the story kind of centered around were a very interesting concept. The dynamic between them and Kitty was probably the highlight of the book.

Cover: 4.5 Stars
I’m glad that Tor kept the same feel to the covers after acquiring the series. It was easy for me to know that it was the next novel in the Kitty Norville series, and not something similar but random. The addition of the small “first time in print” also helps with any confusion. My favorite part of the cover is the camouflage tank top Kitty is wearing, playing off of the title. I also like how the cover model is proving her dominance by standing over the three wolves on the cover. The three wolves are also very important to the novel, so it was great to see all three and not just one or two. The different textures in the background were a nice touch and gave the cover a bit more depth. I’m not sure if yellow was the best color for this cover, especially since the series already had a yellow cover, but the oranges mixed in allow it to stand out against the other yellow cover.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

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