Friday, August 30, 2013

Catching up with more Minis: Samantha Ann King

Hey I'm on a roll with my minis! So here are a few more.

Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

I received a request to review this book and was interested, but was late to respond. So, I decided to purchase it and read it anyway. As you will see below, this M/M romance did not quite work for me and I posted a spoiler-free mini at Goodreads. So, go on to that if you don't want to read the spoiler.

SPOILER: But I really want to talk about why this story didn't work for me. Why? Well, right off the bat there is a big contradiction when it comes to the characters -- they are both admittedly bisexual before embarking on their friends-to-lovers relationship, yet the story begins with the phrase "I don't do men," and that little phrase continues to pop up for a while as both characters think it. Really? Sorry, but no.  If the phrase have been "I would do him, but..." or "I want to do him, but..." or something to that effect, I wouldn't have been pulled out of the story from the beginning. :(
Great friends to lovers premise that doesn't quite deliver. The story begins on a high with a GFY (gay for you) flavor, but contradictions quickly become obvious to the reader. The "I don't do men" thoughts/phrases should not apply in this case to either man. If you've read this story, you know what I mean.

Going forward, the story is sectioned off into two distinctive parts -- one in which the H/H fight their attraction and love for each other (containing sexual scenes that are not quite plausible), and the other where they seek family acceptance -- a highly relevant subject matter. It is unfortunate, however, that these two sections are not better woven in together, as the building sexual and romantic tension found in the beginning is lost half-way through the story and never recovered. (Carina Press, July 29, 2013) Grade: C- (2.75/5.0 Goodreads)

Sharing Hailey by Samantha Ann King

Since Waiting for Ty did not work for me, I wanted to give this author another try to see if I would enjoy her previously published erotic threesome, so I picked this book, Sharing Hailey. What I found is that I enjoyed it a bit more than her M/M romance.
A threesome, not a triad (do not expect M/M love scenes on this one), there were aspects of this novel by King I liked and others I did not:

I liked that the two men had a wonderful understanding of each other and what they wanted from Hailey. Because of the long, deep friendship, and the love that the three of them already feel for each other, when the relationship begins it feels good and true. The sexual scenes are not outstanding, but they are good. The three people involved are equals in the relationship, although the slightly dominant males tend to cater and are protective of Hailey. She, however, is just as protective and loving with them. No BDSM, which makes this a refreshing read.

There is also a pertinent storyline that addresses Hailey's life as an abused woman with ex-boyfriend, Daniel. It is unfortunate, however, that this thread takes over the second section of the story, sacrificing intimate moments and taking personal conflicts between our threesome in a different direction. There is also a sense that this story is not quite finished, at least emotionally there are missing steps that need to be addressed. Overall, an average read with enjoyable moments. Grade: C+ (3.5/5.0 Goodreads)
Her characters in this story are seriously likable and the dynamics between this trio worked really well for me. The men do not engage in sexual play, yet there is love and a bond between them that definitely makes this a good threesome, plus Hailey is really a part of both their lives. The book is not overloaded with sex scenes either, but what really brought the grade down for me was the second section of the story.

Now, if you look above, you'll see that King also seemed to section off Waiting for Ty. In Sharing for Hailey, she introduces the rather serious subject of violence against women, domestic violence, and stalking and she follows through with the subject which was surprising. I think it is wonderful that King weaves in issues with substance in her erotic romances, unfortunately it is not well woven in with the erotic storyline. Because of the violence and seriousness of the situation she presents, one thread distracts the reader from the other, so that after a while all the buildup to the threesome romance goes flat, and never quite recovered... the same happens in Waiting for Ty. Overall though, I think that King has a good touch when it comes to developing a relationship between threesomes, and I'm picky when it comes to those!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More Minis: Summer Lovin' Anthology, Roux & Urban, Chris Owen

I am hoping to catch up with some full-length reviews, but in the meantime, here are more minis:

Summer Lovin' with JL Merrow, Chrissy Munder, Clare London, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper

"Summer Hire" by Chrissy Munder - Grade: B+
Chrissy Munder's Summer Hire is sweet, summery, and I really enjoyed how she uses sexual tension and subtle flirting to build up the anticipation. This is a meaty, hot, short story with a great HEA and a highly likable couple.

"Lost and Found" by JL Merrow - Grade: B+
An absolutely wonderful story with a unique setting and great atmosphere. JL Merrow brings a fantastic twist to this summer yarn by incorporating a sexy Viking and a single father as the main characters. I ended this one with a smile on my face. Lovely!

"Salt 'n Vinegar" by Clare London - Grade: D+
Salt 'n Vinegar began with a great premise. Unfortunately, this story took a rather dark turn that just did not fit with this light, summery anthology. The rather serious subject matter of domestic abuse may be better suited to a longer story. In this case, neither the page count nor the subject matter work for me.

"Werewolves of Venice Beach" by Lou Harper - Grade: C+
Lou Harper came up with a rather quirky story about a nerdy college kid and his temporary, but unusual neighbors while he house sits at Venice Beach. I enjoyed this hot little piece with all its memorable characters, adorable dogs, and particularly some of the wrong assumptions that take place along the way.

"By Quarry Lake" by Josephine Myles - Grade: B
The anthology ends on a high! By Quarry Lake is an adorable story of two old friends who finally come to terms with their attraction for each other. Not gay for you by the way, but a story of two young men living in a small village where being gay may be a problem. I loved both adorable characters, the father, and the gorgeous summer atmosphere.

Overall, I definitely recommend the Summer Lovin' anthology. It's a good, solid M/M romance read and for the most part, it lives up its lovely title! (Pink Squirrel Press, August 14, 2013) Grade: B

Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1) by Abigail Roux and Madeline Urban

Cut & Run is a very popular M/M Romance Suspense series by a popular writing duo, and this first book seems to be adored by fans, I believe that is because it is so high on the emo scale. I've had the first two books in my TBR for a long time now and decided to give it a try, particularly since I enjoyed their book Caught Running, a book a reread prior to reading this one. Because Roux and Urban each develop a character, there tends to be quite a bit of head hopping in their stories. I didn't mind that aspect of their writing in Caught Running. For some reason, it really affected my enjoyment of Cut & Run, perhaps because of the length of this book and the dialog scenes. The following are my first impressions as posted on Goodreads:
Likable characters with a good buildup to romance. I enjoyed the banter and bonding that takes place between Zane and Ty. Although frankly I was surprised how much we don't learn about the characters after all those long conversations. This story is overly long, unnecessarily so, with lots of frustrating head hopping. There is action and flash to the crime suspense but as investigators the main characters are not really impressive, so this book is best read for the romantic elements. Obviously a romance in progress. Grade C-
Cut & Run is one of those books where I'm sure I'm in the minority, as I said above the book is very popular. I'm a crime suspense fan and in the case of Cut & Run, I feel that for me, my passion for good crime investigations worked against this book -- I was thoroughly disappointed in that respect, particularly since both main characters are characterized as ace and/or brilliant FBI agents. Anyway, I have Sticks & Stones, the second book of the Cut & Run series by Roux & Urban and I will read it. Will I read the rest of this series? It all depends on how the second book turns out. :)

By the Numbers by Chris Owen

By the Numbers is an M/M Romance that I think is perfect as a summer read. I thoroughly enjoyed this almost conflict free romance with a hot fireman as one of the main characters, some gorgeous puppies, and a cute kid to round up this warm story. There is a mean ex-wife in the picture to give the romance some conflict, but it is minimal. Good as an angst-free reread. Grade: C+

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I'm back! Minis & Updates: Susan Fox, Susan Andersen, Cara Dee, Amy Lane

Hey, I'm back! I wasn't on vacation or anything, instead I pulled a back muscle and was bedridden for over a week taking pain medication. Not fun. I couldn't sit up long enough to blog, and for a while couldn't stay awake long enough to really concentrate on fresh reading. I missed Wendy's TBR Challenge read and review this month! First time for me, sigh... But, I did get to do some light reading toward the end of the week and reread some favorite short M/M romances.

I've been trying to write some minis and reviews for books I read earlier this month. Some of them are memorable, and frankly it is a shame but some of them just turned out to be quite forgettable!

Home on the Range (Caribou Crossings #2) by Susan Fox

This contemporary western romance is memorable to me for its Canadian Western setting and wonderful atmosphere. It IS different and as it turned out, an absolute treat for me. The fact that the romance takes place on a horse ranch in the fictional small town of Caribou Crossing, which has a history rich with lore about the olden Gold Rush mining days also made it a winner. The gorgeous landscape and horses as described by Fox serve as the perfect background for the romance that blooms between childhood best friends Evan Kincade and Jess Bly Cousins years after they last saw each other.

There is a lot going on in this romance, and a few overused tropes used to achieve that lasting happy ever after for Evan and Jess: the old friends to lovers, the secret child, and one more that I won't give away. So, yes, there is a sense of predictability to the story. However, what is not predictable is that conflicts and struggles are more internal than external as the characters deal with their feelings for each other and personal issues, so that in the process there is measurable character growth. This applies to Evan in particular who in the beginning comes off as a bit of a jackass.

The conflict is internal for Evan, it has to do with his upbringing and his lack of love as a child. His abusive childhood, a subject that is well rendered by Fox. For Jess, there is no conflict when it comes to the love she feels for Evan, only when it comes to her lie. In this, I found Evan to be much more willing to be upfront about his feelings, more sincere about his complex and hard-won growth. Jess on the other hand is much more protective of what she has, even though on the surface she comes off as more giving and forgiving. Thankfully, the old friendship and warmth between Evan and Jess comes through for them. They make a good team and a great, passionate couple. I was so glad they finally found happiness together. (Zebra, August 6, 2013) Grade: B-

Some Like It Hot by Susan Andersen

I either really like or enjoy Susan Andersen's romances, or I have a problem with her characters. In the case of Some Like It Hot, my problem is different. Here are my thoughts as posted on Goodreads:
It's a bad thing when I end up remembering the brothers' relationship more than the romance. A contemporary romance enjoyable for Max and his brother's backstory and the intriguing ending, but with a rather forgettable romance.

Susan Andersen's romances are a hit and miss for me. This book is an obvious miss.
Please note that I read this contemporary romance in August! (Harlequin, July 30, 2013) Grade D+

Aftermath by Cara Dee

This is a new-to-me author and I believe new to the M/M romance genre. Here are my initial impressions:
Interesting and creative approach to the "gay for you" trope. It's so well done that the reader may miss it. A tale of survival, bonding through violent events and finding love in the most unexpected of places and between the most unlikely people.

The author begins the story in the present, and relates the violent events that brought the main characters together by using PTSD flashback episodes. These are necessary to tell the complete story, but also serve to establish the relationship between the two men. I'm not a fan of flashbacks, but in this case they worked for me.

There is a strong bond and a tenderness between the main characters that is touching. There is also a slow buildup to passion that works well. The relationship development is not without conflict, the strongest being their own struggle to survive the recent violence and how it changed them. Other conflicts such as Austin's prior relationships and commitments are not as well addressed.

Overall, a solid read and romance with graphic violence, a psycho, PTSD, loving moments, hot sexy scenes, and a sweeter HEA than expected.
Aftermath was recommended to me while browsing through amazon and it sounded interesting so I picked it up. It's a good thing because in quite a few levels, it worked for me. Please note that despite what you may think when you look at the cover, there is no BDSM incorporated in the storyline. (Amazon Digital, August 6, 2013) Grade: B

Left on St. Truth-be-Well by Amy Lane

Continuing with M/M Romance reads, I enjoyed Left on St. Truth-be-Well by Amy Lane. Lane is an author whose works I have not explored extensively because they tend to be a bit angsty and I have to be in the mood. I'm pretty sure the only other book I've read by Lane so far is Sidecar. Yet this romance is totally different, not angsty or deep in any way, shape or form -- just what I needed this past weekend. Instead this piece set in sunny Florida is a short, light, amusing, hot read by Amy Lane with endearing sexy characters, a fabulous little mystery and enough crazy moments to make it fun. That is it! A quick read, perfect for a summer afternoon.

COMMENTARY: I did not read this little piece as a serious crime suspense, but as a crazy little piece of insanity that led to two people finding each other. So my warning is: if you read this piece as a serious crime mystery, it won't work. So just enjoy the insanity! (Dreamspinner Press, July 23, 2013) Grade: B-


These are just a few of the books I read. Quite a few more M/M Romances actually, some that have been in my TBR for a long, long time like Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton and Cut & Run by Abigail Roux and Madeline Urban, but I also finished Summer Lovin' with JL Merrow, Chrissy Munder, Clare London and Josephine Myles and while I couldn't concentrate because of those pain pills, other short rereads. I'll come back with more minis later. It's good to be back!

OMENS by Kelly Armstrong
CARNIEPUNK Anthology (still)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

RIP Bea Franco, Kerouac's "Terry, the Mexican Girl"

As you may have noticed by my previous posts, at the moment I'm totally involved in reading Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez, the story of Bea Franco or "Terry, the Mexican Girl" of Jack Karouac's On the Road fame. Sadly, today I received the following notification via email:
Fresno, CA. (August 19, 2013) — Beatrice Kozera, a.k.a. Bea Franco, a.k.a. “Terry” of legendary American author Jack Kerouac’s magnum opus, On the Road, died of natural causes on the morning of Thursday August 15, 2013 in Lakewood, California.

In her own words, her life was “nothing special.” Which might be true, if you do not count that her role in the author's career was important enough to include her name in over twenty biographies on Kerouac, and that she had amassed a literary cult following for the past 56 years, all unbeknownst to her and her family. In late autumn of 1947 she met the young Kerouac in Selma, California where she was living in the farmworker labor camps with her family. The two struck up a relationship that lasted fifteen days, which he chronicled in his book On the Road— a novel that sparked the counterculture generation and was recently made into a movie featuring Brazilian actress Alice Braga in the role of “Terry.” What has been largely unknown is that after six years of rejections it was the story of “Terry, the Mexican Girl” that opened the doors for the publication of Kerouac’s novel. The timing of her death was unfortunate, considering that later this month a book based on her life and written with her participation, titled, Mañana Means Heaven by author Tim Z. Hernandez is being released. “My mother hung on just long enough to see and hold the book in her hands,” her son Albert commented.

Beatrice Kozera was born Beatrice Renteria in Los Angeles, California in 1920, and spent most of the early part of her life following the seasons with her family, picking cotton, grapes and other crops. She eventually settled down in Fresno, California with her husband LeRoy Kozera, who in her own words, “Was a good man who gave me a good life.” She is survived by her son Albert Franco and her daughter Patricia Leonard, along with several grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The news of Bea Franco's death has been picked up nationally and internationally. She was 92 years old.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reading Lots! CarnieFun, Tim Z. Hernandez, Elliott Mackle & Summer Lovin'

Carniepunk Anthology
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Gallery Books
Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world. . . .

RACHEL CAINE’s vampires aren’t child’s play, as a naïve teen discovers when her heart leads her far, far astray in “The Cold Girl.” With “Parlor Tricks,” JENNIFER ESTEP pits Gin Blanco, the Elemental Assassin, against the Wheel of Death and some dangerously creepy clowns. SEANAN McGUIRE narrates a poignant, ethereal tale of a mysterious carnival that returns to a dangerous town after twenty years in “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea.” KEVIN HEARNE’s Iron Druid and his wisecracking Irish wolfhound discover in “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” that the impossibly wholesome sounding Kansas Wheat Festival is actually not a healthy place to hang out. With an eerie, unpredictable twist, ROB THURMAN reveals the fate of a psychopath stalking two young carnies in “Painted Love.”
I'm enjoying this anthology. It has a long list of stories by accomplished urban fantasy authors. Those stories so far are a combination of standalone and short stories related to already established series with carnivals as the central focus, however, they couldn't be more different. Clowns, you ask? I am about half-way through the book and so far no clowns, but the setting gives this anthology a certain dark flavor that I am enjoying.

Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez
Release Date: August 29, 2013
The University of Arizona Press
In this love story of impossible odds, award-winning writer Tim Z. Hernandez weaves a rich and visionary portrait of Bea Franco, the real woman behind famed American author Jack Kerouac’s “The Mexican Girl.” Set against an ominous backdrop of California in the 1940s, deep in the agricultural heartland of the Great Central Valley, Mañana Means Heaven reveals the desperate circumstances that lead a married woman to an illicit affair with an aspiring young writer traveling across the United States.

When they meet, Franco is a migrant farmworker with two children and a failing marriage, living with poverty, violence, and the looming threat of deportation, while the “college boy” yearns to one day make a name for himself in the writing world. The significance of their romance poses vastly different possibilities and consequences.

Mañana Means Heaven deftly combines fact and fiction to pull back the veil on one of literature’s most mysterious and evocative characters. Inspired by Franco’s love letters to Kerouac and Hernandez’s interviews with Franco, now in her nineties and living in relative obscurity, the novel brings this lost gem of a story out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
This is a book that got my attention at "The Mexican Girl" and Jack Kerouac. It combines fact and fiction, but I must admit that my curiosity about "Terry's" character or as it turns out, Bea Franco, got the best of me as soon as I read the book summary. So far it is more than worth the read!

Welcome Home, Captain Harding by Elliott Mackle
Series: Captain Harding, #3
Release Date: September 1, 2013
Lethe Press Books

Returning to California after eighteen terrifying months in Vietnam, Captain Joe Harding is assigned a trio of duties: assisting his fatherly former commander at base operations, spying on misbehaving bomber pilots and organizing an air show designed to counter the anti-war fever sweeping the state.

Meanwhile, his much younger tennis partner has enrolled at Cal Berkeley, enmeshed himself in pacifist politics and resumed his role as Joe's lover. When a playmate from Wheelus, a one-time fighter pilot now flying for TWA, shows up at Joe's house in Merced, the three men must navigate the joys and difficulties inherent in creating their own sort of ''welcome home.''

Continuing the adventures and misadventures begun in Elliott Mackle's acclaimed Captain Harding series Joe and his fellow officers and men are up against a hot-dogging, risk-taking aircraft commander, a pair of drug-abusing co-pilots and a married administrator with a taste for sexual blackmail. When a Broadway show causes a death in the family, a test flight goes terribly wrong and Joe's honor and patriotism are questioned, he must fight to clear his name and rebuild his imperiled career.
Welcome Home, Captain Harding is the last book in the Captain Harding trilogy by Elliott Mackle. I absolutely love this character, and so far I've loved the first and second books! I'm really enjoying this last book, Joe is still Joe. *g* But, I'm also a bit sad that Joe's adventures are coming to an end.
What else have I been reading?

I've yet to move on from my summer reading and picked up Summer Lovin' with Chrissy Munder, Clare London, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper (Pink Squirrel Press, 2013). This is an M/M Romance collection with five novellas. So far I really enjoyed Chrissy Munder's "Summer Hire" and loved "Lost and Found on Lindisfarne" by JL Merrow. I'm reading this one slowly and in between other books. . . stretching out the summer fun!

Summer is here, and the loving is easy! Slake your thirst for romance with Summer Lovin'—an anthology for lazy days and summer sunshine.

Go skinny-dipping in a disused quarry. Hang out with the boys in the band. Meet a bad boy made good, and one with a shy smile that hides a dark secret. Or maybe get your heart pillaged by a Viking re-enactor.

With gentle humor, hot sauce and a hefty scoop of romance, enjoy a quintet of sultry stories of men loving men from Clare London, Chrissy Munder, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper.

The mercury's not the only thing that's rising!

What are you reading?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Highlighting: Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez

Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez
Publication Date: August 29, 2013
Camino del Sol: A Latina and Latino Literary Series

The University of Arizona Press

Tim Z. Hernandez lifts the veil on one of literature’s most mysterious and evocative characters.

Readers across the world know Jack Kerouac and his famous novel, On the Road, but most don’t know that prior to its publication, Kerouac received countless rejections. It wasn’t until an excerpt titled “The Mexican Girl” was published in The Paris Review, earned rave reviews, and found its way into the Best American Short Stories of 1956 anthology that the novel was accepted for publication.

Given the relevance that “The Mexican Girl” had in Kerouac’s career, little has been known about the real “Terry,” actually Bea Franco. In Mañana Means Heaven, acclaimed writer Tim Z. Hernandez pulls Bea from out of the shadows and presents a rich and visionary novel portraying the woman behind the scenes in the novel that defined a generation. As author Paul Maher says, “Hernandez offers a dazzling offshoot from the oft-explored road story that is Kerouac’s.”

Set against an ominous backdrop of California in the 1940s, deep in the agricultural heartland of the Great Central Valley, Hernandez’s novel reveals the desperate circumstances that led a married woman to an illicit affair with an aspiring young writer traveling across the United States. When they meet, Franco is a migrant farmworker with two children and a failing marriage, living with poverty, violence, and the looming threat of deportation, while the “college boy” yearns to one day make a name for himself in the writing world. The significance of their romance poses vastly different possibilities and consequences.

Franco was sought out by dozens of Kerouac and Beat scholars, but none could find her. According to one, “finding Bea Franco is like trying to find the ghost of a needle in haystack.”

But 55 years after publication of Kerouac’s novel, Hernandez discovered Franco alive, and living in relative obscurity only one mile from his own home in Fresno, California. “It was an alignment, really, that I was able to find her. It just so happened that I knew where to look and who to ask. I have since been fortunate to develop a strong relationship with her and her family."

Based on Franco’s love letters to Kerouac and Hernandez’s interviews with Franco, the novel Mañana Means Heaven brings this lost gem of a story into the spotlight. Featuring a foreword and afterword chronicling Hernandez’s personal quest to find Franco, this novel deftly combines fact and fiction to lift the veil on a character who has lived far too long in the shadows.

Tim Z. Hernandez is a poet, novelist, and performance artist whose awards include the 2006 American Book Award, the 2010 Premio Aztlán Prize in Fiction, and the James Duval Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. In 2011 the Poetry Society of America named him one of sixteen New American Poets. He holds a BA from Naropa University and an MFA from Bennington College and is the author of the novel Breathing, In Dust, as well as three collections of poetry, including the recently released Natural Takeover of Small Things. Learn more at his website,

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Guardian Demon (Guardian Series #8) by Meljean Brook

After a terrifying encounter in Hell destroys her trust in Michael, the Guardian’s powerful leader, former detective Andromeda Taylor is ready to call it quits as one of the angelic warriors and resume her human life again. But when demonic forces threaten her closest friends and she uncovers a terrifying plot devised by Lucifer, Taylor is thrown straight into Michael’s path again…

To defeat Lucifer, Michael needs every Guardian by his side—and he needs Taylor more than any other. The detective is the key to keeping his own demonic side at bay, and Michael will do anything to protect her and keep her close. And when Taylor manifests a deadly power, her Gift might tip the scales in the endless war between Heaven and Hell…or it might destroy them both with a single touch.
Guardian Demon is the last book in Meljean Brook's excellent paranormal romance series. This is a great read and an excellent ending to the series as a whole.

The introduction to Guardian Demon hooks the reader for what is to come. It begins as Andromeda Taylor attempts to save Michael from Hell after he's released from the frozen fields. Michael has become a ravenous, raging dragon whose hunger for consuming demons is never-ending. Andy becomes bait while Khavi waits to trap him, but once Michael comes to her, he shifts into a two-legged, dragon-like monster with minimal humanity left. She saves him, but Khavi's plans backfire and the end result is damaging to both Andy and Michael in unforeseen and unexpected ways. Andy finally gets Michael out of her head, but she loses any trust she had left for Michael, and Michael, well. . . he loses more than Andromeda's trust.

During the beginning of Part I the action continues, however, there are sections that are heavy with narration and internal thoughts. Everything is highly relevant to the story, Andromeda's and Michael's feelings and the methodical description of individual powers used by the already introduced Guardians. The result is an uneven pacing that slows down the story in this section. Additionally, Brook takes her time setting up the building blocks to develop the rather controversial relationship between Andromeda and Michael. In this case, the slow buildup works because otherwise the romance would not have been believable.

But, why controversial? Well, Andromeda believes that Michael initially raped her mind by invading it without her permission and she resents the heck out of him for doing so. What happened down in Hell when she saved Michael sealed her fear and lack of trust. Andromeda has so many grievances against Michael, and rightly so, that for a long while I didn't see how he would talk his way into her good graces. Michael and Khavi both messed up rather badly. So yes, building a believable relationship is slow, so don't expect quick love, or the insta-hotness found in some of the other installments. At least I didn't find that to be the case here... it was redemption first, trust second, love and hotness last. And there is hotness! Michael is as sexy as I expected and Andromeda is his equal. There is building sexual tension and then they burn up the sheets, the walls, the... hmm...

But what about the overall storyarc? In my review of Demon Marked, I questioned why some Guardians were compromising their principals, and particularly Khavi's manipulative role. Well, Brook does not disappoint, reasons behind their actions are answered. The plot in Guardian Demon is almost like a crime mystery puzzle that must be solved before a deadline. Andromeda Taylor's detective skills come into play. She plays a big role with Michael assisting, the rest of the Guardians acting as backup, and Lillith directing the whole show. Andromeda's own powers are rather unique, and boy to they come in handy! That part of the book is excellent and well-woven in with the romance. It truly lives up to expectations.

Everyone plays a key role in the end. And just so you all know? Even characters introduced in novellas play a role in the end, so read those novellas, otherwise you may not know the characters, their powers or why they are there!

I couldn't think of how Brook would end this series, but the end to the romance in Guardian Demon is beautiful and just about perfect, and the end to the overall storyarc is excellent! I'm going to miss this complex and sexy paranormal romance series. It has been such an enormous pleasure gobbling up all the books. Now I look forward to rereading it again slowly and enjoying it all over again.

Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Guardian Series
Publisher/Release Date: Berkley/ August 6, 2013
Grade: B+

Visit Meljean Brook here.

The Guardians, Novella .5 (Hotspell Anthology)
Demon Angel, Book 1
Paradise, Novella 1.5 (Wild Thing Anthology)
Demon Moon, Book 2
Demon Night, Book 3
The Guardians, Novella 3.5 (First Blood Anthology)
Demon Bound, Book 4
Demon Forged, Book 5
Blind Spot, Novella 5.5 (Must Love Hellhounds)
Demon Blood, Book 6
Demon Marked, Book 7
The Guardians 7.5, Novella (The Angels of Darkness)
Guardian Demon, Book 8

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews

Magic Rises is a winner! That is it. We waited two years for the continuation of this series and it did not disappoint. The Ilona Andrews writing team took the best aspects of the series and came up with a cohesive and emotional installment.

By now fans know that the Kate Daniels series is urban fantasy with a fantastic central character, excellent writing, ancient mythology-based plots, and some darn good romance. Add an integral supporting cast of characters and Kate's incremental emotional growth, and you have the makes for a winning series that will hook any reader. In Magic Rises, Kate's love for Curran and the Pack, her willingness to go all the way for them, both as Consort and friend, is tested, as is their loyalty and love for her.

It all begins with an invitation from three powerful European Packs. The deal? Curran is to act as arbitrator between two clans fighting over the birth of twin babies fathered by two shifters from two different packs. Additionally, a few members of his Pack are invited to come along to protect the babies' mother who is under a death threat from her father's powerful clan. The incentive? In return for acting as arbitrators and protectors, Curran's Pack would receive the magic panacea needed to prevent young shifters from going loup and losing their lives. The invitation is received just as Julie's best friend and twin sister, young wolf shifters, go loup with not enough panacea to help both girls.

Even as they all realize that the European Packs' invitation may all be a trap for Curran and his Pack, the decision to accept is a no brainer. They have to go. Curran and Kate choose a small posse which includes their best and most loyal Pack members and set off on a ship that takes them across the ocean and into a neutral location, an island off the Greek coast. What awaits them are surprises, revelations, controversy, multiple conflicts, and pain.

As in most of the best installments of this series, Magic Rises doesn't only keep readers from sleeping until that last line is read because of the non-stop, explosive action and the plot's twisty turns, but it also keeps them emotionally involved with the characters. This installment in particular has a few of highly emotional "oh-my-god-I-need-a-tissue" moments -- some very sad, and others of the aww variety. That's not to say that Kate's kickass attitude, snark, dry humor, and the witty dialog that make the books in these series such great reads are not there in spades.

Mythology is again an integral part of the story, but it does not overwhelm the plot. The new characters introduced in this story, both friends and foes, are fantastic, as is the Pack's involvement in a highly sensitive political situation. Kate and Curran are dealing with deadly, untrustworthy shifters, and danger is on the high end of the scale. It lurks like a dark cloud for everyone, but particularly for Kate who seems to find enemies at every turn. There are villains and then, there are villains. There are hidden motives and it all becomes a dance to get past the obvious and discover what lies beneath the layers.

Guarding the pregnant Desandra is not a picnic. To understand her, you need to know that Desandra was basically sold to the highest bidder by her father, twice, with the understanding that her first born would inherit a key section of his territory. Now that she is pregnant by both shifters, her father wants to kill her. Desandra is petulant and spoiled, but her personality goes through an incremental transformation that makes her a great character. But she is not the most memorable new character, look to the villains for that distinction.

The Andrews team does a magnificent job of integrating plot points from Magic Rises with revelations that impact the overall storyarc, Kate's relationship with Curran and the Pack, and her emotional evolution -- one of my favorite aspects of this series. If you think that because Kate and Curran are already a romantic couple, the conflict between them is over, think again. There is a little bit of everything: hotness, love, uncertainty, jealousy, trust issues, and more. I will say this: Kate must really love the Pack! What restraint. . .

I tried my best to make this a spoiler-free review. The best I can say is: read Magic Rises! So far, this is my favorite urban fantasy read of the year. Besides the fact that this is such a great read, I do believe that this installment is the foundation for the second half of this ten book series. It's going to be fantastic. If you're already a fan, you'll love this book. If you haven't begun reading the series, what are you waiting for?

Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels, Book 6
Publisher/Release Date: Penguin/Ace, July 30, 2013 - Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Visit Ilona Andrews here.
Favorite Kate scene:
"Your daughter is a grown woman," Curran said. "She can speak for herself."
"Until she belongs to another man, she is mine to do with as I please." Jarek said.
That does it. I leaned forward. "Hey you. Either put your claws where your mouth is or shut the fuck up. Nobody wants to hear you yip."
Jarek's eyes bulged. Green flared in the depths of his irises, an insane hot flame. He opened his mouth but nothing came out.
"Yes, just like that," I told him. "Less talking, more quiet."
Magic Bites, Book 1
Magic Burns, Book 2
Magic Strikes, Book 3
Magic Mourns, Novella (Must Love Hellhounds Anthology)
Magic Bleeds, Book 4
Magic Dreams, Novella (Hexed Anthology)
Magic Slays, Book 5

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

July 2013 Recap & Minis: Spencer, Howard, Balogh

I don't know what it is about the summer and the heat, but it almost always makes me crave romance. That's what happened in July. I hit the books and ended up reading some romances that have been lingering in my shelves from early 2013, along with some oldies but goodies.

Here they are:

Total books read: 15
Contemporary Romance: 6
Historical Romance: 6
Paranormal Romance/Steampunk: 1
Urban Fantasy: 1
M/M Romance: 1

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews: (Review to come)
The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh: A-
Love Irresistibly (FBI/US Attorney #4) by Julie James: (Review to come)
To Die For (Blair Mallory #1) by Linda Howard: B
I read this book by Linda Howard as my August Internet Book Club read. This is rather surprising for a Linda Howard book. It's humorous and light with a heroine that comes off as petulant and somewhat superficial. She's a cheerleader who applies cheerleading rules to her life even as an adult. For me, Blair's thought process turns out to be both hilarious and frustrating, but overall, Blair is more than she appears to be on the surface. The romance is hot with amusing dialogue to help it along. If there is something I find tired in this romance it is Blair's tendency to sleep with Wyatt while telling him she doesn't want a relationship -- the old "body betrayal" plot device. The story is narrated from Blair's point of view in the first person, but it is very well done so that I did not miss Wyatt's point of view at all. I think that both his thoughts and feelings are well conveyed by Howard. I also like the mystery, probably because of all the craziness that goes on in Blair and Wyatt's relationship contribute to it. Overall, a solid, light, fun, and enjoyable romance suspense.
He's The One with Linda Lael Miller, Jill Shalvis, Lucy Monroe, Kate Angell, Cat Johnson: B-
Fire & Frost with Jessica Simms, Carolyn Crane & Meljean Brook: B-
True to the Law by Jo Goodman: C+
Twice Loved by Lavyrle Spencer: Grade C+
This is one of the three books I read for the TBR Challenge during the month of July, but decided against reviewing it. I've loved every single book I've read by Lavyrle Spencer so far. I still love her gorgeous writing style and how she develops characters and a story -- all are evident in Twice Loved. On the positive side, I absolutely love the setting and atmosphere in this novel. It is set in a small fishing village, and the place and people who inhabit it come alive in this novel.

Unfortunately for me, the romance is a triangle, and I mean one of those triangles where the woman who finds herself in the middle knows who she loves but doesn't have the gumption to make the right decision. She ends up hurting everyone, including herself and her child, so that by the time the happy ever after comes along I really did not want her to have it! I wanted the "hero" to walk away from her, and that's not the way a romance works, right? This romance is brimming with betrayal, yearning, love, angst, anger, and passion. I could not help but feel terrible for both men and the child caught up in the middle of it all. Just as I could not help resenting her for the lack of backbone that destroyed whatever connection I could have felt. In this case, it may be that it is a case of personal preference. If as a reader you don't mind triangles, you may want to read this book by the amazing Spencer. However, for me personally, this was a beautifully written, but painful read.
On the Clock by Chris Owen: C+
No Strings Attached (Barefoot Williams #2) by Kate Angell: C
Kentucky Home by Sarah Title: C
Beach Beginnings (Beach House No. 9 #.5) by Christie Ridgeway: C
The Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh: C
I really enjoyed the wit and humor found in the romance between Lady Sophia Bryant and Lord Francis Sutton. They fake a betrothal to reunite Sophie's estranged parents. Sophie and Francis grew up together and have a history of arguing and hostility. Sophie is funny and Francis teases her to death. I love the way they play each other and end up together. This is a light and fun pair. On the other hand the romance between Sophie's parents is seriously painful. It's the type of romance I usually love to read, but in this case the incredible lack of communication between these two adults, the resulting misunderstandings and lack of trust made me question that love would triumph or last. Thank goodness for Sophie and Francis whose romance made this book an average read for me. Otherwise, I think The Counterfeit Betrothal would have been my first DNF (did not finish) by Balogh.
The Suitor (The Survivor's Club #1.5) by Mary Balogh: C

Years by Lavyrle Spencer : A
Years is one of my favorite Lavyrle Spencer books. I reread it for the TBR Challenge, but at the last minute decided that as a reread it did not qualify -- a shame because I really wanted to review this book in all its glory! I previously wrote a mini that doesn't do this book justice in my humble opinion. Anyway, if you haven't read it and would like to pick up a gorgeous May/December historical romance set in the Middle America during WWI, I highly recommend Years. The title refers to more than the age disparity between the main couple, and as in all Spencer books, there is depth to the plot, gorgeous characterization, and amazing detail that enhance both setting and atmosphere.
My favorite books of the month were: Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews, my last read of the month, The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh, and Love Irresistibly (FBI/US Attorney #4) by Julie James.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Poetry: "Septipus" by Chip Livingston

For my brother N.

You are celebrating your birthday today in Montevideo, Uruguay with friends and family. I miss you. This poem from Chip Livington's poetry volume Crow-Blue, Crow-Black reminded me of you.

(for the seven-armed Uruguayan)
  1. One to hold the mate; to stop a taxi; to extend an index finger to push up loose-eared eyeglasses;
  2. One to crook the thermos, pour the water, and redirect cooked yerba with a silver bombilla; to light a cigarette;
  3. One to puff the Rojo; to gesture "WWWHat a pity!!";
  4. One to fine tune antennae and radiate little summer shocks; to tune the radio to María Rita, tango electronica, or The Cranberries;
  5. One to good-guard new amigos from uneven stones and otras cosas peligrosas, bothers and malaria; to offer the growing moon, fireworks;
  6. One to scribble a waitress a phone number; to correct a stress from an Italian accent;
  7. One of rare perspective to photograph, spell out poetry, convert incantations, cast ordinary objects artesanal
Together these brown arms shoulder the mochila,
sign shipping orders, protect candles, smudge a room
with incense; they envelop children in abrazos.
Embrace me also in these seven alchemical arms.
Make the tambores jealous. Take my hand as we
walk along the rambla becoming a new metal. 


*Copyright © 2012 Chip Livingston

Minis: Christie Ridgway, Jessica Sims, Carolyn Crane, Meljean Brook, Mary Balogh, Chris Owen

Since this last week's theme was "Fun Beach Reads," here are some short reads you can't go wrong with:

Beach House Beginnings (Beach House No.9, #5) by Christie Ridgway(HQN - Kindle Ed. $1.59) is a short novella that is just that, the introductory novella to Christie Ridgway's Beach House No. 9 contemporary romance series. It is quick, hot and just a bit angsty, with a too quick romance and a lusty couple who find a "happily ever after" years after they meet on the same island beach. She was in love with his cousin and has spent years agonizing over his death and drowning of his cousin and leading a stale life, while he spent those same years going forward and becoming a success just as his much admired cousin would have wanted him to. Coincidences abound, but they're attributed to the love woo woo that come from Beach House No. 9 where this couple meets again. This is cute, short, and a great beach read, even as everything happens too quickly. I like the premise, however, and am thinking of giving the first book of the series a try. Grade: C

If you like UF/PNR, there is always Fire and Frost with Jessica Sims, Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane, Meljean Brook (Amazon Digital, Kindle Ed. $2.99). It begins with Speed Mating by Jessica Sims, a new-to-me author. I enjoyed this short piece about a female lyger (lion/tiger) shifter about to into heat. She goes to her sexy alpha for advice and decides to look for a mate/father for her cub through speed dating. What I liked the most about this is interesting world-building with shifters is that the female can choose her mate. Yes... she has a choice! The story is also hot and sexy too.

Then we have Conjuring Max by Carolyn Crane, a story set in the world of her Mr. Real series. This story works as a bit of a prequel and gives the reader an idea of how it all begins. I liked both characters, Max and Veronica, and the way magic and technology is integrated in a not-too-distant past. I really like how it ended.

Set in her Iron Seas world, my favorite piece in this three piece collection is Wrecked by Meljean Brook. Brook manages to add to her world-building by introducing new intriguing characters and interesting usage of the machines developed by the Horde, and also satisfactorily develops a believable romance with a happily ever after. Grade: B-

The Suitor by Mary Balogh (Dell - Kindle Ed. $1.99) is a very short prequel to The Arrangement (August 27, 2013), Balogh's next installment in The Survivor's Club series. Balogh uses The Suitor and Viscount Darleigh's reactions to drive him way and begin his romance (except of The Arrangement included), but this story is about Julian and Phillipa.

This is a couple who fell in love when Phillipa was only 16 and Julian a young, good for nothing, rakehell. Two years later she's of age and her family is actively trying to find her a husband. Julian is ready to make his move, but her parents have another man in mind. How will Julian and Phillipa find their happily ever after? The best I can say is that this is a too short, average read that provides an hour and a half of reading pleasure, but where all falls into place easily enough. As prequels go, we'll have to wait and see how Darleigh is affected by the events that take place in this novella. Recommended for those reading Balogh's new series or as a quick standalone historical romance treat without much of a conflict. Grade: C

If you're in the mood for some M/M Romance, there is always On the Clock by Chris Owen (Torquere Press, July 2013 - Kindle Ed. $4.99). Owen is a favorite M/M Romance writer and I couldn't pass up the release of this unread novella. Detective Strang finds himself investigating the murder of a lonely man with poor social skills and no friends. During the investigation he meets police officer Gallagher who first makes a move on him and then volunteers to help with the case. They flirt, hot steamy scenes ensue, and although Strang's focus becomes a bit clouded by his attraction to the handsome Gallagher, he is bent on catching the murderer, particularly since he feels a certain connection with the victim. This is an enjoyable, but too quick story, with some really hot scenes and a very good police investigative plot. My only niggle is that I wish it had been longer for better insight into the characters. Grade: C+