Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shannon K. Butcher

HOT new author!!!

A book-lovin' friend told me about this author's debut book No Regrets, which was released last February. So, of course, book-hog that I am, I ran out and bought it the next day and now I'm completely enamored with this author's writing and she's going on my auto-buy list.

Here's the blurb:

Renowned cryptologist Noelle Blanche refuses to have blood on her hands. So when the military asks for her help in a covert operation, she refuses - until masked gunmen raid her home and threaten her life. Suddenly it’s all too clear that the blood spilled may be her own. Noelle has no choice but to trust the dangerous stranger sent by the military to safeguard her. A stranger who is everything she detests, everything she fears…and everything she desires.
Former Delta Force operative David Wolfe thought he left it all behind—the horror, the hurt, the guilt. But now the men who savagely murdered his wife have set their sights on a brilliant cryptologist who can lead them to the cache of weapons they prize. As passion ignites between David and the woman he’s sworn to protect, what began as just a mission escalates into the fight of his life. But can he prevent history from repeating itself?

I was totally into this book from the first. It's a great example of romantic suspense that is strong in both the romance and the suspense plot-lines with incredibly engaging characters. It did have some pacing issues at a few points where I was ready for more action to further the suspense element but that is literally my only complaint.

As much as I enjoyed No Regrets, I was totally blown away when I got my hands on No Control the next book in the series (just released).

Here's the blurb:

No Hiding
Lana Hancock knows all about danger -- and betrayal. Eighteen months ago, she was captured by a terrorist group known as the Swarm while one of its member, a rugged man with sinfully dark eyes, did nothing to help her. Now when she’s freed and desperate to put it all behind her, the unthinkable happens. The Swarm is targeting Lana once again and the man who stood silently by has become her protector. But can she trust him?
No Escape
Delta Force operative Caleb Stone will never forget the hatred shining in Lana’s eyes. Ordered to take down the Swarm by infiltrating its ranks, Caleb couldn’t blow his cover to save her -- no matter how much it haunted him. Now, gifted with a second chance, he vows to move heaven and earth to protect her…and fulfill her every desire. But the Swarm has reorganized. It’s more powerful than ever and hell-bent on revenge…
No Control

Once again, Butcher created both a strong romance and strong suspense plots and blended them together with finesse. We met the hero (one of a trio of friends including David) in the first book and I was immediately intrigued by him. He brings tortured hero to a new level and suffers immensely from the remembered horror of standing by, watching as the lives of innocents were taken and someone with such a beautiful spirit as Lana was beaten so brutally. He had to stand firm to wait for the opportunity to irradicate the entire terrorist group and save the lives of many others but, despite the fact that he would make the same choice again if he had to, it haunts him.

Lana is an amazing heroine, strong and giving. After rising to the challenge of survival and recovery, she is compelled to devote herself to her cause of helping children. Sounds too perfect? Not really, she is very realistically created. She still has a good-sized dose of survivor's guilt and has nutured her hatred for the operative that stood by and did nothing while her friends were murdered and she was brutalized beyond recognition. However, after seeing the torment burning in the eyes and soul of Caleb she discards all of her daydreams of expressing her hate for him, lets the hatred go, and gains a greater understanding of the choices forced upon him. She still gives him a hard time because not only is he a reminder of that terrible time but she has secrets that she fears could put her families safety in jeopardy.

It's really and excellent read. It also introduces more Delta Force men that I hope we'll see in the future and gives some insight on the third member of this trio of friends, Grant, who freely admits that he's waiting for his "turn" at happiness and love. Since he is so willing to embrace the future and emotions, his heroine will probably have to be the one convinced that HEA's do exist. I can only imagine what type of heroine he will be paired with and the hurdles he will have to scale to convince her that they belong together.

Learn more about Shannon K. Butcher.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sherri L King's Horde Wars

II have been devouring Sherri L. King's series The Horde Wars over the last couple of days (I'm a bit obsessive when I find an interesting series). They're paranormal erotic romances available from EC.

Ms. King built a unique world and cast of characters with interesting paranormal elements all wrapped up in this series. The basic premise is that there is a secret war taking place that the humans are unaware of - the battle between the Daemon Horde (the bad guys) and the Shikar (aka the good guys). The Horde is made up of monster-like creatures who, throughout the series, begin to evolve into slightly more intelligent and powerful creatures - much to the horror of the Shikar who are the only thing standing between the Horde and the fragile humans. The Horde literally eats humans and crave psychic humans in particular.

The Shikars are warriors (well, the males are) who have special powers (power over elements like fire, knife-like objects springing from their bodies called foils, time/space travel, etc.). They are not humans and although they do 'dally' with human women, their sperm is actually poisonous to them but we later find out that some human women can be converted to Shikar after dying from the poison. I totally loved these heroes - their abilities depend on which caste they're from but they're all dangerous, kick-ass alpha males.

In all four books the heroes are powerful Shikar warriors (although the last book is about the leader who is The Elder and not your average warrior) and the heroines are human females with psychic powers that attract the attention of the Horde and thus the attention of the Shikar who want to protect (and recruit) them. I really loved all of the characters - the females were very strong and sassy and the males are dangerous but loving. The action was really well written and was a nice foil for the romance which is the focal point (of course) and bulk of the stories. The love scenes were hot, although there was a little tongue/anal action that had an "ick" factor for me personally but overall very exciting.

The only book I didn't like as much was the last one LORD OF THE DEEP. It just felt like there was too much going on outside the main characters in this book and I didn't really connect with them. Nor did I feel like they really connected with each other - the evolution of their relationship is very quick and jerky. Also, there are a lot of loose ends left dangling in both the storyline and the character development... like it never really feels like the heroine gets control of her power (and what exactly IS her power?) which is supposed to be a major issue in the book. This one just didn't work like the rest of them did.

There are also two related "Shikar" books (I haven't read them yet) titled: Caress of Flame & Ride the Lightening.

Sherri King's website is too 'techy' and hard to navigate IMO so for more info I recommend checking out Sherri L. King’s booklist at Ellora’s Cave.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The "baddies" and some important lessons...

I realized that I'm neglecting posting about books I really don't like so here's a rundown of some of the less-than-wonderful things I've read in the last few days.

The Zoo by Eve Vaughn
This was WILD - pun intended. I actually purchased this e-book knowing that it probably wouldn't be to my taste but after reading the blurb I was just very curious as to how the author would write such a scenario.

It's a futuristic and the basic story is that a deaf earth-woman is taken prisoner by a group of aliens and sold to another planet as an animal attraction at their Zoo. Of course, she's humanoid and similar to the inhabitants of the planet but because it is so far removed from earth (and they don't speak the same language) they don't know that earth people are intelligent beings.

The hero of the book is one of the zookeepers and he is the best at working with difficult "animals" so he is assigned to work with the new earth creature. He realizes that she isn't a "beast" to be put on display and is extremely attracted to her but knows that in order to help her he has to keep his hands off of her because sexual relations between the two of them would be considered un-natural (since she's a zoo exhibit) and could land him in jail where he would be unable to help her at all. Finally, he realizes that the only way he can save her from living and being treated (poorly) like an animal at the zoo is to escape with her leaving - which he'll do because he loves her, of course.

Did I mention that the hero has two penises? No? well I should have. And what is the plural of penis - does anyone know? Is it peni? Penis's? Penis'? I just really don't know. I also should have mentioned that the zoo also has a male earth beast on display and the zoo hopes that the heroine will procreate with him. Sadly, their plot is doomed to fail because the male is gay. The zookeepers don't know that of course, since they don't even understand that earthlings are sentient.

Since I got it merely to satisfy my curiousity, I wasn't expecting much. The story wasn't absolutely horrible but it wasn't very good either. The characters were pretty flat and the plot needed way more developing to be any kind of decent read. But it was kind of a thought-provoking premise. What would aliens think of us? Would we be lower life-forms to them?

If you're curious too this one (and others in the series) is available from Changeling Press.


The Dark One by Angela Knight
This is another one from Changeling Press that I got yesterday. It was actually the reason that I wandered onto the Changeling website in the first place - I was searching for more AK books. I bought it on the basis of her name but WHOA!! It is NOT the Angela Knight that I adore reading. The story was dark and brutal in regards to the sexual content (which is almost all of the content). I'm not going into details but it went way beyond my personal boundaries.

TODAY'S LESSON #1: There really is a "dark side." If you don't want to see it, be careful where you look.


Mating Net by Rowena (Beaumont) Cherry
This is a prequel to FORCED MATE by Rowena Cherry (who evidentially uses Rowena Beaumont Cherry for her more spicy reads *snorting in disbelief*). I've read FORCED MATE and thought it was basically OK (but just OK). So when I came across this on the New Concepts website I decided to give it a try. UGH!

TODAY'S LESSON #2: A rose by any other name sometimes smells really, REALLY bad.

This book was HORRIBLE. Some of the worst crap I've ever seen published. Not because it was obscene or anything but because it was just crap! The development of the characters, the plot, heck - even the world building was non-existent. The whole damn book was absolutely pointless. Fifty-eight wasted pages containing a whole lot of NOTHING. I wish I could get both my time and money back. The only way this story should have seen the light of day is as a 'freebie' on Rowena Cherry's blog. It was so poorly written that I really can't believe they have the nerve to charge money for it. It's rubbish!

Feline Heat by Madelaine Montague
This one was like a car accident - I just couldn't look away. Yes, I actually finished the story but who knows why.

Here's what I posted elsewhere when talking about it to a friend:
“This woman is being forced by the mob to be an exotic dancer to pay off an old boyfriend's debts. So they capture and bring in a Siberian Tiger and a Lion to be part of her act but what they've actually captured is two guys who are shape-shifters -their base forms are cats but they can shift into humans. Anyway, she's terrified but she's supposed to rub up against the animals and stuff while dancing but the shape-shifters are aroused by her even in their cat form and the tiger ends up *edited for language* having sex with her on stage - AS A CAT!! Yeah. Rips her and everything. NO *edited for language* kidding! So then, she knows she's going to be forced to perform with them again so she frees the cats - only they're men - and they take her on the run with them. And they keep randomly having unemotional (IMO) sex with her - not like menage but like who-gets-sloppy-seconds? Despite the fact that their kind isn't supposed to be mated to a human they both feel like they are. In the end, the chick ends up pregnant - which supposedly can only happen if a human REALLY loves a shifter - and, of course, it's twins. But who is the father? Nobody knows until they're born because they've both been 'seeding the field' so to speak. So the two cats (who have random bouts of challenging each other for her - cause cats don't normally share anything) decide that whoever the father is (evidentially they can tell when they're born) will be the one that gets to stay with the chick and the other will have to leave. Oh.... but it gets better. The twins are born and they're, of course, fraternal twins. And both cats are the fathers - one baby for each of them. NOT KIDDING!!! So they stay as one big happy cat-family. Oh yeah... and did I mention that the cat-shifters are foreign and English is the second language and it's actually WRITTEN with an accent with them saying everything like "I'm tinking ve vill run from the man-children wid dis veak and helpless pretty little ting" In the end, both shifters admit that they "luf" her. SERIOUSLY!””

TODAY'S LESSON #3: The instant gratification of e-books may lead to impulse buying and THERE ARE NO RETURNS!!

This concludes today's lessons. I hope we've all learned a little something today - I know I have!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

I am a rabid Garwood fan and unlike so many others, I love both her historical AND her contemporaries. I have NEVER been disappointed by a Garwood book until the previous one -Shadow Dance - which I thought was just a little flat for such a spicy character as Noah Claybourne but I still enjoyed.

Despite the fact that the feedback about Shadow Music has been mostly negative, I was ready for another "Garwood Experience." Sadly, this book is more like a false store-front version masquerading as a Julie Garwood novel. It all just felt superficial - no real depth to the characters, the romance, or the plot.

I'm not going to go on and on because what I have to say it much like what is being said everywhere else but if you want a more in-depth review I recommend checking out the ones on Book Binge or Dear Author. I'm just too disappointed to put any effort into it right now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Unchained by CJ Barry

The Blurb on the author's site for this book wasn't that great - in my opinion - so I'm going to summarize.

Cidra Faulkner's entire family was killed in a brutal massacre in retaliation for a supposed wrong done by her father. She escaped notice and therefore death that night and spent the next 10 years in hiding being trained to be a Kin-Sha warrior. When her friend and mentor dies, leaving her a box containing incomplete but compelling proof of her father's innocence, Cidra is determined to fulfill her duty and gain justice for her family and regain honor for the Kin-Sha. Luckily, her mentor has left her more than leads to the truth of the past, he's also provided the perfect partner with the means to get the job done.... Grey Stone. But as they travel, research and learn more about each other Grey quickly becomes more than a means to an end.

Responding to his former Kin-Sha mentor's request, Grey arrives just in time for the burial but in plenty of time to fulfil his last request - help Cidra find the proof of truth about the millions of deaths blamed on her father. Cynical and distinctly untrusting of women - well, anyone really - Grey nevertheless makes her part of his crew knowing all the while that resisting the combination of beauty, innocence, and warrior-woman that is Cidra will be nearly impossible. And he's right, the passion between them flares so hot and the emotions so deep that Grey finds himself willing to risk everything he cares for - himself, his ship, his crew... for Cidra's mission and safety.

My Thoughts:
I really, REALLY enjoyed this story! I've read all of CJ Barry's futuristic romances... or so I thought until I ran across this one listed on the New Concepts Publishing website. It was like an undiscovered gem!

The characterizations are awesome - Cidra is strong, sassy, and kick-ass but she is also sweet, vulnerable and innocent. She's very straight-forward, speaking her mind and doing what she thinks is best. I really loved this character - Ms. Barry did an amazing job blending Cidra's almost contradictory traits into a realistic and engaging whole.

Grey is cynical and doesn't trust people in general but not to the extreme that it makes him bitter. He is hardened by life's experiences but intelligent enough not to let it block him from finding love with Cidra. Grey's a great combination of strength and tenderness with a wee bit of naughty rogue and arrogant commander in him (it must come with the territory of being a treasure hunter). I SO fell in love with him - can you tell?

The plot, which revolves not only around Grey and Cidra's relationship but also finding the truth of the past "crime" that Cidra's father allegedly committed. It is very well developed, cohesive, and perfectly paced leading the reader into the action and through various revelations and emotional (relationship) levels with precision- I absolutely couldn't put the book (OK, ebook-reader) down until the end.

Find out more about Unchained and where to buy it in its various forms (it comes in e-book or paperback).
Find out more about CJ Barry.
CJ Barry also writes romantic suspense with a paranormal twist as Samantha Graves.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A little after Christmas reading....

The Christmas-rush is over - thank goodness! I love the season but every December 26th I'm a veggie lying limply on the couch all day trying to "recover". Here's what I've been reading during the after Christmas let-down...

The Accidental Vampire
by Lynsay Sands

This book was kick-ass! Then again... most of Lynsay's books are. Victor is an enforcer for the council that is sent to a small town to investigate a woman who placed an ad in the personals claiming to be a vampiress looking for a relationship with a male vampire and the rumor going through the club scene that there is a female vampire residing in a certain sea-side town. This is a big no-no according to the 'laws' because it draws attention to their kind. When he arrives, under the guise of a potential suitor who has been corresponding with said vampiress for weeks, Victor discovers that the woman, Elvi, didn't place the ad or correspond with him (or rather his friend at his behest) at all- it was her well-meaning but very meddling friends. And he is not the only immortal to respond to the personal, which results in a cast of characters that add to the opportunity for many an amusing scene.
It also becomes quickly apparent that the personal ad leading to possible exposure is the least of Elvi's offenses, the whole town knows who and what she is and she's been biting mortals. To make matters worse, because she had no Sire to train her not only is she ignorant of their laws, the very laws that my result in her losing her head... literally, but she's been sleeping in a coffin and *gasp* stopped eating real food (including cheesecake and chocolate!!) for the last 5 years due to the fact that she used the movie Dracula as her guide to living as a vampire.
When Victor realizes that she's his life mate he is torn between duty to the council and joy at finding someone to spend the rest of his days with. Then the attempts on Elvi's life begin and Victor (along with the other immortal men who answered the ad) are in a race against Elvi's independent nature to keep her from further injury.
The only issue I had with the plot is part of the ending where the threads (most of them at least) are tied off. Things were a little to conveniently wrapped up in conclusion with the people trying to kill Elvi, the threat of the council's wrath, and even the other immortal men brought to town by the personal ad. It was just a wee bit too pat.
This book has a good dose of Lynsay Sands' trademark humor mixed in with the romance, mystery, and light intrigue. I found myself laughing out loud at several points. I can't wait for the next Argeneau vampire romance to come out in February!


Double Vision
by Fiona Brand

I was intrigued by this one because it appeared to be a romantic suspense with a bit of a psychic paranormal element - which it was... sort of. There was nothing particularly wrong with the author's writing but this book should not be classified as a romance, in my opinion. The romance was VERY poorly developed and the hero was a pretty flat character. I was highly disappointed. However, I'm betting that readers who like mystery/suspense books would find this very enjoyable. I just don't recommend it for romance readers.

Monday, December 24, 2007