Saturday, July 27, 2013

ARC Review: Dead Sexy Dragon by Lolita Lopez @NetGalley

Title: Dead Sexy Dragon

Author: Lolita Lopez

Series: Dragon Heat #1

Expected Publication date: August 6th, 2013

ISBN: 9781455547043

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
The last thing dragon shifter Stig Wyvern needs is his dead friend's kid sister showing on his doorstep. He's just minutes away from entering a mating phase. Sharing his isolated house with the young woman he's desperately lusted after for quite some time is a recipe for disaster.

But Cora Cardenas has nowhere else to go. She's in deep trouble with some really nasty people and Stig is the only one who can protect her. That he's deliciously sexy and makes her tingle with the simplest of smiles is just a bonus.

Cora quickly realizes Stig is hiding something from her. To make matters worse, she's plagued with breathtakingly naughty dreams starring a shadowed lover who bears a starling resemblance to her host. And just what the hell is going on down in the basement at night?

Stig needs to get Cora out of his house but his inner beast has other ideas. He's found his mate and she's not going anywhere...

I received an e-copy of this book through the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have read just about every dragon paranormal romance book I can get my hands on as of recently. You all can testify to this since a lot of the recent reviews are dragon related. So when I saw this on NetGalley I was extremely excited to read it and I just had a feeling I would love it.

Boy, was I wrong.

Essentially the book is about a dragon shifter, Stig, who is a hard as nails, no-holds-barred, bad ass who is forced to babysit his dead friend's sister who has gotten herself in trouble. To make matters worse, Stig is in his mating phase which makes his inner beast hungry for sex and to find his mate damned the cost. Having a female in the house that he is already attracted to is a recipe for disaster. He must spurn his romantic and sexual impulses, try to help Cora find her way out of the mess she has made of her life, and avoid a centuries old feud with the Knights of St. George who are dead set on ridding the world of dragon shifters. No pressure.

First of all, this book is more so erotica with a paranormal air to it then regular paranormal romance. There is a fine line between these two genres. I associate erotica with raunchy scenes with naughty language and even naughtier characters. Paranormal romance is a bit more tame than that (depending on the author). This was too much for me. I have read some books where the language was risque, but this one made me blush profusely.

Of course, it wasn't just the language the author used but the abundance of sex in the book. In a typical paranormal romance book there are two or three sex scenes TOPS, unless the book is in the Anita Blake series and then it's sex all the time. This book was a grand total of 128 pages and probably 100 of those pages were sex scenes. What story line there was was all but forgotten in the constant sex, sex, sex going on between the characters. I understand they have had the hots for each other for a long time and that Stig is all riled up from his mating phase but... c'mon. I wanted to embed myself in Cora's form just to push Stig away and tell him "not tonight" for once.

As mentioned, the story was short and with all the sex, there wasn't much to the background of the dragon shifters or their feud with the Knights. The story moved INCREDIBLY fast. All Cora's problems and all that sexual tension between her and Stig got resolved in 2 days. Not to mention in that time, they realized they were mated and meant to be forever. Yep, because that's plausible.

I really wanted to like this book. I TRULY did. But it just wasn't enough for me. The premise was great and there truly would have been something there if the story had been drawn out more and the sex scenes trimmed down. The ending was so abrupt I had no idea what just happened. It's almost as if the author got tired of writing and just stopped where she was.

I will more than likely read the next book in the series simply so I may get some more of the Knights vs Dragons story line. I hope the next installment won't be as disappointing.

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes & Noble  »  Book Depository

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon @yvonnewoon

Title: Dead Beautiful

Author: Yvonne Woon

Series: Dead Beautiful #1

ISBN: 9781423119562

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
On the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Renée Winters was still an ordinary girl. She spent her summers at the beach, had the perfect best friend, and had just started dating the cutest boy at school. No one she'd ever known had died. But all that changes when she finds her parents dead in the Redwood Forest, in what appears to be a strange double murder.

After the funeral Renée's wealthy grandfather sends her to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious boarding school in Maine, where she finds herself studying subjects like Philosophy, Latin, and the "Crude Sciences."

It's there that she meets Dante Berlin, a handsome and elusive boy to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. As they grow closer, unexplainable things begin to happen, but Renée can't stop herself from falling in love. It's only when she discovers a dark tragedy in Gottfried's past that she begins to wonder if the Academy is everything it seems.

Little does she know, Dante is the one hiding a dangerous secret, one that has him fearing for her life.

Dead Beautiful is both a compelling romance and thought-provoking read, bringing shocking new meaning to life, death, love, and the nature of the soul.

Sometimes I choose books completely based on the genre tags that are applied to them on Goodreads. This one one of those cases. It is no secret to any who have read my reviews or know me personally that I have a thing for zombies. I will read anything that even mentions zombies in passing. I think it's the whole loophole to death situation that intrigues me. When you die, you imagine you stay dead. With zombies, that's not the case. Interesting, no? I seem to have a fascination with death and the reanimation of the dead.

Dead Beautiful is almost entirely composed of the questions of death and mortality. Renée used to be the typical California girl who was more concerned with relaxing by the beach than finding out the origins of burial proceedings. That all changed once Renée stumbled across her parents dead in the forest surrounded by coins and with gauze stuffed in their mouths. Renée's world gets shaken to the core from that point on.

Her disconnected and long-lost grandfather becomes her legal guardian and starts implimenting various changes to Renée's life, starting with a move to Maine and the enrollment in Gottfried Academy. Renée says goodbye to her best friend, Annie, and the boy she could possibly have fallen in love with and moves to a unusual school unlike any she has ever known.

It is there at Gottfried Academy that Renée meets Dante. Dante is the token mysteriously handsome boy that seems to plague every single young adult book ever written. The difference is, there is a reason he keeps his distance that has nothing to do with simply being cool. Dante and Renée are uncontrollably drawn to each other in almost a love at first sight type of scenario. Along the way, Renée realizes that there are just some things about the staff, students, and school in general that seem off. Donning her investigator's hat Renée sets out to learn why the school has such a hazy past and how that has some how effected the students and staff. What she finds out, is something she never would have imagined.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dead Beautiful and it wasn't even minutes after I closed the book, ran my hand over the cover affectionately, and set it aside to return to the library, that I was on my library database requesting the next book, Life Eternal, to be picked up on my next visit. I am not normally a morbid person, so the subject of death being so prevalent in this book should have turned me off to it completely. However, for some unknown reason, I found myself enthralled by the history of death and burials, the forbidden love between Renée and Dante, and the mysterious deaths of some of Gottfried's students. It was well written and had me guessing all the way through. The ending does leave off on a cliffhanger which is probably why I was so desperate to request the next book to read. So be prepared.

Dead Beautiful is a story of self discovery, the trials of love, and the realization of death being inevitable, although for some, not permanent.

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes & Noble  »  Book Depository

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review + Excerpt + Giveaway: Uniquely Unwelcome by Brandy Nacole

Title: Uniquely Unwelcome

Author: Brandy Nacole

Series: The Shadow World #1

ISBN: 9781480257771

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Being unique isn't all it's cracked up to be.

After searching all over the world for someone as unique as she is, Racquel finds herself back in her home town where she's treated like a monster ready to kill. Racquel is one of the most unique beings ever created. Four of the most powerful beings in the Shadow World are intertwined within her, making up her unique DNA. But no matter how unique her bloodline is, she's considered an outcast by the entire Shadow World.

Once arriving home, Racquel finds that the greatest evils exist and that the person she cares for most in this world, her half-sister Addie, has been kidnapped along with other Shadow World beings. Racquel finds herself facing horrible odds with those who would rather see her dead than alive.

As her journey continues, Racquel learns more about herself, what she is capable of, and that not every being looks at her as an abomination. Coy, a human captive that Racquel saves from the Vampires, starts showing kindness toward her. Racquel tries putting distance between her and the human boy but as they spend more time together it comes harder and harder for Racquel to fight the affection she wants and needs.

But will Coy's friendship and her new found discoveries be enough to help Racquel unravel the strangest mystery that has ever plagued the Shadow World?

Have you ever had one of those books that just simply jumps out of nowhere and slaps you with a big bag of awesome? No? Well then you haven't read Uniquely Unwelcome by Brandy Nacole. Nacole's masterpiece is one in which you have never seen before in any fantasy novel ever written. Imagine taking all the creatures you love to read about and squashing them together into a single badass character. That is what this author did. As hinky as that may strike you and cause you to doubt whether it can truly work in the story, in this case, it does.

Nacole's concocted world is one in which fantastical creatures live side by side with humans but operate under entirely different rules. Segregation is alive and well in the Shadow World, the world that encompasses Vampires, Lycans, Shifters, Faeries, and Witches alike. No race is suppose to mix with a different race. It is seen as abysmal and distasteful, albeit not illegal. Racquel's family takes full advantage of the legality of such unions and through a macabre amount of unions, Racquel was born. She is Vampire, Lycan, Shifter, and Witch all rolled into one little sarcastic ball of a girl.

Of course, that is not the only basis of the story (even though that would have been quite enough). On top of that, there is a great evil out there who is also not so into the segregation thing. He kidnaps, tortures, and even kills people from every race, even humans. Racquel is happy to leave the situation alone and quietly shrug it off as someone else's problem until one of the kidnap victims turns out to be her beloved half-sister, Addie.

That is all it takes. Racquel is off and running with her high school tormentor, Ethan the Lycan bully. She is told she must visit each of the original races and find out what they know so she may combine the knowledge and find the missing people. Along the way Racquel meets and befriends several different people from different races including Danika the witch, Coy the human, and Jared the vampire. Racquel's journey also brings her face to face with her past torments, her present mistrust, and the possible end to her future.

This book was a surprise. I went into it not really believing I would fall in love with the story or the characters. Boy, was I ever wrong. I found my heart bleeding for Racquel, swooning at Coy, and laughing along with Jared's antics. I have not thoroughly enjoyed a book to this magnitude in a while. The ending does leave off on a slight cliffhanger, which I now must rectify by finding the second book in the series, Blood Burdens.

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes & Noble  »  Book Depository

I stand to leave but once again I'm stopped before taking a step. This time it's Witten.

"A few questions before you go. What types of powers do you contain?"

Here we go. I knew it; I knew I couldn't get away without being interrogated. I was really hoping my abilities and self-being would be questioned. I wonder if they're going to want hair and blood samples too.

"Why? What does that matter?" I hate being hateful after so much generosity but I have to be cautious. After the past I've had, caution is wise, even if the rest of the group has shown me generosity so far.

Witten folds his hands in his lap. "Just curious." For someone who doesn't seem interested in our previous conversation, he sure is full of questions and banter now.

"It is more than that dear," Eldrida says, "we just want to know what you have learned about yourself. How is anyone to know who you are if you do not know yourself?"

Okay, true. But what does that have to do with what power I obtain? "I'll admit. I don't know much about myself. I mean, I have powers but I'm not certain of my full potential."

"What are your Vampire powers?" Witten asks bitterly. I wonder what his deal is? Am I really that much of a bother? Or does he hold a grudge toward the vamps? Whatever the reason, I don't like his tone.

"I have great strength."

"Do you have to obtain blood?" Again, there's a tired bitter tone to Witten's voice.

"A little. Sometimes."

"What about your--?" I know what Witten is just going to keep asking questions, so I interrupt him to speed up this process.

"Okay look, here's the rundown. I can hear really well, see in the dark, have to obtain blood sometimes, can move objects with my mind, shift into an eagle, and hold things in place. That's all I can tell you."

"So you don't know your full potential? You know nothing of each individual power? These are things you must learn. You will never understand yourself until you do, neither will anyone else." Witten says, chastising me.

I flinch under his scrutiny, and shiver at the memory of my grandmother giving me a similar speech. I can hear her voice now, as if she was standing in front of me, reprimanding me for burning my school book. 'Racquel do not stoop to this level of nonsense. You are better than this, better than them. If you want the others to see you for all that you are, then you must first see yourself.' A small smile crosses my lips as I think about what happened next. My grandmother had gone up to Addie's room and brought back her copy of the history book that I had burned, and for the next few weeks, I spent all my free time writing out that textbook word for word, creating a new copy to study from. Thankfully she didn't make me draw the illustrations maps too.

Eldrida rises again and comes to stand in front of me. "When this journey is over you must start a new journey, a journey to discover you." She cups my face in her hands and looks me straight in the eyes. "You are precious, child, and your being lost has caused much confusion not only in yourself but in others as well. You are unique, but what makes you unique is not only the blood that courses through your body but what you do with the power in your blood. Your actions now, seeking out those that have struck against you all these years, are remarkable. You will be great and we will be here to help you find what you need to know."

About the Author:
Brandy Nacole resides in Arkansas where her imagination runs wild. Her obsession is reading but her passion is writing. She put her dream of becoming a writer on the back burner and went to college to become a psychologist. Three years after endless classes in a field she only felt half satisfied with, Brandy picked up her pen once again and wrote the outline for Uniquely Unwelcome. She finished out her degree in psychology, but traded her dream of writing for a degree and put psychology on the back burner.

Whenever she's not reading or writing, Brand is spending time with her family and friends, throwing around crazy ideas, teaching, and singing like a rock star at a concert for no one else but herself. She loves plants, but unfortunately is a killer of anything that requires water but can't voice (scream) their need.

She is the author of The Shadow World series and The Spiritual Discord series. 

(1) Signed Paperback of Uniquely Unwelcome, 
(2) ebooks of Uniquely Unwelcome and the sequel Blood Burdens, 
(2) ebooks of Broken Faith.

There'll be 5 winners.
1st Place: (1) signed paperback of Uniquely Unwelcome
2nd and 3rd Place: (1) ebook of Uniquely Unwelcome & Blood Burdens
4th and 5th Place: (1) ebook of Broken Faith

**This giveaway is International**
Question of the Day: If your DNA could be combined with any other supernatural being, what would you choose? Vampire? Werewolf? Faerie? Something else? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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Also check out the other blogs participating in this book tour tomorrow for more fun posts, reviews, and opportunities to enter our giveaway:
Home of a Book Lover
Mary Had a Little Book Blog
The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper @LindseyPiper

Title: Caged Warrior

Author: Lindsey Piper

Series: The Dragon Kings #1

ISBN: 9781451695915

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
The first installment in the fierce and sensual new paranormal romance series featuring demonic gladiators, ruthless mafia villains, and a proud race on the brink of extinction.

Ten years ago, Audrey MacLaren chose to marry her human lover, making her an exile from the Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons once worshiped as earthly gods. Audrey and her husband managed to conceive, and their son is the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation--which makes him irresistible to the sadistic scientists whose mafia-funded technology allows demon procreation. In the year since her husband was murdered, Audrey and her little boy have endured hideous experiments.

Shackled with a collar and bound for life, Leto Garnis is a Cage warrior. Only through combat can Dragon Kings earn the privilege of conceiving children. Leto uses his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his two sisters to start families. After torture reveals Audrey's astonishing pyrokenesis, she is sent to fight in the Cages. If she survives a year, she will be reunited with her son. Leto is charged with her training. Initially, he has no sympathy for her plight. But if natural conception is possible, what has he been fighting for? As enemies, sparring partners, lovers, and eventually allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.

I bought this book to be read in my Paranormal Romance Book Club.

When I delved into this book, it started out smack-dab in the middle of Audrey's plight. I was a little caught off guard and had to quickly focus in on what was going on. To be perfectly honest, that was the theme throughout the entire book. I had to go back to the synopsis on several occasions in an attempt to understand what was going on. That was mainly, I figure, due to the fact that there was A LOT going on.

The story begins with Audrey awaking in a dank, drippy cell instead of the lab she has come to know so well. She has written her cousin, the leader of the Counsel of the five Dragon King families, pleading for help and awaits his response in this new circle of hell. She meets a no-nonsense warrior who is ruthless and cruel to the core. He is to be her trainer to fight in the Cage.

As the story progresses Audrey starts to find the warrior spirit within her, while Leto starts to learn the softer side of things. They take from each other what they were ultimately lacking in their lives. Audrey needed to no longer be a victim and Leto needed to no longer be a tormentor.

Audrey must overcome physical and mental limitations so she may fight for a years time and get her son back. She battles a gift she has no memory of ever using but fears all the same. She also fights against the overwhelming attraction to her mentor. She had just lost her husband, a man she loved with all her heart, and her son who was being poked and prodded in God knows how many ways, and yet she's still able to find companionship within Leto. I was a little hard-pressed to believe she could move on so easily not just from losing her husband and son, but from the physical torture and degradation she suffered within the laboratory. That sort of thing can really destroy a person. Audrey's resilience while admirable was almost unbelievable.

With Leto, I could see the potential for kindness within him. With the story's alternating viewpoints, I could see into Leto's every action and see that he never enjoyed pushing Audrey to her limits. He cared about her from the first moment he met her but getting over 20 years of brainwashing is not something easily done. To that aspect, it was believable and Leto fast became a potential book boyfriend.

While the story was hard to follow when Piper started referring to the families, histories, traditions, and guidelines of The Dragon Kings, the immediate actions of Leto and Audrey were easy enough. This book almost read like a middle book in a series. Something that mentions facts you should have already read about in previous books. Instead it is sprung on the reader in a most disorienting fashion. Even after reading the book cover-to-cover, I just realized that they are supposed to be demons from typing up the synopsis. There was no mention of that in the book. Only of a Dragon that birthed them (the devil?).

Caged Warrior takes its reader into a twisted world concocted of Roman gladiators and fantastical beasts, where love can be found even within the bowels of hell.

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes & Noble  »  Book Depository

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Hearts in Darkness by Keri Arthur @NetGalley @kezarthur

Title: Hearts in Darkness

Author: Keri Arthur

Series: Nikki & Michael #2

ISBN: 9780440246527

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Life has never been so insane for Nikki James. There's another teenager missing. She has another vampire to contend with. Her partner and best friend Jake is in the hospital dying. And a madman is kidnapping the wealthy. Just when it seems nothing else could go wrong, Michael returns--but not for her. This time, however, Nikki has no intention of running from either the case or from what still lies between her and Michael. And she isn't going to let him run, either.

The last thing Michael Kelly needs is a confrontation with Nikki--especially when his control over his bloodlust is still so tenuous. But when a kidnapper steps up his agenda to murder, he's forced into a partnership with Nikki to keep her safe. Soon Michael discovers the biggest danger he faces may not be from his need to "taste" her, but from his desire to make her a permanent part of his life--a life that is sure to get her killed.

Nikki is determined to make Michael see that time apart is worse than death. But before she can make him see the light, a specter from Michael's past rises that could destroy any hope she has of a future with him. Because this time the threat isn't physical. It's a matter of the heart. Nikki must compete with the woman--the vampire--for whom Michael gave up life.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In my review of Dancing with the Devil, the first in the Nikki & Michael series, I mentioned that I was disappointed with the lack of romance. It had felt like they were much more focused on the job and the dangers surrounding them then in the budding feelings between them. Well, where Dancing with the Devil lacked, Hearts in Darkness definitely made up for it.

Hearts in Darkness started with Nikki gritting her teeth and diving into her work despite the mournful feelings she has for Michael leaving her. She is following yet another petulant teenager that has unwittingly stumbled into supernatural trouble. Attempting to save the teenager from an internet date that seems terribly foreboding, Nikki crosses paths with a group of vampires bent on taking the young boy, Matthew, and riding themselves of the burden of Nikki and her boss, Jake. Nikki escapes the clutches of the vampire horde by the skin of her teeth but her colleague is mortally wounded.

Despite Nikki's close connection to Jake, she decides to pursue Matthew and the vampires who had him. This predestined decision causes the planets to align and Nikki to once more cross paths with Michael, the man who owns and, subsequently, broke her heart. This time, Nikki's gumption to not let him leave again, spurs her to seduce, distract, and allure Michael into showing his hand and confessing his feelings for her. All the while, Nikki and Michael are hot on the trail of the fiends who have kidnapped not only Matthew, but many wealthy men for unknown reasons.

I was pleasantly surprised by how spunky Nikki had become. She had completely abandoned all the fear that held her fast during the first book. She decided once and for all that she was not going to be afraid of letting someone in and loving someone else who could ultimately destroy her. I did quirk a brow at how fast she changed from skittish, docile kitten to sexy, seductive vixen. But, really, all I could do was smile and acknowledge that Nikki was going after what she wanted and damned the consequences. You have to admire that.

Michael was as frustrating as usual. He is always so determined to keep Nikki safe despite the fact that even when she's not around him she is having brushes with death. What makes him think that having him around to protect her more efficiently would be wrong? Silly boy, your woman has presented a sound case, stop being so stubborn and embrace the fact that she is with you, whether you want her to be or not!

This book was head-and-tails above the first book, as so many series often are. I liked the introduction of other supernatural creatures that weren't vampires, as well as the romantic back and forth between Nikki and Michael. The sex scenes are still a little short and not as detailed as the scenes in the Riley Jensen series. It is almost as if Arthur is a bit uneasy about getting detailed. No worries, Arthur, I've read 50 Shades of Gray... there is very little that can make me faint of heart after that.

Hearts in Darkness is a book that has a dash of romance, a sprig of fantasy, and a whole lot of action. It is the type of book you will be hard-pressed to put down and will ignite the hunger for more and more of Nikki and Michael.

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes & Noble  »  Book Depository

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review: The Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard @jjhowardbooks

Title: That Time I Joined the Circus

Author: J.J. Howard

ISBN: 9780545433815

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose.

A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York Girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake--and facing a terrible tragedy--Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother. Rumor has it that Lexi's mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus.

When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn't there... but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus's fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions.

But then Lexi's ex-best friend from home shows up, and suddenly it's Lexi's own fortune that's thrown into question.

With humor, wisdom, and a dazzling fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.

Ever since I read the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, I have been absolutely obsessed with books about the circus. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered this little gem. And I do mean little with it's 259 pages. I think everyone has a soft spot in their hearts when it comes to the circus. Whether it be childhood memories or just the wonder of the lights, sounds, smells, and tastes (good God I want some cotton candy right now!) that surround the imagery that is the circus.

This book is interesting in its execution of telling both critical parts of Lexi's back story and what led her to the circus as well as tying her into what she is doing in present time. In the beginning, I was confused with the jumping around (one chapter the past, the next chapter the present, etc), but I overcame that problem rather quickly. I am still a little foggy, however, on what exactly transpired besides the tragedy, that was so devastating for Lexi. But I made my assumptions and I am sticking with them!

While this book did take place, for the most part, within the confines of a small circus, it did not transport me into this alternative world that circus life is supposed to be. There is a reason for that though. This book is not meant to be something of an insider's look into living with the circus. If it were, it would not be a young adult book. It is a book that focuses on Lexi and all the hardships she must overcome in her life to get where she wants to be in her life.

Lexi is one of those characters that you can't help but like. She is introverted, quiet, and an artist in every sense of the word. However, she is also human. She feels pain, lust, love, and on rare ocasions, happiness, just like everyone else. I loved how some of Lexi's personalities traits helped her through her life in the circus. Normally, I take issue with female leads who are overly emotional and constantly throwing themselves into men's arms for comfort, but I didn't have those issues with Lexi. She was hurting in an almost palpable way and I, myself, wanted to just grab her and hug her until she didn't hurt anymore. She's a teenager forced to grow up way too soon, which is always a tragedy in my opinion.

What I didn't care for was so many love interests. Lexi was wounded and took comfort where she could find it. Did she need to have so many guys she was interested in though, even if it were just a late night makeout session to settle her nerves? One, perfectly acceptable. Two, ah, the traditional love triangle, also plausible. Three, now you're just getting silly with things.

The Time I Joined the Circus was masterfully written in flashbacks and reality. It integrated, essentially, two story lines into one and made me feel like I was getting to know the characters by watching how their past dictates their present. Howard's debut novel could possibly be termed the "greatest little [book] on earth".

Purchase: Amazon  »  Barnes & Noble  »  Book Depository

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: Raziel by Kristina Douglas

Title: Raziel

Author: Kristina Douglas

Series: The Fallen #1

ISBN: 9781439191927

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Kristina Douglas's sexy new series introduces a realm of fallen angels and ruthless demons, where an eternal rebellion is brewing... and one unsuspecting woman can change the fate of the Fallen forever. She was just an ordinary mortal...

"You're dead" is so not what Allie Watson wants to hear. Unfortunately, it explains a lot. Like the dark, angelically handsome man who ferried her to this strange, hidden land. The last thing she remembers is stepping off a curb in front of a crosstown bus. Now she's surrounded by gorgeous fallen angels with an unsettling taste for blood--and they really don't want her around. Not exactly how she pictured heaven.

...until death catapulted her into a seductive world she never imagined.

Raziel is unsure why he rescued Allie from hellfire against Uriel's orders, but she stirs in him a longing he hasn't felt in centuries. Now the Fallen are bracing for the divine wrath brought by his disobedience, and they blame Allie for the ferocious Nephilim clawing at the kingdom's shrouded gates. Facing impossible odds at every turn, the two must work together to survive. Raziel will do anything to defend his spirited lover against the forces of darkness--because Allie may be the Fallen's only salvation.

It has happened again. And with a book, I picked up at the library simply on cover value alone (I mean, look at that... yum, right?) I had my first book binge in a while. I sat down with the book expecting to read a few chapters and ended up devouring every last detail, word, and imagery painted by the masterful Kristina Douglas in a matter of hours. Why was I so intrigued?

Raziel is unlike many of the angel books out there today, most of which are young adults. This is completely an ADULT read. This story is weaved from biblical studies and turned into this complete fantasy world that doesn't come off too preachy (hard to do with most biblical based books). In Douglas's world, the Fallen are not the demons that most religions deem them as, instead they are merely angels who fell in love with human women and fell from grace because they followed their heart. Instead of heaven being ruled by a mighty but forgiving God, God has handed the reins down to a patsy named Uriel, who has twisted all the lessons and teachings of the mighty ruler into a corruption. Everyone, even those with meager sins, are hell bound for their grievances. The tale as old as time of power corrupting even the seemingly incorruptible.

Enter Allie. Allie an Old Testament murder mystery writer is killed and then sentenced to hell. Raziel is the Fallen angel presented with the task to transport her to her eternal resting place, so to speak. Upon realizing that Allie was to be sent to hell and not heaven, Raziel risks his own life to save her. This is the catalyst that starts the whole downward spiral of the Fallen.

Allie is brought back to the Fallen's compound to await judgment on what to do with her and in her time there she must face the realization that all the things she wrote in her fictional writings was more true than she would have thought. Also, she struggles to fight a confusing and intense connection with the dark and brooding Raziel. In many instances, Raziel was almost too harsh with Allie. Instances where Allie rallied behind anger and stubbornness, I would have curled up in a ball sobbing and asking "why are you being so mean to me?!" I actually found myself crying at certain things Raziel said to Allie in his resistance of her.

The tug-and-pull of their relationship coupled with the impending Nephilim attacks and the evil Uriel biding his time and spinning his wheels to bring an end to the Fallen, Raziel was a whirl wind of action, romance, wit, and even some comedy. It was a surprise to me, how elegantly written it was and how well the biblical facts flowed with the fantasy world. I could not put this book down and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel even though I have a feeling it will be a love story of a different Fallen (as so many paranormal romance series are) instead of a continuation of Allie and Raziel's complicated relationship. Either way, I have my coffee poured, the pillows of my reading area fluffed, and I am ready to dive into the fantastical world of the Fallen once more!

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Dancing with the Devil by Keri Arthur @NetGalley @kezarthur

Title: Dancing with the Devil

Author: Keri Arthur

Series: Nikki & Michael #1

ISBN: 9780345538703

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Private Investigator Nikki James grew up on the tough streets of Lyndhurst and believes there's nothing left to surprise her. All that changes  the night she follows teenager Monica Trevgard into the shadows and becomes a pawn caught in a war between two very different men. One fills her mind with his madness, the other pushes his way into her life and her heart. Nikki knows how dangerous love can be, but if she wants to survive, she must place her heart in a man who could easily destroy her.

Michael Kelly has come to Lyndhurst determined to end the war between himself and another brother of the night. For 300 years he has existed in life's shadows, gradually learning to control the life from death cravings of a vampire. Nikki not only breaches his formidable barriers with her psychic abilities, but makes Michael believe he may finally have found a woman strong enough to walk by his side and ease the loneliness in his heart. But will his love be enough to protect her from a madman hell-bent on revenge? Or will it drive her into his enemy's deadly trap?

Only together can they overcome the evil threatening to destroy them both. But the secrets they keep from each other might prove to be the greatest threat of all.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had read several of Keri Arthur's other book series and this one was nothing like any of them. While her Riley Jensen series was centered around a werewolf and had more risque sex scenes in than actual action, this book, Dancing with the Devil, lacked detailed sex scenes and focused more on the overall action of the characters.

The focus on the story and the supernatual aspects of the story was something of a bittersweet surprise. I was expecting much of the same from the author as seen in previous book series, but instead this one was fraught with danger and the perplexities of the mind. While this both intrigued me and made the book more of a story focused on the complexities of a world filled with unknown paranormal creatures and metaphysical abilities, I did find myself missing the more "hot and heavy" aspects.

Don't misunderstand me. There was a romance in this story. A very good one at that. There was the token instant, confusing connection, followed closely by the dance of insecurities over whether a blooming relationship was wise, and finally the climatic realization of love between the two thoroughly smitten protagonists. However, the reasons for the couple's strife over their budding romance were more deep-seeded and complicated than most paranormal romance literature. Instead of it simply being a question of whether the feelings were true, it was instead painful past events that hindered Nikki and Michael. This was new, unexpected, and a delight to someone who's college major is delving into the inner-workings of the human mind.

Nikki entered the story bent on doing her job and overcoming guilt from her past by doing so. She did not much care how this goal was achieved, even at the risk of her own life. One character in the story claimed Nikki had a "death wish", to which I couldn't agree more. She bumbled along with her heart in the right place as she fought to save the unsaveable and escape the clutches of an evil who has found her to be too intriguing not to claim as his own.

Michael was the white knight of the story several times. Nikki would sacrifice herself or risk it all to do what she believed was right and Michael was forced to keep her from perishing from her reckless antics. Michael has the patience of a saint, to be quite frank. Dark, handsome, self-loathing Michael. Such a perfect protagonist match for wounded daredevil Nikki.

My overall impression of the story was that it was much the same as many paranormal romance books out today. However, Nikki and Michael were a different sort of character type all around. It was refreshing to see protagonists who were not 100% together. They were scarred and they had issues to overcome which left it wide open for the rest of the series to try to mend their battered hearts and bring them together. Not a bad read by any stretch of the imagination.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout @JLArmentrout

Title: Onyx

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Lux #2

ISBN: 9781620610114

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
Being connected to Daemon Black sucks...

Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon's determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I've sworn him off, even though he's running more hot than cold these days. But we've got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town...

The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I'm a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who's got a secret of his own. He knows what's happening to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes...

I've seen someone who shouldn't be alive. All I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he's never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them--from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies...

I consumed Obsidian in the matter of a few hours when I read it. It was an amazing story and I hoped Onyx would be much of the same. Jennifer L. Armentrout did not disappoint. Onyx carrying on where Obsidian left off. Katy is still fighting her feelings for Daemon, but Daemon has flipped the switch and instead of keeping Katy at a distance he is pursuing her... hard. Daemon finds their connection to be proof that they should give a relationship a shot, while Katy believes that the connection has fogged Daemon's mind into believing he likes her when he doesn't.

Katy is sometimes a very frustrating character to read. She is constantly fighting the feelings she has for Daemon and constantly trying to play the hero despite her being a puny human among a bunch of superhero-esk aliens. She throws herself into situations that could end terribly for her in hopes of saving those she cares about, but it always backfires on her. She is left being forced to once again play the damsel in distress and wait to be rescued by one of her Luxen white knights.

Of course, Katy is not all bad. She does have her appealing parts such as her being a book reviewer. That connects me to her character exponentially. It is possibly why I am so addicted to this series. I can actually see myself slipping into Katy's shoes easily. She is as stubborn as I am told I am (I still don't believe it). And her connection with Daemon? Where have all the hot Luxen men gone and where can I find one?

Nice segue into Daemon. In Onyx we see not just Daemon's cocky know-it-all side, but also the kind and heavily burdened side. Daemon is faced with a lot of stress. Keeping him, his Luxen family, and Katy all out of the crosshairs of the DOD and Arum alike, is a full-time job. That coupled with his growing emotions for Katy, his determination to find his brother, and keeping an eye on a new stranger, Blake, who seems to have his eye not only on Katy but possibly on the rest of his family as well. Daemon handles all this with a couple flare-ups in temper and a few moments of shutting down and pushing people away, but better than most would.

Onyx shows it's readers a new side to the DOD and the United States government. What once was thought of as the Luxen's saving grace is now questionable. Is the DOD really helping the Luxen? Are they being selfless by allowing the Luxen to live freely among humans? Or is it all some greater conspiracy that has Katy and Daemon smack-dab in the middle of it?

As with Obsidian, I devoured Onyx in the matter of a few hours. I went on a book binge the likes of which I have only heard about. I had forsaken food, fresh air, sunlight, and any other menial diversions to continue through the pages of this book. Onyx dragged me back into the world where hot aliens lived, the government was once again called into question as friend or foe, and a love story unfolded that can only be conjured up through the literary prowess of a genius author. If you haven't read the Lux series, your library and life in general is not complete.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver @OliverBooks

Title: Requiem

Author: Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium Trilogy #3

ISBN: 9780062014535

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.
But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancee of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

I had read Delirium and Pandemonium some time ago. I was a little fuzzy when I finally got a copy from the library (it took FOREVER… seriously), but after a while I remembered what I had read in the first two books. The book did not really give much detail as to what happened in the last books except when it was pertinent so it wasn’t like other books that give a refresher course at the beginning of the each book so you can make sure to be caught up.

In Requiem the focus was more on the building to a final stand between the Invalids and “Zombies”. The love story of Alex and Lena or Julian and Lena was there, of course, but it wasn’t the most important aspects of the book. In Requiem we follow Lena and her pack of Invalids (including her two confusing and equally hot boy toys) across the country as they search for a place to call their own. As their existence became known to the Cureds finally in Pandemonium the regulators start to take strides to eradicate all Invalids from existence. To the shock of the Invalids they actually are venturing out from behind their massive walls and extracting their heads from the sand to push back against the encroaching Invalids.

As Lena becomes more and more confused about her warring feelings for Julian and Alex, their lives become a series of strategic battles and all-out bloody wars. Lena had her heroic moments but it was always with some help. She was braver and more willing to bleed for her cause than she was in the earlier books, but she was by no means as strong a leader as Tack or Raven. I liked the fact that Oliver did not automatically stick her in a leader’s position because she got lucky in a few missions or was the protagonist of her story. She kept Lena as a strong battler, but not the figurehead of the rebellion.

Alex came out of the Crypts in Pandemonium and turned into their snarky asshat in Requiem. I understand he was a bit peeved off at the end of Pandemonium with some of Lena’s actions and choices, but did that mean he had to be as broody? I think not. I still liked Alex, don’t get me wrong. I was a fan of Lena and Alex since Delirium. I just didn’t think he had to react the way he did. I think he could have either accepted it and moved on or fought for what he wanted.

Julian. Poor, sad, forgotten, Julian. I felt for the dude. Throughout the story he was trying his damned to prove he was not like the Cureds and was made for the Wilds. This ruffled a few feathers and got to be a little desperate looking, but bless his heart… he was trying. Julian was a beta character that never did anything too stand-out-ish. Even in battle scenes he was normally forgotten.

The ending of this book felt like it was cut off at the knees. I kept expecting something more extravagant or at the very least more final. Hana, who was the other half the story, struggling with a sadist future husband and questions she shouldn’t be having, had no ending at all. She simply poofed out of the story. Okay? Hana? Where’d you go? What’d you do? I NEED ANSWERS!

I liked the book, but I think it was read more like a middle book than the final book. The ending was unsatisfactory because it left a lot of stuff hanging. Cliffhangers with no chance of answers is horrible. It weighs on my heart and makes me grab fistfuls of hair and tug screaming “whyyy?!” Although, it was a good read, I needed a bit more than what I got. More resolutions and more romance would have made this book worthy of greatness.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Cursed by Monica Wolfson

Title: Cursed

Author: Monica Wolfson

Series: Tysseland Chronicles #1

ISBN: n/a

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
When 17-year-old Sasha orders her latte at a local cafe, she hardly expected to get robbed. Strangely, the men don't want money from the register. Instead they are interested in the necklace she is wearing that her mother gave her years ago.

Sasha can't understand why the men would want the worthless piece of stained glass that hangs around her neck from a leather cord. It's not worth anything or is it? She comes to realize not all value is measured in dollars and cents.

This is the night she meets Evan, who saves her life by distracting the robbers as the couple dodge flying bullets. It takes days for Sasha to acknowledge that her burgeoning magic abilities helped keep them safe. She's adamant in keeping the secret from Evan. She doesn't want him to know she's a freak.

Cursed is a thrilling romantic and exhilarating read. Monica Wolfson takes readers to a fantasy world they won't want to leave.

I received an e-book copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I include that line with all the books (electronic or physical), but it has never held as much weight as it does now. I fell in love with the cover of this book and fangirled so heavily that the author gave me a copy of the third book (not yet published) to compare it to. It too was gorgeous, by the way. So, when I first started reading I was absolutely positive that I would love the story. While in some aspects I was correct, others I was not.

The story opens with Sasha, a young college student who frequents a less populated cafe due to its homey feel and comfortable fireplace to read or study beside. One evening, while avoiding going home, she stops in and meets Evan. The same night they are held at gunpoint by a couple of masked thugs. They escape, barely, with the help of Evan's quick thinking and Sasha's budding magical abilities. After that it is a tale of evil queens, magical worlds, a growing romance, and Sasha's struggle to simply stay alive and find answers to who she is, where she comes from, and why she's being hunted.

Sounds interesting, right? To an extent, yes, it was. The story line of Sasha and the world of Tysseland was all in all well thought out and something that would spurn many a fantasy lover into intrigue. However, a lot of it was poorly executed. There were boundaries the protagonists encountered that made me wonder how they were going to figure a way out of it, but then the problem just seems to disappear with no rhyme or reason. One minute, I'm on the edge of my seat with bated breath, trying to play out the different scenerios that could save the heroine and her love interest, the next it gets fixed with no explanation as to how. It's like slowly chugging up a steep hill on a rollercoaster, excitement and thrill is almost palpable and then once you reach the top they stop the ride and tell you to get off because that's it.

Another aspect I struggled with was the romance. As an example of the rollercoaster metaphor, Evan tells Sasha he can't be with her because he's not in an place in his life where he can handle a relationship (heard that before, so... that's real), then all of a sudden he is ready. No interactions between the characters occurred to cause this sudden change of heart, no death-defying antics, and no reason for it to happen out of the blue. After that, the connect between Sasha and Evan just never resonated with me. I didn't feel emotionally involved with them so their confessions of love or romantic interludes were met with a sad sigh that I wasn't closer to them so I could almost feel what Sasha or Evan were.

Now, I don't want you to think the entire book was a flop. It was not. The fantasy aspects of the story were fantastic. The different world with its many facets? The evil, remorseless queen? The questions of Sasha's magical abilities? Those were all the things that kept me reading and kept me involved. The people of Tysseland and their stories would make for fun interludes in Sasha's story (I need to know more about Deal!)

I think that despite some of the flaws I found personally in the execution of the story, Cursed was okay.

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver @OliverBooks

Title: Pandemonium

Author: Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium #2

ISBN: 9780062130082

Synopsis (according to Goodreads): 
“So what was your name before?” I say, and she freezes, her back to me. “Before you came to the Wilds, I mean.”

For a moment you stands there.

Then she turns around.

“You might as well get used to it now,” she says with quiet intensity.

“Everything you were, the life you had, the people you knew… dust.”

She shakes her head and says, a little more firmly, “There is no before. There is only now, and what comes next.”

After falling in love, Lena and Alex flee their oppressive society where love is outlawed and everyone receive the “cure”—an operation that makes them immune to the delirium of love—but Lena alone manages to find her way to a community of resistance fighters. Although she is bereft without the boy she loves, her struggles seem to be leading her toward a new love.

Unlike Delirium which follows Lena’s romance with Alex and her struggles with what she believes about the world she lives and the disease she was taught to fear, Pandemonium chronicles Lena’s life among the Invalids and her struggle to fight to keep her feelings felt. Where Lena once felt that the disease was worse than death she now believes the CURE is much worse than she would have ever imagined. Along with a cast of new Invalids friends from the strong and authoritative, Raven, to the quiet and mysterious, Blue. These people Lena was taught to fear and hate accept her better than anyone else she knew in her previous life.

As well as struggling with her new role in life, Lena was face facts that Alex was not going to be there for her while she learned the ropes of the Wilds. She mends her broken heart to the best of her ability with a little help from a new character, Julian.

This book was interesting in the way it was formatted. Instead of having different character perspectives, it would switch back and forth through time. It would tell of Lena’s “rebirth”, as she put it, in the Wilds and then switched to the present where she was on a mission for the resistance, a band of Invalids who attempt to reform the society of the cured. Along the way is an interesting connection between Lena and Julian which left me feeling a bit uneasy. I was such a big fan of Alex from the first book and was not ready to let go of the Lena-Alex romance.

When I first picked up the book and started reading and realized that Alex wasn’t in it, I almost tossed it aside. That would have been an incredibly poor mistake. I am not one to leave things unfinished. Especially not a book series. So I pushed through and went along with the emotional rollercoaster. The book got better and the new cast of characters made for interesting back stories and interactions with Lena. I believe that this book did not fall into the dreaded slump that most sequels do. This one actually powered through and was about the same quality as the first book in the series. Overall, I liked the book and am hard-pressed to start Requiem because I am afraid it will be the end of the series. With fingers crossed that the series doesn’t end and two thumbs up for this book, I can safely say that Pandemonium and the Delirium series are a must read.

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