The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-31-13

Sunday PostThis is Easter Sunday for those who celebrate that holiday. It is also still Passover, as my mother reminded me in our regular Sunday phone call.

Peepitecture: Seattle Central Library in Peeps
Peepictecture:Seattle Central Peep Library, created by Melody Leung, Nadia Melim and Marc Tegen, photo by Nadia Melim

On the interwebs, it seems to be Peep season. The Seattle Times runs a Peep contest every year. One of the winners this year created an all Peep version of the Seattle Central Library, my place of work. It really does kind of look like this on a sunny day. Not that we get all that many of those. You really should check out the complete gallery of winners. The peep comet, named Peep Impact, is particularly awesome.


But these peeps below are absolutely my favorite Peeps for this year. For a science fiction fan, what’s not to love?

Cthulhu Peeps

There are other favorites this week, if favorites is defined as favored to win. Or winning your favorites. Whatever. Bethanne S. won Nina Croft’s Bittersweet Blood giveaway, and Lisa C. took away a copy of Jeanette Grey’s Take What You Want.

There’s still plenty of time to be tempted by Kathryn Barrett’s giveaway of her new “not-an-Amish-romance” Temptation, and to get in on the tourwide giveaway inspired by Christine Bell’s Down and Dirty. And if that’s not enough there’s the Hero of My Heart Blog Hop, starting today and running through April 10.

Dark Currents by Lindsay BurokerRecapping all of this week’s posts:

A Review: Imager’s Battalion by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
B- Review: Down and Dirty by Christine Bell
Guest Post: Christine Bell’s Top Ten Songs for Knockin’ Boots To + Giveaway
C+ Review: Saved by the Rancher by Jennifer Ryan
B Review: Temptation by Kathryn Barrett
Guest Post: Author Kathryn Barrett on Genre Busting + Giveaway
A Review: Dark Currents by Lindsay Buroker
Stacking the Shelves (40)
Hero of My Heart Blog hop hosted by Romance at Random

This coming week is a big week here at Reading Reality, because April 4-5 is my second annual Blogo-Birthday! Woohoo!

On April 4, Reading Reality will be two years old. I suppose that means it’s a toddler. April 5 is the blogger’s birthday. I’m slightly older than two. A bit.

I want you all to celebrate with me, so I’m giving away some of my favorite books, and a couple of gift cards so that you can pick out your own new favorites.

Come share the fun!


Hero of My Heart Blog Hop hosted by Romance at Random

Romance at Random is sponsoring a special Hero of My Heart blog hop!

Enter below to win from 3/31 thru 4/10 – Romance at Random will be randomly giving away books, including:

  • 5 eBook copies of Hero of My Heart by Megan Frampton (on sale 4/8)
  • 3 eBook copies of A Vampire Salvation by Virna DePaul (on sale 4/22)
  • 2 eBook copies of Taking Shots by Toni Aleo (on sale 4/23)
  • and . . . . . one (US only) prize winner receives a box of books, including Debbie Macomber’s Starting Now!

That’s right, 11 winners in all!

Enter the hop using the Rafflecopter below then visit all of the participating sites to increase your chances – winners will be randomly chosen and this is a big one . . . it could be you! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveawayBe sure to visit the other participating sites for more chances to win those books!

Stacking the Shelves (40)

Stacking the Shelves

I listened to a webinar last week sponsored by Library Journal. Several publishers were highlighting their spring and summer books. It’s always good to hear about what’s coming out, even when it’s not in a genre I read myself.

The Human Division by John ScalziOne of the publishers was Macmillan, Tor’s parent company. Even though they didn’t talk science fiction, they sent this nice email afterwords, saying that any librarian who attended could get white-listed on Edelweiss for any Macmillan title. My eyes bugged out when they listed The Human Division as one of the books I could get.

I didn’t just get John Scalzi’s The Human Division, his return to his Old Man’s War universe, I’ve already inhaled it. And written my review. The only reason I haven’t posted it yet is because it’s too early to publish.

Just what I needed…more books. Yes!

Stacking the Shelves March 30 2013

For Review: (ebooks)
Beauty and the Blacksmith (Spindle Cove #3.5) by Tessa Dare
Dancing With the Devil (Nikki & Michael #1) by Keri Arthur
Death of Yesterday (Hamish Macbeth #29) by M.C. Beaton
His Southern Temptation (Boys Are Back In Town #2) by Robin Covington
The Human Division (Old Man’s War #5) by John Scalzi
Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane #5) by Elizabeth Hoyt
A Riveting Affair by Candace Havens, Lily Lang, Patricia Eimer
Rules of Entanglement (Fighting for Love #2) by Gina L. Maxwell
Seduction by M.J. Rose
The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh (Cynster Sisters Duo #2) by Stephanie Laurens

Borrowed from the Library: (print)
Ran Away (Benjamin January #11) by Barbara Hambly
The Shirt On His Back (Benjamin January #10) by Barbara Hambly

Review: Dark Currents by Lindsay Buroker

Format read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Dark Currents by Lindsay BurokerFormats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Emperor’s Edge, #2
Length: 318 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: March 16, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

It’s been three months since former enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon and the notorious assassin Sicarius thwarted kidnappers and saved the emperor’s life. The problem? Nobody knows they were responsible for this good deed. Worse, they’re being blamed for the entire scheme. With enforcers and bounty hunters stalking them, and the emperor nursing a personal hatred for Sicarius, it’s going to be hard to earn exoneration. When Amaranthe’s team discovers mutilated bodies in the city aqueducts and a mysterious illness incapacitates thousands of citizens, she and Sicarius see an opportunity to solve the mystery and prove their loyalty. But they’ll have to defeat vengeful shamans, man-eating predators, and deadly mechanical constructs, all while dodging imperial soldiers who would rather kill them than accept their help. Nobody said exoneration would be easy.

My Review:

Finding dead bodies blocking the sewer is generally considered bad news, unless it’s the start to a fantastically marvelous story like Lindsay Buroker’s Dark Currents, the second book in her fantasy-steampunk Emperor’s Edge series.

I was hooked from the moment that Books fell into that first squishy, wet corpse.

Books is a person, by the way, Marl Mugdildor, the researcher in Amaranthe Lokdon’s crazily mismatched team. This is his story. Well, he’s more the near-central player.

The Emperor’s Edge series is Amaranthe and Sicarius’ story. Amaranthe is a former Imperial Enforcer, and Sicarius is still the best assassin in the known world. Quite possibly ever. Their goal is to do enough really terrific great deeds (and get recognized for them) that they can redeem everyone’s name so that the Emperor will forgive them all.

[The Emperor's Edge]Amaranthe wants to be back on the good side of the law again. She never intended to be a criminal. It was something that got forced upon her because she is more than a bit too smart for her own good. (Read the awesome beginning of the series, The Emperor’s Edge for the complete story). Sicarius needs to get back on the Emperor Sespian’s good side because, very, very much unknown to the Emperor, Sicarius is his real father.

Amaranthe is the only person alive who happens to know that rather dangerous fact. Sicarius has been trained, practically from birth, it seems, never to give away anything. But if there is one thing that Amaranthe is good at, it’s getting people to tell her things that they had no intention of revealing. It’s a talent that seems to work especially well on the otherwise extremely taciturn assassin.

When she’s not getting them both nearly killed. Or when his very murky past isn’t coming back to bite them both in the ass.

Speaking of which, a lot of those “dark currents” referred to in the title of this book have to do with Sicarius’ past. The rest of the currents are water. It turns out that no one really knows where the water that feeds the capitol of the empire is sourced from–except whoever is poisoning it.

Amaranthe and company head into the countryside to find out, hoping that saving the entire city will be a splashy enough job to catch the emperor’s attention in a favorable way. It’s too bad that the emperor has already sent soldiers and enforcers to get to the bottom of the problem, and that they don’t trust Amaranthe and her crew.

It’s even more serious that the real problem is one that only Amaranthe’s crew can handle. There’s a mad shaman on the loose, and no one in the empire even believes in magic.

Escape Rating A: I absolutely could not put this down. This was one of those “miss-my-bus-stop” books.

The thing that is making this series so good for me so far is the relationship between the team members. The snark level is very high, but it’s part of the way the camaraderie builds. This is the kind of family that grows by spilling blood together. And by occasionally having its blood spilled together.

Amaranthe’s relationship with Sicarius is heading slowly toward romance. It’s very slow, and that’s good. He started out so closed off, that there was no way he was anything other than unattainable at the beginning. Gorgeous, but unattainable. It would be like throwing herself at a rock. She’d break. But she’s getting to him, and he’s cracking a bit around the edges.

Having this story use Books as the focus character instead of Amaranthe gave the team more depth. Being more in his headspace and hearing why he was with the team and what he got out of it added more to the story.

The Assassin's Curse by Lindsay BurokerI have a few more things I need to read before I can treat myself to the next book, Deadly Games. There’s a novella in between, The Assassin’s Curse, and I know I’m going to read it too. This series is just too much fun to resist for long!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post: Author Kathryn Barrett on Genre Busting + Giveaway

My guest today is Kathryn Barrett, the author of an unusual and fascinating spin on the Adam-and-Eve story of the Garden of Eden, Temptation. She’s here today to talk about how her love story of a Hollywood actress and an Amish furniture maker (while extremely compelling, see my review for deets) breaks multiple traditional genre concepts in to tell its story.


TemptationTour Banner

The Genre-Busting Book

I never set out to write an Amish romance. Frankly, I’ve never even read an Amish romance.

But somehow I managed to write one, at least seemingly write one.

Temptation is not an Amish romance; it’s a romance set in Amish country, a distinction I wanted to make clear. It features Amish characters, including a main character, Jacob, who is an Amish furniture maker.

Nor is Temptation, like most Amish romances, an inspirational romance (sometimes called Christian romances). In an inspirational romance, a character typically finds their faith (having nearly lost it during the course of the book) at the end. Temptation is, if anything, an anti-inspirational. Jacob does not (spoiler alert!) find his faith in the end. At least, not in the traditional way. I suspect he’s found something much better, but I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination.

I never set out to write a genre-buster, but when I heard my publisher refer to it that way in an interview, months before Temptation was released, I realized she’d correctly characterized the book.

Temptation by Kathryn BarrettOne of my biggest fears, right before Temptation was released, was that I’d get awful reviews on Amazon, similar to some of Annette Blair’s, from people complaining about the fact that there’s sex in an Amish romance. Her books (which otherwise got very good reviews) feature explicit sex, as does mine, and I could just see the same outraged reviewers labeling my book “trashy” due to its content. So I tried to be clear in the early marketing: don’t expect to find a sweet romance here. On the other hand, the idea of very explicit sex, in this setting and between these characters, is somehow wrong as well. (That comes later, after the epilogue, trust me.)

Genre exists partly because readers want to be reassured when they buy a book that certain conventions are met: a happy-ever-after ending, a solution to the crime, etc. Readers want the comfort of knowing that their worst fears—of a main character dying, for instance—won’t come true. But sometimes we want a little extra in the mix: a police procedural cop who falls in love, a horror novel set in outer space. An Amish romance that doesn’t close the door when the hanky panky starts.

A few months ago some writers were talking about a rumor they’d heard of a new “Amish erotica” sub-sub-genre. We all expressed our shock—such a mismatch of expectations! But I wondered if my book had somehow contributed to that meme. Or is there someone out there writing hot, steamy Amish romance?

Perhaps they didn’t set out to write an Amish romance. Perhaps they’d never even read one…

What are the bounds of genre, and when is it okay to break them? Do readers’ expectations matter? I’d love to hear what readers think, in the comments.

Thanks for having me here at Reading Reality, Marlene, and allowing me to explore the idea of genre.

Kathryn BarrettAbout Kathryn BarrettKathryn Barrett has been writing women’s fiction since the day her youngest daughter left for pre-school. All was going well, until she read a book called “30 Mistakes In Fiction Writing” and realized she was making all of them.

One by one, she’s overcome the mistakes and learned to make a few more along the way. “The best way to learn to write is to write,” she says. “Period.”

Kathryn lives near London in the enchanting countryside of England. When she’s not writing, she’s busy training a rescue dog, tramping around archaeological ruins, and occasionally making wine runs to France. Because nothing fuels the imagination like a good Bordeaux.

To learn more about Kathryn, go to her website, Facebook, and Twitter.



Kathryn is kindly offering TWO giveaways! At Reading Reality, she is giving away an ebook copy of Temptation. The grand prize for the blog tour is a Kindle Paperwhite. Check out both Rafflecopters!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Temptation by Kathryn Barrett

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Temptation by Kathryn BarrettFormats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Length: 248 pages
Publisher: Entangled
Date Released: February 25, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Laura Hayes has been acting since she was an infant, making Hollywood the only home she has ever known. But when she moves to Pennsylvania’s Amish country to film her next movie, she discovers there’s more to life than a pair of Jimmy Choos and a Marie Claire cover.

Intrigued by the Amish simplicity, she’s soon gardening and baking plum pies—and enjoying it. And when her neighbor turns out to be the local heartthrob and a talented furniture maker, she realizes that what’s missing from her life might be the love of a good man—not to mention the perfect heirloom tomato.

Jacob fights the urge to question the teachings of his Amish beliefs—despite his desire to create furniture that is beautiful as well as useful—and struggles with his longing for the sexy stranger who makes him feel truly alive for the first time. As his attraction grows, so do his doubts, until he’s forced to face temptation and decide once and for all what is truly worth the fight.

My Review:

Anything forbidden always seems so terribly tempting.

Laura Hayes is not merely an actress, she’s also a celebrity. She enjoys the “work” but not the trappings that go with it. Including the mother who only sees Laura for what she can buy for her, and the ex-husband still trying to sponge off her. Laura longs for a “real life” like her sister Meg.

Jacob Hostetler is an Amish furniture maker. He enjoys the work but he longs to make the designs that are in his mind, designs that are more than the “Plain” designs permitted by his faith. He is inspired to make works of art modeled after the Arts and Crafts work of Frank Lloyd Wright that he has seen pictured in forbidden books he’s borrowed from the public library.

These are two people who should never meet. But Laura is making a movie in Lancaster, PA, about an Amish woman who commits adultery to give her husband a son. It’s a long film shoot, and Laura is tired of living in hotels and inns. She buys a house in Lancaster. Then she goes into Jacob’s shop to buy a cradle for her sister’s new baby.

Jacob is a widower. He never expected to find another woman who would fascinate him the way his late wife Susannah did.

Laura never thought that any of the Amish men would be young, not to mention gorgeous.

Lightning strikes where it shouldn’t.

Through one very long summer, as Laura films a movie about an Amish woman committing an act that she would definitely be shunned for, Laura and Jacob meet, continue to draw sparks from each other, and pull away, both stung and stunned.

Laura doesn’t understand the cost to Jacob if they act on what they feel. After all, they are both single and unattached.

Jacob has a young son and a mother. If he leaves the community, he loses them, and they lose his support. The price is high.

But he can’t keep away. He tries to be just a good neighbor, helping Laura with her garden, fixing her porch roof when it breaks. making furniture when she asks.

There is always more between them, not acted upon, but not always unspoken.

And someone leaves Laura nasty notes because they know her relationship with Jacob is a threat.

While Jacob questions everything that he ever believed, because he also wants to build the furniture he wants, and not only the furniture he is supposed to. Cutting himself off from his art is like cutting off part of his soul.

His art is half of his soul, and Laura may be the other half. Without either of them, what does he have left?

Escape Rating B: The love story simmers through the whole book, and you can’t help but get caught up in the “will they/won’t they” question. As the reader, you want them to have a happy ending, but because of the bigger questions, you’re not entirely sure what a “happy ending” really means.

Part of the happy ending, outside of the love story, is that Laura needs to put on her “big girl panties” and deal with her mother and the other leeches surrounding her celebrity life. She needs to get control of herself before she can give that self to anyone else.

It was good that it takes quite a while before you figure out who the “evildoer” is. There shouldn’t have been any easy answers in this one, because this is not about black and white questions.

The “forbidden fruit” aspects of the love story made for good fiction, but I can’t help but wonder how close to the Amish way of life the portrayal of Jacob might be. (Reviewer’s note: My husband grew up in Lancaster, and he just shook his head at the description of the plot)

witness movieThis story was still fascinating, and I couldn’t put it down. It also makes me want to go and watch the movie Witness.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Cinderella Makeover by Hope Tarr

The Cinderella Makeover by Hope TarrFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Suddenly Cinderella, #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 11, 2013
Number of pages: 146 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Fashionista Francesca St. James has agreed to work as a “fairy godmother” on the reality TV show Project Cinderella, taking contestants from geeky to dreamy. When Francesca’s archrival bets she can’t transform the awkwardly sweet CEO to hot in under eight weeks, Francesca accepts the challenge.
As CEO of a tech company, Greg may have billions, but what’s it worth without a woman to share it with? From day one on the show though, he clashes with his gorgeous fairy godmother—yet off-set, he can’t stop thinking about her. But this sexy woman is so far out of his league…and wants to change every single thing about him. It’s up to him to show her it’s more than clothes that make the man.
May the best man or geek win…

My Thoughts:

Do clothes make the man? Can magic ruby red slippers, (in this case, they’re stilettos) bring good luck and true love?

In The Cinderella Makeover there are a whole lot of tropes and myths that come out to play. Even when they’re turned sideways and set to dance, the way that they play off each other makes for a surprisingly good story.

Francesca St. James and Gregory Knickerbocker have met once, and it was not a “meet cute”. He’s one of those high-tech billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, young, geeky, fashion-challenged and eccentric. Make that extremely eccentric. He won’t pose for a photograph.

He tanks Francesca’s photojournalism career when he screws over her appointment to photograph him for GQ. Her polished Brit professionalism hit all of his awkward buttons, and he acted like a brat. A very wealthy and influential brat.

18 months later she’s still losing assignments and money. She’s also lost custody of her daughter in pursuit of assignments and her lost prestige. But Greg Knickerbocker is also hurting. He’s passing thirty and has been dumped by his 100th woman. Not a milestone to celebrate.

They both fall into the orbit of “Project Cinderella”, a new reality TV show. Greg becomes a contestant. He hopes that a new look and complete style makeover will give him the personal confidence boost he needs to finally find his soul mate.

Francesca signs on as a fairy god-mentor. The money she’ll earn is enough to let her spend the summer with her estranged daughter…without having to jet around the globe working.

But the moment that Francesca and Greg spot each other, the sparks begin to fly, along with the pasta sauce.

When Francesca makes a foolish bet with her arch-nemesis that Greg will win the contest, she breaks all the rules to turn the geek into prince charming. The more time they spend together, the more they realize that instead of loathing each other, they might be just what the other one needs.

Verdict: Francesca and Greg are both wounded when the story begins. Admittedly, some of that damage is self-inflicted, and a bit of it comes from their initial encounter. But most of what’s wrong with them is a lot deeper than that.

Greg may be rich, but he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He earned his money by being pretty darn obsessive. He loves what he’s doing, but he hasn’t had time for a life. Geekiness pays, but not in social skills. As an adult, he’s continued the pattern because it’s comfortable, and it’s defensive. But it’s also lonely. He knows happy marriages exist (his parents had one) but he’s afraid to come out of his shell.

Francesca is also obsessive about work. She’s so obsessive that she lost custody of her daughter. There was also some stupidity about self-absorbed boyfriends in that mix. But Francesca has the same knowledge that Greg does about loneliness and not taking care of the right things.

They’re good for each other if they can stop pushing each other away.

The story is a visit to troperville. Greg is more of an ugly duckling than cinderella, in spite of the title. Cinderella wasn’t a billionaire, or her kingdom’s equivalent. Or Greg is the Frog Prince. Is it my imagination, or is it common in stories when the “Cinderella” is male, is he usually wealthy?

About the shoes. The Suddenly Cinderella series (BLI review of Operation Cinderella here) is linked by the handing on of a pair of magic red stilettos that help each woman discover true love and happiness. So it’s possible that Francesca is the Cinderella in this story. She’s not wealthy and she does marry a prince who rescues her.

Francesca has her own fairy godfather in this story. You’ll laugh when you figure out who it is.

The Cinderella Makeover is a lot of fun. Setting the story during the filming of a reality TV show was very effective, and I don’t even like reality TV!


I give  The Cinderella Makeover by Hope Tarr 4 glittering stars!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Saved by the Rancher by Jennifer Ryan

Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Saved by the Rancher by Jennifer RyanFormats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Romantic suspense
Series: The Hunted, #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: February 26, 2013
Purchasing Info: Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

From the moment rancher Jack Turner rescues Jenna Caldwell Merrick, he is determined to help her. Soon, he is doing more than tend her wounds; he is mending her heart. Jenna is a woman on the run—hunted down by her ex-husband, David Merrick, from the day she left him, taking part of his company with her, to the second she finds herself in the safety of Jack’s ranch. More than just a haven, Jack’s offering the love, family, and home she thought were out of reach.

Jack’s support will give Jenna the strength she needs to reclaim her life. The hunted will become the hunter, while David gets what he deserves, when they have an explosive confrontation in the boardroom of Merrick International. But not before Jack and Jenna enter into a fight … for their lives.

My Review:

Saved by the Rancher is a story of romantic suspense about a strong woman who survives horrific domestic abuse. The detailed descriptions of just how much the main character gets tortured are not for the faint of heart. The number of times and the myriad ways in which the system fails her are almost as stomach-turning.

Jenna Caldwell Merrick has been on the run from her obsessively abusive sadistic ex-husband David Merrick for two years. She runs, she hides, he hires people to hunt and track her, he catches her and beats her nearly to death. Then he leaves her broken body in a pool of her own blood so the cycle can start again.

She has a restraining order against him. It doesn’t do any good. He is rich enough and his family is influential enough that he simply bribes people to provide him with alibis. He coerces hospitals to make her records disappear.

Jenna calls herself “Rabbit” when she contacts her lawyer to make arrangements for her next safe house. Over and over again.

The next safe house her lawyer has arranged is a cabin on his friend Jack Taylor’s ranch in Colorado. Jack is ex-Special Forces. Ben wants Jack to protect Jenna because he’s afraid the next time her ex will kill her. And he’s probably right.

What Ben doesn’t know is that Jack needs saving almost as much as Jenna does. Since he came back, he’s been dead inside. He lost too many men, and he just doesn’t have anything left to give. Until this beaten and brave woman drives into town, and practically collapses in his rented cabin.

Jenna needs him more than anyone else ever has. And what’s left of Jack’s heart wakes up and responds.

Once Jenna starts to heal from her extensive physical damage, she finally begins to feel safe…safe enough to know that any care she feels for Jack and his extended family puts them in danger.

So she finally starts the fight to win her life back. One slow painful step at a time. After two years of running, Jenna has finally decided to make her stand.

Escape Rating C+: This story engendered a tremendous number of mixed feelings. It made for such compelling reading, I finished it in one day. And it does generate a huge amount of anger at the system. Jenna did what she was supposed to do. She got away, she involved the authorities, and the system let her down and protected her abuser.

The frustrating thing about the story is that Jenna’s relationship with Jack happens too fast, considering the abuse that she has suffered. She heals her psychological trauma much, much too quickly to be believable. Their love story was very sweet, and Jack was understanding, but she goes from scared of everyone, especially men, and with very good reason, into a sexual relationship in a matter of weeks. It was just too fast. The book was more than long enough for the build up to be slower. And maybe a mention of some therapy would have made it seem more realistic.

And a quibble. She knew she was being hunted, but she chartered a plane and went on a major shopping expedition to Denver exposing herself and two more women to her hunters? That was just plain foolish and she should have known better.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post: Christine Bell’s Top Ten Songs for Knockin’ Boots To + Giveaway

My very special, and very, very funny, guest today is Christine Bell. Christine is here to celebrate the release of the second book in her Dare Me series, Down and Dirty, with a Top Ten list that probably says a lot about Christine’s sources of inspiration. If her list doesn’t inspire, maybe her stories will dare you. Check out my reviews of Down for the Count and Down and Dirty to see just how daring Christine can be!

Christine, take it away!

DaD-500pxThanks so much for having me, Marlene! I’m thrilled to be here as part of the Down and Dirty Blog Tour. *drags in over-stuffed duffel-bag* *thunks it on the floor* I brought a LOT of stuff with me. *looks around* Nice digs you’ve got here, by the way. So where to begin?

First, I come bringing a CONTEST. *rifles through bag, pulls out CONTEST* It’s an awesome one, especially for readers who like clothes and shooz! My main character, Cat Thomas, is a fashion designer, and as such, she’s always decked out in the hippest fashions. Want to dress like Cat? Click on the rafflecopter and see all the ways that you can enter to win a $300 shopping spree at the clothing retailer of the winner’s choice!

[Coho Salmon male in spawning colors.  Picture by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Pacific Region, used under the CC-BY-SA 2.0 license]

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Pacific Region

The second thing I brought *digs through bag* *pulls out whole salmon* *frowns* *tosses over shoulder* Ah! Here it is. *holds up EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT proudly* A short, exclusive excerpt of Down and Dirty, which is the second book in my Dare Me series. Check it out, and stick around to see the THIRD thing I brought. (You will like it. Pinky swear. So will your husband or boyfriend).

Okay, so this is one of my FAVORITE scenes, where Cat has decided the best way to get over Shane is to fix him up with someone else. They’ve signed him up for an online dating service, and Cat is starting to realize maybe this wasn’t the best idea…

Forty-five minutes later, their bellies full of beef stew sopped up with thick slabs of buttered sourdough bread, they sat back in front of the computer with their coffee and Cat logged in.

“Okay, it looks like you’re in.” She clicked on his profile and the desktop dinged. “And you have a message. Probably them welcoming you to the site, maybe some tips about how t—”

Before she could finish, it dinged again. Then again.

“Maybe they have a welcoming committee,” Cat said, clicking into the message center. Eleven new messages stared back at them, one of which was indeed a welcome from the president of The rest had numbers next to the subject lines, along with tiny thumbnail pictures.

All of them of women, lining up for a piece of him. Nuts.


“Well,” Cat said brightly, pushing away from the table to let him get in front of the screen. “Seems like there was a hole in the market for someone like you at this place. You’re a hot commodity already.”

“So what do I do now?”

“Click on their avatars, read their messages, and see if you like any of them.”

“How will I know that from one message?”


“You won’t. But at least we can weed some out. The maybes we can put into a separate folder, and then the yeses you can set up short dates with.”


“Jesus H., can you turn that thing off?” she snapped. “It’s very distracting.”

He didn’t care that she sounded like a shrew, because her reaction could only mean one thing. She was jealous. Satisfaction surged through him, and he vowed to redouble his efforts.

“Sure thing.” He lowered the speakers, then clicked on the first message in the list. “Deedee Coruthers.”

An image of a waifish blonde filled the screen. Cat looked at it for a long moment, lips pursed. “Hmm…don’t you think her right eye looks lazy? Like it’s not really up on what the left one’s doing, and doesn’t care much to find out?” She made her eyes go slightly crossed. “It’s off-putting in person, I bet, because you don’t know which one to look at.”

He looked at the photo more closely, and while Deedee wasn’t a stunner, she didn’t look cross-eyed. More like tired. “I guess a little…”

She didn’t pay him any mind, already moving along to the next one. “Let’s see, what about her? Sara Mitchell. She calls herself an artist. That probably means she doesn’t have a job. She’s also a vegan, which means you’d have to deal with her meat-shaming you.”

He’d never been meat-shamed before. It sounded bad.

“And she probably does macramé,” Cat continued. “So that crap will be hanging all over your house before you know it.” She x-ed out Sara and pointed to another photo a few messages down. “She looks nice.”

“Her?” he asked incredulously, sliding the cursor to blink under a masculine face.

“Yeppers. She’s got an honest smile. I like that.”

“Greta Doyle,” he recited, clicking to enlarge her photo, which only succeeded in making her look even more like a man. “She likes sailing, waterskiing, and backpacking. Her favorite show is Nancy Grace, and she works as an occupational therapist.”

“Sounds perfect for you.”

So what did you think?! Cat really stepped in it this time, right? Okay, so I hope you enjoyed the all the thingz, and that brings me to my third and final thing, which I predict will be the MOST useful (aside from the salmon):

My “Top Ten Songs You Need to Add to Your Ipod in a Playlist Titled ‘Knockin’ Boots’ (That You Can Listen To While You’re Knockin’ Boots)™

If this doesn’t get things cookin’, I don’t know what will!

1. How Does it Feel – D’Angelo
2. Secret Garden – Quincy Jones featuring Barry White, Al B. Sure, DeBarge
3. Lost Without U – Robin Thicke
4. No Ordinary Love – Sade
5. Cry to Me– Solomon Burke
8. My Love –Justin Timberlake
9. Knockin Da Boots – H-Town
10. Electric Feel – Katy Perry (cover of MGMT song)

And a bonus one (because my husband is reading over my shoulder and MADE me add it).

11. Summertime – Miles Davis

Question for the readers! What should I add to that playlist????

christine bell picAbout Christine Bell

Christine Bell is a romance author and also writes erotic romance as Chloe Cole. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys. If she gets time off from her duties as maid, chef, chauffeur, or therapist, she can be found reading just about anything she can get her hands on, from Young Adult novels to books on poker theory. She doesn’t like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate–or, like, a ninja maybe. Christine loves to hear from readers, so please contact her through her website. You can also find her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.


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Review: Down and Dirty by Christine Bell

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
17411381Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Dare Me, #2
Length: 127 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: February 3, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

He was a dare she’s never been able to resist…

Cat Thomas has never been the kind of girl to stick. A self-professed infatuation junky, she latches on the newest, hottest guy on the block, then finds a reason—real or imagined—to dump him. When she accepts a dare to rekindle her high school flame and jump in bed with her brother’s best friend, Shane Decker, she knows she’s in trouble. She can’t resist the man, even after all these years apart, and that just won’t do.

Shane has come back to town for a couple reasons. The biggest one? He’s tired of living away from those he loves, including Cat. But now she’s spooked and will do anything to drive a wedge between them, including trying to fix him up with other women through an online dating service.

What does he have to do to make her see that settling down doesn’t mean settling, and he’s ready to spend a lifetime proving it?

My Review:

Some people are way better at straightening out other people’s lives than they are at figuring out what’s going wrong with their own.

Cat Thomas is definitely one of those people.

In Down for the Count, the awesome first book in Christine Bell’s Dare Me series, she knew that the cure for her best friend Lacey’s discovery of her cheating fiance was to run away with the best worst man she knew, even if that man happened to be Cat’s brother Galen. Maybe especially because it was her brother. Now Cat’s BFF is her sister for reals.

The only problem is that Lacey knows all her secrets, and is now part of the family. Including the secret that Cat has never gotten over her crush on her brother’s best friend Shane. The man who ruined her junior year in high school by going all protective on every boy who came near her.

The man who kissed her senseless one night when she tried to go skinny-dipping in the lake.

She’s never forgotten that one, very long (and long-ago) stolen kiss. Unfortunately, no other man has ever compared to it, although quite a few have been allowed to try. Cat always finds some flaw in them, and then she’s off another adventure, brave or otherwise.

What Cat doesn’t know is that Shane has never forgotten either. It’s been nearly ten years since that one irresistible kiss, and it’s past time for them to explore the chemistry that makes Cat run away whenever Shane gets close.

Cat’s also long past being underage jailbait. And Shane is tired of waiting for her to grow up. He hopes that she has.

What is behind Cat’s love of adventure? Does she want more from anyone, even Shane? Most important of all, what is she really afraid of?

Escape Rating B-: The relationship between Lacey and Cat is a terrifically solid friendship. Cat helped Lacey get past a truly awful breakup in Down for the Count, and now it’s Lacey’s turn to help Cat see some “home truths” in Down and Dirty.

There’s also plenty of heat to make this book live up to its title! Cat and Shane can’t manage to be in the same room without setting each other on fire, even when they are trying to pretend that they aren’t. Although Shane isn’t really pretending. He’s come back home because he wants to pursue a relationship with Cat, she’s the one who is commitment-phobic.

Cat still has more than a bit of growing up to do as this story starts. I liked her better in Down for the Count. Of course, it is easier to straighten out someone else’s life! She’s never figured out why Shane was so over-protective when she was a junior. She thought he hated her. While she might have thought so then, sometime in the intervening years she should have gotten a clue, or at least figured out the ramifications if she had managed to seduce him then.

One of the most fun characters in the story doesn’t have a lot of “screen time” but has one heck of an impact. Shane’s mother is a manipulative matchmaker, but she does exactly what is needed to get Cat to realize that she can have a real relationship with a good man and if it’s the right person, she doesn’t have to give up her dreams. And that her own mother didn’t either.

Entangled Publishing Down and Dirty Blog Tour

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.