Review: To the Fifth Power by Shirin Dubbin

To the Fifth Power by Shirin DubbinFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Powers, #1
Genre: Superhero Romance
Release Date: July 29, 2013
Number of pages: 87 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Ever After
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Three years ago, Zola Noite’s nemesis killed her sidekick and forced her to watch. The guilt drove her to hang up her cape. Zola knows one thing for certain. She will never be a superhero again.

Psychologist Dr. Arturo “Fort” Forte specializes in super-powered mental health. He’s the only reason Zola can once again call herself sane—although, truth be told, the heat between them is slowly driving her back to mad.

When three mega-villains escape the prison Fort oversees, all Zola’s best laid plans go up in flames. Fort asks her for help, and she can’t turn down the man she’s secretly come to love. As battles ensue and clues add up, the one thing Zola trusts is called into question: Fort’s true agenda and which side he’s on.

My Thoughts:

I’m not too sure about the costume, or her pose on the cover, but I really liked the story. Then again, I love a good superhero romance. Actually, I kind of enjoy a good supervillain romance too, but that’s not what this is.

One of the neat things about the worldbuilding in this one is that everyone knows that there are both superheroes and supervillains in the world. Some of the heroes hide their secret identity, and some don’t, but the general populace knows that big evil is out there, and that there are people who protect them.

Batman wouldn’t get arrested for protecting the Gotham City from the Joker in this universe. It would be his choice if he hid behind Bruce Wayne, or not.

Zola Noite, the heroine of this story, is a bit like Batman. Her power as The Watcher is in her ability to assess and strategize. It’s not that she’s not strong, but she out-thinks her opponents long before she comes to fight them.

At least she used to. The story is that she’s an ex-superhero, or she’s trying to be. It seems to be a gig that you can’t really retire from. Three years ago a supervillain named Charlatan forced her to watch as he killed her sidekick. After years of therapy, Zola is still only partially functional.

And she’s fallen in serious lust with her gorgeous psychiatrist, Dr. Forté, otherwise known as Fort.

However cured Zola is, it has to be enough. Three of her enemies have banded together and broken out of the superhero psychiatric institute and are coming after her. They’ve made it their personal, pet, mega-villain project to make her relive every failure in her life, just so they can break her down and take her out.

Even if they have to destroy the city to do it.

Fort needs Zola to get better, because he’s been in love with his patient since the first time they met. But he can’t step over that professional line until she’s out of his care. So he’s hoping that a lot of tough love will put The Watcher back together.

No matter how many rules he had to break to make it happen.

Verdict: Check your logic at the door and hang onto your seat. To the Fifth Power is one hell of a fun ride.

Zola and Fort have sizzling hot chemistry from the very beginning, the BAM! and POW! come from watching them negotiate how they’re going to have a relationship when the power situation starts out unequal, not because she’s a superhero but because he’s her shrink and knows way too much, where he’s been the king of secrets. There’s sexual attraction but not a lot of trust. It takes a chunk of story before they negotiate that minefield, and it should. Then ZOWEE!

The reader can guess how the supervillains got loose, but it took awhile for me to figure out who they were. I’ll admit that it was a cool idea.

I loved the concept of the Society of Superheroes. They were all really tight, and they seemed like the best of friends. An awesome case of the “family you make” as opposed to the “family you’re born to” who in Zola’s backstory sucked major rocks. The S.O.S. were her brothers and sisters.

I also adored her best friend Keiki. The concept that there were “meta-naturals”–people who had an extra something but were not at the level of the supers–helped make things make sense, too.

Read this one for the pure fun of it.


I give  To the Fifth Power by Shirin Dubbin 4 purple stars! (read the story and you’ll understand)

***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: Troll-y Yours by Sheri Fredricks

Troll-y Yours by Sheri FredricksFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance, Fantasy romance
Series: The Centaurs, #2
Length: 266 pages
Publisher: Temple Publishing
Date Released: May 17, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble


Determined to forge a better life, Ella launches her new business with high hopes—until a sexy Centaur bumps into her and throws her life off course forever. Voted “Most Eligible Bachelor in Boronda”, Aleksander shakes up her world and tilts her in more ways than one.


Years of warfare and countless bedroom encounters have stolen Kempor Aleksander’s luster for life. He never expects to rediscover his zeal in the small, redheaded form of Ella the Troll, who fires his blood hotter than the deepest caverns in the forest.


But as trouble lingers in their midst—and edges ever closer—Alek and Ella spiral into troubled terrain. Turning to each other, the pair face down dangers that run impenetrably deep in their mythological world. But will the two lovers discover a passion that runs even deeper?

My Review:

remedy maker goodreadsTroll-y Yours is the second book in Sheri Fredricks’ Centaurs series. The first book is Remedy Maker (reviewed here) In order to understand what is going on in Troll-y Yours it helps a lot to have read Remedy Maker. A whole lot.

The idea that that there are mythical creatures living in the Boronda Forest in Pennsylvania, mostly hidden from us humans, is kind of cool. Some of the humans that have found the mythics hunt them for big bucks, and I don’t mean antlers. The hunters tend to be asshats, mercenaries, sadists, or all of the above.

Not the point of this story, although the hint dropped at the end leads me to believe that the author might get there.

Like Remedy Maker, this is an interspecies romance. It’s also a romance between two people who are at different levels in the social/species pecking order and between a male who most people would think is gorgeous and a woman most people would think is less so. Of course, he thinks she’s beautiful. Ella really is a troll, but that’s her actual species. Only her abusive parents keep telling her that it also reflects her appearance.

Trolls are considered one of the lowest species in the Boronda social order. Centaurs are the highest species, and the queen is a centaur. So are many of the members of her guards, including Kempor Aleksander, the head of the guards.

Ella has picked up an idea from the humans. We do have a few good ones. She’s started a speed dating service, Troll-y Yours, for mythics with busy lives to find mates. She wants to earn enough money to move out of her parents’ house. Which is under a rock. They are trolls, after all!

At the first speed dating session, she mistakes Alek for one of her clients. He thinks she’s about the cutest thing he’s ever seen. Because she thinks he’s gorgeous, she mouths off. Then she’s attacked and he comes to the rescue, after her brother spectacularly fails to help her, which is one of the stories of her life.

While Alek and Ella find themselves drawing closer together, Alek still has a job to do. The rebels are still attacking the kingdom, and the queen he is sworn to protect. What it nearly takes him forever to realize is that protecting Ella has become the most important thing in his entire world.

Escape Rating C+: Troll-y Yours just wasn’t as much fun as Remedy Maker, in spite of Remedy Maker dealing with a number of more serious themes along with the romance. For this reader, the sub-plot of the rebel alliance against the kingdom just wasn’t explained enough to make whatever was going on make sense. It’s too important for the long story arc to be that confusing, especially since a major plot point with Ella’s brother hinges on it.

Too much is left unexplained on the personal side as well. Alek starts out the story as a total man-whore. He seems to regard having lots of sex as his duty to the females of his species. Ella has serious self-esteem issues as a result of a lifetime of parental verbal abuse. While it’s great that they find each other, I’m not totally sold on the relationship based on the story.

The mythic world that they live in begs to be explored a whole lot more.

***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: Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper

Caged Warrior by Lindsey PiperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Dragon Kings, #1
Length: 404 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: June 25, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

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 scientist 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 eventual allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.

My Review:

Silent Warrior by Lindsey PiperI think it probably helps to read Silent Warrior (reviewed here) first. Not just because the same characters show up later in Caged Warrior, but because you get a fuller picture of the way the world works.

The Dragon Kings are not dragons or dragon shifters. They do have demonic or paranormal powers, but exactly what kind of powers varies from clan to clan, and from person to person.

They also have a terrible infertility problem. Their race is dying out. Human science claims to have a solution, and many of the Dragon Kings have sold themselves into slavery for the right to have access to that science. Some just sell themselves for stupider reasons, and some criminals end up as slaves.

Slaves become cage fighters. Think of the Roman gladiatorial combats run by something like the Russian mafia, but with the gladiators’ willing consent. I think it’s more complicated, but the backstory is still murky.

In the front of this story we have two of the cage fighters one very willing, and one a kidnapped prisoner. That’s where we begin.

Leto of Garnis has been Champion for years. He thinks being a cage fighter is the best deal he can get, not just for himself, but also for his family. He doesn’t even think of himself as a slave. He truly believes that the Aster crime family values his service and has dealt honestly with him.

Then Audrey MacLaren is literally dropped into his world. She was born Nynn of Tigony, but was exiled and married a human. That should have been the end, but instead, something marvelous happened. She gave birth to a Dragon King without any of the special treatments that the Aster family laboratories had created. So they murdered her human husband and captured her and her son.

Then they tortured and experimented on her. (If you ever watched the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, think of the labs where the Cylons experimented on human women and you’ll get the idea, with the added bonus that the Doctor in charge of the lab in this case was a sadist with a special interest in Audrey/Nynn. Serious squick.)

Leto is tasked with training Nynn to become a cage warrior, and he has three weeks. If she survives three matches, his reward will be the long-term care of his sister, who is in a permanent coma. Audrey’s reward for surviving a year will be to see her son.

In order to train Audrey in this compressed time frame, Leto has to break her down, and then build her up. But he can’t break her so far that she can’t be built up again. (This is the concept behind the way drill sergeants treat recruits at boot camp.) She fights back from the very first second and some of what Leto does seems quite cruel.

This is a very dark, cruel, world. In order to survive and get her son back, Audrey has to go back to being Nynn, and learn what she needs to learn so she can fight back. Leto is her best choice, and she calculates that decision. She isn’t sure she likes herself when she does.

Leto isn’t sure what he’s been forced into. He’s never fought with a partner. Training Nynn, working with her, has also made him spend time with someone who has had a whole different experience from his own. The more he learns, the more he realizes that what he’s always believed might not be the whole truth.

And when the Asters send someone to remove her memories of her son, he knows that he’s been deceived all along.

Escape Rating B: For a romance, this is extremely dark. Not just because the world that Lindsey Piper has created is literally underground, but because truly awful things have happened to every character. Even at the end it’s not HEA or HFN, but together and still fighting for the light as the best outcome. Evil is still out there.

In fact, I think we’re still wondering who the big evil is. I bet we’ve only seen the little faces of evil, not that they weren’t sick enough.

I want to know how things came to this pass. The Dragon Kings are more powerful than humans. They used to be gods. How did they become enslaved? I can guess, there are multiple historic parallels. But which one (if any) is this one?

Speaking of which, I sincerely hope there was a reason the doctor needed to be sadistic on top of being the paranormal equivalent of Dr. Mengele. The bwahaha sexual sadism seemed over the top.

About Leto and Nynn. He starts out the story having big holes in his personality. She starts out the story having huge gaps in her memory. I did like the parallel that they both got their blank spots filled in during the course of the story. In effect, they each got un-brainwashed.

***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: Silent Warrior by Lindsey Piper

Silent Warrior by Lindsey PiperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Dragon Kings, #0.5
Length: 112 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date Released: April 22, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

A silent woman ashamed of her criminal background becomes a Cage warrior to seek redemption. An unrepentant fortune hunter will do anything to escape his mounting debts. Although rivals on the streets of Hong Kong, they find common ground when seeking their clan’s stolen idol, but for vastly different reasons. Neither one suspects that love will begin when he becomes the first man in five years to hear her speak.

My Review:

Once they were worshipped as gods. Now they huddle in remote clan strongholds, clinging to the remnants of demonic power as their race slowly withers into extinction. Or they sell themselves into life-long slavery for access to the human science that has figured out a way around whatever has caused the rising infertility rate. Or just to pay off gambling debts.

The Dragon Kings are not actually dragons. They’re not shapeshifters either. What they are is descendants of the beings who inspired the great myths: the Norse Gods, the Egyptian and Greek pantheons, the Celtic fae, and I suspect, the Chinese Dragons. Not that those have been named so far.

Each of the five clans has a power.  One can bring the lightning, like Zeus. One can read minds. One clan has the power to take the powers of another Dragon King, for a brief time.

Of course, they aren’t all Kings. Some are Queens, but they’re not called that. Even the females are kings. I’m not quite sure whether or not to be annoyed about that.

And it’s important to remember that in a lot of mythology, the gods behaved very badly.

In Silent Warrior, the warrior is a woman who goes by the name of “Silence”, because she doesn’t speak. Not that can’t, but she won’t. Big difference. She spends her life in slavery to what is, in effect, a crime syndicate, for two reasons.

One is that she seeks redemption for the crimes that her family committed. They stole from the head of their clan, Clan Sath. Interestingly, the Sath are the thieves of the Dragon Kings. They can steal the power from another. It does have the unfortunate tendency to make them thieves of trinkets and treasures as well. Her family stole too much, and they paid the ultimate price.

But her second reason is a prophecy. She is working for the day that all the Dragon Kings can be freed from the crime syndicates, and that day is coming. Silence is biding her time, and searching for half of an idol that her family stole.

While she is out on assignment, she finds the other half of the stolen idol, in the hands of the only man who talks enough for both of them. He drives her crazy enough to make her finally talk back, after five years of silence.

If she trusts him enough to finally talk, he might be the one she can trust at her back as she fights for her life. Every single day. If he’s willing to trust her enough to go down into the dark with her.

Caged Warrior by Lindsey PiperEscape Rating B: In spite of the length, this story is pretty complete. In some ways, it is better than the novel that comes after it (Caged Warrior, reviewed later today) because Silence and Hark are equals.

The world of the Dragon Kings is harsh and brutal, and the people in it lead a bloody life filled with death and destruction. This is a story of unexpected love in a very dark place. They start out expecting a night of sweaty sex and nothing more, because that’s all their life holds.

Silence and Hark are flawed, fascinating people. They’re both terribly damaged, and yet they manage to find just enough faith in each other to make a giant leap together. I can’t even call the ending a “Happy For Now” because happy isn’t a word that applies in this world. Facing the future together, definitely and awesomely.

And Silence as a character is doubly awesome because she is unapologetically a woman warrior from the very beginning. She’s not following anyone. She’s not less. She’s not bait. She is ferocious.

I am annoyed that the book is named for her, but the cover picture is of him.

But I wish I had a few more clues about how things got to be the way they are. I’m saying this from a perspective at the end of Caged Warrior, and I’m still not sure. I’m making guesses based on other paranormals, fantasies, and real-life history, but I’m still not sure I have enough clues. And dragon? When dragon? Who dragon?

***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 Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. HoughFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: Science fiction
Series: Dire Earth Cycle, #1
Length: 497 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Date Released: July 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

My Review:

It’s impossible not to think of the pun “Darwin’s Elevator” in relationship to this story. The elevator left by the alien “Builders” may have been placed in Darwin, Australia, but it is definitely the strong that survive.

Among the questions that remain at the end of this post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure story are who the hell are the damn Builders and why Earth? What is the purpose of their little “fly-by” munificence, and then disaster? Are they experimenting on us? Is there a reason for the devastation or is it all just a terrible accident?

The story takes place in the mid-23rd century, so a future we can envision, but not so distant as to seem totally unreal. And the reader will certainly hope this one isn’t the one we get. First an alien race “gifts” the Earth with a marvelous present, a space elevator that allows the building of orbital platforms and space farms. Sounds like a dream!

A boomtown is created at the base of the elevator, in Darwin. Scientists frantically study the remains of the alien spaceship and the elevator, trying to figure out how to capitalize on the new technology.

Twelve years later, disaster strikes. A plague blankets the Earth, and humans everywhere devolve into subhumans. Except for people within the radius of Darwin and the Elevator. Everyone else becomes a “subby”. Basically, it’s a zombie plague. There are a few immunes. The human genome always does have quirks.

The story starts 5 years after the subby plague. Life in Darwin has settled, or maybe that should be succumbed, to the lousy new order. The daily, soul-sucking grind. But one man is dead certain that the Builders are on their way back, right then, and that whatever they are bringing this time, it will probably make life on Earth even worse than it already is.

Even though Neil Platz is a powerful man among the people living on the orbital stations made possible by the Elevator, he can’t just announce his suspicions to what’s left of the world. It would cause widespread panic. Instead, he starts a series of intrigues designed to get other people to figure out that disaster is very nearly upon them. Again.

The Darwin Elevator’s plot is seen through the eyes of the people that Neil Platz is manipulating, either directly or indirectly. He is working for the greater good. In a way, he’s like Moses leading his people to the Promised Land. He has the vision, but getting there himself is an entirely different question.

Platz’s best weapon is Skyler Luiken, a scavenger pilot who is fortunate or unfortunate enough to be an immune. Skyler can’t catch the subby virus so his life is spent exploring the land outside the “Aura” created by the Elevator, searching for parts and material left behind in the decaying cities. It’s a war of attrition, because the subbies band together and fight like packs of wolves.

But the tool Neil has used the longest is scientist Tania Sharma. She’s been surrogate daughter and esteemed colleague, but Platz is responsible for the death of her parents. Yet she is the only person he can trust to carry out his plans to save humanity if he falls.

Because he is also manipulating the greed and fear of those arrayed against him. The leader of the security forces on the Orbital Council and the sadistic and brutal overlord of the city of Darwin both think they can control the chaos of the new world order. They think Platz is their enemy and believe that they can manipulate the alien ships for their own profit.

That anyone would think an alien race who would poison an entire planet could be either bargained with or defeated by any weapons developed on Earth is the sort of short-sighted thinking that could bring the entire human race to an end. Unless wiser heads prevail.

Escape Rating B: In addition to the play on words between “Darwin” and “Darwin’s” Elevator that keeps running through my mind, the descriptions of both the subby virus and the way the cities were deteriorating reminded me a lot of the game The Last of Us. I don’t know what made the humans devolve in the game, but the subhuman enemies and deserted cities are all too similar.

Joel from The Last of UsSkyler, the action-hero of The Darwin Elevator, and Joel, the hero of The Last of Us, could probably pass for brothers. They’re both men who look older than they are and have been beaten down by very hard lives. They’re in positions where they can’t afford to care as much as they might otherwise have done.

The difference is that Skyler is in a position of authority as pilot, but has a difficult time giving orders. The more confident he is, the easier it would be for the crew to accept that he is the one in charge.

However, he doesn’t keep the crew all that long. And thereby hangs part of the tale. Skyler is just one piece of the puzzle, just one of the points of view, admittedly a major one. Tania Sharma is another major point of view, and one that it looks like will be carrying the story forward into the next book. She’s carrying the science story. Neil Platz carries the good side of the poltical story, and he also bears the weight of the historic perspective.

The bad guys also get their oar into this water. Russell Blackfield carries, well, the water for the bwahaha boys.

But these aren’t the only point-of-view characters, just the most prominent ones. Sometimes the perspective switches are a bit whiplash-y.

Exodus Towers by Jason M HoughPlague Forge by Jason M HoughWhat kept me turning pages on this story was being involved in the adventure of it all. And pure curiosity. We still don’t know what the Builders want. Or if the humans will be able to survive what the Builders want. All we know is that there’s a chance. And that there’s a chance that asshats like Blackfield could still throw it all away.

I wonder if the titles of the rest of the trilogy (The Exodus Towers and The Plague Forge) constitute any sort of hint?

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-28-13

Sunday Post

First, a slightly geeky public services announcement. For anyone who has either an attending or supporting member in LoneStarCon 3, which is this year’s World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), the last day to vote on the Hugo Awards is July 31. Thank goodness you can vote online, but the deadline still got away from me.

LoneStarCon 3 LogoIf you read science fiction and fantasy, even if you don’t think you will ever attend WorldCon, a supporting membership, purchased early, is an amazingly good deal. Here’s why: supporting members receive ebooks of ALL the Hugo nominated works; novels, novellas, short stories, pretty much everything, for the low, low price of a $60 membership. (It’s less if you get in earlier) If this is stuff you would read anyway, it’s cheap at twice the price. And you get to vote on which ones win the awards!

Speaking of which…

Winner Announcements:

Stephanie F. won the $10 Amazon Gift Card from the Hot Summer Romance Blog Hop.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversBlog Recap:

Brazen Bash
A- Review: The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers
Guest Post from Author Mary Ann Rivers on Why I Love Libraries and Librarians + Giveaway
B Review: Stoker’s Manuscript by Royce Prouty
B Review: Immortally Embraced by Angie Fox
B+ Review: Redemption by Susannah Sandlin
Guest Post by author Susannah Sandlin on the Unsung Heroes of Paranormal Romance
B Review: A Lesson in Chemistry with Inspector Bruce by Jillian Stone
Stacking the Shelves (52)

Absolution by Susannah SandlinComing Next Week:

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough (blog tour review)
Silent Warrior by Lindsey Piper (review)
Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper (review)
Troll-y Yours by Sheri Fredricks (review)
Absolution by Susannah Sandlin (review)
A Private Duel with Agent Gunn by Jillian Stone (review)

Have you ever noticed that good series books are like potato chips, you can’t read just one?


Stacking the Shelves (52)

Stacking the Shelves

It’s summer. It’s kind of hot out, even here in temperate Seattle, to the point where we’re debating between more fans and just breaking down and getting an air conditioner for the bedroom.

But I’m seeing (and getting) not just winter review books from NetGalley and Edelweiss, but books for next Spring! The Revenant of Thraxton Hall has a publication date of March, 2014. I’ll admit to being puzzled. If it’s complete enough for even an eARC, why wait nearly 8 months to publish?

Sometimes, ours is really not to reason why. Just to read and review.

Stacking the Shelves Reading Reality July 27 2013

For Review:
Blind Justice (William Monk #19) by Anne Perry
The Boleyn Deceit (Boleyn Trilogy #2) by Laura Andersen
Choose Your Shot (Long Shots #5) by Christine D’Abo
Dangerous Seduction (Nemesis Unlimited #2) by Zoë Archer
Deadshifted (Edie Spence #4) by Cassie Alexander
Dreams of the Golden Age (Golden Age #2) by Carrie Vaughn
Getting Rowdy (Love Undercover #3) by Lori Foster
Heaven and Hellsbane (Hellsbane #2) by Paige Cuccaro
I Only Have Eyes for You (Sullivans #4) by Bela Andre
Lord of Snow and Ice by Heather Massey
Never Deal with Dragons (DRACIM #1) by Lorenda Christensen
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle
Shadow’s Curse (Imnada Brotherhood #2) by Alexa Egan
Soul of Fire (Portals #2) by Laura Anne Gilman

Checked Out from the Library:
Baskerville by John O’Connell

Review: A Lesson in Chemistry with Inspector Bruce by Jillian Stone

A Lesson in Chemistry with Inspector Bruce by Jillian StoneFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Historical romance, Romantic suspense
Series: The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard, #2.5
Length: 123 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date Released: November 6, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Inspector Archie Bruce, who runs the newly formed Scotland Yard crime laboratory, is suddenly shifted from his duties behind the scenes to directly in the line of fire. When mysterious happenings in the laboratory seem threatening, a local pharmacist’s beautiful daughter might be just the one to help him solve the mystery. Can Archie solve the crime in time to protect the Yard and get the girl?

My Review:

Part of the fun of the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series are the glimpses of the development of forensics along with the spying, the adventure and the romance involved in the series.

Two of the key players in the forensic side of the equation are Inspector Archibald Bruce, the head of the criminology lab, and the Yard Dog, Arnold, named for Arnold Nobel of Nobel Prize fame.

Arnold the dog sniffs out bombs and bomb components. Not only is he incredibly important to investigations, Arnold also seems to be a sweetie of a dog. He’s one of my favorite characters. Of course, he’s also the progenitor for bomb-sniffing dogs everywhere.

In this novella, Inspector Bruce and Arnold are nearly killed by a bomb in the lab. The bomb wasn’t planted, it was there to be inspected, but he’s not sure who set it off or how. He’s worried that one of the criminals that Special Branch is currently investigating might have an inside man on the job. Someone who wants to obliterate evidence or investigators before they can be caught.

Meanwhile, Inspector Bruce is also teaching a University course for those planning to take their major exam in chemistry. One of his students just happens to be a young woman he’s encountered before: Miss Fiona A. Rose. At a costume ball at Edinburgh University three years ago, they shared one unforgettable kiss, but she didn’t remove her mask or give her real name.

More importantly, Fiona, and her entire family, own a pharmacy and chemist’s shop. Her father is willing to assist Special Branch on a solution to the problem of transporting fingerprints for analysis, if Archie Bruce will tutor Fiona for her chemistry final.

While Mr. Rose assists Special Branch with fingerprinting, Fiona finds herself assisting on the bomb investigation. And Archie and Fiona discover themselves in a mutual tutorial of more personal subjects.

Unfortunately the bomber takes advantage of their distraction!

Escape Rating B: This one was a great teaser, but because it is a novella it doesn’t have the depth of the full-length entries in the series.

It is still a fun read, and I enjoyed seeing the criminology lab brought to the forefront for a short story.

Unfortunately, it was a bit too obvious who the villain would be. However, that did not distract from the sweetness of the love story between Archie and Fiona.

***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: On the Scent by Angela Campbell

On the Scent by Angela CampbellFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 25, 2013
Number of pages: 263 pages
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Hannah Dawson has a big problem: she’s just become the unexpected owner of a snarky cat, a loveable but not-so-bright dog… and their $10 million fortune!

Which would be awesome if it hadn’t made her the target of every wacko in the metro Atlanta area. Now Hannah and her famous pets need protecting and there’s only one man who can help them…

Enter Zachary Collins: ex-TV star of ‘The Psychic Detective’ and street-wise private investigator – all 6 foot blue-eyed gorgeousness!

Only Zach’s got secrets of his own – not least that he finds his new client irresistibly hot. The more time he spends keeping Hannah out of harm’s way, the more he’s tempted to give in to the attraction… even if it means breaking all his own rules.

My Thoughts:

Simon Baker as Patric JaneZachary Collins kept making me think of a dark-haired version of The Mentalist, without quite so much of Patrick Jane’s angsty backstory. This isn’t by any means a bad thing, Simon Baker is a charmingly handsome devil, with equal emphasis on all three parts of that description. Patrick Jane also started out his detective work as a psychic con man with a TV show. The difference is that Jane always knew he was a psychic but didn’t originally work as a detective.

Zach Collins is the other way around; he started as a detective but didn’t believe for a second he was psychic. He just thought he was good at seeing things that other people missed.

Hannah Dawson was not one of the things he missed. He investigated her quite thoroughly when old Ellie Parham hired her as a nurse. He didn’t just investigate, he totally checked her out, and not in any professional way.

But the only action he took on those very non-professional thoughts was to punch her fiance’s lights out when he paid the jackass off three years ago. Paying the moron off was the job Ellie paid him for, after the investigation found out the guy was cheating and was only after Hannah for her steady paycheck.

Ellie made sweet, beautiful Hannah her heir, to the tune of $10 million, in return for taking care of a snarky cat and an adorable doofus of a dog, named after the stars of Ellie’s favorite classic films; Abbott and Costello.

Ellie also left instructions for Hannah to hire Zach’s private investigations firm if she was ever in trouble. When someone tries to kidnap “the boys”, she decides that trouble has come knocking. But once she meets the TV-star handsome investigator she thinks she might be in way over her head.

After all, the only man she’s ever thought she loved (at least so far) left her at the altar with a mountain of expensive wedding bills. She’s not so sure about her judgment where men are concerned.

But the track record for Zach’s security firm is first rate. And Ellie did leave that message. Hannah doesn’t just feel responsible for “the boys”, she loves those two animals and can’t bear the thought that someone might harm them.

So we have a meet-very-cute. Zach knows Hannah, she doesn’t know him. He believes it’s wrong to get involved with her case, but his private investigations company is going broke, and he needs the business. Also, he already knows she’s beautiful and a sweet human being. He likes her and is interested.

But it’s unprofessional for him to get involved with a client, no matter how irresistible she is. Especially one who doesn’t know the whole truth about his previous involvement in her life. Not to mention the added little difficulty that she hires him believing that he is a psychic, and he’s not. Or at least, not at the time.

Then he gets whacked in the head with a baseball bat, and starts hearing voices. One particularly snarky voice wants tuna treats. It’s the cat. (I adore Abbott, he sounds just like one of my cats.)

But Abbott knows things that only someone who lived with Ellie Parham would know. He dispenses clues like, well, treats. And clues are definitely necessary, because there was much more to Ellie Parham than anyone ever suspected. Including her identity.

Verdict: On the Scent is romantic suspense with a light touch that just kept me giggling. Once Zach starts being able to hear Abbott and Costello, it’s hard to stop snickering.

The suspense part of the plot has a bunch of twists and turns. First it looks like someone is out to kidnap “the boys” in order to get the money. Then it turns out that Ellie Parham turns out to be quite the mysterious person, and the real reason for all the skullduggery hinges on her past. I wish we could have met her!

Then there’s the romance. The backstory between Hannah and Zach made for a more interesting than usual misunderstandammit. Both in his choice not to reveal that he was or wasn’t psychic, but also that he had investigated her for Ellie and was partially responsible for the breakup of her engagement. They had more past than Hannah knew about, and the revelations broke a lot of the trust that had started to develop.

I liked Zach and Hannah, and watching them resist their attraction to each other, only to eventually fall, was terrific! And fun. And sometimes very funny. Occasionally steamy followed by laughter (pet owners will understand).


I give  On the Scent by Angela Campbell 4 fur-covered 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.

Guest Post by author Susannah Sandlin on the Unsung Heroes of Paranormal Romance

Today I’d like to welcome Susannah Sandlin, who is on tour with her Penton Legacy series. Perhaps I should say welcome back? Susannah’s alter ego, Suzanne Johnson, visited me on April 25 to talk about her other fabulous series, The Sentinels of New Orleans (Royal Street, River Road, and the forthcoming Elysian Fields). The Penton Legacy is more paranormal but equally fantastic. I poured through the whole series like an addict, so I hope more are coming!

Take it away Susannah…

The Penton Legacy Tour Button no date 300 x 225 (1)

The Unsung Heroines of Paranormal Romance by Susannah Sandlin

We might as well admit it. We read paranormal romance because of the hot guys, right? Sure, there are worlds to save and dragons to slay (well, unless the hot hero IS a dragon, of course). Sure, there are heroines. But it’s the guys we love.

Only, wait a minute. Don’t we need heroines to make heroes out of these guys who (we might as well admit this too) are often on the bullying, mulish side when we first meet them? I think as readers we focus on the heroes, but authors need strong heroines to hold their own with these bad boys and help them find the potential hero lurking inside. I mean, everyone loves Zsadist, right? But without Bella, would he have turned into hero material or continued to self-destruct?

But we also want our heroines to grow and change as well—to have the hero complete something inside them. It shouldn’t be all one-sided, right?

At least those were my thoughts as I went about looking for heroines to help my Penton vampires become heroes.

Redemption by Susannah SandlinAidan Murphy, the hero of Redemption (reviewed here), is a 400ish-year-old Irishman who in his human life was a simple farmer. He had a wife and a young son he loved dearly, but their family story ended tragically and he blames himself. He needs, as the title suggests, redemption. So Aidan needed a level-headed woman who had been through her own blame game but figured out how to survive it, and who could look at him and see the natural leader and compassionate person beneath the vampire. He finds that in a human doctor, Krystal Harris. Krys has been through an abusive past but fought her way out of it. She’s tough and doesn’t want to be managed, so she has trouble trusting anyone enough to relinquish control—or at least share it. Together, Aidan and Krys make a healthy relationship out of a rocky, unhealthy beginning.

Absolution by Susannah SandlinMirren Kincaid, aka The Slayer, is the bad boy of Absolution. Before being turned vampire, Mirren—of Norse/Scottish descent—was a Scottish gallowglass warrior. A killer for hire. After being turned, he became the executioner for the vampire tribunal. He’s dealt a lot of death and torture in his four centuries of living, and he is very good at it. Until he was asked to do something that made him realize he’d become a monster for people who were worse than the ones he was being sent to kill. So he’s filled with self-loathing and badly in need of absolution. It comes in the unlikely guise of a tough motor-mouth named Gloriana Cummings. Glory has her own issues, because she’s never been accepted. She isn’t well-educated. But she’s resilient and smart, realistic and brutally honest. She doesn’t give a crap about Mirren’s past, because she sees who he is now. Together, Mirren and Glory make an odd, but healthy, twosome.

Omega by Susannah SandlinWill Ludlam, the hero of Omega, is known around the community of Penton as the playboy of the vampire world. He uses his devastatingly good looks and quick charm to keep a wall around himself a mile wide. Because Will has the biggest, most horrible secrets of all of them, and he has no intention of letting anyone in. Especially his annoying partner doing security patrols around Penton, who hates men—especially him. Randa Thomas has only been turned vampire five years, while she was on active duty in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Growing up in a military family surrounded by alpha males, she’s had to be tougher, smarter and better than her brothers and father to prove herself. Now she’s a newbie vampire and having to prove herself all over again. Will’s just the kind of guy she hates—rich, smooth-talking, and has had everything handed to him. So you just KNOW these two are going to make an interesting couple.

Next up, in a few months, we will find out what makes our psychiatrist-turned-vampire Cage Reynolds tick. And who will be the one to save him…if he can be saved.

p.s. everyone, Absolution  (the 2012 Holt Medallion winner and Prism Award finalist) is $2.99 for Kindle for a limited time.

Susannah SandlinAbout Susannah SandlinSusannah Sandlin is the author of paranormal romance set in the Deep South, where there are always things that go bump in the night. A journalist by day, Susannah grew up in Alabama reading the gothic novels of Susan Howatch and the horror fantasy of Stephen King. (Um…it is fantasy, right?) The combination of Howatch and King probably explains a lot. Currently a resident of Auburn, Alabama, Susannah has also lived in Illinois, Texas, California, and Louisiana.To learn more about Susannah, visit her website or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads