Stacking the Shelves (68)

Stacking the Shelves

For two weeks’ worth of stack, this is not too bad. Or so I keep telling myself.

goddess with a blade by lauren daneTwo notes about this stack. Blade to the Keep is the sequel to Lauren Dane’s fantastic Goddess With a Blade. Now that was part of the first batch of books that Carina Press approved me for on NetGalley when I first started blogging, back in 2011, so I’d have fond memories of it anyway, but it was marvelous. Vampire politics, sex, and a serial killer to catch. I’ve always hoped for more, and finally, it’s here!

Rhys Ford’s Fish and Ghosts is the other one I’m really looking forward to. Her Black Dog Blues ended up on my 2013 Best Ebook Romances list at Library Journal, so when I saw a new paranormal series from her get offered at The Book Pushers I jumped at it. Ghostly serial killers and romance–sounds like fun!

For Review:
Blade to the Keep (Rowan Summerwaite #2) by Lauren Dane
Carousel Sun (Carousel #2) by Sharon Lee
Cold Iron (Cold Iron #1) by D.L. McDermott
Deeper (Caroline and West #1) by Robin York
The End (New World #1) by G. Michael Hopf
Fish and Ghosts (Hellsinger #1) by Rhys Ford
A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor
The Long Road (New World #2) by G. Michael Hopf
Love a Little Sideways (Kowalski Family #7) by Shannon Stacey
Sail Away With Me by Kate Deveaux
Training Season by Leta Blake
Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion…So Far by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs
Wicked After Midnight (Blud #3) by Delilah S. Dawson
Wrede on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede

After the Golden Age (Golden Age #1) by Carrie Vaughn
Gossamer Wing (Steam and Seduction #1) by Delphine Dryden
Heating Up the Holidays by Lisa Renee Jones, Serena Bell and Mary Ann Rivers
The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1) by Jennifer Probst

Borrowed from the Library:
Cursed (Fallen Siren #1) by S. J. Harper

Review: Poisoned Web by Crista McHugh + Giveaway

Poisoned Web by Crista McHughFormat read: ebook from NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Science fiction romance; fantasy romance
Series: Deizian Empire, #2
Length: 279 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: November 17, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The fate of the empire hangs on one slave breaking her silence…

As the Deizian Empire prepares for the upcoming wedding of Emperor Titus Sergius Flavus and Azruha, one mystery remains unsolved–the sudden and unexplained death of the former emperor. And as her wedding gift to Titus, Azurha wants to give him answers. She suspects an unknown poison was involved, and her search for the truth enlists two unlikely allies.

Modius Varro’s thirst for knowledge caused an uproar in Emona three years ago and exiled him to the border town of Madrena. But when Titus falls victim to the same poison, his expertise in medicine becomes essential in solving both the riddle of the former emperor’s death and finding a cure to save the current one. His search leads him to far reaches of the Alpirion realm, to an ancient culture shrouded in secrets, and into the arms of one slave who must break her silence to save the empire.

Crista McHugh’s Deizian Empire series reads like a fantasy romance, but there is more than a touch of science fiction lurking deep within the web that she weaves. In this second book in the series, one of those science fictional elements plays a primary role in solving the central dilemma that moves this stage of the overall story, but it still leaves readers with more than enough drama to make us eager for the next book in the series.

The Deizian Empire is not at peace. The young Emperor Titus faces enemies both from without, and from within. As the saying goes, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”.

Tangled Web by Crista McHughTitus was supposed to have been a weak emperor, easy to manipulate. Or, he was supposed to have been dead. Unfortunately for his enemies, the assassin that they sent to kill him, fell in love with him instead. Even more unfortunately for his enemies, they actually did pay to send the very best. Their love story is told in the marvelous opener for this series, Tangled Web (reviewed here).

But Titus desire to make a freed slave his Empress has upset even conservative advisors even further, and they were frothing at the mouth already over his plans to free the empire’s slaves. Adding to the ongoing ferment, his consort Azurha has determined that the previous emperor did not die of natural causes; he was poisoned. And as the famous assassin named ‘The Rabbit’, she is an expert on poisons.

The only problem is that Azurha can’t tell which poison did the deed. And that’s where both the science fiction and the romance come into this story.

There are two races in the Deizian Empire. The Deizians and the Alpirions. The Deizians came from another planet and conquered the native Alpirions. It is common medical knowledge that certain medicinal plants cause different reactions depending on which race a person is from. Someone used that knowledge to poison the late Emperor.

Two people are called in to figure out not just what poisoned the emperor, but who did it and how. The emperor’s food was tasted, so whoever did the deed had to be someone who had trusted access to the palace as well as some pretty sophisticated medical knowledge. Along with one hell of a motive.

Only two people can solve this problem before it is too late; Izana and Modius. But they both have terrible secrets that might get them killed before they can finish. Izana is Azurha’s trusted servant, and she knows how to read the ancient Alpirion script that leads to the old secrets, but she is a slave and it is illegal for slaves to be able to read and write.

Modius is a trained healer, but he left the capital in disgrace after he was caught dissecting army corpses after a battle. If they put their skills together, they can find the answer. If the secrets they keep from each other don’t trip them up first.

And they need to figure things out fast, because the new emperor has developed symptoms of the same “illness” that killed his father. Time is running out for everyone.

Escape Rating A-: Poisoned Web is the portrait of the empire in the throes of cataclysmic change. And the thing about change is that most people don’t like it very much, especially the ones who benefit from the status quo.

So much about the Deizian Empire reminds me of the Roman Empire, especially the nastier bits of I, Claudius (without Livia’s machinations, at least so far), that one sees plots and poisoners pretty much everywhere. There are even barbarians at the gates. The gates are maintained by magic, or science, or a combination of the two.

But Titus is changing too much, too fast, and all the Deizians who have their income tied up in slavery don’t want to see the end of their privileges. Of course he has to go. And on the other side, the ones who foment rebellion really aren’t interested in a slow path to change, because they get their kicks from the violence. (This is not to say that the Alpirions shouldn’t be free, but that most of them would not advocate assassinating the emperor who wants to free them as the best way to go about it)

Then there’s the love story. Izana and Modius both have been horribly wounded in their pasts, and have a difficult time trusting anyone. Izana’s road is much more difficult. Modius was terribly disgraced and vilified because of the experiments he was conducting. If the previous Emperor hadn’t gotten him out of town, he might very well have been lynched. But that time has passed.

The secrets Izana is protecting are deadly, not just for her, but for every single person who she reveals to Modius. Her past as a sex slave feels degrading and demeaning, but it is her past alone, at least in context. The network of illegal knowledge about the Alpirions, the network of slaves who can read and write, is death to every single slave that is even tangentially involved in it. While Titus does not seem to be that kind of emperor, he can’t be or he wouldn’t be the center of this series, any corrupt noble could invoke the law and destabilize the regime.

I feel like the series, in addition to having wonderful love stories, also has this epic rise and fall of empires thing in the background, and that’s part of what makes it so marvelous to read.

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Crista is kindly giving away a $100 Amazon gift card and 20 autographed print copies of the first book in the series, Tangled Web! To enter for a chance to win, use the Rafflecopter below.

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***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 or borrowed from a public library 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.

Happy Thanksgivukkah


Are you feeling sorry for that poor turkey with the candles up his tailfeathers? I know I am!

This probably hasn’t happened before in your lifetime, and it probably won’t happen again. The last time was in 1918, and the next time won’t be until 2070.

No, it’s not Halley’s Comet.

For those of us in the U.S. (which I’m technically not, today, so funny that) today is Thanksgiving. This also happens to be a very late Thanksgiving, always the fourth Thursday in November; because November started on a Friday this year.

For those of us who are Jewish, today is the first day of Hanukkah, which started last night at sunset. It is the 25th day of Kislev according to the Jewish calendar. (Wikipedia has a lovely explanation of how the Hebrew calendar drifts out of sync in relation to the Gregorian calendar used for standard dates.)

But the idea of this once in a lifetime phenomenon captured a lot of people’s imaginations. So we have Thanksgivukkah, a word which is driving the WordPress spell-checker absolutely bonkers.

A day where I can give thanks, eat turkey and possibly receive Hanukkah presents, all in one swell foop.

So wherever you may be, I hope that you are having a happy Thanksgiving, even if today isn’t your holiday. Or holidays.



Review: Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin

Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie GriffinFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance; BDSM
Length: 107 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: November 21, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Every December twenty-fifth, Rebeccah Rickman volunteers through her synagogue so that others can celebrate Christmas. Her usual mitzvah, or good deed, is assisting police officer Jeremy Kohler. But this year is different: this year, Becca is free to act on the attraction that has long simmered between her and the sexy cop.

Jeremy couldn’t have asked for a better gift than discovering the woman he’s fantasized about for five long years is single. But when he learns about the violence that broke up Becca’s marriage, he’s hesitant to pursue her. He fears his desires will scare her away—but can’t deny his own need for control in the bedroom. Or his longing to instruct her in the fine art of submission…

Becca is shocked to learn that Jeremy is a sexual dominant. And despite her past, she’s also aroused. But before she can explore what that means, she’s going to have to put her trust in Jeremy—and her own fledgling desires.

My Review:

There’s more mistletoe than matzoh in this holiday romance about a Jewish woman who regularly volunteers at her local police station on Christmas and Easter so that more people who celebrate those holidays can be at home to do so. After all, those are not her holidays, and it’s considered a good deed both to volunteer and to help others.

Rebeccah Rickman has always had her own secret reason for being so helpful. Five years ago, the very first time she walked into the police station on Easter, she had an instant attraction to Officer Jeremy Kohler. But Rebeccah was married, and she made sure she never let her attraction show. She also never knew those feelings were mutual, not in five years of Christmas and Easter ride-alongs did she ever have an inkling that her continuing to volunteer was the only reason that Jeremy continued to sign up for holiday duty twice a year.

When Rebeccah comes into the station for her usual Christmas volunteer stint, she comes in with a whole bunch of secrets to reveal. For the first time since she met Jeremy, she’s a single woman. She divorced her husband Sam. The problem is that she divorced his ass because he became an abusive bastard. While it’s the one and only physical strike that pushed her out the door and into divorce court, Sam was a systematic emotional abuser and those wounds are a lot more insidious and will take a lot longer to heal.

Rebeccah isn’t sure whether Jeremy will care that she’s single. She thinks he might. What she has no clue about is that Jeremy is a sexual Dominant and that as much as he has always wanted her, he’s never had a relationship that wasn’t also part of the BDSM lifestyle. Rebeccah’s freedom also frees him to pursue her, but her history makes him very wary. He wants to tear Sam’s head off. Possibly literally.

He also knows that the only way he can have Rebeccah is to let her discover her own power in every way possible; so that she understands what she wants and needs for herself. Jeremy’s BDSM lifestyle is all about power exchange, and Rebeccah can’t exchange power until she realizes just how very much power she really has. And how much power she can have over this one Dominant man, if only she can let herself take it.

Escape Rating C+: Considering that Rebeccah is the one who was abused, we spend an awful lot of this story in Jeremy’s headspace, as he tries to figure out how much of the BDSM lifestyle Rebeccah wants or can cope with and how fast he can introduce her to it.

However, he does think things through considerably better than the mess that happens in Fifty Shades of Grey. When Jeremy moves too fast, he knows he’s screwed up and works at making things right.

But the story here is about Rebeccah as a survivor of years of emotional abuse, and how much damage that ongoing assault does to a person’s self-worth, even when there are no bruises. Sam took away Rebeccah’s choices piece by piece and expected her to submit in every aspect of her life, where Jeremy hopes that she is a sexual submissive, but wants a real partner in every other aspect of their lives. Rebeccah, naturally enough after what she went through, has a hang-up about the word “submission” and Jeremy often trips over his own drooling tongue before he gets things fully explained to her.

Matzoh and Mistletoe is a sexy holiday romance with a side of kink, and a pretty darn enjoyable one at that. However, and it’s a pretty big however, I wish that the author had either decided to leave it at that, or had decided to leave out the kink and gone for the sexy holiday story about Rebeccah recovering from her abuse and finding new love. Or had just plain stayed with Rebeccah’s point of view.

This is a fairly short book, so it felt like we lost something in the need to explain the kink. Rebeccah was abused, and it seemed like her recovery was missing several steps. She goes along too easily and her character development gets shortchanged in order to explain the BDSM lifestyle. When her ex barges in and attempt to re-terrorize her, there’s very little about what made him turn on her, or how she recovered.

The innocent who discovers they are secretly a submissive can be a great story. The abuse victim who stands up for themselves and on their own can be an empowering story. There just wasn’t quite enough space here to combine those two.

Reviewer’s Note: This year, 2013, the first night of Hanukkah is tonight, November 27. It’s very early this year.

***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 or borrowed from a public library 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: In Love With a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle + Giveaway

In Love With a Wicked Man by Liz CarlyleFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 389 pages
Publisher: Avon
Date Released: October 29, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

What does it matter if Kate, Lady d’Allenay, has absolutely no marriage prospects? She has a castle to tend, an estate to run, and a sister to watch over, which means she is never, ever reckless. Until an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe Castle, and Kate finds herself tempted to surrender to her houseguest’s wicked kisses.

Disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine has turned his gifted mind to ruthless survival. Feared and vilified as proprietor of London’s most notorious gaming salon, he now struggles to regain his memory, certain of only one thing: he wants all Kate is offering—and more.

But when Edward’s memory returns, he and Kate realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion that could be her ruin, but perhaps his salvation.

My Review:

This is a wickedly delicious historical romp. It’s one of those romances where the readers get to wallow in the delightful froth of it all, but the characters never do, because it’s not really frothy. The heroine is pragmatic and even the women who seem flighty at first glance turn out to be hiding considerable brains under their curls. As they should be.

Kate is the practical and pragmatic Baroness d’Allenay, and it is she who manages the estate at Bellecombe Castle, all of the d’Allenay family holdings, and for that matter, all of the d’Allenay family.

She got the reins just in time to save the estate from the ruin left by two generations of inveterate gamblers; her father and her brother. Not that the family line isn’t riddled with gambling men, but they were the most recent.

Kate is fortunate, the d’Allenay title is one that can legally pass to a female child if there are no sons. (These do exist, and have existed since at least the 14th century, according to Wikipedia) She didn’t have to marry to keep her home. On the other hand, the man she was engaged to turned out to be a womanizer and a gambler. She cried off and good riddance when she caught him in flagrante delicto.

But she’s 28 and it looks like she’s married to the estate, which is not the best way for her to ever have children. But it is the best way to protect that estate from being drained to pay off yet another wastrel’s gaming debts.

She had hoped that her younger sister, Nancy, would have a real London Season and marry both happily and well. Instead Nancy has managed to fall in love with the local vicar and doesn’t want to wait until she reaches her majority in two more years to marry the man. It’s just one argument after another.

Into this mess rides either salvation, disaster, or both. After a shouting match, Kate tears off on her horse and collides with another rider. The man takes the brunt of the accident and pitches off his horse onto the ground, hitting his head. Kate feels responsible and takes him back to Bellecombe.

Kate always feels responsible. It’s what she does. This time, it just happens to be true.

But the man wakes up with amnesia. His clothes are bespoke, and excellent Savile Row tailoring at that. His horse is well cared for. His saddlebags have the initials N.E.D stamped in them. And that’s all they know.

Until he regains his memory, the extremely handsome Mr. Edward is a guest at Bellecombe. Based on the few clues they have, everyone assumes that he must be a gentleman, even though Edward himself has the sneaking suspicion that he might not be.

But as the days slip away, Edward finds himself seduced by the life at Bellecombe. Not because of its luxury, because that’s not there. But because of its comfort and homeyness. The sense of being a welcome addition to a family.

Falling in love, as unwilling as he is to admit it, with the woman who makes it all possible; pretty and pragmatic Kate.

And then disaster strikes. Edward remembers who he is. And he is not a man that any respectable woman would welcome into her home. Least of all a woman who hates gamblers.

Escape Rating B+: In Love With a Wicked Man is simply a marvelous story that lets the reader fall in love with historical romance all over again.

Kate is a terrific heroine. The unusual amount of responsibility that she has been saddled with puts in her a unique situation and provides a reason for her to be the kind of take-charge woman that lets us identify with her. She’s no simpering miss waiting for a man to rescue her, she’s done quite nicely rescuing herself. But, her need to protect the estate has meant that she really can’t marry without finding someone who will love her for herself and will be willing to care for the estate as much as she does. It’s a difficult balance.

Yet she still has to take care of her reputation. She may be firmly on the shelf, and her title can’t be taken away, but if she causes a scandal it will affect her sister and her cousins.

While the amnesia plot has been done before (Shakespeare, anyone?), it has the effect of making Edward a blank slate, even to himself. He gets a vacation from who he used to be, and he needs one. He discovers that he rather likes being a mostly good man, albeit one who can’t resist seducing and being seduced by the lady of the house.

Their liaison feels almost safe, because neither of them knows who they ought to be. By the time they find out, it’s too late. They are past the point of no return. They both feel too much. Edward has discovered that he can’t go back to feeling nothing at all. Kate has discovered that it is wonderful to have someone to lean on, just a bit. Everyone else has always leaned on her, and Edward is the first person she’s ever had for herself.

The surprise in the story is Kate’s mother, Aurelie. Just when you think you have figured out what is going on, you discover a very large cache of hidden depths. Merveilleux!

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Liz is giving away a paperback copy of In Love With a Wicked Man to one lucky winner (US)! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Bewitching Book Tours

***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 or borrowed from a public library 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: Buying In by Laura Hemphill + Giveaway

Buying In by Laura HemphillFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Women’s fiction
Length: 305 pages
Publisher: New Harvest/Amazon Publishing
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Bright, ambitious Sophie Landgraf has landed a job as a Wall Street analyst. The small-town girl finally has her ticket to the American elite, but she doesn’t realize the toll it will take—on her boyfriend, on her family, and on her. It isn’t long before Sophie is floundering in this male-dominated world, and things are about to get worse.
With the financial crisis looming, Sophie becomes embroiled in a multibillion-dollar merger that could make or break her career. The problem? Three men at the top of their game, each with very different reasons for advancing the merger. Now Sophie doesn’t know whom to trust—or how far she’ll go to get ahead.

Set inside the high-stakes world of finance, Manhattan’s after-hours clubs, and factories in the Midwest and India, this is the high-powered, heartfelt story of a young woman finding her footing on Wall Street as it crumbles beneath her. Written by an industry veteran, Buying In tackles what it means to be a woman in a man’s world, and how to survive in big business without sacrificing who you are.

My Review:

What is the difference between buying in and selling out?

That feels like the fundamental question that Sophie Landgraf keeps asking herself, and that all the people in her life keep asking Sophie, during the course of the story of Buying In.

Everyone in Sophie’s life outside of her work is utterly certain that Sophie has sold out, that she has given up on the values that underpin the small farming community of Stockton, Massachusetts where Sophie was raised.

However, and it’s a damn big however, Stockton is a place where Sophie never fit in. As much as she loves her widowed father, Sophie the mathlete was always the odd person out. She was always looking to escape to somewhere MORE.

It’s possible that the New York City banking industry on the eve of the recession wasn’t it, but she couldn’t know that.

She also couldn’t possibly have stayed in Stockton and helped her father keep up the illusion that he could make ends meet on the sheep farm. It hadn’t worked when her mother was alive, and it really wasn’t working now.

Sophie gets caught up in the intellectual exhilaration of, for the first time in her life finding work which absolutely consumes her. It also frequently terrifies her, but her job at Sterling Bank stretches her in ways that she could never have imagined.

It also eats up every moment of her life and energy. She has nothing left for anything else, and she doesn’t want to. She can’t admit it, but she is having the time of her life. She’s living every moment on a high-wire act.

The adrenaline is addicting.

Buying In is the portrait of the banker as a young woman. Some might say that it’s about the “greed is good” mentality, but it’s not about greed for Sophie. For Sophie, it’s about finding the place where she belongs, and figuring out what it takes to stay there.

When she loses that place, it’s becomes about figuring out what it takes to get back there. Because Sophie has found out what her rightful place is. And she’s not the naive girl from Stockton anymore. She is a banker, and it’s all about the deal.

Even if she has to fake it.

Escape Rating B: Buying In gets off to a slow start. Sophie is so deeply insecure about her place at Sterling, that her desperation gets a bit wearing. At the same time, it was all-too-easy for me to empathize with Sophie when she had to work such incredibly brutal hours just to keep her job, and her family and friends refused to believe her working conditions.

While the environment at Sterling was inhuman, it was what it was. If she wanted to keep her job, she really did need to be there nights and weekends. Her bosses wouldn’t understand if she took a weekend off. There was no downtime.

And yes, she did also enjoy the rush. But still, Sophie’s struggles with her friends, her boyfriend and particularly her father were sometimes painful to witness.

The macro-story involves one single deal that is being played out just as the banking industry is going into a tailspin. The three men who start the story as the “big cheeses” in this deal represent three possible futures for Sophie; one is an inhuman machine, one loses his way in disappointment, and one does the best he can for the people in his company no matter how much it costs him.

We watch them, and Sophie, choose their fate. We know what happened to the rest of us. 2008 was not a good year, but it is fascinating to dissect.

If the story of how the banking industry got itself and the rest of the country in over our collective heads interests you, and you want to read an equally compelling but totally different view (with sex this time), try The Rare Event by P.D. Singer (reviewed here).

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


Laura is giving away a hardcover copy of Buying In to one lucky winner (US/Can). To enter, use the Rafflecopter below:

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***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 or borrowed from a public library 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 11-24-13

Sunday Post

It’s very timey-wimey that the 50th anniversaries of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Doctor Who share a weekend. They did in 1963, too. In 1963, JFK was killed on Friday, November 22, and Doctor Who premiered on Saturday, November 23. In 1963, there was considerably more attention paid to the assassination of a U.S. President.

In 2013, I’m not so sure.

200px-John_F._Kennedy,_White_House_color_photo_portraitIn 1963, I was 6 years old. Unlike many of my peers, I was not in school that day. I was home with tonsillitis. (I got my tonsils out just before Christmas that year). My memory of that entire weekend is of being home, sick, and that there was nothing else on television except the repeating coverage of the assassination and the funeral. I was bored and I had no one to play with. Not my finest moment, but six-year-olds are fairly selfish.

This time around it’s amazing how easy it is to ignore the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination if you only want to see the coverage of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. Which I haven’t seen yet, we have tickets to see it tomorrow night in a theater, but some of the reviews worry me.

Time marches on in its timey-wimey way.

Current Giveaways:

Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft — $25 Amazon Gift Card
Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce — $50 Amazon Gift Card
Bewitching Book Tours Hot Holiday Giveaway
Gratitude Giveaways Hop – $10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Winner Announcement:

The winner of The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane is Jo J.

seductive powers by rebecca royceBlog Recap:

A- Review: Tangled Web by Crista McHugh
B Review: Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams
D/B- Review: Countdown by Michelle Rowen (f/k/a Michelle Maddox)
B+ Review: Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft + Giveaway
B+ Review: Highland Protector by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway
A- Review: Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce + Giveaway


Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie GriffinComing Next Week:

Buying In by Laura Hemphill (review + giveaway)
In Love With a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle (review + giveaway)
Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodi Griffin (review)
Poisoned Web by Crista McHugh (review + giveaway)

Review: Seductive Powers by Rebecca Royce + Giveaway

seductive powers by rebecca royceFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Superhero romance
Series: The Capes, #1
Length: 164 pages
Publisher: Fated Desires Publishing
Date Released: November 3, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Wendy Warner is a bit of an oddball. Raised in an orphanage, she’s found solace and friendship by watching the television show, Space Adventures, and participating in its fan clubs. Twice a month, Wendy comes to work dressed in a costume from the show that she wears to charity events. She’s been able to ignore the looks of distain from many of her coworkers, but when the president of the company gazes at her with something more, she knows she’s in deep.

Draco Powers rather likes the way the uniform hugs all her curves in the just the right places. He’s also a real-life Guardian who told the world that, yes, some people had superhuman abilities, but, no, they wouldn’t work for free or without health insurance. Some people refer to him with derision as the “Capitalist Guardian.” While Draco doesn’t care what he’s called, he’s also being hunted by a group called the Organization, whose motives are unclear and yet still cause death and destruction wherever they go.

The Organization has decided that Draco’s biggest weakness is the way he cares about his employees and has chosen Wendy as their next target. To save her, Draco will have to come to terms with his real feelings and the reason he’s long resisted complicated relationships…but he’s running out of time.

My Review:

This is just plain fun. Just way too much fun. And absolutely adorkable.

Now that I’ve read it, I have to say that the worldbuilding makes complete sense. To the point where I can’t get it out of my head. Bruce Wayne inherited a fortune, so he didn’t have to worry about having a day job to support being Batman. Reporters do work alone a lot, or did when the Superman comic was first written, and Lois and Jimmy seem to have covered up for Clark Kent’s absences fairly often.

Tony Stark, well, Iron Man owns his own company, and everyone knows who he is anyway. But if you really are attempting to keep your secret identity secret, and you don your cape and mask every time somebody needs saving, how do you hold down a day job?

Not all superhero backstories come with unlimited funding.

(I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I disappeared every day for a couple of hours, even if it was to save the world, I’d get fired. And that would certainly put a crimp in the family budget.)

So the idea that someone with superpowers might want people to pay for their services makes sense. We pay everyone else for their services, so why not? We even pay for services we really hope we’ll never use, like insurance, so why not pay for “super” services?

But some people would resent it. Then again, some people resent everything.

And the idea that “normal” or non-super people would work in the infrastructure of that superhero corporation and that they would need to be paid and have insurance then follows from the rest. I like my worldbuilding to have internal consistency, which this does.

Very cool.

If you were the personal assistant to a superhero, would you be in danger of developing a crush on your boss? Now that’s the stuff that romances are made of.

And Wendy Warner has a crush on her boss, the head of Powers, Inc., Draco Powers. What Wendy doesn’t know is that her boss is interested in her, too. However, Draco is keeping that feeling to himself, because he’s all too aware that letting it be obvious that he has feelings for anyone makes them a target for his enemies.

It all goes smash when he discovers that just by being his personal assistant, Wendy already has a target painted on her back. His last PA was murdered by his evil nemesis; “The Organization”.

And Wendy is next.

Escape Rating A-: This is just a terrific superhero romance. And a great geek romance too. Two hits in one!

Wendy is the geek, and I love the casting against type. Wendy plays MMORPGs in her spare time (massively multiplayer online role playing games) and her involvement in the cooperative world of the game and in geek culture is a major subplot.

I did figure out at least part of the whodunnit, but not all of it, and it didn’t matter. I was having too much fun with the way things were put together. The reason that Draco’s nemesis was his nemesis turned out to be a bit weak, but again, still too much fun. The story was way more about how the Powers were the Powers and Draco and Wendy’s love story.

In spite of not being a superhero, Wendy gives Draco as good as she gets. She may think he can do better, but she still doesn’t let him walk all over her. And when I say do better, some of that again has to do with her being a “normal” and him having superpowers. He can fly like Superman, that might make a lot of people feel inadequate.

But her job is to keep him organized, and to be his interface with the world. She tells him what to do and he does it. She argues with him on a regular basis. There’s a lot of give and take in their relationship, and it’s good for them both, it just takes a while for them to see it. That’s part of what makes this story work.

They both need to recognize what love is, because neither of them has a whole lot of experience with it. When they finally figure it out, it’s fantastic.



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***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 or borrowed from a public library 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: Highland Protector by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway

Highland Protector by Catherine BybeeFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Time travel romance
Series: MacCoinnich Time Travels, #5
Length: 300 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: November 19, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords

No ordinary hero can save Amber from death…it will take a Highland Protector

Amber MacCoinnich survival depends on her traveling to the twenty first century, or so her mother’s premonition told her. Death taunts Amber and offers peace in her endless pain. Without the mysterious savior her mother spoke of, Amber prepares for death only to wake with a handsome, dark stranger in her bed.

Gavin Kincaid spends his life shifting time in order to preserve and protect the MacCoinnich family and their line even though he’s never met one living MacCoinnich. A haunting portrait of a beautiful woman captures his attention and he embarks on a quest to put a name to the picture. When a colleague vanishes, the time-stream forces Kincaid to the twenty first century where he finds his mystifying woman close to death. His Druid gift can save her, but at what price? And when they both find themselves emotionally linked, the truth behind Kincaid’s heritage just might kill them both.

My Review:

Readers will be left hanging off of a huge cliff at the end of this book, so consider yourselves warned. But it is so worth it.

Now that the public services announcement is out of the way, what about the story?

Up until now the MacCoinnichs have confined all of their time traveling between their late-16th century origins and our 21st century. Fairly convenient, as we know what happens in the 21st century and we’ve romanticized the hell out of the kilt-wearing 16th.

But what about the far-flung future? Just because we haven’t been there doesn’t mean that the MacCoinnich penchant for traveling time won’t go there. Once you’ve moved forward three centuries or so, what difference can a couple more make?

A lot if you’re Amber MacCoinnich, the youngest daughter of Lora and Ian MacCoinnich. Amber’s psychic gift of empathy has become so powerful that it is more like a curse. She feels the emotions of everyone in her parents castle; everyone in the vicinity. She’s never alone in her own head or heart, and she can’t shut the onslaught out. Other people’s justifiable worry about her condition is part of what’s killing her. Talk about a vicious cycle!

Her mother’s gift of prescience tells them that Amber’s life can only be saved if she goes into the future and lives with Simon and Helen (and the redoubtable Mrs. Dawson) in the 21st century. Not that they have the cure, but that the cure will be found in their time. So off she goes.

Amber’s future comes to find her, in the person of Gavin Kincaid. A warrior from the even further future. In the year 2231, Gavin is one of a team of Druid warriors who has sworn to protect all the descents of (drumroll please) Ian and Lora MacCoinnich! Not just protect them, but travel through time to protect them whenever and however necessary.

Because even though the MacCoinnichs killed Grainna back in the late 16th century, there’s this itty-bitty problem with evil and time travel.

Evil time travelers keep getting this awful but brilliant idea that if they wipe the MacCoinnichs off the face of the Earth, they’ll be able to come back into power and work their wicked magic on the unsuspecting population of the planet.

They just have to go back and change history. Which is evil, but then, so are they.

Highland Shifter by Catherine BybeeGavin and his time traveling order keep getting in their way. So when Helen uses her famous finding powers (see Highland Shifter for details) and drags Gavin and his friend Giles from the 23rd century to the 21st, evil follows in their wake.

It looks like Gavin may be the one who can save Amber, but the cost looks to be higher than anyone wants to pay.

Escape Rating B+: This series is just tremendously good fun. The books are also a lot like potato chips; I dare you to read just one!

There’s a feeling at the end of this one that everyone is holding their collective breath, that the next story is going to be the big payoff for the whole series. I also got a sense of deja vu all over again; the setup for the confrontation between good and evil reminded me a lot of the confrontation brewing between Grainna and the MacCoinnichs in Silent Vows and Redeeming Vows. We’ll see.

The future that Gavin comes from isn’t terribly well defined. That’s not all that surprising, this isn’t a futuristic story. But it was cool that the idea of someone coming from the future finally got explored a bit. I also personally liked that his BFF is a librarian. (I always like it when we’re heroes, or hero-ish)

Amber is an interesting choice for a heroine. Up until this story, she’s been forced into the background by her “illness”. Yet she doesn’t grab at the first straw that gives her a chance for normalcy. She wants Gavin to love her for herself and not because he feels obligated. They still try a courtship, as much as possible. It’s very sweet.

Waiting until the final book in this series arrives is going to seem endless. I want it NOW!

Catherine BybeeAbout Catherine Bybee

New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned novels Wife by Wednesday, Married by Monday, and Not Quite Dating. Bybee lives with her husband and two teenage sons in Southern California.To learn more about Catherine, visit her website or blog or follower her on Twitter and Facebook.


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***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 or borrowed from a public library 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: Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft + Giveaway

bittersweet magic by Nina croftFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Order, #2
Length: 242 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Edge
Date Released: November 11, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Roz has been indebted to the demon Asmodai for five hundred years, and her freedom is just around the corner. All she has to do is complete one last task for him—obtain a key that had been hidden in a church centuries ago.

Piers, the Head of the Order and an ancient vampire, is intrigued by the woman who comes to him for help. She’s beautiful and seemingly kind, but she’s hiding something. And he’ll find out who she is and what she really wants once he uses his power to get inside her head. But Piers has no idea that Roz is immune to his mind-control…or that he is simply a pawn in her dangerous mission for freedom.

My Review:

Bittersweet Magic is the second book in Nina Croft’s Order series. The Order referred to in this series is “The Order of the Shadow Accords” and it’s administered by the vampires. I find the concept of vampire peacekeepers to be only the beginning of throwing genre stereotypes into a blender and hitting the puree setting, but that’s part of what makes this series so much fun.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]At the end of Bittersweet Blood (utterly marvelous), the Order office on Earth is in a bit of a pickle regarding the maintenance of the Accords between the Fae and the Demons. The whole purpose of the Shadow Accords is to keep the Fae and the Demons from using the Earth as a battleground, because the Fae are paranoid about the Demons invading the Faelands. The Demons really don’t care who comes to visit the Abyss. This isn’t because the Demons are necessarily evil, it’s because the Demons really aren’t paranoid that way.

The problem with the Accords is that the number two vampire in the Order, Christian Roth, has just married a half-Fae, half-Demon named Tara who can move between the Faelands and anywhere else she wants whenever she wants. Her mother and the Demon Asmodai were basically the Romeo and Juliet of the Fae/Demon War. She’s not supposed to even exist, and the Fae are mostly pretending she doesn’t, even though the Fae King is her uncle.

Don’t you just love family feuds?

In Bittersweet Magic, the Demon Asmodai needs to steal a magic Key from a convent. It’s not just any old key, it’s a key that will allow someone to move between the planes of existence, including opening the portals to the Faelands. Of course, he was supposed to have destroyed it at the end of the War. But he didn’t.

Asmodai has a witch on retainer. Rosamund sold Asmodai her service over five centuries ago in return for performing thirteen tasks. Roz is a Seeker; she finds things by magic. Finding the Key is supposed to be her last job. All she has to do is pretend to be a nun until she can steal the key.

Until some seriously awful monsters kill all the other nuns except one scared young woman and Roz and steal the Key right out from under her hidden nose. And tell them to deliver a message to the head of The Order.

The one group that Asmodai has told Roz she should never visit, because they will kill her the moment she identifies herself and what she is. Except that Roz doesn’t really know what she is.

She only knows she’s seriously sick of pretending to be a nun. And that Piers Lamont, Head of the Order office in London, is the damn hottest thing on two legs she’s ever seen, whatever HE is.

At least she’ll die happy. Unless the damn demon has been lying to her all along. Which he SO has. Even more fun, he’s been lying to The Order, too.

Escape Rating B+: Like Bittersweet Blood, Bittersweet Magic is also a story about a woman who has been lied to about who and what she is discovering the truth of her identity and about the reality of the world she belongs in.

Roz is a witch. Among other things. But she has to own it, and the truth of her heritage has quite a lot of bitter mixed in with the sweet. Her mother was burned as a witch, and only calling on Asmodai saved Roz from a similar fate.

Her mother expected Roz’ father to save them. Which does bring up the question about who Roz’ father really is. The reveal on that particular secret is something that Asmodai seems to have been savoring for a few centuries, and it’s a doozy.

The Demon does turn out to be one of the good guys. More or less.

Because Asmodai has kept Roz isolated for all of her long life, Roz has no idea who she can trust. She does figure out that the Order are not the bad guys that Asmodai has made them out to be, but she isn’t quite sure what they are, either. She’s used to being on her own, and they’re used to keeping everyone in the dark.

Piers Lamont is too busy keeping secrets of his own. At first, he’s still fooled by Roz’ disguise as a nun. Once he gets past that, he’s caught up in trying to protect a woman who just doesn’t need his protection, and in keeping secrets of his own.

That Key that Roz was supposed to steal is the only thing keeping a really big EVIL from destroying the Earth. It’s an EVIL Goddess that still wants Piers back, even after he imprisoned her for 1,000 years. Talk about carrying a torch!

Piers has just figured out he wants Roz, even if he doesn’t think he knows what love is. There’s no triangle like an eternal triangle.

This series is just too much fun not to jump on board for the ride. And it’s totally addictive, like chocolate!

Bittersweet Magic - Nina Croft - Banner


The celebrate the release of Bittersweet Magic, Nina is giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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***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 or borrowed from a public library 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.