Review: Skies of Gold by Zoe Archer

Skies of Gold by Zoe ArcherFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Series: The Ether Chronicles, #5
Genre: Steampunk Romance
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Number of pages: 352 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Two Lonely Hearts . . .

Kalindi MacNeil survived the devastating enemy airship attack that obliterated Liverpool, but even her engineering skills can’t seem to repair her broken heart. Seeking to put her life back together, Kali retreats to a desolate, deserted island—only to discover she’s not alone. Captain Fletcher Adams, an elite man/machine hybrid, a Man O’ War, crashed his battle-damaged airship into the island after the destruction of Liverpool, never expecting to survive the wreck. But survive he did.

One Desire . . .

Believing he is nothing but a living weapon, Fletcher is wary of his newfound companion—a pretty, damaged, but determined young woman. Together they are stranded on the island, and it is only a matter of time until desire gets the best of them both. Soon Kali and Fletcher each find that they may be just what the other needed. But a danger from beyond the island puts them to the test. Will it rip them apart or bond their hearts forever?

My Thoughts:

I just discovered that this is the last book in Archer and Rossi’s Ether Chronicles and I am completely bummed. Call me a very sad panda.

skies of fire by zoe archerEven though this is the final book in the Ether Chronicles, a reader could start with this one, and then decide that they loved the worldbuilding so much that they wanted to start at the very beginning, Skies of Fire (reviewed at Reading Reality). Yes, I know, I’m fangirling a bit now. Sue me. (Please, don’t.)

The series is alternate history steampunk world war, with Britain and the U.S. fighting against the Hapsburgs and the Russians in a Victorian era with aether-powered airships. What makes the series fascinating is that they really do show the world-spanning scope of the war, so the books are not just set in England, but also in America and even North Africa.

And, the discovery of a metal called telumium (yes, I know, it’s this world’s version of unobtanium, but it makes things fun) has created a fantastic steampunk version of the bionic man; Man-O-Wars. They are a combination of airship captain and airship centaur, without the body-blending. Well sort/kinda. Read and find out for yourself.

Skies of Gold has a bit of the Tarzan/Jane myth, only if both Tarzan and Jane remember their “civilized” roots and want to escape from them. Also if Jane is a female MacGyver. (I started to say a prettier MacGyver, but that depends on the eye of the beholder, and, well, nevermind.)

In this case, Tarzan and Jane, make that Fletcher and Kali, both have terrible cases of survivor’s guilt, and in a grand case of coincidence, (there are no such things as coincidences, of course) from the same battle. She was severely wounded when the enemy bombed Liverpool, and his ship crashed after routing the enemy from their bombing of Liverpool.

They’ve also both survived heartbreak when their former lovers couldn’t see past the changes that war had made in their outward appearance. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. They find themselves, and each other, on a remote Scottish island where they each planned to be alone.

When they are discovered by an enemy, they have to return to the world they both left behind in order to save an unsuspecting friend from a trap. They’ve already saved each other.

Verdict: This series is a treat for those of us who love steampunk romance. I’m very glad that if the Ether Chronicles had to end, they finished with a full-length novel, and one as good as Skies of Gold.

Kali and Fletcher are interesting people, and are different types of main characters. Not just because they both have survivor’s guilt, but also because neither of them quite fits their stereotypes. Fletcher isn’t completely alpha, and Kali is both disabled and a minority in addition to being a professional woman. She’s on the island to be independent, and he’s there to be dead. They both have PTSD and they pull each other out of it.

The relationship they develop builds slowly and carefully, and that’s the way it should be. There’s nothing instantaneous here except wariness.

The villain arrives as a bit of demon ex machina at the end, but I was having way too much fun to care. He served his purpose as a means of bringing the story to its (and his) ending.

I’m just damned sorry the ride is over.


I give  Skies of Gold by Zoë Archer 4 ½ aether-powered stars!

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

Review: The Striker’s Chance by Rebecca Crowley

The Striker's Chance by Rebecca CrowleyFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Release Date: September 2, 2013
Number of pages: 149 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Landing the PR contract for North Carolina’s new soccer team could take Holly Taylor’s career to the next level. Her task? Make Kepler “Killer” de Klerk, an athlete with a party-hard reputation, a star. But revamping the sexy footballer’s image while battling her unwanted attraction to him is easier said than done.

The car accident that derailed Kepler’s European career also gave him some much-needed perspective. He’s ready to give up on fame and focus on the game he loves. The last thing he needs is a headstrong brunette pushing him back into the spotlight, even if butting heads with her is the most fun he’s had in ages.

The more time Holly spends with Kepler, the more she sees how different he is from his tabloid persona. But when she’s offered her dream job for a price, she finds herself torn between the career she’s spent years building and the man she doesn’t want to give up.

My Thoughts:

A sports romance set in North Carolina about soccer instead of NASCAR. What a surprise!

Hey, a sports romance set in the U.S. about soccer instead of football. An even bigger surprise!

On the other hand, because the book is about soccer instead of football, or any other sport that USians are familiar with, the title kind of lays an egg. On the other hand, the cover, while featuring yet another infamous headless torso, represents an event that takes place in the story. (Also looks yummy.)

About the story…

This is a contemporary romance about a female sports PR specialist who has to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Not exactly, but close enough. It’s not that “Killer” de Klerk isn’t pretty enough (back to that cover picture again) but his off the field reputation is “party all the time” and the “Killer” nickname sums up his on the field rep.

His off the field antics ended in an automobile accident that nearly ended his career and got him kicked off his old team and out of Europe. The new team in North Carolina is his last chance to play the game he loves before either time or the accumulation of injuries bring his career to a close.

Holly Taylor’s brilliant idea is to turn Killer back into Kepler de Klerk. To make him a bit more family friendly, but mostly to showcase him as a leader and integrate him into the team and the community.

Kepler finds himself making a home in Charlotte, and a place for himself with his new team. He’s the star, but it’s his experience that proves a genuine treasure, as he teaches the young team not just how to play, but also how to win.

And while he makes himself at home in Charlotte, he gets to spend more time with Holly, who proves to be the most compelling reason to love his new team. While Kepler starts to feel like he might have finally found a place where he belongs, the team’s owners have other plans–plans that Holly can’t share with him.

No matter what she feels about those plans. No matter what she might feel for him.

Verdict: This is a solid contemporary sports romance. It doesn’t break any new ground, except maybe for the hero being a soccer player instead of something more usual for an American audience. Also, it’s interesting that Kepler is South African and not from one of the more typical European countries for a non-US background.

While the chemistry in this romance wasn’t off-the-charts, it was definitely there from the beginning, and in a very plausible way. I actually liked that things developed naturally and we didn’t get treated to unrealistic insta-anything.

The development of Kepler’s character, from someone who was used to getting things handed to him and didn’t want to be there, to someone who became a real leader and coach, was well done.

One of the things I liked about Holly was that she was unapologetically devoted to her career. She understood herself and that she put her career first. She’d sacrificed some relationships to that and it was something she understood about herself. Men do this all the time, in romance novels and in life, and it was great to see a woman do the same thing.

The one thing that detracted from the story was the big misunderstandammit. It made sense that Holly would hold off on a relationship with Kepler because getting involved with a client was definitely a conflict of interest. But the whole underhanded business with the team owners seemed very contrived as a way of creating tension.


I give  The Striker’s Chance by Rebecca Crowley 3 and ½ stars!

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

Review: Tarnished by Karina Cooper

Tarnished by Karina CooperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Series: The St. Croix Chronicles, #1
Genre: Steampunk, Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Number of pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon
Formats available: ebook, paperback, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his—for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.

My Thoughts:

Tarnished is an extremely apt title for this book, because Cherry St. Croix is one of the most flawed heroines it will ever be your pleasure to meet. Cherry isn’t just flawed, she’s just this side of broken.

Just this side, you understand, she isn’t quite broken, although she probably should be.

Tarnished is very definitely steampunk, and also steampunk of the dark and gritty persuasion. Cherry’s London is not for the faint of heart. Even Cherry requires opium to cope with it.

That’s right, our heroine is an opium addict. She’s also a bounty hunter. Also an unrepentant liar.

What makes Cherry interesting is that she’s an outsider no matter which way she turns, so her perspective is always that of someone with their nose pressed against the glass, peering in at a world they can observe, but never quite be part of.

In London above, she’s the daughter of a Mad St. Croix, a scientist who died in an experiment gone wrong. Society is afraid that Cherry might have inherited his madness along with his wealth. What society isn’t so certain of is that she was sold to a circus after the accident, and spent years as an acrobat and a thief.

In London below, she’s known as Miss Black, the only female “collector” to ply the dangerous trade. She’s a bounty hunter who turns in men and women who otherwise refuse to pay their debts to “The Midnight Menagerie”, a magical pleasure-palace.

In London above, Jack the Ripper is killing prostitutes, and the newspapers have started an outcry. In London below, someone is killing sweets, the slaves who belong to the Menagerie, and harvesting their organs for a gruesome scientific experiment. Officially, no one cares, but unofficially, Cherry takes the bounty.

mysterious case of mr strangeway by karina cooperEven more unofficially, Cherry becomes the bounty, and everything she thought she knew turns upside down.

Verdict: The Cherry St. Croix series is definitely for those who like their steampunk on the extra-dark side. I’m saying this because her world is not a nice or light place, especially not London below, and Cherry isn’t your typical bluestocking heroine. On the other hand, this particular series isn’t reliant on a lot of gears and automatons so far.

Cherry became a collector (see The Mysterious Case of Mr. Strangeway for details) in order to be able to purchase more opium than her guardian would allow. Notice I didn’t say purchase it at all, just to purchase more than was acceptable.

In Tarnished, Cherry is on the verge of coming into her inheritance. She is also straddling two worlds, and there is a man with a secret in each world. She can’t seem to choose between them. Lord Compton seems to represent the safe, society choice, except that Cherry has seen him entering an opium den. Cage Hawke represents the dangerous choice, as he is the major-domo of the Menagerie. But no one is as they seem, including Cherry.

I found myself wondering exactly who (or possibly what) Cherry’s mysterious guardian really was. Cherry doesn’t seem to have encountered him in daylight and outside of nightmares. He’s going to be important at some point.

Tarnished sets up the series and introduces Cherry’s unique voice. There is a case to be solved, a steampunk Jack the Ripper who may be using alchemy, or who may be a scientist, or may be both. He might even be a necromantic version of Dr. Frankenstein, and if that doesn’t give you nightmares, then nothing will.


I give  Tarnished by Karina Cooper 4 hazy stars!

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

Review: Heron’s Cove by Carla Neggers

Heron's Cove by Carla NeggersFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Series: Sharpe and Donovan, #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Number of pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, mass market paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

When your safety depends on living a lie…

After escaping certain death, deep-cover agent Colin Donovan is back home on the Maine coast with his new love, FBI art crimes expert Emma Sharpe. Then Tatiana Pavlova, a London-based jewelry designer, arrives in Heron’s Cove, asking for Emma’s help—a prized collection from a lost era of Russian opulence, decadence and rare beauty has resurfaced, and Tatiana warns Emma it’s about to be stolen again. And Colin realizes his nightmare isn’t over. It’s just begun.

And everyone you love is a target…

Emma guards her past closely, and Colin is determined to unlock her secrets. As they investigate the mysterious collection and the equally mysterious Tatiana, they confront their greatest challenge. Now they must count on their expertise—and each other—to outwit an enemy who wants to destroy them and everyone they love most.

Who can you afford to trust?

My Thoughts:

The Sharpe & Donovan romantic suspense series is just as suspenseful in the second outing as it was in the first. Possibly even a bit more.

The romance in this romantic suspense series is different and interesting because it’s not the usual romantic tension of new lovers meeting and navigating the initial rush of attraction–that already happened in Saint’s Gate (reviewed here). In Heron’s Cove, FBI Agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are trying to figure out whether the love can withstand the incessant pressure of their dangerous careers; as well as the weight of the secrets that both of them still keep.

The story begins with both the danger and the secrets jumping up to bite them; Colin is nearly killed while working deep undercover, and his rescue comes by way of a phone call from a man that Emma knows from one of her secret pre-FBI contacts.

Colin is afraid that the busted operation left too many loose ends that will come up to Maine to chase him down, and equally that there are too many secrets from Emma’s family’s work in art recovery. (Of course he turns out to be right on both counts or we wouldn’t have a story!) Colin always wonders whether everything the Sharpe family has done has been completely legal. He doesn’t like Emma’s secrets, no matter how many of his own he continues to keep.

Emma feels the weight of all the different loyalties that she has accepted in her life. Her boss still believes that her contacts are an added bonus to her work, but there are times when her worlds conflict. The secrets she learned while working for Sharpe’s Art Recovery still have to be kept as an FBI agent, as long as they don’t contravene the law. They don’t, even if they drive Colin Donovan crazy.

And while Colin is still recovering from his last near-death experience, a yacht docks in Heron Cove with visitors who represent a case from Emma’s past. It should be simple, but of course, it isn’t. Especially when the case turns out to involve Colin’s past as well. His recent, and nearly deadly, past.

Saint's Gate by Carla NeggersVerdict: If you like romantic suspense, this series is fun, but I think it works better if you start from Saint’s Gate.

The push/pull of the romance between Colin and Emma is great. He may want to go all alpha male, and his family is certainly wired that way, but Emma doesn’t take a lot of that BS. She is also an FBI agent and is both trained and wired to take care of herself. There is an immense irony that he complains that he doesn’t know everything about her and she can’t know everything about him, and it keeps getting in the way and they both need to just let it go.

The suspense part of this particular story was a lot like a Russian nesting doll, which is possibly the way the author designed it considering the story. There are Russian mobsters, and a stolen collection based on Russian folklore. Then a Russian designer says the collection is going to get stolen again. Then more Russian mobsters, and former mobsters. Along with some ex-wives and ex-daughters. It’s almost tragic enough to be a Russian folktale.

Emma’s grandfather had some very interesting clients. We get to meet another one in book 3, Declan’s Cross. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the most fascinating character in the whole series so far, Father Finian Bracken, who is supposed to look like Bono.


I give  Heron’s Cove by Carla Neggers 4 nested stars!

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

Review: Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers

Saint's Gate by Carla NeggersFormat read: ebook borrowed from the Library
Series: Sharpe and Donovan, #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: Aug. 23, 2011
Number of pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK)

Two people, isolated by their pasts. An obsessive killer who will force them together. Welcome to Saint’s Gate.
Emma Sharpe is summoned to a Maine convent, partly for her FBI art crimes work, partly because of her past with the Order. At issue is a mysterious painting of Irish lore and Viking legends. But when the nun who contacted her is murdered, it seems legend is becoming deadly reality.

Colin Donovan is one of the FBI’s most valuable deep-cover agents. Back home in Maine after his latest mission, a contact clues him in to an intrigue of murder, international art heists and long-held secrets that is too tempting to resist. As danger spirals ever closer, Colin is certain of only one thing—Emma Sharpe is at the center of it all.

My Thoughts:

In Saint’s Gate, we have the opening of a romantic suspense series where the emphasis is definitely on the suspense rather than the romance. This reader is grateful that the series does not look like it is going to revolve endlessly around the heroine’s lame inability to decide between love interests.

Not only is that trope verging on TSTL, but in this case, it would be less sensible than usual, as heroine Emma Sharpe is an FBI agent. It’s a job requirement that she be decisive, even in her rather complicated personal life.

The complications in Emma’s personal life form the background for this case, and are also the extras that she brings to the table as part of the FBI’s High Impact Team (HIT). Emma’s family is in the art detection business, and have been for generations. They find lost treasures, they are respected art appraisers. Some might even say the Sharpes are treasure hunters.

But before Emma became an FBI agent, she spent three years of her life as a novice at the convent of the Sisters of the Joyous Heart, a convent devoted to art restoration and teaching art.

The case, and the series, begins when one of the sisters is murdered. The question is why Sister Joan asked Emma to visit. Was there a painting? A problem? Nothing about her request for Emma to visit was within the rules of the Order.

There are too many questions about whether the murder is related to Sister Joan, the convent, a painting, to Emma, an FBI case, or Emma’s family connections. There are endless possibilities.

Added to those possibilities is Colin Donovan. Also an FBI agent, and also originally from that same rocky coast of Maine. But unlike Emma, Colin generally works deep undercover. Emma and Colin should not know each other. Initially they don’t. Except…Emma’s art expertise provided the information that Colin used to put away someone very, very bad. It’s just barely possible that this murder has something to do with Colin’s case.

Sticking his head up, identifying himself to too many people might expose him too publicly as an FBI agent. Colin Donovan might just have to come in out of the cold. Emma Sharpe might just make it worth Colin’s while, if this case doesn’t get them both killed.

Verdict: Although Saint’s Gate is romantic suspense, it definitely falls more on the suspense side of the equation. Not just because the subtitle “a novel of suspense” is a dead giveaway, but because the point of the story is solving the crime, not the romance. Emma and Colin are meant to be.

Rock Point by Carla NeggersThe story does carry the weight of setting up the series, so there is a certain amount of information that needs to get conveyed about both families and the Heron Cove/Rock Point area of Maine. Readers need the stage set. The most fascinating side-character in the story so far is Father Finian Bracken from Ireland. (How he gets to Maine from his native Ireland and meets Colin is told in Rock Point; while it’s billed as book #0.5 in the series, it was written between books 2 and 3).

The cool thing about this story is how much everyone’s past is influencing the present. Emma’s past life as a novice brings her into the case, and her history with the convent influences how she thinks about the people involved. Also her past influences how people think about her. Father Finian’s past, especially escaping it, brought him to Maine.

Emma’s grandfather’s past is wrapped up in the present crime, as is the past of the founder of the convent and others who were their contemporaries. The truth about those not knowing the past being condemned to repeat it is very much in evidence.

I’ve already started Heron’s Cove the second book in the series, because I enjoyed visiting this place with these people. I’m looking forward to more of their adventures.


I give  Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers 4 brightly painted stars!

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

Review: Medium Well by Meg Benjamin

Medium Well by Meg BenjaminFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: Ramos Family/Medium Trilogy, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: Feb. 2nd, 2013
Number of pages: 296 pages
Publisher: Berkley InterMix
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Real estate agent Danny Ramos has always had a knack for selling homes, but when his boss saddles him with a neglected carriage house, Danny discovers that his abilities are more than simple intuition…

On his first visit to the house, Danny is confronted with visions of a violent murder. His assistant, Biddy Gunter, doesn’t seem affected, and Danny starts to think he’s going crazy—until he gets a visit from his mother, who suggests that Danny’s uncanny talent to sell old houses may stem from his family inheritance: psychic empathy.

When Biddy reveals to Danny her own strange dream about the carriage house ghosts, they team up to investigate and discover both the house’s dark history and their own unexpected attraction. But as the hauntings turn from unsettling to downright dangerous, Danny and Biddy need to figure out how to rid the house of its ghostly inhabitants, before their budding romance meets an untimely end…

My Thoughts:

We were just in San Antonio for WorldCon and took a bus tour that went around the King William area where this book (and the series) takes place. The residents of the area are too snooty too allow the tours to drive through. Small world.

But the houses are old, Victorian, and definitely did look like they either needed a lot of money or a lot of maintenance. Or both at once.

Who names their daughters Araceli and Biddy? I’m just saying…

Danny Ramos, on the other hand, not only sounds like, but apparently is, sex on a stick. And it’s a quality he generally exploits in his off-work time. Possibly occasionally in his on-work time, there were a couple of moments when I wondered. But that’s not this story.

You’ve heard of horse whisperers? Danny is a house-whisperer. Old houses tell him their secrets, and he is an expert at spinning those secrets into terrific stories that he uses to sell old houses to new owners. Expensive old houses.

Danny is a real estate agent, which should not be a novel-worthy profession, except when the house is demon-raddled. How does Danny know the house is possessed by a demon? At first, all he knows is that the house freaks him out, really, really badly. Then, he gets introduced to the woo-woo side of his family history, and discovers that his extra-special talent at selling houses is an extra-sensory talent.

Mom forgot to tell him that he comes from a very long line of mediums. The houses really are speaking to him. Or their ghosts are.

When the story opens, the biggest problem in Danny’s life is that his paranoid boss Araceli is out to get him fired. By the end, his biggest problem is that he needs to burn down a historic carriage house to stop a soul eating demon from getting loose and possessing the good citizens of San Antonio.

Medium Rare by Meg BenjaminVerdict: This is way, way more fun than it ought to be based on the description. I was reading the next book in the series, Medium Rare, for a tour, and the recap of previous events sounded so wild that I couldn’t resist getting this one just to see what the heck happened. This is pretty much of a hoot.

One of the bizarre things about the Ramos family is that the family talent for being a medium comes from the Riordan side, from their mother. Even weirder is that not only is Danny not supposed to have inherited the talent, but the Riordan side doesn’t run to boys. He and his brother are the first males in the family in centuries. Mom’s reactions to finding out that he has a demon to get rid of and that she has to own a talent she tried to forget are beyond interesting. Come to think of it, a book of mom’s love story with dad and getting out of the “family business” might be pretty good.

I both liked Biddy and she drove me nuts. She has been letting her older sister Araceli dictate her life for much too long, but I don’t have an exact fix on how old Biddy is. Gratitude, even for an extreme sacrifice, can only go so far. Biddy is a musician, and she’s not just fantastic at it herself but she’s fronting an absolutely awesome group. Biddy needs to devote herself to her music, and Araceli is pressuring her to give it up permanently. There’s something wrong in that dynamic that weakens both characters and turns Araceli into a stereotypical paranoid career-ladder climbing bitch.

Biddy’s family dynamics were not just awful but the resolution was too quick at the end. Danny’s were terrific, even as the big family secret got revealed. And I loved the research into the house.

There is a romance between Biddy and Danny that is a big part of the story. These two people are both figuring out who they really are, as well as figuring out they belong together. They have to do the first before they completely manage the second.


I give  Medium Well by Meg Benjamin 4 stars!

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

Review: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards

The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen RobardsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Paranormal Romance
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Number of pages: 333 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

Dr. Charlotte “Charlie” Stone has dedicated her career as a psychiatrist to exploring the darkest territory of all: the hearts and minds of serial killers. It’s a job she’s uniquely suited for, thanks to the secret talent that gives her an uncanny edge—Charlie can see dead people, whose tormented spirits cry out to her for the justice only she can provide. This blessing—or curse—gives Charlie the power to hunt down and catch madmen and murderers. It’s also turned her love life upside down by drawing her into a hopelessly passionate relationship with the lingering ghost of charismatic bad boy Michael Garland.

But there’s little time for romance with her supernatural suitor when murder comes pounding at Charlie’s door in the form of a terrified young woman fleeing a homicidal maniac. Saving her life places Charlie squarely in the cross-hairs of a sadistic predator nicknamed “the Gingerbread Man,” notorious for manipulating his victims like pawns in a deadly chess game. And now the queen this psychopath’s bent on capturing is Charlie. Refusal to play will only put more innocent lives in danger. Matching wits with this cunningly twisted opponent will require all of Charlie’s training and expert skills. But even with her devilish “guardian angel”—not to mention her favorite flesh-and-blood Fed, Tony Bartoli—watching her beautiful back, the Gingerbread Man’s horrifying grin might be the last thing Charlie ever sees.

My Thoughts:

I wonder if every book in the Charlotte Stone series is going to have the word “Last” in the title. The only problem is that none of them actually are the last anything. And maybe they ought to be.

You really have to enjoy train-wreck books in order to read this series. I’m serious. The main character is Dr. Charlotte Stone, a criminal psychiatrist who studies serial killers. Charlotte is an utterly classic case of a shrink who really, really needs to see a shrink. Not just because she studies what makes serial killers tick because she is the surviving victim of one, but, because, you guessed it, she’s in love with a convicted serial killer.

Even better, the drop-dead gorgeous serial killer that Charlotte is in love with is quite literally dead. Michael Garland is Charlotte’s very own personal poltergeist. On top of all her other issues, Charlotte sees dead people. Garland is one of the few who can see her–whether or not she’s wearing anything.

The Last Victim by Karen RobardsAnd yes, they’ve had sex, but only after he died. The amount of crazysauce involved in just the set up for the series is enough to make your head spin–a complete 360 degree spin! (If you haven’t fallen out of your chair yet, read The Last Victim, or just this review, for more details)

In spite of (or maybe because of) the wacko setup, it is impossible to stop reading this damn thing. Some of that may be sheer disbelief at the situations Charlotte continues to let herself get sucked into.

I mean, really, it’s one thing to get turned on by bad boys, but ghostly bad boys? I can kind of understand undead bad boys, meaning vampires, but the ghost of a serial killer? Especially when there is a flesh-and-blood FBI agent panting after her? In normal circumstances, the FBI agent would totally be the hero, but no, that’s too tame for this girl.

And then there’s the current serial killer. Yes, really. The actual point of this story, besides the woo-woo sex, is the hunt for a live serial killer. Which totally takes second place to Charlotte’s emotional angst about keeping the ghostly one hanging around long after he should have gone into the light. Or even down into the dark.

I will say that Charlotte is damn good at her day job. Just totally illogical when it comes to her personal life.

Verdict: In her personal choices, Charlotte reads as way past Too Stupid Too Live. She even calls herself out as filling that trope. On the other hand, the train-wreck is so ear-screechingly loud and the sparks from the brakes squealing on the tracking so eye-poppingly bright that you can’t turn your eyes away. This story should not work at all, but I couldn’t stand not to finish it.

It also bears an increasingly strong resemblance to Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed, except that her characters were not as stupid and Kennedy’s ghost hero was a hero in life. Also there was a possibility of an HEA there that does not exist here.

The “find the serial killer” plot line, which is ostensibly the main plot, takes a back seat to the ghost romance. Or the angsting over the ghost romance, which is too damn bad. There was a high suspense factor here that didn’t get exploited as well as it could have.

Rating this feels nearly insane. It is either the best 2 star book or the worst 4 star book I’ve ever read. Therefore:


I give  The Last Kiss Goodbye by Karen Robards 3 very confused stars!

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

Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others by Jo WaltonFormat Read: ebook borrowed from the Library
Number of Pages: 302 pages
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Formats Available: Hardcover, Paperback, ebook, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s website | Publisher’s website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

My Thoughts:

“If you love books enough, books will love you back.”

Having read Jo Walton’s Among Others during WorldCon, I can’t help but wonder how many of the people around me at the Con have read the book, particularly since it won the Hugo in 2012 (and the Nebula in 2011).

I know that a significant number of that audience share the same feeling as the protagonist of the story, that books, and especially science fiction, saved her sanity if not actually her life. It’s part of what brought us all together, after all.

And yes, me too.

The story is that of a girl just falling over the boundary into young womanhood, who lives on the broken borders of too many worlds, and is trying to repair the breakage in all of them. At the beginning, her love of science fiction seems to be the only thing that helps her hold herself together.

Morwenna Phelps is a Welsh girl who is forced to go to an upper-crust English boarding school. She is a twin who is still suffering from the death of her literal other half in an automobile accident that has left her disabled, possibly permanently.

She has lost the only home she has ever known and been forced into the care of a father with whom she has never had any contact. Because her mother is a mad woman that her family refuses to deal with properly.

And/or depending upon one’s perspective, because her mother is a dark witch who is trying to capture her and use her to power an evil spell. It was in the thwarting of her mother’s earlier attempt that her twin lost her life.

Mori sees fairies and uses magic to counter her mother’s witchcraft. Or is it the last vestiges of her childish need to cope with her mother’s madness?

Whatever the case may be, Mori copes with everything the universe has thrown at her, including an entire school full of mean girls and a father who frequently forgets that she exists, by escaping into the far flung worlds of science fiction.

It is in the star empires of the grand masters that she finds kindred spirits, not just between the pages of books, but among the other science fiction lovers in the library and the town who meet each week to discuss great, and sometimes not-so-great, lit.

In pursuit of the fictional future, whether hopeful or dystopian, Mori discovers the way to meet her own.

Verdict: Among Others contains elements of autobiography, a mix-in of “contemporary” fantasy, and loads of love for books and libraries.

I put “contemporary” in quotes because the story is set in the late 1970’s, due to the autobiographical elements in the story. The author herself grew up in Aberdare, as the heroine did, and was both disabled and sent to an English boarding school, paralleling the character in the story. No twin. (Lovely interview in the Austin Chronicle with more details)

There was a part of me that kept wondering whether Mori’s “seeing fairies” and practicing magic was real, or if it was a coping mechanism for everything she was going through. I’m not sure that mattered to my enjoyment of the story, but it niggled at me a bit.

The heart of the story is how Mori keeps herself going through her love of reading science fiction and fantasy. It’s not just that she reads, but that we hear what she thinks about what she reads. So there’s Mori’s thoughts on which writers and books she loved, and disliked, and why, along with what is happening to Mori and what she’s doing to counteract the bad crap going on in her daily life.

Fair warning: reading this book is guaranteed to add to your TBR pile. Mori is passionate about the books she loves. Also the ones she hates. But she will convince you to read, or re-read something. Several somethings.

But Among Others is, above all, a passionate reminder that we can, and do, rescue ourselves, if we just keep on doing. With time and a little help from our friends. Not if we keep on trying, but if we keep on doing. Mori and Yoda would have gotten on like a house on fire.


I give Among Others by Jo Walton 4 and ½ twinkling 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.

Trio Review: Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles

Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela QuarlesFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Dec. 19, 2012
Number of pages: 52 pages
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she accidentally makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.

Our Thoughts:

Cass: (Pre-Read Impressions) They DARE invoke Firefly?! Ballsy. Taking Firefly’s name in vain can lead to hordes of angry Browncoats. The devastation would be unspeakable.


Marlene: Unfortunately, most of us geeks know that Syfy doesn’t broadcast much real Sci-Fi any more. Which should have clued me in that this wasn’t going to be quite what I thought it was.


Jackie: I was afraid that my lack of recent exposure to anything scifi, particularly all things Firefly, would leave me at a disadvantage but I think this would have been better categorized as “pop culturally aware” as opposed to geekish/ scifi content.  Monty Python and Marvin the Martian are not hardcore scifi, right girls?


Cass: Seriously. I call bullshit on her Geek Cred. Saying this is for “fans” is like saying the Kate Daniels is for goths. You know, because Julie is going through a goth phase. As evidenced by a couple casual references to her room.


Marlene: Based on the description in Goodreads, I was expecting geek romance. What I got was a lot more like something that should have been published through Decadent Publishing’s 1Night Stand series, with a lesser djinn standing in for Madame Eve. Emphasis on lesser.


Jackie: Call me crazy, but I was thinking it might resemble Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson…then again, if it did I wouldn’t know cause I haven’t read it yet, but I thought this might have given me a taste at least. I’m almost positive there aren’t any genies/djinn in Thompson’s stuff, although he may have hallucinated them over the years. If that’s what the author was going for at all, it was subtle and clever.


Cass: I didn’t get any Geek from this story. Or nerd. Or comprehension of the English language.


The author opens with a reference to all the “trademarks” used in her book. What kind of lunatic would encourage someone to trademark fandom? You want fans to be obsessed with your copyrighted material so they spend all their money on it. Not restrict their ability to do so.


What kind of author wouldn’t be intimately familiar with copyright and how it works? She’s either a moron, or using the list as an affectation of Geekdom. Somebody is in serious need of Geek Therapy:


Marlene: Instead of “talk dirty to me” the subtitle of this one should have been “talk nerdy to me”, except wait, that title is already taken! A lot of geeky in-jokes substitute for foreplay. And I’ll never think of Marvin the Martian quite the same way again.


Jackie: I’m sure I missed a bunch of the references, but I did get the one about the red shirts and the away mission. *Jackie pats herself on the back*


Cass: I was just so wrapped up in all the intrigue surrounding the bed sheets. Clearly a crucial aspect of a 40 page short.


How do you expect me to believe these two had amazing sex if you don’t specify whether or not the sheets were organic 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton? Might as well have just stuck with missionary position. These kinds of issues can make or break the masturbatory potential of your sex scenes. People can only take their suspension of disbelief so far. Vegas genie? No problem. Sexytimes on generic sheets? Blasphemy!


Marlene: Underneath a story that provides endless possibilities for snarky humor, there is a lot of geeky inside snarky humor. There’s also a bit of wish-fulfillment, which is where the djinn rather improbably steps in, rather like the naughtier cousin of the guardian angel in It’s a Wonderful Life.


Cass: Wish fulfillment? Have you broken open the WorldCon libations a bit early?


This whole scenario is creepy as fuck. As soon as Mirjam found out her “bartender” wasn’t actually an employee of the casino, she should have been screaming “What the fuck did that psycho put in my drink?!” and running to get a medical exam. Not mindlessly obeying the instructions of a complete stranger who knew everything about her (down to her bra size), broke into her hotel room, and ordered her to strip after dragging her out of the very safe public area she was standing in.


Riley had it right when he opened with “How the fuck…”. Because that is the only acceptable response to this kind of situation.


I propose a title change to “Roofies and Stalking in Las Vegas.”


Mirjam’s willingness to just roll with this increasingly bizarre, and totally unsafe, series of instructions puts her in the TSTL category. I’m stunned she didn’t compare herself to Sookie Stackhouse. They have similar senses of self-preservation. (i.e. none).


Jackie: No, I wouldn’t be following any instructions that popped out of a slot machine unless I had someone to watch my back but it is fiction, so we are supposed to suspend reality for a bit anyway. Readers should just be aware of the whole “don’t try this at home” rule.


Marlene: The second-chance at love angle is supposed to help the readers get over the very fast “insta-love” aspects of the story. Insta-lust is totally believable, insta-love, not so much. These are two workaholics who have both been going through a seriously long dry-spell, so insta-lust, absolutely.


Cass: I’ll give credit where credit is due. They had safe sex. And there was unambiguous consent. Even if they didn’t consider the very real possibility that their sex-shack was set up with spy holes and hidden cameras in addition to the candles and fancy sheets. Hope you enjoy your futures as online porn stars! Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.


Jackie: I’m not sure that they were both on the same page when it came to the whole ‘high school residual feelings’ thing but it did speed up the story appropriately for a short. It took me a while after finishing to figure how Marvin ended up where he did, but at least Riley was consistent in his enthusiasm for “the one that got away.”




Marlene: I picked this up hoping for more of a sci-fi-con-romance type story (based on the description) in anticipation of WorldCon. In that sense, it was disappointing. The story is an erotic romance where it just-so-happens that the participants are both geeks. Their geekiness is what they have in common.


On the other hand, it was a moderately fun and occasionally hot story to read over my lunch, providing that one is willing to suspend some disbelief about going along with the djinn and the slot machine. But I wouldn’t call it romance as much as light PWP (that’s porn-without-plot). I will say that having the acid test for whether or not someone is a potentially geeky enough long-term partner be their reaction to one’s Serenity tattoo made a weird kind of sense (says the woman with both TARDIS and Star Trek earrings)


However, the title is awful and doesn’t describe the book very well. It makes it sound like an orgy at a frat party. Or worse.


I give Beer and Groping in Las Vegas by Angela Quarles 3 pink stars


Cass: I slammed my computer shut in disgust and walked away at least four times. Because what.the.fuck.


I give Roofies and Stalking in Las Vegas 1/2 star. The half star I contemplated adding for the unambiguous consent was taken away by the sheer absurdity that so-called geeks would be in the same hotel as a big Con and not even contemplate going.


Jackie: I kind of agree with Marlene about the title but from another viewpoint: when the beer bottle showed up on the balcony, I thought things were going to go to a weird place for a minute. Thankfully, they didn’t. I enjoyed this quick read and feel it offers a bit of steamy fun with a smidge of hope for us geeks out there still looking love. I give Beer and Groping in Las Vegas 3 thrusts…I mean stars! (Seriously, though, I’m pretty sure their first time was that quick, no?)


***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: Choose Your Shot by Christine d’Abo

Choose Your Shot by Christine d'AboFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Series: Long Shots #5
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Release Date: Aug. 12, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads| Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Come explore the newer, naughtier Maverick’s, where you are in control of the story.

It’s been a year since the decadent BDSM club was gutted in a fire. Tegan has scored an invitation to the grand reopening, where she can finally indulge the needs she’s ignored for too long. On her wicked wish list: a thorough spanking, adventurous playmates and complete erotic satisfaction.

As a switch, Tegan can find pleasure as either a sub or a Domme. The question is, what—and who—is she in the mood for tonight?

Master Grant: dominant and drop-dead gorgeous, he hasn’t forgotten their last encounter. He’ll make sure Tegan gets what she craves—if she submits to him alone.

Eli: the sexy switch has always wanted more from Tegan. But taking their relationship to the next level could mean risking their friendship.

Adam: the last man Tegan expects to encounter at the club, but one she’d love to see more of—if he behaves…

Choose which ending you want for Tegan, or explore all of the sensual possibilities.

My Thoughts:
Flight from the dark by Joe Dever
Choose your own adventure?

Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? Choose Your Shot takes that concept, that the reader starts with a basic story and then decides where the heroine takes it from the beginning premise, and applies it to the sex club Mavericks introduced in the erotic romance series Long Shots.

How well does it work?

There are the reading mechanics and then there’s the story. Or stories, as the case may be.

Tegan was a regular at Mavericks before the fire that closes the club at the end of Calling the Shots . But we haven’t met her before. Our link to the previous stories is Paul and Sadie, the hero and heroine of the very first story, Double Shot.

Because the club has been under reconstruction for a year, Tegan hasn’t had a place to explore the various kinkier sides of her sexuality. She has missed having a safe place to “play” and she’s also missed the friends she has at Mavericks. But the time away has given her the chance to think about her life, and she’s starting to think that she’s ready for a long-term relationship. But that relationship would need to be with someone who understands all her needs.

With that set-up, the stories begin. The choose your own fantasy can lead Tegan to explore all the sexual possibilities on offer at Mavericks. Tegan is extremely flexible, but while steam rises from some scenes, others may go too far past the reader’s boundaries. And the scenes can get repetitive.

Because one of Tegan’s original thoughts was the possibility of pursuing a relationship outside the club, those choices are embodied in three different men; there are different romantic outcomes if she goes through the club as a Domme, a sub or a switch. Even if she leaves the club alone, someone will stop by her apartment at the end of the night. The story ends with the possibility of Happy For Now, or a small chance of Friends with Benefits.

Is that enough?

Long Shots books 1-3 by Christine d'AboVerdict: The concept is way cool. You pick what Tegan should do, she does it, and then you pick the next thing, and read that. The links are much easier than flipping pages. But, it worked much better as a way to explore the club than as a way to explore Tegan’s erotic choices. It was also much too easy for the rooms to repeat.

Other people’s sex, scene after scene, starts to be repetitive, even with kink. There wasn’t enough plot to get to care about Tegan and her choices.

That was the difference between the rest of the Long Shots series and Choose Your Shot. The first four books, Double Shot, A Shot in the Dark, Pulled Long (still my favorite–see review of Long Shots 1-3 at Reading Reality) and Calling the Shots (which I’ll be reviewing later this week at Reading Reality) while they may have all had at least one kinky scene in Mavericks to spice things up, were still romances. The couple, (threesome in the case of Calling the Shots) get their HEA.

Choose Your Shot read like an excuse to show off all the different ways a kink scene could be written.


I give  Choose Your Shot by Christine d’Abo 2 and ½ very kinky 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.