Review: Charming by Elliott James

charming by elliott jamesFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Pax Arcana #1
Length: 366 pages
Publisher: Orbit
Date Released: September 24, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

John Charming isn’t your average Prince…

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn’t change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar… Right?

My Review:

I’m not sure why, but when I originally picked this up, I thought it was going to be slightly cutesy. I think it might have had something to do with the whole “Charming” name. The mental trail went from Charming to Prince Charming to fairy tales to cutesy.

Having read Charming, I can see just how off-base I was, and in a good way. There is a connection between John Charming and Prince Charming, but not the way I thought. The book Charming is urban fantasy of the kick-ass anti-hero school, where the hero and monster hunter is none too sure whether or not he’s one of the monsters himself.

And the kind of dark and gritty world where bad things happen to good people every bit as often, sometimes moreso, as bad things happen to bad people. Or bad monsters. Or just bad things.

This is also a story where the vampires are very definitely the bad guys, and where the werewolves may or may not be much better.

The setup for this particular urban fantasy world is pretty awesome. It’s the Pax Arcana, and as a founding myth, it’s rather cool. The concept is that there has always been magic in the world. The supernatural has always walked (or slithered, or whatever) among us. But, and it’s a very big but, when the fae folk left our world for wherever, they left behind a powerful spell that prevents any normal human from truly seeing all that magical weirdness that happens all around us.

And being tricksy fae, they also created an all too human group of Pax enforcers and scattered them all over the world, under a magical compulsion that makes them fight the supernatural and protect mankind. It also makes them reproduce so that they make new generations of guardians to protect the world.

The internet is making their lives a bit difficult, something that will probably feature more in later books.

This story, and the series, centers on John Charming. He’s supposed to be one of those Knight-enforcer types, but something went seriously wrong. His mother was bitten by a werewolf just before he was born. He might be a werewolf. He might not, But his former colleagues have decided that whatever he is, he’s an abomination who must be eliminated. They keep trying, often with catastrophic results and collateral damage. Their neverending hunt keeps John alone and on the run.

Until a Valkyrie walks into his bar, hunting a very stupid vampire who has some surprisingly smart friends.

John finds himself in the middle of her vampire hunt, and part of a group of surprising, and surprisingly ept, volunteer monster hunters. John finds himself doing the right and wrong thing simultaneously, as he falls for the Valkyrie and drives her lover to become an even bigger monster than the ones they are hunting.

And all he wanted to do was stay safe, keep his head down, and quietly tend bar. But John Charming’s life is never that quiet.

Escape Rating B+: While the dark and gritty setting and tone of this story will remind a lot of readers of every urban fantasy they’ve ever read and loved, the creation and explanation of the Pax Arcana itself is extremely cool. It’s a combination of self-fulfilling prophecy and vicious cycle all rolled into one. One often very nasty, but still, one.

The story is told in John’s first person perspective. It gives the author an excuse to explain the way the world works, and we see John’s twisted view of his world and everything in it. In some ways, John and his world remind me of the early years of The Dresden Files, without as much descent into the male gaze. Although at least so far, John’s love life is every bit as unlucky as Harry’s.

One of the things I liked about the overall story is that it doesn’t descend into a romance, or even worse, the dreaded love triangle. It’s not that John and Sig the Valkyrie don’t have strong feelings for each other, but there’s no hearts and flowers, and certainly no HEA or even HFN. Instead, they act as catalysts in each other’s lives, making the other realize that there is shit they need to take care of before they might be ready for each other or someone else.

Of course, some of Sig’s shit nearly gets everyone killed.

I hope we see the good parts of this team again. Both Molly and Choo represent different and equally bizarre and believable ways that regular people might find themselves discovering the Pax. Sig’s story about how she enlisted Police Detective Ted Cahill by hanging him over a building and forcing him to see the magic is equally off-base and equally plausible in this world. She needs a cop, so she recruits one by force.

All things considered, Charming is a very interesting introduction to a new-to-me gritty urban fantasy world. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. And for anyone interested in snagging a copy of Charming for their very own, there is a Goodreads giveaway going on right now.

daring by elliott jamesI’m headed straight to Daring, the second book in the series, to see how John gets himself into even more trouble.

***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: Bite Me by P J Schnyder

Fit muscular man exercising with dumbbellFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Series: London Undead #1
Length: 89 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: June 24, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Few people walk the streets of London since the zombie outbreak, but that’s not an issue for Seth. As a werewolf, he can handle himself and save humans reckless enough to take a nighttime stroll. While on patrol he comes across a group of people under attack. The one woman brave enough to take a stand against the zombies catches his eye—and not just because of her way with a gun. Learning the beautiful woman is homeless and fends for herself only intensifies his urge to protect and care for her.

Maisie can’t help but admit that she’s attracted to her werewolf rescuer. She’s drawn to Seth’s strength and ferocity, and finds herself opening up to him in ways she never imagined, even though she’s determined to not rely on Seth or anyone else. She doesn’t want another person to get hurt—or die—for her sake. She has enough scars, physical and emotional, from the last time…

But when Seth realizes something is drawing the zombies to Maisie, there may be nothing he can do to save her…

My Review:

Bite Me is a very cool little novella, with some neat worldbuilding and a sweet/hot romance at its center.

It’s also gritty, post-apocalyptic and absolutely a tease for the next books in the series.

pride and prejudice and zombies by seth grahame smithThere are lots of stories where the vampires come out of the coffin or the werewolves stop hiding behind the full moon, but this is the first one I’ve seen where it feels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies got thrown into the mix, and I mean that in a totally good way (I loved the first one, but the joke went on too long).

In Schnyder’s dangerous new world, an absolute pandemic of zombies is hunting London in mindless, flesh-eating packs. No one knows how the plague started, but now there seem to be only two options; you run or you fight.

What little law and order is left to hunt the zombies has been augmented by the London werewolf pack. Weres are immune to the zombie virus. So are fae and vampires, but those supernatural creatures have yet to expose their existence in the light of day (or night, as the case may be).

So the werewolves are attempting to protect what’s left of the city’s inhabitants, along with the help of the police. Most of society’s infrastructure is pretty much gone. The people who remain inside the quarantine zone hang onto life by their bloody fingernails.

Maisie operates a veterinary clinic. A surprising number of insane idiots come from America and other less-infected places to go “big game hunting” for zombies in London, bringing their pets and their hunting dogs.

Seth is the alpha of the London werewolf pack. Their worlds shouldn’t connect. But when Seth finds Maisie calmly shooting down a zombie horde in Hyde Park with pistols in both hands, he’s intrigued. He likes her practicality, and he’s appreciative of the excellence of her aim.

He intervenes, not because she needs help as because he can’t resist her blend of death and moxie. He thinks he has all the time in the world to court her the way she should be.

Then he discovers that the zombies have not only evolved, but that they are targeting her.

Escape Rating B: I always want more worldbuilding. This novella is both short and the first book in the series, so as much as I enjoyed it, I kept wondering how the zombie plague manifested, when, and what happened in the first few years of reactions. Also what was the reaction when the werewolves pitched in to patrol.

I didn’t say “how the zombie plague started” because people don’t see to know that. I can accept that it might not be known, and that part of the longer story arc is the hunt for both cause and cure.

The London that is being overrun by the zombies feels like it is dying. It almost felt like the story was steampunk or alternate Victorian, not because there is steam technology but because life is reverting back to historic patterns as the standard of living falls precipitously.

There isn’t a lot of time for character development, but there are hints. Both Seth and Maisie carry deep emotional scars, and neither of them is used to relying on others for assistance. They wake something up in each other, mostly because neither of them wants to need another being, ever again, and yet they are both achingly lonely. Two practical minded, independent people who are perfect made to face danger together.

sing for the dead by pj schnyderI’m glad I started this series after three books are out; it means that I can dive into the next one (Sing for the Dead) right away!

***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.

Guest Post by Author Nina Croft on the Lure of the Werewolf + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome one of my favorite paranormal and SFR authors (if you don’t believe me, take a look at my raves about her paranormal series The Order, and her SFR series Blood Hunter) Nina Croft, who recently published Operation Saving Daniel (reviewed here). She’s here to talk about…

Operation Saving Daniel Banner 450 x 169

The Lure of the Werewolf…
by Nina Croft

I love writing about all different types of paranormal creatures—you can let your imagination run wild and as long as you stick to the rules of your particular world, absolutely anything can happen. But if someone asks me what my favourite paranormal creature is, my mind always flashes to vampires. They are my first love (ever since reading Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice at an early and impressionable age), but all the same, these days I quite often find myself gravitating toward werewolves both in my reading and my writing.

Operational Saving Daniel by Nina CroftI’ve written many werewolves. The hero of my novel, Deadly Pursuit, book 2 in my Blood Hunter series, is a werewolf (albeit in space!) My Sisters of the Moon series is based around them, and Daniel, the hero of my latest release, Operation Saving Daniel, is a werewolf (if somewhat reluctant).

So what is the lure of the werewolf? Why do I go back to them time after time? Here are a few things that come to my mind:

  • I love a bad-boy hero and werewolves are total bad boys. They’re wild and they’re dangerous, and they have that whole animal magnetism thing going.
  • I love their dual nature, the fact that they are “human” most of the time, but that the beast is always lurking below the surface. I love that you can get a flash of that beast from time to time—a feral glint in an otherwise human expression and you know there’s more to them than meets the eye.
  • They are super-fast and super-strong—perfect for protecting you.
  • They are earthy and spend a lot of time outdoors. I’m an outdoor person myself so this definitely appeals. And they can go out in the sun—I’m a total sun-lover so this is a big plus.
  • Alcide. I just had to mention Alcide—the sexiest werewolf on TV.
  • Whereas vampires are cold and controlled, werewolves are passionate, temperamental, and hot-blooded.
  • They form packs so you need never be without a friend or someone to protect your back.
  • They’re Protective. Alpha werewolves are all about protecting the pack and the heroine (or the hero—my latest story is a female werewolf and she’s all about looking after her man. Whether he likes it or not.)
  • The whole “mate” thing works so well with werewolves. You can’t fight destiny—well, actually you can and that’s what makes it so interesting.
  • They turn into wolves and wolves are beautiful (I have four dogs and love all things furry, so I’m maybe predisposed to love werewolves.)
  • While they don’t have immortality like vampires, they do tend to have longer lives and they don’t get sick and can cure just about any injury.
  • And finally, anyone can become a werewolf. All you have to do is find one to bite you and then survive!

So, there are a few of the reasons why I love the furry beasts. But which is more to your taste, the cool, controlled vampire or the passionate, hot-blooded werewolf?

[photo of Nina Croft]About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.

To find out more about Nina, look for her at her website, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.


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Review: Operation Saving Daniel by Nina Croft

Operational Saving Daniel by Nina CroftFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: November 25, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

At eighteen, Melissa seduced her best friend Julia’s brother only to run away shortly after. While Daniel was her fairytale prince, Lissa didn’t believe in happy ever afters.

Ten years and a near death experience later, Lissa is ready for a husband and family. But a cry for help from Julia puts that dream on hold. Daniel is acting weird and he’s about to marry his long term girlfriend—AKA The Evil One. Someone needs to save him.

Daniel has never stopped loving Lissa. Ten years ago when he gave her a little freedom, he always intended that one day they would be together. Right up until the moment he was bitten by a werewolf. Now, Daniel has to hide what he is. He won’t risk anyone else, especially the woman he loves.

But Lissa is back. Their attraction is stronger than ever and Lissa is nothing if not tenacious.

My Review:

There’s a long history of siblings believing that the person their brother or sister is about to marry is not good enough for their favorite family member; possibly even to the point of thinking that person is evil.

Daniel’s sister Julia has no idea just how right she is when she dubs Sophia “The Evil One”–the woman actually is a bitch–a werewolf bitch, that is.

Sophia is glued to Daniel’s side to make sure that he obeys the werewolf Alpha who turned him against his will; and to remind him that if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut about even the existence of the supernatural, more members of his family will die at the hands, or claws, of the wolves.

But Julia doesn’t know any of this, so she brings back the one woman guaranteed to penetrate Daniel’s emotional defenses. She calls Lissa back from managing charitable organizations around the world.

Lissa does humanitarian work, but she’s also running away. From her own past, and from Daniel. The only man she’s ever loved. Just once and ten years ago. But she never forgot.

He never did either. But he’s tried to. Because Lissa is another chink in his armor, another vulnerability. Something he can’t afford to have while he fights for his life. Fights for control.

Daniel is a research chemist. A talent that brought him to the attention of the werewolves ten years ago. A talent that may be his salvation–if he’s willing to push all the edges of the envelope in his research, while using himself as his only test subject.

He’s just afraid that after the battle is over, he will have lost the only thing worth fighting for.

Escape Rating B+: This was just too much fun! The relationship between Daniel and Lissa is such a beautifully realized second chance at love story that you are rooting for them to get together from the very beginning. Their relationship gets off the ground very quickly, but it doesn’t feel like insta-love because there’s all that backstory. They have a second chance.

We also have a “beauty and the beast” tale with a very modern twist. Daniel feels like a beast, not just because he’s an unwilling werewolf, but because he’s using genetic engineering to make himself an even bigger, badder werewolf. He needs to be an Alpha in order to survive, so he’s making himself get there ahead of schedule. He’s just sure that no one will love him, not Lissa, not his family, once they know what he’s become. Of course he’s wrong or we wouldn’t have a story.

One of the funnier bits is that the government knows about the werewolves and other paranormal entities. I hope that there are future books planned in this world and this aspect is explored in more depth. The government agency involved (this is set in Britain) is MI13. There is no MI13. Or is there? If there were, and it were gathering intelligence about paranormal entities, wouldn’t it be even more secret than usual?

Something that was almost hilarious at first reading, but makes you stop and think in retrospect, was Lissa’s and Julia’s reactions to discovering that Daniel was a werewolf. Not merely that they both believed him, but that they found it a much more acceptable explanation for his behavior than that he might have ever had feelings for the evil Sophia. Lycanthropism was more acceptable than a human bitch. It felt like a bit of worldbuilding was missing, albeit in a very fun way.

Operation Saving Daniel Button 300 x 225

***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: Hunter’s Moon by Lisa Kessler + Giveaway

hunters moon by lisa kesslerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Moon #2
Length: 340 pages
Publisher: Entangled Edge
Date Released: October 21, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Sasha’s future was stolen from her the moment she was bitten. Now she’s on the run from the Nero Organization that transformed her from a human detective into a shape shifting jaguar assassin.

When a rogue bounty hunter threatens her younger sister, she’ll be forced to fight, and with nowhere else to turn, Sasha will need to trust the one man who has every reason to want her dead.

Aren is a werewolf with a secret. While protecting his twin brother and Alpha of the Pack, he found his one mate for life. Sadly she’s also the jaguar assassin who tried to kill them both. Now Aren is struggling between his animal nature to love and protect her, and his loyalty to the Pack.

My Review:

moonlight by lisa kesslerHunter’s Moon is a more than worthy successor to the first book in Kessler’s Moon series, Moonlight (reviewed at Book Lovers Inc.). In fact, any author who is thinking about using the fated-mate trope should check out this series for an example of using that otherwise tired trope in a way that is definitely NOT a short cut to romance and is still filled with both loads of romantic and suspenseful tension.

The story of Hunter’s Moon picks up a few months after Moonlight, and is a bit dependent on some knowledge of the previous story. It took me a bit to remember “where we left our heroes” but I think there was more depth to the family relationships in the story because I did remember. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

In Moonlight, Sasha tried to kill Adam and Aren and capture Lana in order to get the mysterious Nero Organization to give her a cure for the unfortunate case of jaguar shifter that she had been infected with.

Several problems in that scenario. First, there ain’t no cure. Second, Nero is so damn evil, they wouldn’t give it to her if there was. And third and fourth, well, third and fourth turn out to be the point of the story in Hunter’s Moon.

In the big brawl that ended Moonlight, Sasha head-butted Aren. While this does not sound like the beginnings of even a beautiful friendship, it was skin-on-skin contact, even if it did make Aren see stars. It was enough for wolf-shifter Aren to recognize Sasha as his mate.

Yes, we have fated mate trope again. Aren-the-person doesn’t even have to start out liking the person his wolf wants. He’s still stuck. And for life, at that.

But Sasha doesn’t know, doesn’t care, and even when informed (much, much later), doesn’t have to acknowledge that such a thing exists. She’s a jaguar shifter, and jaguars do NOT mate for life. This is his problem, not her problem.

Aren not only has to win her over in some version of the old-fashioned way, he has to do it in spite of the fact that they have really bad history together, and that his entire Pack has really bad history with her.

In Moonlight, this problem existed but it was impersonal. Wolves didn’t like jaguars in general, not necessarily Lana in particular. With Sasha, it’s very personal. She really did bad acts against the Pack.

Sasha can’t figure out how or why Aren is able to put it behind him. She’s certain that the rest of the Pack never will. But she needs their help, because the Nero Organization has sent a rogue werewolf to hunt her down and kill her.

And he’s planning to use her little sister as bait. Or a snack.

Escape Rating B+: The story in Hunter’s Moon is a bit darker than the one in Moonlight. The stakes seem higher and the dastardly plots seem that much more nefarious, even though the Nero Organization is less obvious in this story than they were in the first book.

There’s an awful lot of sub-plot in this one about family, and family has a way of twisting people up more than almost anything else. The pack is “family you make” and they are a tight knit bunch. Adding Lana and Sasha into the mix, along with the strain of the constant attacks because of them, creates a lot of stress that some members are handling less well than others. There are lots of explosions waiting to happen.

Adam and Aren’s long-lost uncle shows up, and turns out to be working for the other side. Well, one of the other sides. Maybe.

But the whole thing hinges on Adam’s need to protect his wife and children, set against Aren’s desire to protect the woman who is the only chance he’ll ever have at a wife. While Sasha believes that the only way that she can protect herself and her sister is to never depend on anyone but herself.

There’s even more major tension in this story related to family, including revelations about the Nero Organization.

One of the things about evil organizations that never ceases to amaze me, they always go the supersoldier route, and it never ends well. Not for the soldiers and not for the organization, but they keep making the same mistake.

But the different ways they screw it up are what make books about them so compelling.

[photo of Lisa Kessler]Lisa Kessler is an award winning author of dark paranormal fiction. Her debut novel, Night Walker, won a San Diego Book Award for Best Published Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror as well as the Romance Through the Ages Award for Best Paranormal and Best First Book.Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.When she’s not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, performing with the San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego.

To learn more about Lisa, look for her at

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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: Moonlight by Lisa Kessler

Moonlight by Lisa KesslerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Series: Moon, #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: July 15, 2013
Number of pages: 265 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Edge
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Author’s website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Publisher’s Website

Rancher Adam Sloan is more than meets the eye. As the heir to his Pack, the sexy werewolf’s biggest challenge is keeping his kin’s true nature under wraps. But a group of jaguar shifters threatens to reveal the pack, blasting into town killing humans in plain sight. And when he smells one at the local diner, his standing orders are to take her out.

Lana Turpin doesn’t realize she’s a moving target. Raised in the foster system, she only knows that she blacks out during the new moon and wakes up without remembering a thing. But now she’s being tracked by some strange organization that wants her back–even though she’s never stepped foot inside their compound. And the stranger across the diner is watching her like an enemy.

It should be a simple mission for Adam, but when he touches the frustratingly beautiful Lana, his inner wolf howls…mate. Now, the two must find and stop the people who hunt her…and Adam must keep his own family from killing the only woman he will ever love.

My Thoughts:

X FilesThis should have been a total visit to troperville. Fated mates, genetic experiments and military conspiracies. (Did I mention I’m watching the X-Files for the first time?) Parts of Moonlight would make a great X-file.

But Moonlight totally worked for me. The question would be what made it work?

On the one side, we have werewolves. One werewolf in particular, Adam Sloan. He’s not quite the leader of the pack in Reno, but he is the Alpha’s oldest son. Interesting twist on this particular shapeshifting world, all the werewolves are born as twins. Also, only the males are born wolves; mates start human and have to be converted. Of course, to make things more interesting, not all survive.

Yes, we are dealing with the fated mate trope. It works in this particular story because Adam does have to court his mate. He knows she’s the one, but she doesn’t know. For her, he’s just this hot guy she met and plans to leave after some mind-blowing sex.

Lana can’t afford to let herself get close to anyone, she’s running from the men in the white coats. Really. She has blackouts and these scary dudes are chasing her across the country to lock her up in the name of the so-called “Nero Organization”. She has no clue who they are but she knows they mean her no good.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s a jaguar shifter. She really, really doesn’t know. Lana was abandoned as a baby, she has memory of who her parents were. She doesn’t remember what happens when she blacks out every month during the new moon.

Of course, the jaguars are the enemies of the werewolves. They fight like cats and dogs. Figures, doesn’t it?

The jaguars want Lana back. Except Lana doesn’t know that there is a “back”, because she’s never been “there” to go back to. And that’s where the genetic experiment and conspiracy part of the plot comes in.

Along with an interesting side plot of the old “the enemy of my enemy” might be my ally, at least temporarily. Because one of the jaguars is not too happy at being played for a sucker, particularly not by what he thought was his own side.

Verdict: The story hinges on Lana accepting who and what she is. It’s a long and dangerous journey; she starts out not knowing that shifters exist, from there she has to accept that she is one, that she is being hunted because of it. The story is her search for identity, and that search isn’t completely over when the story ends; but she’s accepted herself and what she is even though she doesn’t know the whole story. And can’t yet (see conspiracy angle)

Adam has to accept responsibility, that’s his arc. He has a position but doesn’t take the responsibility at the beginning of the story, by the end he’s shouldered all the burdens. His is also a big transformation.

But because Lana is not a wolf, even though she’s his mate, she doesn’t know and because Adam’s been quite a player, no one else believes him. Especially since the jaguars are enemies. He has to convince everyone that this relationship is real. Including himself.

The military/government conspiracy angle was just plain fun. (Yes, it did remind me of the X-Files, and more than one shifter series, but it was well done in Moonlight, just the right touch of impersonal, bureaucratic evil). Someone is playing with shifter genetics, and they’re not benign. They never are. I think this is going to be the big arc. But if we see Cigarette-Smoking Man I’m going to laugh myself silly.


I give  Moonlight by Lisa Kessler four claw-tipped 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: I Kissed A Dog by Carol Van Atta

I Kissed a Dog by Carol Van AttaFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Werewolves of the West, #1
Length: 446 pages
Publisher: Charles River Press / Cambridge Press US
Date Released: November 21, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Chloe Carpenter isn’t like other women. She can communicate with animals, a gift she unwrapped following one of her frequent dances with death.

In her otherwise wacky life, she’s finally found a semblance of sanity working at the Plum Beach Wildlife Park, where her unique talents can make life or death differences for the animals in her care. That semblance is shattered when a new veterinarian roars into the park in his spiffed up sports car and sets his golden gaze on her. If she had her way, he’d roar right back out.
Problem: He’s her new coworker and he’s saved her life twice – in the past twenty-four hours.

Zane Marshall, Enforcer for the Pacific Pack of purebred werewolves, has a job to do – figure out who or what is mutilating the young men of Plum Beach.

With orders to find the woman who talks to animals, he accepts a position working alongside the fiery Chloe Carpenter, a female who ignites his interest far more than he ever expected.
Remarkably, she’s the one elusive female with potential to bring meaning and passion to his empty existence.
Problem: She despises him.

Together, they’re forced to unravel a mystery of supernatural proportions, a murderous mystery with eternal implications for everyone. In the process, they discover opposites really do attract.
Major Problem: Zane is pledged to another woman, and she’ll do anything to keep him from Chloe.

My Review:

If you are looking for a series to fill the Sookie-sized hole in your reading life, you might want to check out Carol Van Atta’s new Werewolves of the West series. Chloe Carpenter, at least in her first appearance in I Kissed a Dog, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain telepathic waitress from Bon Temps, Louisiana.

Chloe’s not exactly telepathic, but she’s not exactly not, either. Chloe’s more like a female Doctor Doolittle. That’s right, Chloe talks to the animals, and they talk back. Only telepathically.

Chloe wasn’t born the animal psychic. There was a nearly tragic incident–with a fence, and a doberman, and a swimming pool. Instead of dying, Chloe ended up with this “gift”. Let’s call it a mixed blessing.

She’s great at helping animals. When they’re sick, they really can “tell her where it hurts”. Vets love her. On the other hand, finding out from her ex-boyfriend’s cat that he was a cheating hound was pretty traumatic.

Now she works for a wildlife park as a kind of animal whisperer. Her boss knows about her talent, but it’s somewhat of a mixed blessing for the park, too. Chloe’s not a vet, and they need to call one whenever she finds a sick animal.

That’s where Zane Marshall comes in. He is a vet. He’s also the pack enforcer for the Pacific Pack werewolves. He’s looking for Chloe, because his pack needs her animal telepathy services. He isn’t counting on her ability to read him!

Zane is the first “human” Chloe has ever been able to read, confusing her no end. The revelation that all too many of the mythical creatures she has read about are real knocks her world for a complete loop.

Zane and his friends need Chloe to help them investigate a threat to their pack, but there is also a serial killer on the loose who is murdering men in Chloe’s small town, and the two cases just might be connected.

Oh, and Zane’s intended mate thinks that Chloe is in her way, and plans to eliminate her any way she can. The messier, the better. Ouch!

Escape Rating B: There is definitely a resemblance between the early Sookie and Chloe, particularly if you wanted Sookie to pick Alcide.

Chloe starts out as an innocent. Very innocent, she’s a virgin! Her parents were extremely protective. I’ll say over-protective, and a lot of those lessons stuck. Also, like Sookie, her telepathy causes her some relationship problems. There are other similarities between Sookie and Chloe, but revealing more goes deeply into spoiler territory.

However, Chloe’s ability to talk to animals is not just different, it’s cool. The animals do talk back. And they generally love her for paying attention and taking care of them.

Zane and Chloe’s relationship starts out with a huge misunderstandammit and continues through one right after another. These two never seem to be straight with each other. And there is a giant insta-lust thing going on, although I hesitate to call it insta-love, combined with the werewolf fated-mating-bond trope. The amount that these two kept secrets from each other means that their love story needs some more fleshing out, or more trials and tribulations, before I’ll totally buy into it.

I did get fooled by who the villain was, and I stayed up way too late on a work night to finish the book.

One of Chloe’s biggest secrets leads to a potential love-triangle that caused the book to end on a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. This story absolutely requires a sequel, so it’s a good thing that it is book one of a series. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

I Kissed a Dog Button March-april 300 x 225

***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.

Ebook Review Central, Dreamspinner Press, August 2012

This week at Ebook Review Central, it’s time to take a look at the August 2012 titles from Dreamspinner Press.

But before we do that, I’d like to give a little shout-out to one of the blogs that I regularly find coming up as a source for reviews for Dreamspinner (among others). This is one of my favorites because the picture always makes me smile. And wakes me up. I’d like to thank Oh My Gigi! for introducing me to the cute little fellow at the left, as well as providing me with some great reviews for ERC.

And speaking of great reviews, you might be wondering which books picked up those all important terrific reviews to get them one of the featured spots on this week’s Ebook Review Central.

I kind of dropped a hint in yesterday’s Sunday Post that one of the featured titles might have a tiger by its tail. It does. But it turned out that all the featured titles came at the end of the alphabet. By title, anyway. (What can I say, I’m a librarian. We alphabetize. It’s a thing.)

But the number one featured title this week is Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils. This book made Jenre’s Best of 2009 list at Well Read when it was first released, and it has just been re-released in ebook, collecting a whole new set of fans and reviews. Tigers & Devils is a romantic story about a sports star (a rugby celebrity in Australia!) and an arty geek whose only previous serious relationship seems to have been with his cat. The other problem is that the sports star is not ready for the world to know that he’s gay, but he’s also not ready to give up the best thing he’s ever found. And his lover is okay with that. But when the world finds out anyway, their love is definitely put to the test. Reviewers love the story and Sean Kennedy’s writing. A LOT.

The second featured title this week is in the classic “fated mate” trope. Except that it twists the trope into some very different (and interesting) directions. Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C. uses the fated mate drive that often marks werewolf romances and gives it a new twist by switching the fated pair into a male/male bond AND placing in a paranormal setting where bonding between shifters and non-shifters is highly frowned upon. In this particular equation, the shifter’s pack isn’t sure which part they like least! But it makes for an epic love story that begins with a childhood friendship and is fated to last a lifetime.

I’m still laughing about the blurb for featured title number three, and it may be the blurb that got readers to pick up the book. Number three is Andrew Grey’s Strengthened by Fire. The story itself isn’t funny. The men in the story share, not only a romance, but also the very important job of saving lives through being firefighters. The problem is that their city is planning to cut costs by closing a fire station. And one characters answer is to hold the annual Fire Fighters’ Fundraising Chicken Dinner with the Firemen all going shirtless. It’s one of those hot firemen calendars come to life! One man thinks it’s a great idea, and the other one is embarrassed as possible, and there’s where the misunderstanding comes in. And eventually a happy ending.

Tigers. Werewolves. Chicken dinners with half-naked firemen. I think that’s enough for one week. Don’t you?

Ebook Review Central will be back next week with the August 2012 titles from Samhain Publishing.




Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, July 2012

I can always rely on the Samhain titles to present me with no lack of options for the featured titles. And this July 2012 list of Samhain’s publications is no exception.

Also, as usual, the retro romances didn’t get many new reviews.

But the books that did, really, really did.

The book that was on the most reviewers’ lists this month, by an absolute landslide (which makes it the number one feature this month!) was Dee Tenorio’s The Virgin’s Revenge, (book 4 in her Rancho del Cielo series). This one is a combination friends-to-lovers story, and a small-town romance. There’s also a major element of heroine needing to get out from under her overprotective family. Most reviewers remarked about how much they loved the humor of the characters, but with this many reviews (27!) there were a few reviewers who were less than enthralled. For the thumbs up, read The Book Pushers’ review; for the lukewarm take, see Dear Author’s take.

The second-place finisher this month happens to be book number three in Moira Rogers’ dark and gritty (also hot and sexy) post-apocalyptic and post-Civil War steampunk western series, The Bloodhounds. I’m talking about Archer’s Lady. The Bloodhounds series is a mix of good werewolves, bad vampires, and crazy chemical experiments conducted by mysterious forces that might be working for good. The Bloodhounds are lone wolves, until they find their mate, and Archer, well, he’s been sent to save a town, or die trying. If he dies,  as far as the Bloodhound Guild is concerned, that just eliminates a problem for them. The town schoolteacher helps him eliminate the vampire threat, but that schoolteacher is running from a past that’s just as checkered as his. For steampunk fans, this series is, pardon my very mixed metaphors, catnip.

The final featured book this week is a secret. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to tell you. That means Sierra Dean has done it again. Keeping Secret by Sierra Dean, the fourth book in her Secret McQueen series, has clawed its way into the third and final featured spot for this week. Secret is half-vampire and half-werewolf, and this story is all about her trying to get herself to her wedding to a werewolf king. But her royal werewolf uncle does not approve (in a major way). And there’s a love triangle involved. Well, there’s always a love triangle involved. Oh yes, and an assassin. Family dramas at weddings are standard. Assassins, not so much. Unless you’re Secret McQueen, and someone has a contract on you.

So this time out we have a very mixed bag of featured titles: a contemporary romance, a steampunk western, and an urban fantasy. The one thing they do have in common is that they are all part of ongoing series. Building an audience really counts!

And now, my ERC audience, I will bid you farewell until next week, when we’ll come back to take a look at all of the publishers in the Hexapost (Amber Quill, Astraea, Curiosity Quills, Liquid Silver, Red Sage and Riptide).

See you next week!


Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, June 2012

The wheel has turned back around to Samhain Publishing. This issue of Ebook Review Central features Samhain’s June 2012 titles.

When I collect the reviews for this feature, I always wish I could see the sales figures for the Retro titles. It seems as if by their nature they would be a contradiction in terms; any reader longing for the type of romance represented by the “retro” label would be the ones least likely to be an ebook reader. And I may be absolutely wrong.  But the lack of new reviews always makes me wonder.

Most of Samhain’s list did not suffer from a lack of new reviews. So much so that I was spoiled for choices of which titles to feature in this week’s list. In the end, there were three books “out standing in their field”. At least, this particular field!

The author of the first featured title has been featured on Ebook Review Central before. All the way back in December, Lorelei James’ Cowboy Casanova made the list. Her Rough Riders series is a guilty pleasure for a lot of readers, featuring hot cowboys, rough sex and happy endings along with a dose of small-town western ranching life. Her latest entry in the series, Kissin’ Tell, reads like a country and western song, with a woman coming home to face a high school reunion (and her cheating ex) only to find true love with a sexy cowboy and get the last laugh on the man who done her wrong. Even better, she gets that laugh with the one she let get away back in high school.


Howling in the number two position is Wolf Line, the fifth book in Vivian Arend’s Granite Lake Wolves series. Of course they’re werewolves, but who could imagine werewolves on a cruise ship? Even better, an all-shifter cruise!  The cruise director and the stowaway would normally make for a fun romance, but when you add in wolfish mating urges, it makes the whole thing even hotter. But before they can act on what their chemistry is telling them, Keri the cruise director has to solve the problem of some thefts on board her cruise ship, and unfortunately her stowaway mate is the most likely suspect. The whole Granite Lake Wolves series is just plain fun, so much so that reviewers say you don’t have to read them all, but you’ll want to!

Devil’s Gate by Thea Harrison is this week’s third featured title. This novella is part of her Elder Races paranormal romance/urban fantasy series, following after the novella Natural Evil. Both Natural Evil and Devil’s Gate are between the full-length paperback Oracle’s Moon and the upcoming Lord’s Fall. Harrison’s Elder Races series is about a very powerful, and very ancient, species of shapeshifters known as the Wyr, which began in May 2011 with Dragon Bound. The Wyr are ancient, which means their politics are convoluted as hell. Some of them seem to shapeshift into dragon-form, which means they hoard. To add to the politics, this world has vampires. Did I mention politics? This series has absolute legions of fans, but start from the beginning.

You wouldn’t think that modern cowboys would have much in common with werewolves or ancient dragons, but these three book do share one thing; they are all the latest entries in continuing, and very popular, series. The anticipation added up to increased attention, and more reviews.

Probably more sales, too.

But that’s it for Samhain for June. Ebook Review Central shifts its attention to a new target next week, the monthly six-in-one post. Does that make it a hex-a-post? A multi-post?

I have a question for you readers out there. What do you think about “retro” romances?