Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review: The Secrets of Sir Richard Kentworthy


Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can't be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family's infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She's the type of girl you don't notice until the second—or third—look, but there's something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she's the one.

Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can't quite believe it's all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can't help thinking that he's hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.


I have, from the very first book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet...no actually from the very first Bridgerton Saga novel I read (of which this is a companion series to that Saga, the events often tangling with those 8 novels in many ways) loved the idea of the Smythe-Smith family.  My own family being somewhat large and sprawling I can very well understand how it feels to be labelled "One of many" or to be generalized as "Oh one of those kids".  

Its sometimes a blessing - how often do casual acquaintances remember individual kids they see maybe once a year?  You'd be surprised what you can get away with saying and then the next year they don't remember it was you.  And then its sometimes a curse - when you don't really "excel" at anything, your accomplishments tend to get lumped in or overshadowed by others easily.  This is rather the problem I've had with the last book (The Sum Of All His Kisses), for the life of me until I re-read my review I had forgotten what it was about.  Math?  Kissing = Math?  Or something? (Its um not quite about that)

So I had HOPES for this book.  Big HOPES.  Dramatic historical romance heroine HOPES (of which there's always italics and breathy sighs and emphasis given).  And in case you missed it the first time HIGH HIGH HOPES.

Some of those hopes were fulfilled.  Many of them in ways that angered me so very very much.

Look THE DUKE AND I is my very favorite Bridgerton novel and THE DEVIL IN WINTER by Lisa Kleypas is one of my very favorite historical romances of all time, so I'm used to grumpy, grouchy, passionate heroes who marry the heroines for their convenient reasons. I'm used to them compromising said lady to get it done (though in DEVIL that isn't quite the way it happens).  Hell I'm even used to the Heel Turns their personalities often take as they realize/deny their love for said heroine.

So trust me when I say I never wanted to murder a hero more then I did when Richard decided to contend for the Jackass Hero of the Year award.  

For those familiar with THE DUKE AND I you may see shades of that occurring here.  Iris, like Daphne, believes her marriage--despite starting as a confusing mix of quickness and deceit--could be something more.  She sees/feels something in Richard that makes her think there is more then just the surface.  But Iris, like Daphne, doesn't understand the WHOLE truth because Richard (like Simon) had what he felt was a very good reason to treat his awfully.

Here's the thing, Simon did what he did because he had a certain level of proof that made what he wanted to avoid logical (given his emotional issues tied up with it).  And he didn't set out to marry Daphne--that happened because of circumstance and he told her, point blank, what he wanted to avoid (she just chose to ignore it) even if he didn't tell her the why of it.  Richard does no such thing.  He courts, compromises and then marries, Iris under the assumption of "love" and "passion".  He acts, and says, things of a charming persuasive and even sexual nature to Iris during the day and then at night won't even LOOK at her.

Iris meanwhile has spent much of her life in the shadows of her other relatives, not a stunning beauty nor extroverted person by nature Iris believed what many women who read romances dream of happening--gorgeous, attractive, highly wanted Richard saw in her something more then what was on the surface.  He understood her, understood how to help her and show her new experiences.  Imagine how it would feel if night after night, week after week, the man you thought saw your real self rejected you.  Not because of anything you did, but you'd believe it was something you did because what else could it be?  

And when he finally deigns to tell you WHY, why he manipulated you and forced your hand and played with your emotions the way he did, you can't do anything about it.  

More than anything else I wanted Iris to leave Richard and never look back.  I wanted her to show him what happens when you manipulate and scheme and deliberately ruin another's life for what you believe to be "good reasons".  If not for the fact this was a romance he didn't plan to fall in love with Iris, so what was his plan?  to continually treat her shabbily, never telling her anything and expecting her to be okay with it?  He was so worried about one scandal and one person's feelings that he never stopped to think he was doing something JUST AS BAD.  

Oh he plead remorse and seemed unhappy and regretful, but if not for the romance deus ex machina at the end nothing would have changed.

And that pisses me off like you have no idea.  

In the end this got 2 stars because Iris, and her family, are as always endearing and entertaining.  And really that only deserves half a star, but I can't do 1.5 stars...


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: The Diabolical Miss Hyde


In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.

When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .


Firstly...I've never read nor seen Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  About the closest I've gotten is the BBC mini-series starring James Nesbitt (Jekyll) and I don't remember that beyond thinking "gosh this is bloody" (I saw it before I saw Dexter.  Or Game of Thrones).  So I went into this book with really only a bare hint of knowledge for the original.  Given what I enjoyed most about this book was Lizzie, let's all just assume I'll never read the source material and move on.

In my initial thoughts on the book I remember noting how...uneasy I felt.  If you look at the cover that's obviously Lizzie portrayed there, its Lizzie the title refers to and its Lizzie who seems to be fun.  And she is.  Oh how she is.  Carr did a bit of a trick and had all of Lizzie's portions told in first person--further illustrating this is Lizzie's story, while Eliza's are in third person.  It makes for some confusing moments, especially in the latter half as Lizzie comes out to play more often and Eliza begins to have more stressful problems.

Lizzie is wild, she's reckless and brash and can take care of herself most of the time.  She knows low people and is fiercely protective of only one person in this world--Eliza.  She notions herself Eliza's big sister, her watchman and vengeful aide.  Eliza isn't weak, but she fears doing things that need doing.  She fears becoming like her father--a mad man who loses control and goes feral.  She garbs herself in dull clothes and prim manners to be taken seriously, but its Lizzie who helps her.  Whispering in her ear, taunting her at times or reprimanding her.  Warning her and cajoling her.  

Carr doesn't spare much in terms of grim realities of murder or of the time period.  Yes there's steam powered industry and yes the world developed differently, but its not too far out from what Victorian England was like in terms of social stratification or the dark underbelly. New toys, same tricks.  Interestingly for me was that though Eliza dwelt moreso in the darker side of the world and saw its the gruesome ends those in it met with, it was Lizzie who was constantly chiding her to think first.  Then again despite all signs otherwise its Lizzie who trusts first and Eliza who's paranoid.

I guessed at the killer (and the reasoning) fairly quickly, though I was quite shocked at how it all came together.  It would have been sad had the killer not been so damned creepy.  Character had ISSUES as a person.  

What made me uneasy was a certain part that's a spoiler so I'll be vague here--Eliza is the dominant personality, she uses a brew to keep Lizzie at bay for the most part.  That said Lizzie has her own ideas on life and from what I gathered she lived a rather more...robust social life then Eliza.  However, despite the superficial differences that occur from one to the other, they share a body.  The scene in question made me uncomfortable since it felt like something Lizzie should have at least consulted Eliza with.  The consequences would have affected them both.

Which on that train of thought, if Eliza got pregnant what would happen to the child as she switched from Eliza to Lizzie?  Or what if Lizzie got pregnant?  While they share a body it appeared as if there was certain superficial differences....though how far does that extend.  Different fingerprints?  Genetically would they register the same?  There's a character with extraordinary sense of smell--does Lizzie smell different from Eliza?  The same?  Similar but with a hint of something more?

These are the kind of questions that plagued me the further into the book I read and both girls feared being caught out (for different reasons)  Eliza has some amazing do-dads, is experimental and always trying new things (she kind of reminds me of Murdoch from "Murdoch Mysteries" actually), though the level of science (or more importantly how its stifled) would get in the way.

Then there's the matter of the ending.  I'm not entirely sure how to take Eliza's reaction.  The confusing mixture of emotions she exhibits (and Lizzie vaguely mentions) left me kind of cold.  I need more, equation does not compute, before I can really understand my jumble of feelings towards the book.  However Lizzie is wonderful and Carr has an engaging voice (though it did feel over long) with her characters all feeling different and layered.  I cautiously recommend with the caveat your mileage will vary I suspect.


Friday, January 16, 2015

ebook Review: Overload Flux


The Central Galactic Concordance has been stable for two centuries, but trouble is brewing. A pandemic is affecting hundreds of civilized planets, and someone is stealing the vaccine...

Brilliant investigator Luka Foxe's hidden mental talent is out of control, making him barely able to function in the aftermath of violence, and the body count is rising. The convoluted trail leads to a corrupt pharma industry and the possibility of an illegal, planet-sized laboratory. In the face of increasing threats, he must rely on an enigmatic, lethal woman he just met, but she has deep secrets of her own.

Mairwen Morganthur hides extraordinary skills under the guise of a dull night-shift guard. The last thing she wants is to provide personal security for a hot-shot investigator, or to be plunged into a murky case involving sabotage, treachery, and the military covert operations division that would love to discover she’s still alive.

Two more lives in a rising death count won’t bother their enemies one bit. Their only hope for survival lies in revealing their dark secrets and learning to trust one another.


Firstly, not as in love with that cover as I could be.  I like Mairwen...but Luka looks too...not something.  Not like he's been through enough maybe (Mairwen is, I think, in her mid-30's based on contextual data and Luka is in his late 30's/early 40's?).  That's a minor gripe since I read this on my Tablet and only had a fleeting glance at the cover before I went to make this post.

Secondly, oh my shiny stars am I happy to read another scifi romance that pleases me.  And let me emphasis the romance part of that category classification because Van Natta has both her characters spend time understanding what getting into a relationship--short term or otherwise--would mean for them both.  Individually they operate fairly well considering they both harbor some pretty hefty emotional/psychological issues.  Together...well those issues could be a bigger problem.

I appreciated the fact that Van Natta didn't have them jump into anything.  They acknowledged their attraction, acknowledged they wanted something to happen, but also acknowledged that slow would be better.  Mairwen is damaged - the training they put her through to make her what she is as well as what she had to do to escape, stunted her completely.  

Thanks to some trick of fate Mairwen finds herself guarding Luka instead of her normal night shift security detail.  Luka, to no one's surprise except perhaps Mairwen, delights in her company (and her competence, I can't stress that enough) and keeps requesting her as his partner (to Mairwen's obnoxious boss' anger).  Fairly quickly they both realize the other is not quite what they seem, but whereas Luka wants to explore things and come to some sort of togetherness, Mairwen keeps warding him off.  For good reason.  


Dispassionately she recounts to Luka the various atrocities they committed upon herself and other children who met the criteria.  Intellectually she knows these things were heinous, that she should feel something more, but at the same time part of their regime was to convince the children that emotion of any kind would lead to their death.  In the five years since she..."graduated" (when around others or not in private places they refer to those days as "school", a small thing that one suggests and the other picks up on and remembers) Mairwen hasn't tried to reclaim those lost emotions, preferring to live an unnoticed, unremarkable, but entirely her own life.

A life that as her and Luka work to figure out who killed his friends and who seemed to have a much larger target they were aiming for, she wants to share with Luka.  There was no big revelation moment or some grand gesture that he did.  It would be easy to say he "wore her down" with his charm, his flirting, his almost insistence that they belonged together...but it was not really any of those things.  It boiled down to one thing: he accepted her.   He accepted her wry sense of humor.  Understood that as delicate as she may have appeared she wasn't someone who asked for protection, but appreciated when he offered it as an equal.

For Luka he was attracted to her from the start, but was cautious.  Both because of his abilities and because of his fragile state of mind.  Any time he let himself get drawn into the crime scene it had the potential to consume him so completely he'd be left as little more then a vegetable.  Mairwen helps push him through that, as first his anchor to reality and then as his sort of...toughening up trainer.  

This review is a lot about them, but I also found a lot to enjoy about the world.  I mentioned in some of my status updates (on Goodreads) how the lingo threw me for a loop.  It took a little while for my head to get around it, but once I did it flowed seamlessly.  

I look forward to there being more books in this universe - while things wrap up nicely for Luka and Mairwen, making this a nice stand alone in many ways, the author all but taunts the reader with "More Adventures to Come!" which I for one am waiting for most eagerly.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

PR Special Edition: SHOALMAN IMMORTAL blog tour + Giveaway!

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Today we have author Toni Decker sharing the first chapter of their new book SHOALMAN IMMORTAL.  Don't worry there's no spoilers for the first book, IMAGES ETERNAL, included in the synopsis ;)

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Summary
Falling in love was never supposed to be part of the picture.

Kyrissa Spears was born with a powerful, and deadly, gift. When she paints, she captures emotions so strong they can kill. Desperate to find a teacher capable of helping her unlock and control her abilities, Kyrissa's search leads her to an artist who may be able to help her. And he's the one person she can't accidentally kill.

After five centuries of pain and loneliness, Robert Shoalman craves release from his immortality. He's all but given up hope until he meets the beautiful and intriguing Kyrissa. She could paint his death and break the curse, but at the cost of destroying her gift and being lost to him forever—none of which will matter if the demon hunting him finds them first.


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CHAPTER ONE 
Death lingered patiently in the far corner of the bar, waiting for her to come and greet it. Kyrissa Spears swirled a tiny straw in her pink drink, waiting for the moment she could make an escape to the other side of the room. She didn't care to drink the liquid in front of her. She wasn't here to listen to the music. And she feigned only half interest in whatever her best friend said beside her. Kyrissa was here for one thing.

She was here to feel death.

Kyrissa spent her fair share of hours in crowded bars, breathing in stale air while drowning out music from mediocre bands with cheap beer. She counted the minutes before she could go home and paint away her frustrations. Her loneliness. Or anger. Or whatever other feeling she could conjure up and force onto the tip of her paintbrush. At least she used to. Now she was lucky to summon enough emotion to fuel a crayon drawing. Her paintings over the last four years not only lacked feeling, they barely contained skill.

Kyrissa sighed. She sat patiently, waiting for a band to start that she had no interest in hearing. She bided her time until she could make her way to the back of the restored pub with dark wood panel walls, exposed brick, and century-old oak floors. The bar itself even looked hand-carved from a single ancient mahogany tree, worn in some places, chipped and repaired in others; it might as well be original to the building.

Yet Gallery, the hottest local music venue, was also an art gallery that usually highlighted local talent. Somehow, the venue had managed to attract a sampling of death to hang on its walls through the art of The Shoalman Collection. It was the largest collection of paintings that appreciated death as an artistic subject the way Kyrissa thought it deserved to be appreciated, or in her case, worshipped. It was also owned by Robert Shoalman himself, a formidable expert on the subject matter and a master painter in his own right. And she wouldn't miss seeing this collection in person, not even for her own death.

If only his most prized masterpiece was here. But no one had laid eyes on the Isle of the Dead since it first debuted onto the art scene four years ago. Or in the case of the Isle, grabbed the art scene around the neck and tightened its grip until breathing faltered.

From her barstool, Kyrissa admired the works lining the perimeter of the room, protected by a glass hallway that allowed access to no one. The barrier between her and death taunted her the way a cocktail mocked an alcoholic. She tried to ignore the vibrations that made every hair on the back of her neck stand up. And she pretended the chill in the air tonight that she'd never witnessed at Gallery before was merely her imagination.

"Do you care if I go check out the art before the band starts?" Kyrissa asked.

"As if I didn't know you were here for the art." Mandy grinned in her direction. "But don't miss Eternity. They should be on stage in just a few minutes."

Convinced this band was about to be picked up and fast-tracked onto the larger music field, Mandy wanted the audience to support them the way she did. That's why she’d given the local band her personal endorsement, offered an exclusive glimpse into the new lead singer and wrote a glowing article that was likely to make the biggest critic stand up and notice. The band had apparently also given Mandy the heart of their lead singer, even if she hadn't yet admitted that she wanted it. Mandy even tried to convince Kyrissa the relationship already fizzled out. But Kyrissa saw through her best friend's denials.

"I'll be right over there." Kyrissa pointed to the glass wall that separated the art from the music. The partition framed the perimeter of the room, enclosing pieces of art both local and recognized worldwide. "Just wave me down when they come on."

Mandy didn't respond, craning her neck over the crowd, no doubt searching for Lucien amongst a room full of music lovers. Kyrissa shook her head, laughing as she ventured away from her lovesick best friend.

At the end of the aged oak bar stood a gentleman whose hand tailored, three-piece suit stuck out in the sea of T-shirt garbed college students filling the restored pub. Mr. Hayworth, Mandy's father. He and Mandy had a strained relationship at best, but still linked by more than just blood. They were both Guardians and Kyrissa would rest better knowing the two were on the path to reconciliation.

“Kyrissa,” Mr. Hayworth said, kissing her cheek. He’d always been more father figure than just her best friend’s father. If it weren’t for him, and Mandy, Kyrissa wasn’t certain she would have survived her mother’s death.

“It’s good to see you, Mr. Hayworth. Mandy will be surprised.” Surprised was an understatement. Just two nights ago, Mandy was certain her father didn’t approve of her career choice, much less her entanglement with a possible rock star.

“Let’s hope it is a pleasant surprise.” He smiled. Behind him, the art hummed louder, as if it were calling for only her. Maybe no one else was listening.

“I’m going to check out the artwork to give you two some privacy,” Kyrissa said.

“Be careful,” he warned as if he felt the energy in the room too and just hadn’t attributed it to the art.

“Always,” she laughed. Careful wasn’t actually a word that described her well.

Mr. Hayworth stepped around her and made his way towards his daughter, opening a direct path to the artwork Kyrissa so desperately coveted. Three feet separated her from her fixation.

Three feet and a pane of glass she hadn’t noticed earlier.

Pressing her nose to the glass, Kyrissa admired the brush strokes in a field of poppies and she could almost count the layers of paint evident on the canvas. Kyrissa respected the carnage of one painting so realistically portrayed that she could taste the coppery tang of the blood. But too much distance still existed between her and the art, as if she was standing on the wrong side of the glass. Because she absolutely was.

A narrow hallway protected the paintings, with just enough space between the brick wall and the glass to allow someone to pass within the space. Kyrissa was naturally petite, just small enough that she could easily navigate the hall. Running her hand along the last pane, she gave a gentle nudge. It sprung open, revealing a hidden glass door. Kyrissa squeezed into the space.

The air changed the moment Kyrissa stepped inside the gallery, the way a storm brings on whirling winds and takes every drop of ocean water out to sea. Every breath she took spanned two. Every heartbeat lasted the length of three. And every moment that she stood amongst this art, she wondered how she could possibly ever capture a tenth of the emotion contained in these masterpieces.

The thrill of getting caught was part of it; knowing how elusive these paintings were, it was a wonder there weren't armed guards at every entrance. But Kyrissa could separate the danger from the pulse of energy emanating from the paintings. Her own blood seemed to slow to match the beats of the energy until they formed a rhythmic coupling she'd never experienced before. Within the paint, grief emanated from the surface, resentment swirled in the air, and the absolute nothingness culminated in the heart of every image. Every painting in the collection captured the emotions so often forgotten about during the process of dying, or from those left behind. The Isle of the Dead, the crown jewel of the collection, embodied the pinnacle of every one of those emotions. If only it was here too.

It wasn't that these paintings were painted with any more skill than she possessed. She had plenty.
And it wasn't that she used any less passion in her own art that these artists used; she had passion enough to go around. It was just that every painting evoked a visceral reaction, in its purest form. Whoever caught a glimpse of them felt whatever emotion the depiction contained— courage, longing, even serenity.

Kyrissa was a painter who worshipped the collection like a religion because she was a practicing member. Emotion once flowed from her paintbrush. But the last time she lost control of her gift, she painted death.

And somebody actually died.

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 About the Authors
Who is Toni Decker? Two authors telling one sizzling story after another about twenty-somethings getting along in their own crazy, fantastical worlds. Both women are wives and mothers, sharing brain cells and characters as if they only exist with the other. Toni, one half of the Toni Decker brain, is an avid reader of all things Young and New Adult while Kira, the Decker half of Toni Decker brain, devours fantasy for midnight snacks. Together, their stories are one part New Adult, one part Fantasy and three parts of Holy Hotness. We leave it up to the readers to decide who writes which character.  

Author Links:



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Want more chances to win? Follow Toni amd Kira on their blog tour!

Week 1:
Jan. 12 - Krista's Dust Jacket / Guest Post
Jan. 13Poisoned Rationality / Chapter Reveal
Jan. 14The Book Swarm / Guest Post
Jan. 15BookShelfery / Chapter Reveal
Jan. 16Step Into Fiction / Guest Post

Week 2:
Jan. 19Winterhaven Books / Chapter Reveal
Jan. 20Jenuine Cupcakes / Guest Post
Jan. 21Reads All The Books / Chapter Reveal
Jan. 22Read-Love-Blog / Guest Post
Jan. 23The Irish Banana Review / Chapter Reveal

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 Anticipated Titles: Fantasy Edition

Bolin is totally my fangirl spirit animal...
We're going to do something a little different for this list.  I could endlessly (and easily) talk about the Brandon Sanderson and Sarah J Maas books that are releasing next year and how I can't wait for them. It would literally be the easiest blog post I've ever written.  Instead just assume I'm eagerly awaiting those and let's talk about other authors and their books.  Crazy right?  Warning two of these are sequels to books already out, so spoilers may abound for those books.  Proceed with (interested) caution.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18461823-the-fifth-season
This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze—the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years—collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
Kind of a cheat since I love Jemisin, but I've been eagerly awaiting this book since THE SHADOWED SUN released two years ago. Bring it on!!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23346335-the-price-of-valour

In the wake of the King’s death, war has come to Vordan.

The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia Orboan, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. But she did not help free the country from one sort of tyranny to see it fall into another. Placing her trust with the steadfast soldier Marcus D’Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history.

As the hidden hand of the Sworn Church brings all the powers of the continent to war against Vordan, the enigmatic and brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich offers a path to victory. Winter Ihernglass, newly promoted to command a regiment, has reunited with her lover and her friends, only to face the prospect of leading them into bloody battle.

And the enemy is not just armed with muskets and cannon. Dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic, have infiltrated Vordan to stop Janus by whatever means necessary…
 
At the moment I'm planning on listening to the first two books in audio, however the shorter works set in this universe have pleased me and I enjoyed Wexler's writing style so I fully expect this one to also please me.


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23168830-last-first-snow

Forty years after the God Wars, Dresediel Lex bears the scars of liberation—especially in the Skittersill, a poor district still bound by the fallen gods' decaying edicts. As long as the gods' wards last, they strangle development; when they fail, demons will be loosed upon the city. The King in Red hires Elayne Kevarian of the Craft firm Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao to fix the wards, but the Skittersill's people have their own ideas. A protest rises against Elayne's work, led by Temoc, a warrior-priest turned community organizer who wants to build a peaceful future for his city, his wife, and his young son.

As Elayne drags Temoc and the King in Red to the bargaining table, old wounds reopen, old gods stir in their graves, civil blood breaks to new mutiny, and profiteers circle in the desert sky. Elayne and Temoc must fight conspiracy, dark magic, and their own demons to save the peace—or failing that, to save as many people as they can.
There's a whole lot of words up there that mean so little to me, but that's okay because this series and I are such good friends.  Granted THREE PARTS DEAD remains my favorite, but haven't been let down yet by its sequels.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22448211-uprooted
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I have some issues with her Tremaire books - they never struck me the right way I suppose.  But this I read a chapbook sampler of from NYCC and was very eager to read more of.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22926502-the-shadow-revolution
As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.
This is from the authors of the Vampire Empire books that I greatly enjoyed.  Let's see what new wonders they bring to the gaslight steampunk genre.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20560137-an-ember-in-the-ashes

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Rome-like you say? With a dazzling cover and scholar-warriors? Sign me up! 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18488433-the-storyspinner

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.
I'm not as in love with this cover as I could be (I'm hoping it becomes a bit more stylized as right now the perspective gives us a really weird angle to her arm...), but I've always been a sucker for "Royalty in Hiding" stories.
 
{Has no Cover Yet} Nobody's Goddess by Amy McNulty
In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. 


Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.
On the one hand I can see how terribly terribly wrong this premise can go (how can you use "Byronic" if this is a fantasy world where Byron never existed?), but on the other I like anything that gives the girl power in a relationship (even if its a two-sided sword of power...).

{Has no Cover Yet} Serpentine by Cindy Pon
SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE sets a mood of tension and struggle between mortals, demons and gods as it tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen Skybright starts to morph in the middle of the night into a seductive serpent demon. Daybreak brings her back to life as a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family.

Skybright is told that her destiny is dark, but she is struggling only to be herself – even as she falls in love with a mortal boy for the first time.
MORE CINDY PON AND MORE KINGDOM OF XIA. Nothing else matters.  NOTHING.

So what fantasy novels are you most looking forward to in 2015? Any I should peel an eye back for?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cover Reveal: MILAYNA trilogy by Michelle Pickett!

COVER REVEAL FOR THE MILAYNA SERIES:
You've seen the cover for Milayna, book one in the Milayna Trilogy, and now the remaining covers in The Milayna Series are revealed!!

These covers?  So very cool.  And take it from me - I've read Milayna (my review will go live in March) and very much enjoyed the book. And for a limited time, you can pre-order Milayna (Book #1) for $2 off the purchase price! It's available for pre-order at only $2.99, but only for a limited time! So get your orders in now, before the sale ends! 
In the battle for her soul, which side will she choose?
 
Series Name: The Milayna Series
Genre: Young Adult (Paranormal Romance)
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
CTP Content Rating: YAm

MILAYNA (Book #1) by Michelle K. Pickett
Release Date: March 17, 2015
  
From the bestselling author of PODs comes an unforgettable tale of action, intrigue, and following your heart in the midst of betrayal.
 
It’s hard being good all the time. Everyone needs to be bad once in a while. But for seventeen-year-old Milayna, being good isn’t a choice. It’s a job requirement. And it’s a job she can’t quit. Born a demi-angel, Milayna steps in when danger and demons threaten the people around her, but being half angel isn’t all halos and happiness. Azazel, Hell’s demon, wants Milayna’s power and he’ll do anything to get it. But he only has until her eighteenth birthday, after which she becomes untouchable.

With the help of other demi-angels, Milayna thwarts the trouble Azazel sends her way. Fighting by her side is Chay. He’s a demi-angel who's sinfully gorgeous, and Milayna falls hard. But is Chay her true love… or her nemesis in disguise?

When she learns of a traitor in her group, there’s no one she can trust… not even the one she loves.

MILAYNA'S ANGEL (Book #2) by Michelle K. Pickett
"She's Untouchable...or so she thinks.  It seems even in Hell there are loopholes."
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Read more about Milayna's Angel here

THE INNOCENT (Book #3) by Michelle K. Pickett
 
"The Four Brothers are coming, and this time it isn't just Milayna's life in jeopardy, but her brother's too."

Release Date: November 3, 2015
Read more about The Innocent here

ABOUT MICHELLE K. PICKETT:

Michelle is the bestselling author of the young adult novel “PODs.” She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.
Red Bull or Monster Khaos are her coffee of choice, and she can’t write without peanut butter M&Ms and a hoodie. A hopeful romantic; she loves a swoon-worthy ending that will give her butterflies for days. She writes across genres in the young adult and new adult age groups. She loves to hear from her readers.
Michelle signed her new young adult contemporary novel— Unspeakable, with Clean Teen Publishing in 2014. 
Keep up-to-date on her current and future projects at www.michelle-pickett.com.
 


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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 Anticipated Titles: Romance Edition

Like you have no idea seriously
Ah romance...I have none of it in my life so I am all about the fictional.  This is a good thing (I'm expanding my horizons! 2014 was a banner year for contemporary romance and me) or a bad thing (I'm getting really critical of TSTL heroines in any genre of romance) depending on who you ask.  I have high hopes for the new year however. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18509674-kiss-the-earl

On the eve of her first comic book release, Ella Briley has a problem: no date to the launch party. Things go from bad to worse when she stumbles into the past . . . and straight into the arms of her very own Mr. Darcy.

Patrick St. John, Earl of Meadowfair, is too noble for his own good. To save his friend from what is sure to be a loveless marriage, he's agreed to whisk the girl off to wed the man she truly loves. But all goes awry when Patrick mistakes Ella for the would-be bride . . . and finds this modern girl far too tempting for even the noblest of men to resist.

I have an odd love/meh relationship with Lamm's other two books.  The premise is fun and chirpy and should never been taken with more then a grain of salt, but I can't help look forward to the next one.  Its a sickness!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23287512-not-quite-darcy

Romance novel junkie Eliza Pepper always thought she was born too late, but now she really is stuck in the wrong time. Tasked with mending a tear in the timeline, she’s trying desperately to fit into 1873 London. But dang it, mucking out a fireplace while looking like the lunch lady from hell is hard.

If she can just keep from setting the floor on fire and somehow resist her growing attraction to the master of the house, she’ll be fine. All she has to do is repeat her mantra: “He’s nothing like Darcy. He’s nothing like Darcy.”

William Brown has always taken pride in his mastery of English decorum, but his new maid is a complete disaster, has thrown his household into chaos…and he finds her utterly captivating.

Though he’s willing to endure extreme physical discomfort to keep their relationship in proper perspective, her arrival has brought out a side of him he never knew existed. And Eliza has an innocently erotic knack for coaxing that decidedly ungentlemanly facet of himself out to play…

Warning: A modern girl who knows bupkis about nursing and maiding in the 19th century, a gentleman poet with a repressed wild side, and inappropriate use of a pair of pantaloons.

I don't know about you guys but I want to know how the pantaloons were used inappropriately...though Samhain prices their books so ridiculously high for ebooks :Sigh:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22550398-the-dangers-of-dating-a-rebound-vampire

In the next book in Molly Harper’s beloved Half Moon Hollow paranormal romance series, Gigi starts her first job (at Vampire Headquarters), gets over her first love, and may even fall for her first vampire!

Gigi is no longer an innocent teen. All grown up and looking for love, her family and friends worry she’ll go for the sexy, alluring vampire instead of a nice, safe human. But sexy and alluring, with a penchant for biting, could be just what Gigi wants...

Granted I wasn't keen on Gigi's half way break up in Dreaming of an Undead Christmas, but I do so love Ophelia. And Ophelia is bound to run around in here as she's Gigi's boss...


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21298206-hunter-reborn
Losing her was the hardest thing he’d ever endured... Warrior shifter Aiden’s investigation of the trafficking of vampire blood leads to a startling discovery: the beautiful vampire bondmate he thought was dead. Decades ago, they’d defied their powerful families to be together, but then Larissa disappeared without a trace. When their mating link broke, it nearly destroyed Aiden. Now she’s back with no memory of where she’s been. Even more shattering—Larissa claims she has no idea who Aiden is.

Now she’s back...

It’s a race against time to bring down an operation more evil than his pack ever suspected, and Aiden finds himself working side by side with a mate who no longer trusts him—and she wants out. But he lost her once, and he won’t let her go again. Unfortunately, Larissa’s blood is the key to a powerful monster’s dangerous plan—and he’ll stop at nothing to destroy her, sparking off a war between the supernaturals and humans that no one will win.
What's that? Katie Reus is awesome and her Moon Shifter books are awesome? I completely agree.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23492716-between-a-vamp-and-a-hard-place

Lindsey Hughes loves antiques and couldn’t be happier to make a living in the estate sale business. But when her assistant accidentally buys an entire estate without her approval, Lindsey is forced to clean up the mess herself.

Lindsey travels to the newly purchased, age-old house in Venice, Italy, and soon discovers more than she (never) bargained for. While digging through the hoarder’s trove that fills every floor, she finds a secret staircase behind a wall that leads to a strange coffin…with an even stranger inhabitant.

Vampire Rand FitzWulf has been in his coffin for 600 years. But now that he’s awake, he’s ravenous, and there’s a delicious-smelling woman with a rare blood type in his basement. Luckily, Lindsey has more to offer than blood: she agrees to travel throughout Europe with Rand to help him get revenge on the one who turned him. But as the unlikely pair grows closer, will the billionaire vampire be overtaken by his thirst for blood—or his thirst for love?

I thought this series was over! Apparently its not. I'm not the least bit upset by this.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22238186-echo-8
Three lives. Two worlds. One chance to save them all.

As a parapsychologist working for Seattle Psi, Tess has devoted her life to studying psychic phenomena. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world that's been struck by an asteroid, nothing in her training will help her survive what's to come.

After dislocating to Seattle Psi from the other Earth, Jake is confined by a special task force for study. But when he drains life energy from Tess, almost killing her, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds — and creates a bond neither of them expected.

Ross is an FBI agent ordered to protect Tess while she studies Jake. His assignment is not random — he and Tess have a history, and a connection the Bureau hopes to use to its own advantage. By the time Ross realizes his mission could be compromised, it's already too late — he'll have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect the people of his own Earth.
After reading The Ophelia Prophecy (which I loved), I couldn't wait to get my hands on Fisher's newest (not related to her others) book!

Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can't be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family's infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She's the type of girl you don't notice until the second—or third—look, but there's something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she's the one.

Iris Smythe–Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can't quite believe it's all true. When his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can't help thinking that he's hiding something . . . even as her heart tells her to say yes.

This is the last book in the Smythe-Smith Quartet...and while okay these haven't been the best ever like earlier Bridgerton novels, I still adore them to pieces.

{Has no Cover Yet} Siren's Call by Jayne Castle
In the alien catacombs of Rainshadow, there are creatures whose compelling songs lure the unwary to their death. That’s why Rafe Coppersmith, hired to clear out the catacombs for exploration, needs a music talent. He’s knows the perfect one, but she probably doesn’t want anything do with him...

Ella Morgan had once fallen hard and fast for Rafe, but then he disappeared for months…and he’s not about to tell her why. Ella, too, has secrets that only her dust bunny knows. She’s not just a music talent, she’s a Siren: a paranormal singer capable of singing men to sleep—or to their deaths.

But once on Rainshadow, Rafe and Ella will learn that surrendering to passion doesn’t come without risks—and fighting fire with fire only adds to the flame…

As always sign me up for anything that Castle writes in the "Harmony" universe!

{Has no Cover Yet} A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin
After a failed assassination attempt on a corrupt general, Bao Yang is a wanted man. Taking refuge with an ally, Yang accidentally compromises the man's daughter when they're discovered alone. To save her honor, he must marry the beautiful Jin-mei immediately!

In Yang's arms, Jin-mei feels alive for the first time. She's determined not to lose him, even if it means joining his perilous mission… But when she realizes just how destructive Yang's path could be, can she convince him that their life together could be so much sweeter than revenge?

HELL YEAH. Does more need saying?

Any romances I should keep an eye out for? Especially in contemporary land?