Thursday, November 29, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW - "Steel's Edge" by Ilona Andrews

Richard Mar
Charlotte de Ney

SUMMARY from Goodreads:

The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is a fairy tale—and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny…

Charlotte de Ney is as noble as they come, a blueblood straight out of the Weird. But even though she possesses rare magical healing abilities, her life has brought her nothing but pain. After her marriage crumbles, she flees to the Edge to build a new home for herself. Until Richard Mar is brought to her for treatment, and Charlotte’s life is turned upside down once again.

Richard is a swordsman without peer, future head of his large and rambunctious Edger clan—and he’s on a clandestine quest to wipe out slavers trafficking humans in the Weird. So when his presence leads his very dangerous enemies to Charlotte, she vows to help Richard destroy them. The slavers’ operation, however, goes deeper than Richard knows, and even working together, Charlotte and Richard may not survive.


You know that feeling of euphoria you feel after you have read a great book?  Be prepared for a double shot of it with Steel's EdgeSteel's Edge is book 4 in The Edge series by the wife and husband team known as the author, Ilona Andrews.

I've liked The Edge series from the start.   Still, being a huge Kate Daniels fan, The Edge series was always "the other" books by the author.  Not any more, this book rivals any of Ilona Andrews other writings and may very well be my favorite.

Why do I love this book?

*The story is compelling.  Richard is on the hunt to bring down an illegal slave trade.  He has been working to develop connections, gather intelligence and dismantle the system.  The system reaches to the highest levels in the aristocracy.  He is aided in his quest by Charlotte, who as the Greatest Healer of her time, also has dark secrets.  For every yin there is a yang.  Charlotte has the power to heal but she can also employ that power to kill and bring plague.   

*For the things that you would expect from this author - Ilona Andrews is a powerhouse at world-building. Her world is imaginative from the Edge to the Weird to the Broken and then Cauldron.  Her descriptions are vivid.  The way she describes the life in and about the slave trade is chilling. 

*The characters are mature.  Both Richard and Charlotte are older than the characters from previous books.  They are more experienced in life.  Both have been married and experienced love before.  They come to their union with more understanding and also more baggage. (And there intimate scene are very hot)

Charlotte is a striking  heroine with an indomitable spirit.  In an exchange with an enemy who challenges her standing: 

"Don't try to belittle me; your hopeless outclassed.  I see shortcomings in your every single aspect, from your lack of taste to your rotten morality.  You've involved yourself in the basest of crimes.  You facilitated murder, rape, and the torture of children.  Your conduct is unbecoming a peer of realm."  Oh, snap!  

She is confident in who she is and is determined to a fault.  And I love her spirit!

Richard is my kind of hero: steadfast, honorable, skilled, caring and determined.  I love the way he is in awe of her.  When he experiences the power of her magic: 

"...he stood in the epicenter of her silent storm, a feeling of otherworldly awe claimed him, as if he became part of a mystical event that could be explained, only experienced....He had encountered something greater than the limits of his ordinary life, and he was both alarmed and drawn to it." 

* Illona Andrews brings back some of the most memorable supporting characters - Jack, Sophie, George, and Eleonore.  It feels like a homecoming with Sophie and the boys in the mix.  

*You got a to love a book that gives a nod to one of the best movies of all time, Princess Bride -  "I do not thing that word means what you think it was means."


This is nearly a perfect book.  I say nearly even though I couldn't find anything I didn't like about it, but surely there must be, right? 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW - "Exquisite" by Ella Frank

Dr. Lena O'Donnell
Mason Langley

Dr. Lena O'Donnell is a workaholic.  Why does she work so much? It is easier to be distracted by work, to help cover up the hurt than to feel the guilt and loss of losing a loved one.  It is easier to build a wall and guard your heart than let someone in and expect them to leave you. 

Mason Langley comes from a warm, loving, giving, and expressive family.  So it is no surprise that he chooses to express his love and joy through cooking.  He is the hot, chef/owner of Exquisite - the hottest new restaurant in Chicago.  While doing a favor for his mom, he runs into the Ice Queen - Lena.  And although experiencing a little frost bite himself, he is intrigued by her warmth and love for her pediatric patients. 

Who doesn't love a man who has the tenacity to breakthrough the guarded heart of a broken woman? Mason takes a lot of hits from the quick tempered, smart mouth, guarded Lena.  In all the ways we guard our own hearts, maybe we all see a little of ourselves in Lena.  And that's what makes Mason such as dream man.  It first starts with intrigue, but blossoms into full on attraction, passion, then appreciation and love.   

As the story surely goes, Mason is not perfect and doesn't deal with tragedy well either.  But this is a story about risk, tenacity and persistence and true love.  (And it doesn't hurt to have one of the steamiest No-Touching shower scenes ever written).

As much as I really enjoyed this book, it took me awhile to see the special nature of the story.  I only fully understood how much I liked this story when I experienced an inordinate amount of joy hearing of it's sequel!

I was moved.  I was brought to tears. I was satisfied. A highly recommended contemporary romance.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "Charade" by Nyrae Dawn

SUMMARY from Goodreads:
Nineteen-year-old Cheyenne tries to portray the perfect life to mask the memories of her past. Walking in on her boyfriend with another woman her freshman year in college threatens that picture of perfection. 

Twenty-one-year-old Colt never wanted college and never expected to amount to anything, but when his mom's dying wish is for him to get his degree, he has no choice but to pretend it's what he wants too. 

Cheyenne needs a fake boyfriend to get back at her ex and Colt needs cash to take care of his mom, so they strike a deal that helps them both. But what if Cheyenne’s past isn’t what she thought? Soon they’re trading one charade for another—losing themselves in each other to forget about their pain. The more they play their game, the more it becomes the only thing they have that feels real.

Both Cheyenne and Colt know life is never easy, but neither of them expect the tragedy that threatens to end their charade and rip them apart forever.

I decided to read this book after an outstanding review of it from my friends, Amber and Michael on Goodreads....And they were NOT wrong.  This is an emotionally powerful book, more than the summary above would indicate. 

Michael says that Nyrae Dawn is a master of both the male POV voice.  And for me, often in YA books, this makes the biggest difference.  Authors of YA often write the female POV well, but I'm often left with a two dimensional portrait of the male lead character.  Ms. Dawn gets into the heart of her male characters, drawing out the vulnerability, strength and the "sweet."  

The story itself is compelling with both characters dealing with difficulties in the past and present that leaves them fractured.  I kept thinking that these characters are still so young and dealing with so much pain and even though I, myself, have not had those same experiences, I felt I understood deeply.  It is the first time in a long time that I shed tears from a story.  Maybe I've become a little cynical.  But this kind of read - a well-written, heart touching story, brings me back to why I love YA books.  This book has all the right elements without too much adolescent drama.  Due to some of the mature themes, I recommend this to an older YA audience.  

I highly recommend this book for a emotionally rewarding and satisfying read. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW - "Rock Chick" by Kristen Ashley

Indy Savage
Lee Nightingale

Indy Savage, cop's daughter, rock chick and used bookstore owner, has been in love with Lee Nightingale, once bad boy, now the man behind Nightingale Investigations, since she was five years old. No matter what ingenious schemes Indy used to capture his attention, Lee never showed an interest and Indy finally gave up. Now Indy's employee, Rosie, has lost a bag of diamonds and bad guys are shooting at him. When Indy gets involved, Lee is forced to help. Complicating matters, Lee has decided he's interested, Indy's decided she's not. But she can't seem to keep Lee out of her life when she's repeatedly stun gunned, kidnapped and there are car bombs exploding (not to mention she's finding dead bodies).

Indy's best bet is to solve the mystery of the diamonds before Lee. Lee's challenge is to keep Indy alive and, at the same time, win back her heart.

So often times when I recommend a series, I find myself saying, "the first book is a little slow, but stick with it because the series is amazing."  Not with Rock Chick, the book takes off right out of the gate and does not stop until the very last page.  There is no way to adequately summarize this first book in the Rock Chick series.  It epitomizes the fun, fantasy, and drama which is the hallmark of these books.  

This book is so much like Indy - I characterize her as .... Sparkly.  This book is like Indy's wardrobe.  Sparkly, as in throwing out sparks, performing brilliantly, effervescent, lively or animated (Merriam Webster).  And Lee, oh man, he is the epitome of the alpha male with "the Sweet."  The way he pursues, protects and loves Indy is every girl's fantasy.  

As a bonus, in the midst of this, we have a mystery to solve involving stolen diamonds, a missing thief, the mafia, and the appearance of the "Hot Bunch". Oh, my!  You cannot miss the Hot Bunch!

I love Kristen Ashley's books and this is one of her very best.  This book is NOT to be missed!

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW - "Fatal Justice" by Marie Force

Samantha Holland
Nick Cappuano

SUMMARY From Goodreads:
She looked into the dead face of the man she'd dined with the night before

Standing over the body of a Supreme Court nominee, Lieutenant Sam Holland is hip-deep in another high-profile murder case. The fact that she was one of the last people to see Julian Sinclair alive just complicates things even more. On the plus side, her relationship with Senator Nick Cappuano is heating up—but it's also attracting a lot of unwanted media attention and blinding flash bulbs.

The pressure is on for Sam to find Sinclair's killer, but a new lead in her father's unsolved shooting puts her in unexpected danger. When long-buried secrets threaten to derail her relationship with Nick, Sam realizes that while justice can be blind, mixing romance with politics has the potential to be fatal...


I thought the first book was good, this one is even better. I absolutely love this story.  It is a perfectly balanced fare of crime, suspense and romance. This is book 2 in Marie Force's Fatal Series.  It is the continuing story of newly promoted Lt. Samantha Holland and new appointed US Senator Nick Cappuano.  

Nick is an easy character to love.  He is so warm, gentle, manly, caring and devoted.  His is outwardly emotional and wears his love for Samantha on his sleeve.  Sam is a little more prickly. I've seen reviews where readers think she is mean and undeserving of Nick.  I love that about Sam's character.  She is a balance between hard and soft edges.  She is hot tempered, bossy, foul-mouthed at times, and demanding.  She also has a sarcastic sense of humor ...just like virtually every cop I know.  I love that she is not perfect, is beyond competent in her own career,  but when she is with Nick, she can let it all go and be soft like butter.  

But this isn't just about Sam and Nick.  The supporting characters are evolving too.  Detective Freddy Cruz - the recently deflowered virgin, Detective Tommy Gonzo Gonzalez - the recently captured playboy, the increasingly involved Detective Jeannie McBride, Skip Holland - Sam's retired and IOD (injured on duty) father who is now a quadriplegic and new groom, are an eclectic group who help in solving crimes and contributing to the fun. 

The book is a perfectly balanced fare of crime, suspense and romance.  I can't wait for the next read Fatal Consequences!

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "The Marriage Mistake"

Carina Conte has had a crush on her brother Michael’s best friend, Max Gray, since she was a teenager. Now she’s earned her MBA and come to work at Michael’s new venture, America’s fastest-growing bakery empire. But some things never change: her family still treats her like a child. With three drop-dead gorgeous siblings, she’s still the ugly duckling of the bunch. And Max, the company’s new CEO, still barely notices her.

Max knows Carina Conte is strictly off limits. But hot-blooded lust wins out at a conference when the two share a scorching one-night stand—and are busted by her mother! Now, forced by old-world Italian tradition into a marriage he’s not ready for, Max is miserable—and Carina is furious. Her new husband is about to realize that hell hath no fury like a woman transformed…

If you liked the Marriage Bargain, you will enjoy this book.  If you had some difficulties with the first story, you will find the same problems with this book.  The characters are fun and interesting, but their struggles are more cliche than not and thus is not really memorable.  

It feels like two books, BTB (before the bedding) and ATB (after the bedding).  The BTB part is the traditional story - girl has a crush on big brother's hot best friend, girl gets rejected, goes away to mature, returns as a hottie, best friend is reluctantly attracted, and eventually both let go of their inhibitions.  The ATB is a little more interesting.  Instead of living the HEA, Carina decides that she wants to pursue what is really important to her even if that means she has to reject Max.  It is nice to see a heroine challenge the expectations from her family, friends, and society to go for her own dreams. Unfortunately, this part comes too late in the story and there is just not enough of it to make up for the milquetoast start.  

I wouldn't run out to read this book unless you really loved the Marriage Bargain and the Marriage Trap.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing the ARC.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "Until There Was You" by Jessica Scott

Evan Loehr
Claire Montoya

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure—except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. Since that brief lapse in judgment, Evan has been at odds with her. But when he is asked to train a combat team alongside Claire, battle-hardened Evan is in for the fight of his life.
Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to achieve her high military rank. In Evan Loehr, Claire sees a spoiled commander who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. Army orders force them together and Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He too has dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Until There Was You is book two in the Coming Home series.  

I love Loveswept books.  I call them my palate cleansers.  They are usually nice, sweet, satisfying stories that make me happy.  These are books that help clean away some of the dark emotions that linger after tough reads and prepare your reading palate for the next adventure.  This being a military romance, I thought there would be more action but still a sweet story.  This was not really the book I thought it was going to be.  It was deep and thoughtful.  It was more than just a love story, but also about the politics of the military and those who are ruled by ego.  It is about following orders and not following them, and it is about loyalty.  

I understand that the author, Jessica Scott, was in the military.  Her experience shows.  This story is authentic and well-written. Impressive.  

If you are interested in reading about some of the challenges of developing a relationship in the context of preparing for war, check out this  insider perspective.

Thank you to Netgalley for making this read possible. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

SUSAN: POST "Face to Face with Aleksandr Voinov"

This past weekend, I had the INCREDIBLE joy of being able to spend the evening with one of my FAVORITE authors, Aleksandr Voinov.  For those that read his work, you know he has the ability to create characters that produce such FIERCE emotions (loyalty, hatred, love, obsession…) within his readers. And his stories are…flawless.

For my book-reading community, you know well that I am obsessed with Aleks (…mostly because you all are too! Ha!) So, when I was planning a brief vacation in London, he so kindly and generously agreed to meet up.  I met Aleks at Veeraswamy, the Indian restaurant Malcolm takes Owen to in “Country Mouse”.  How cool is THAT?! :)  The place was gorgeous and the food phenomenal.  But, that, of course, is secondary. 

I knew I would be the weeping idiot fan girl. I teared up immediately when he embraced me in greeting.  He was kind and warm and friendly.  I didn’t want it to be a “book club” meeting where we only talked about his stories and characters.  I wanted to get to know the man himself.  What I found was that he is charming, big-hearted, funny, spiritual, humble, and approachable. 

Yes, we talked about Vadim & Nikolai, Kendras/Andrastes, Skybound, other authors, the inundation of gifs on Goodreads, some of our favorite GR peeps, some future spoilers, and of course, The Muse.  But, we also talked about our childhoods, struggles, families, relationships, Rhianna (yup, go figure), London, our kinks, homeownership, and on. 

I had SUCH a blast. I felt an immediate kinship and by night’s end, Aleks became more of a friend in my eyes than a “famous author”. So thankful for the opportunity and life feels fuller now with him in it!   

Thanks, Aleks.  Looking forward to next time…


Sunday, November 4, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW - "Bitter Night" by Diana Pharaoh Francis


Max is a Shadowblade Prime, the leader of the the Shadowblades who protect the witch Giselle at night.  She is a warrior with heightened strength and skills and a remarkable ability to heal.  She is great at her job. She is under a compulsion spell to protect Giselle but it doesn't dictate how she does it. Some would call her reckless, even a risk taker, she does whatever it takes to get things done.    Her secret?  She hates being a Shadowblade. She hates Giselle for making her into one.  She feels like she has nothing to lose.  Until...  Her home at Horngate is threatened by the Guardians want to the witches to help them wreck havoc on humanity for destroying too much magic on earth.  In the quest to protect Horngate, Max will use any and all resources available to her, including the help of a very attractive rival Prime from another witch.  Sparks fly as well as the blood, guts, and tears.  

This is just my cup of tea.  I love Max.  She is strong, focused, loyal, and caring despite herself.  She is a take-no-prisoners kinda gal. She thinks she is so hard-ass when in reality she is a softy.  When her home is threatened, she realizes how her crew has become her family.  Her tough exterior does not diminish the care she has for the people in her coven.  

Then there is Alexander.  As a rival prime, there is a lot of positioning between Alexander and Max, and they are like dry kindling just waiting for the spark to set them off.  Because he understands her, her responsibilities and struggles as a Prime, he manages to get under her skin (and sometimes under her clothes).  I have a difficult time saying this is a romance because it feels more like a fantasy with a theme of romance, but it is not the story itself.  It rolls out slowly and I appreciate that this is not a insta-love story.  The development reminds me of Kate and Curran in Ilona Andrew's  Kate Daniels stories. So far, it is deliciously drawn out!  Undoubtedly, there will be many stops and starts in this relationship, and I can't wait to see how it ends!

This takes place amidst some hard core kick-ass action.  It is graphic, brutal, bloody, and sounds awfully painful.  All of which gives this book it's gritty and dark appeal.  

What a wonderful start to a new series!  I can't wait to get on to the next book and I encourage you to get this one onto your reading shelf!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "Night Reigns" by Dianne Duvall

Marcus Grayden

SUMMARY from Goodreads:
Ami isn't much for trusting strangers. She has a hard time trusting anyone. But she's no coward, and she's no pushover in the protection department either. So when she comes across a mysterious warrior taking on eight deranged vampires on his own, she doesn't hesitate to save his bacon. Of course, that was before she realized what one little rescue would get her into . . .

Marcus Grayden has been an immortal protector of humanity for eight hundred years, and at the moment he's not interested in backup. From the moment Ami arrives in his life, he can't deny that she's strong, smart, and extremely skilled at watching his back. But she's also destroying his protective solitude and stirring desires he can't bear to awaken. After all, whatever her secrets — how can she defeat death itself?(

Night Reigns is book two in the Immortal Guardian series.  It is the story of Marcus and Ami.  As you may have read from previous reviews, I have a thing about kick-ass heroines.  I love them.  I love that they can defend themselves both physically and psychologically. I love that in the test of wills and wit, they can not only hold their own, but come out on top.  I love it when they know their own mind. 

Ami stands out.  She is rescued by Seth, leader of the Immortal Guardians, healed and trained to be a fighter.  She is partnered with Marcus, a notorious loner (yes, another one) to be his Second - a human sidekick with impressive fighting skills set to watch the Guardian's back.  

Because Ami is petite, people have a tendency to underestimate her.  Because she has red Shirley Temple curls (my description) people think she is sugar and spice.  But Ami is more than that:  

"Brave as hell.  Stubborn as a mule.  Thirst for revenge.  She's definitely one of the family." 

One of the best things about this series is the kinship of the Guardians and their Seconds.  I am highly amused by the camaraderie and banter.  So sayeth Seth as he peers into Marcus' mind: 

"I can't help it.  I've thad to tiptoe around you for almost a decade.  Now that I'm free to irritate you at will, I find it exceedingly entertaining."

Marcus grumbled and growled inwardly, then thought of a way to teach Seth a lesson:  he pictured himself naked.  Seth grimaced.  Ugh!  All right!  I'm out!" 

The story is witty and funny and surprisingly tender.  The scene near the end when Marcus surprises is Ami is so swoonworthy and romantic.  I felt myself breathing a deep sigh.  The book was worth it if just for that scene alone.   

If you are a fan of PNR, this is a must for your TBR list.  Even if you are not, this book is well worth a try.