Monday, July 29, 2013

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "Guardian" by Nancy Northcott


SUMMARY: 
A POWER TO KILL

FBI agent Camellia "Mel" Wray is no stranger to violence but when an old friend is brutally murdered, she takes it personally. The case hits even closer to her heart when the best person to help with the investigation is Dr. Stefan Harper, the only man she ever loved-and lost. One look at the gorgeous medical expert and Mel realizes he's still impossible to resist-and still harboring a secret after all these years . . .

A POWER TO LOVE

Afraid Mel wouldn't accept him, Stefan never revealed his study of magical medicine or his abilities, instead allowing her to believe he'd been unfaithful. Now she's back in his life-and their mutual attraction burns hotter than ever. But when something dark and otherworldly threatens humans, Stefan must summon his mage powers to keep everyone safe. Will Mel be able to trust him again? Or will their love cost him even more than it did the first time?


REVIEW
What strikes me about this series, and particularly this book, is how smart it is.  Nancy Northcott writes an intelligent, inventive, story with plenty of emotion.  Stories about self-sacrifice for the greater good always get to me and my favorite romances are about second chances.  Needless to say, this story hit all the right marks for me.  

The mages are doing everything they can to protect humans from the ghouls and demons.  Ghouls, who recently lacked any strategy, are now working together with the Void Demons to open a portal to this world.  In their need and haste to feed, they are leaving human bodies scattered in the region and the FBI is investigating a possible serial killer.  This brings together FBI Agent Mel and super mage and doctor, Stefan Harper.  This book is an excellent example of a balanced story between fantasy and romance. 

My one little critique is that Mel's skepticism started to wear a little thin.  I kept thinking, "Come on, girl!  This is hottie mage doctor Stefan Harper knocking at your door. What are you waiting for?"  

IN A NUTSHELL:  An excellent addition to the series, Nancy Northcott both satisfies and leave us wanting for more...thank goodness there are at least five more stories upcoming! 

Thank you to the author, Forever (Grand Central Publishing), and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

SUNNY: DUAL REVIEW "Come Undone" and "Come Alive" by Jessica Hawkins





SUMMARIES:

COME UNDONE
Olivia Germaine has already found love. Devoted wife, loyal friend, determined career woman - she’s created the life she always envisioned.
But when Olivia locks eyes with a handsome stranger across a crowded room, he peers a little too closely and sees emotions she thought she’d buried long ago.

David Dylan, alleged playboy and eternal bachelor, challenges Olivia to confront the life she’s built and to make decisions that could either lead to happiness . . . or regret.

Will Olivia be able to draw the line between lust and love?

And can David respect that line?


COME ALIVE
Determined to move on with her life, Olivia Germaine has vowed to forget David Dylan. Struggling to keep her head above water, she focuses on her new promotion and refuses to drown in the memory of their night together.
But when Olivia realizes what life without David means, she must decide if she is willing to risk everything for him . . . and if she is ready to reopen the wounds of her past.

Can Olivia move forward with her marriage despite her feelings for David?

And can David stay away like he promised?


REVIEW
I am not a huge fan of the topic of adultery.  Having said that, there is something about Jessica Hawkins’ storytelling that is so compelling that I have to come back for book two. 

This book was a pageturner for me.  The more I read, I more I became invested in the characters.  The author does a fine job giving them more dimension and depth than I expected.  I guess a part of me wanted to paint the characters as good guys and bad guys.  In reality, each situation has so many shades of gray.  


The idea that Ms. Hawkins keeps questioning is this notion of “the one.”  Is there truly only one perfect partner for each soul?  What if a person “settles” for someone else and then “the one” comes into that person’s life?  Is that justification for breaking up? Can you still have a good life even if you are not with “the one?”


IN A NUTSHELL:
We reach a certain conclusion after this book and I am more than curious to see where Ms. Hawkins takes us in the next book.  Stay tuned. 

Thank you to the author and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

SUSAN: COVER REVEAL "After Midnight" by Santino Hassell

Yeah...no big surprise that I'm RIDICULOUSLY excited about this book! I'm a HUGE fan of the "In the Company of Shadows" series and this being a standalone spin-off...well...I NEED this book!  But, also, one of the co-authors has become a friend and is graciously and with some sort of sanity, able to allow me to be both fangirl and friend at the same time! :)  So...I'm excited to help reveal the cover, blurb, and the NEW AUTHOR WEBSITE for Santino Hassell & "After Midnight"!

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Two big pieces of news coming out today in anticipation of the the release of Santino Hassell’s first solo novel, “After Midnight”  

Cover Reveal:  
Without further fanfare, here is the cover for the novel!



This standalone takes place in the same gritty universe as the “In the Company of Shadows” saga, but focuses on a lone man and his struggle to overcome a mindset shaped by poverty and to thrive in a world that has spun out of control.  “I’m extremely excited about this release and the cover really fits the overall feel of the book perfectly”, says Santino Hassell.  The book will be available September 17, 2013 at various online retailers. .

Book Blurb:
Gordon Frost is a survivor. He survived a war that ravaged the nation, and he made it through the orphanages and crime-ridden slums that followed. With few prospects for the future, Gordon carved out a niche for himself in the expanding drug trade of Lexington, PA. It’s not pretty, but it's his, and it beats what he was doing before. But a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time results in a brush with death, going by the name of Adam. Afterward, the life that seemed good enough before, isn't quite the same.

Adam Blake is an assassin on the brink of being terminated by the very organization that controls him. He completed his mission, but not without being seen. With his secrets in danger of being exposed by Gordon, Adam knows he should kill the smart-mouthed redhead, but finds himself intrigued by the troublesome civilian instead.

When Gordon’s knack for finding trouble combines with the dangerous consequences of Adam’s indecision, their worlds intertwine in an explosive way.

Website Live!
Also, going live today, Santino Hassell’s new website: www.santinohassell.com!  Come check out information about the author, his books, updates, blog posts, FAQ’s, and contact information.

*Special thanks to Susan Lee for both the cover and website design.

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Ummmm...and yes, you read the fine print right. I was honored to be able to help with the design of both the cover and the website! But, truly, the inspiration was all the author's!

BOOK TO BE RELEASED ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2013!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "Defiance" by Stephanie Tyler





SUMMARY:
Rebelling against her legacy as the MC's princess, Tru Tennyson escaped the ruthless, male-dominated culture of the Defiance motorcycle club. Three years later, her newfound freedom is ripped away, thanks to a massive hybrid storm that killed millions. Now, in the post-Chaos world of semi-darkness and near-total anarchy where gangs rule, she discovers the dangerous world of Defiance may be the one thing that can keep her safe.

Tru is at the MC's mercy when she's dragged back to her former home … and to the only man she's ever pictured a future with. Caspar is the bastard son of the club's leader, her safe haven when life got rough — and her onetime lover the night she left. When Tru refuses to trade sex for power and be claimed by a rival club leader, she also dares to announce she wants Caspar instead, throwing the MC into turmoil.

Tru's brazen revolt could start a gang war and destroy the club from within. Now both Tru and the MC must wait for Caspar's response … and the inevitable fallout.

  
REVIEW:
Overlayed in a post-apocalyptic world in which chaos reigns, Defiance features a story of survival, rules, power, politics, violence, and romance. 

The world is just beginning to recover from a disastrous meteor strike leading to environmental catastrophes which cripples it.  Without a stable government, the environmental chaos creates societal ones where there is little law and order. In this milieu thrives the Defiance Motorcycle Club started by two ex-Navy sailors with a doomsday outlook.  Their bleak predictions leads them to prepare for the worst, creating underground shelters made from tubes (likened to a submarine).  All to say, Defiance is one of the few communities that planned well and prospers.  

This setting sets up the desperate nature of a dark and dangerous world.  Like in most books featuring motorcycle clubs, there are some very violent episodes.  It highlights the survival of the fittest mentality.  

In the midst of this is a complicated romance between a legacy - daughter of the renown enforcer - and a bastard of the current club President. Their love affair begins when they are young and are reunited years after under dire circumstances.  Tru runs from Defiance to escape the oppressive misogyny that dominates the culture.  She comes back and brings a load of trouble with her.  

I am always a little surprised at the level of fascination I have with books featuring motorcycle gangs.  I liken it to the fascination and desire the "civvies" have to partying with the Defiance kids:  "The MC was sexy. Forbidden. Dirty." 

And then like any great romance - the men know how to take care of business: 

"everyone who tries to leave always comes back when they get into trouble...because the MC men know how to get things done.  Might not always be pretty, might skate the edge of legal or fall into the pond whole hog, but some us are so damned attracted to that, there's no going back."  

Yup, there is a weird sort of rescue fantasy going on.  

Ms. Tylers does her best to inject an independent streak into Tru.  It is no small task given the violence against women and the lack of opportunities and future but for a very prescribed role.  It would be easy for Tru's character to be overwhelmed by the charisma of Casper, but she isn't.  She holds her own and with Casper's support, she helps change the course of this MC. 

The side characters are totally loveable and there are definitely strong storylines to pursue.  I can't wait to see what Stephanie Tyler decides to take these characters!

IN A NUTSHELL:
If you like stories set in a dark, dystopian world featuring a MC culture, this book is up your alley.  Completely compelling and complex, it is a fantastic read and highly recommended.

SUNNY: BOOK REVIEW "The Winning Season" by Alison Packard

Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review

SUMMARY:
Kelly Maxwell has finally landed her dream job as publicist for the San Francisco Blaze. But the team's newest member, handsome bad boy catcher Matt Scanlon, is refusing every interview. She's got to get him to open up before the season ends, or she may not be back next year. And after everything she overcame to achieve her dream, Kelly's not about to let that happen.

Matt Scanlon just wants to be left alone to rebuild his life and his career. After a year of masking the pain of a recent loss with hard partying and fast women, he finally hit rock bottom and was traded to a team he's loathed his entire life—a team with little to no chance at the post-season.

Butting heads is getting Kelly and Matt nowhere but annoyed, and with the team's schedule on the road, they can't avoid close quarters—or their surprising attraction to one another. As the season winds down, Matt finds his growing feelings for Kelly have brought his numbed emotions back to life. But when betrayal shatters their fragile trust, winning it all seems more impossible than ever.
  
REVIEW:
The Winning Season is like a no-hitter in baseball, the book is not perfect, but dang, it is pretty darn close.  

Upfront.  I have a pet peeve when it comes to sports-themed romances.  If an author is going to make one of the characters a professional sports athlete, please, please, make the sport relevant in the story!  Show me something about the sport - a good game description, a nuance about what it means to play the game, anything, something!  

I'm happy to say Alison Packard does a great job of integrating the sport into the romantic storyline.  Baseball is not incidental to the story and both hero and heroine are athletes.  They remind me a little of pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece and her superstar surfer husband, Laird Hamilton - two top-rated athletes finding their way around love. 

Kelly Maxwell has a dream job - doing PR for the MLB team, San Francisco Blaze.  She has all the headaches and joys of working in an ├╝ber, male dominated sport.  Being a competitive athlete, she has learned be fiercely competitive in her job and let her work speak for itself.  Because of her difficult history, she does not want to draw attention to herself. 

Matt Scanlon used to be the Golden Boy of the Los Angeles Dodger until the last year when he took a 180 degree turn.  His bad boy antics gets him traded to the division rival, Blaze, where he takes over for a beloved rookie catcher who is out on the Disabled List. 

Matt and Kelly quickly go nose-to-nose and it gets ugly.  Neither is known for holding back their criticisms but what soon surfaces is a begrudging respect and attraction.  The romance is sweet and edgy at the same time and I enjoyed the trading quips between the two.  But I what I really enjoyed was Ms. Packard descriptions of the game.  She is a fan.  It is obvious and she brings her joy of the game to the pages.  I love that!

It would be a perfect book, but there are too many dangling threads.  Too many characters introduced with barely a storyline.  With that much investment, I need for that characters' story to go somewhere. 

IN A NUTSHELL:
I believe this would be an excellent start to a series and truly hope that Alison Packard continues to flush out these stories within the context of Major League Baseball. I'll be first in line to read it.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

SUNNY: BLOG FEATURE - Author Interview with Nancy Northcott Spotlighting "Guardian"




Today I am thrilled to welcome author Nancy Northcott of The Protectors series. I have had the pleasure of reading the entire series, including the latest, "Guardian."  The series is complicated, imaginative, with plenty of action and drama.  Please join me in welcoming Nancy Northcott!


Thank you for having me today, Sunny!

How did you get into this world of humans, mages, demons, and ghouls?

I’ve always loved stories of magic, adventure, and romance.  At age seven, I discovered super-heroes.  They hooked me immediately, and I’m still a fan.

Mages are a lot like super-heroes, and this world merges the kinds of stories I enjoy.  The ghouls and demons were a deliberate choice to play off the idea of things that go bump in the night.  They’re magically gifted but can’t survive without using mages and humans, so they seemed like ideal adversaries for my mages and their nature-based powers.

What is your inspiration for the story?

For Guardian, the story worked backward from what I’d established about Stefan Harper in the first book, Renegade.  As you know, he’s a mage and a doctor.  He also loves music, so it made sense that he might’ve fallen in love with a woman who also did. 

Since the course of true love cannot run smoothly in a romance novel, however, he and his heroine, FBI Special Agent Camellia “Mel” Wray, needed some sources of conflict.  I figured the worst kind of woman for a mage to love was one who didn’t believe in magic, so Mel doesn’t.  And for good measure, they have a painful past.

I really appreciate your female characters. They are strong, smart and true partners to their male counterparts. Who were your influences for these female "leads"?

Thanks, Sunny!  I’m glad you like them.  They were inspired by the superheroines I grew up reading, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Elasti-Girl (a character from a comparatively obscure series who was more independent and self-reliant than most heroines of her era), and other super-powered women.  Nancy Drew was also a strong influence.

Which of the characters is most like you?

That’s hard to say.  Each of them incorporates something of me, either as I am or as I wish I could be, starting with the magical powers I think would be so cool to have.

Griffin Dare and Valeria Banning, in Renegade, are determined to bring a traitor to justice despite overwhelming odds.  I’m not sure I’d be as resolute as they are. Stefan has boundless wells of compassion, and he and Mel share musical talent I envy.  

In Protector, the novella, Josh Campbell flies helicopters although I’m not sure I’d actually ride in one, and Edie Lang wants to be a smokejumper and parachute out of airplanes to fight wildfires. They have physical courage I wish I did.

If you could cast your Protectors series, who you want to fill the major roles?

Griff would be someone who looks like Christopher Reeve (http://www.imdb.com/media/rm225154816/nm0001659 ).  The closest to Val is Mary McCormack ( http://www.imdb.com/media/rm4166953984/nm0005203 ) of In Plain Sight.

For Josh, I’d pick Scott Speedman of Last Resort (http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1676586496/nm0005454) and for Edie, Amy Carlson of Rookie Blue ( http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2704973056/nm0137856 )

Stefan is almost the twin of Lucas Bryant of Haven ( http://www.imdb.com/media/rm792625920/nm1674903 ), except that Stefan’s hair is darker and a bit longer and his eyes are brown, not blue like Bryant’s. The resemblance is really uncanny. 

The dh and I were watching Haven, and I grabbed his arm.  “Stefan!  That’s Stefan!”  I announced.  He tried to make appropriate noises but didn’t really get why I was so ramped up about it. 

Kathleen Munroe ( http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3403060224/nm1182008 ), who also appeared on Haven, as an FBI agent as luck would have it, is almost a perfect double for Mel.

If I were casting Will Davis, archaeologist, ace researcher, and ladies’ man, I’d pick Eric Christian Olsen ( http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1699055104/nm0647638 ) of NCIS: LA.  Will’s heroine is still under wraps, so I think I’ll stop there.


I know that you are a history graduate, as am I. Two of the reason I love history is 1) sometimes fiction cannot compete with the reality of some of events in history 2) history is about the human nature and the choices that people make and that what makes it accessible. What do you love about history and how do you incorporate it in your writing?

I think you said it well with “human nature and its choices.”  As a college history major, I studied mostly political history.  Only as a senior did I discover social history, the chronicle of how people lived, what they wore, slept on or ate, how they earned their livings, and how they thought about themselves and each other.  I find those aspects intriguing

I’ve incorporated both sorts of history in my writing by creating a backstory for the mages and their struggle against ghouls and demons.  There’s a snippet of that revealed in Renegade.  Guardian focuses more on the present day, but we’ll see more of that history in the third novel.

What is next for the fans of the Protector series?

I’m working now on the third novel, Will’s story, with the working title Warrior.  There will be a pivotal archaeological discovery, and we’ll find out what kind of woman it takes to pierce the shell of his breezy charm and touch his heart.

There may be a novella first.  I’m not sure at this point.

How many books do you plan for this series?

There are a total of seven novels, five more after Guardian.  There may be novellas sprinkled in between some of them.  That’s still up in the air.

Thank you, Nancy for give us the opportunity to learn more about you and your work. 

Thanks so much for having me as a guest, Sunny!  I’ve enjoyed it.



Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy and YA romance.  A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the romance and high stakes she loves in The Protectors, her new contemporary mage series from Grand Central Forever Yours.

Her debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal.  The reviewer called it “genre writing at its best.”  Nancy is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist and has won the Maggie, the Molly, the Emerald City Opener, and Put Your Heart in a Book.

Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.


GUARDIAN

TORN APART BY MAGIC

Sworn to protect the mage world, Stefan Harper was forced to hide his powerful magic from the beautiful Mundane woman he loved as a student.  Backed into a corner one painful night long ago, he let Mel believe he’d been unfaithful rather than put her at risk by revealing who—and what—he was.  Now she’s back, and the attraction burns hotter than ever.

REUNITED BY MURDER
FBI agent Camellia “Mel” Wray has vowed to avenge an old friend’s brutal murder. When the investigation requires forensic consultation by the only man she ever loved—and lost—one look at the gorgeous doctor makes Mel realize he’s still impossible to resist—and still harboring a secret.

A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE
Caught in a deadly ghoul trap, Stefan has one chance to save the woman he loves.  He must take the risk he once avoided and reveal the full extent of his powers. Can Mel accept the unbelievable and trust him? Or will love cost them everything?










The Protectors Series

Renegade:  Amazon B&N Goodreads           
Protector:  Amazon B&N Goodreads