Book Review: Charade by Nyrae Dawn (Book one of the Games series)


Title: Charade
Author: Nyrae Dawn
Series: Games
Genre: New adult contemporary
Published: 2012
Rating: 4 stars
**audio version**

Charade opens with freshman Cheyenne Marshall walking in on Gregory, her boyfriend of two years and the guy who she’s followed to college, in bed with another woman. The past year without her was just so hard, he explains, but this was going to be the last time. It wasn’t what it looked like. (!) Then he brings out the big guns: He’s a guy.

Yep. Best. Excuse. Ever.

Um, no.

For Cheyenne, though, this feels like more than the standard-issue boyfriend betrayal. Instead it brings long-buried issues back to the surface: the fact that her mother left her at her aunt’s house when she was nine and never came back, not to mention all the other times her mother went off without her before that. Why, she wonders, is she so easy to leave?

She comes up with a brilliant plan—get a fake boyfriend and make Gregory jealous. Show him—and everyone else—that she doesn’t need him at all. Perfect. Now she just needs to find the right guy….

Colt isn’t that guy. He doesn’t have time to deal with a spoiled Princess and her games. His mom is dying of cancer, and he’s got his hands full trying to pass the college classes she so wanted him to take and manage to get all their bills paid. He doesn’t have time for Chey, and he certainly doesn’t have time for games. Except his mom’s on some new meds, and the lease on her apartment will be up soon. And Chey’s offering to pay him….

I have to admit, it took me a while to warm up to both of the main characters. The first few chapters nearly had me convinced that in their heads was not a place I really wanted to be—way too much inner monologue, and I wasn’t all that crazy about what I was hearing there. Chey especially read like an over-the-top drama queen. Her freak-out over Gregory and the solution she came up with just seemed so over-the-top; she really did seem to be the princess Colt accused her of being. Colt’s major attitude too was a bit of a turn off. His mom got him definite sympathy points, but surely he could be a little…nicer?

They decide to move forward with the plan anyway, though—Chey is sure that she has to show the world that she’s fine without Gregory, and Colt absolutely needs the money. They begin to spend time together, and…well, you know where this is going to go, right?

But the novel takes its time. It goes slow. It develops. Chey and Colt gradually begin to see each other—and themselves—differently. They start to try to grow and change and suddenly, I started to really care about what happened to them. I was totally pulled into their story, and I started looking for excuses to keep listening. A longer walk for the dog, maybe a little dusting, hey—look at those tiles in the bathroom! Boy, do they need a good scrub! Funny what a good audiobook will inspire me to do.

But I digress.

I ended up really liking this one. Both Chey and Colt began to work through their issues—no magic fixes here, thank goodness—and are well on their way to being better versions of themselves. Not everything is perfect, but things are definitely better. They are better in the end.

Speaking of the end, I may or may not have shed a tear or two by that time. Consider yourself warned.

In a nutshell: Engrossing read with strong character development. After I finished, I was definitely glad that I’d picked up book two in the series from NetGalley. 4 stars.

***Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for Nyrae Dawn’s Searching for Beautiful, due out in March! Click here!***

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Cover Reveal and GIVEAWAY—Searching for Beautiful by Nyrae Dawn

I just finished Nyrae Dawn’s CHARADE (The Game #1) yesterday, and it was wonderful (review coming soon!), so I can’t wait for this one….

Today Nyrae Dawn and Entangled Teen are revealing the cover for SEARCHING FOR BEAUTIFUL, which releases on March 4, 2014. Also enter below for a paperback of the book or an eBook!

On to the reveal!


Blurb:

Before, Brynn had a group of best friends, a loving boyfriend, a growing talent for pottery. She had a life. And after…she had none.

When Brynn lost the boyfriend who never loved her, the friends who feel she betrayed their trust, and the new life just beginning to grow inside her, she believes her future is as empty as her body. But then Christian, the boy next door, starts coming around. Playing his guitar and pushing her to create art once more. She meets some new friends at the local community center, plus even gets her dad to look her in the eye again…sort of.

But can Brynn open up her heart to truly find her life’s own beauty, when living for the after means letting go of the before?

Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble/

Excerpt for Searching for Beautiful:

Christian looks at me. I wait for a smart-aleck reply or a smile but get neither. Just his blue eyes sucking me in like a whirlpool. “That’s what I thought you would say. So you just have to keep fighting for it. Keep fighting to get it back.”

My eyes won’t leave his and his won’t leave mine. And he’s cute. God, he’s so cute, I just want to focus on his cuteness. I want that to be all that matters. When his hand comes up and cups my cheek, I gasp. He brushes his thumb under my eye and licks his lips and I’m frozen and on fire and close to having a heart attack and anxious all at the same time.

Slowly, he leans forward and I know he’s giving me time. And my heart is leaping and I want to feel his lips. This is Christian. The boy who asked me to dance. The boy I ran to my mom about and told her that I loved. And now he’s my friend. The first person who has made me feel normal since everything happened.

But I’m so scared. Scared of messing it up. Scared he’ll decide he doesn’t want me. Scared of losing him. Of getting hurt.

He gets closer and I smell his sweet, sugary scent. See his mouth and wet lips and that hair I want to touch.

See the one person besides Emery who I have. The one person I can’t lose. “Wait,” I say and Christian stops moving. He’s still close. So very, very close that his lips are only an inch away from mine. “I’m scared,” I admit.

“I won’t hurt you.”

And I swear a part of me believes him. Maybe all of me. But how do I know if that’s the right decision or not?

He runs his hand down my face and touches my hair. Love that he’s not nervous to do it the way I am with him and I watch his fingers, brown against my red hair.

“Go out with me, Bryntastic. Let’s go do something this weekend. Don’t keep running. I won’t even try to kiss you again unless you tell me to. Or I’ll wait for you to do it. Just let go. Live.”

His words are what I want. I want them so badly and they sound so perfect that it’s hard not to just scream, “Yes!” right now. “Why?” I ask him. “Why are you so nice to me?”

I love his strength. Love that he doesn’t even hesitates before saying, “Because you were my first crush. Because I used to watch you conqueror anything and used to listen to you laugh with your friends. You were happy and I loved your smile. Because I had to work up the courage to ask you to dance and I did, and then I left and the one thing I missed was that smile. I watched my sister lose hers and watched my family fall apart and when I came back here? I wanted to see your smile again. Because you’re beautiful when you smile and you’ve lost it now. I want you to conquer this because what the hell is the purpose in it all if the first girl I ever danced with loses her smile?”

I don’t realize I’m crying until Christian wipes my tears. “You think I’m beautiful?”

About Nyrae Dawn: 


Writing has always been Nyrae Dawn’s passion. There have been times in her life where she wasn’t able to chase that dream the way she desired, but she always found her way back to telling stories.

One of her loves has always been writing about teens. There’s something so fresh and fun about the age that she loves exploring. Her husband says it’s because she doesn’t want to grow up. She doesn’t think that’s such a bad thing and luckily for her, he doesn’t either.

Nyrae gravitates toward character-driven stories. She loves going on emotional journeys with characters whether it be reading or writing. And yes, she’s a total romantic at heart and proud.

Nyrae resides in sunny Southern California with her husband (who still makes her swoon) and her two awesome kids.

When she’s not with her family, you can be pretty sure you’ll find her with a book in her hand or her laptop and an open document in front of her.

She writes for Entangled Publishing, Grand Central Publishing and is self-published.

Nyrae is represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management.

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads

Want your own copy? I thought so! Click here for your chance to win! There is an ebook copy (open to international readers) and a paperback (US winners only).

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1cb554107/

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Book Review: Love, Technically by Lynne Silver


Title: Love, Technically
Author: Lynne Silver
Genre: contemporary romance
Published: 2013
Rating: 3 stars

Michelle Kolson has moved from small-town Iowa to Chicago to follow her dreams. Little does she know that her job is about to be outsourced overseas and that the geeky but cute help center guy she’s just met and is crushing over is actually the CEO and founder of the company. Will the truth be enough to send her back home forever?

Noah “Sark” Frellish, discouraged by all the women who look at him and only see dollar signs, is hesitant to correct Michelle’s misconception. But the more time he spends with her, the deeper his deception gets. Can he come clean and keep the girl?

Love, Technically is a quick read—just over 125 pages—and cute, providing the reader is okay with some major suspension of belief. At first Michelle’s mistake makes some sense—Noah gives her his gamer nickname, because he thought she was cute and wanted her “to be in the small circle of people to call him Sark.” He’s wearing casual clothes and a baseball cap, and his older “geeky” glasses since he broke his more stylish ones on a recent bike ride. He looks nothing like the polished publicity photos she’d seen around the building. It’s late, there’s no one else still working on her floor, he’s wearing a seriously nerdy (but amusing) t-shirt, and he does “fix” the problem she’s having with her printer.

Soon, though, it gets a little silly. She sees him many times in a more normal work environment, but never makes the connection. Then Noah decides he has to tell her the truth, but does so in pretty much the most bizarre and obscure way possible—and she totally doesn’t get it. Then for a big chunk of the novella he thinks she knows who he is but she totally doesn’t. They spend a lot of time together—how does she not make the connection a single time? He does talk about work and is even often driven around in a company car. Every single other employee knows him. Just not the new girl, apparently.

Still, there were a lot of cute moments in the story…along with M&Ms and a Mork & Mindy reference. Both Michelle and Noah find solutions for their work woes (going public and having to answer to a board of directors has taken his company in directions he’s not comfortable with), and she does make him grovel just a little to get her back in the end.

In a nutshell: Short and sweet; though not entirely believable, it does have its moments. 3 stars.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Lions, Tigers, and Sexy Bears, Oh My! By Candace Havens


Title: Lions, Tigers, and Sexy Bears, Oh My!
Author: Candace Havens
Genre: paranormal romance
Published: 2013
Rating: 2 1/2 stars

Heiress Ainsely McLeon is in trouble…someone’s trying to kill her, and the remaining members of her family may—or may not be involved. She’s escaped LA to arrive in the middle of Montana, where she promptly plows her new POS truck into a tree. During a blizzard. While trying to prevent hitting a tiger that had been standing in the middle of the road. Yeah, not her finest hour; nor, possibly, her sanest. Now she needs two thousand dollars to fix her truck so she can get out of Clarksville, and for that she needs a job. She can’t access her bank accounts or use her credit cards, since that would be like sending up a signal flare to the guys who want her dead.

Bar owner and shapeshifting bear Lucas lost his family once and isn’t about to take that chance again. But there’s something about the new waitress that he just can’t say no to, no matter how much he knows he should….

Lions, Tigers, and Sexy Bears, Oh My! had a really strong beginning and some darn funny moments throughout. One of my favorite scenes was when Ainsely just up and started working at the bar, even though Luc had specifically told her he wasn’t interested in hiring her. She charms the guy behind the bar into giving her an apron—after sweetly informing him that she has no way to pay for the coffee he just served her otherwise—and then proceeds to put every single one of the rowdy bar patrons in their place, all without them even suspecting a thing. Except the guy who ill-advisedly decides to grab her butt. Him she lays low with a well-timed judo move and a sternly delivered, “Would you do that to your mother?”

Another part I really liked happened the next night when Ainsely is nearly hurt in a bar brawl. In his anger and haste to get to her, Luc half shifts into a bear—and his secret (and that of the rest of the town, since it turns out most of them are at least part shifter) is out. Ainsley hides herself in a closet in an attempt to deal. With a full pan of Luc’s freshly baked brownies.

He glanced down at the pan in her lap. “By any chance are you a stress eater?”

“What makes you say that?” Her mouth was still full of brownie.

Ainsley downs a glass of milk and finishes the pan, then:

“How long is it going to take you to make some more?” She didn’t meet his eyes, but she pointed at the pan.

“Forty-five minutes at least.”

She stared down at the floor. “If it’s okay with you, I’d like to stay in her a little while longer.” Reaching up, she closed the pantry door, and then opened it again. “I don’t suppose you have any cookies to tide me over until the brownies are done. Or pie. That pie last night was really good.”

I also liked some of the little details about this world of shifters, like the fact that Luc had to keep his apartment freezing cold in the winter months to avoid his body’s natural urge to hibernate. Clever idea!

However, on the whole I found this novel lacked focus and detail. Once the action of the plot really got underway, it bounced around a lot. High stakes embezzlement, FBI involvement, murderous cartels—readers are given just the barest of hints about these dire proceedings, only to find them quickly resolved with very little explanation. More than once things were mentioned by characters—an allusion to Doc’s good news toward the end?—and then never explained to readers. I couldn’t help but wonder if a higher word count wasn’t needed to really flesh out the plot and action, because a lot of times it felt like I was missing something.

It also felt more like we were being told that the hero and heroine had chemistry rather than actually seeing it in action. Luc and Ainsley’s relationship goes very quickly from mutual attraction to house-destroying sex to not being able to imagine life without each other in it. Not that they tell each other this, of course. They just think it to themselves. A lot.

Which leads us to a rather anti-climactic climax caused by a misunderstanding and fixed by a bar fight—which apparently is the shifter equivalent of a jump over a broom handle. And then a several months later-style epilogue that didn’t add a whole lot to the overall picture.

In a nutshell: this book had promise and more than a few cute moments, but in the end it needed more. 2 1/2 stars.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Cover Reveal and GIVEAWAY!!! Such Sweet Sorrow by Jenny Trout

Today Jenny Trout and Entangled Teen are revealing the cover for SUCH SWEET SORROW, which releases on February 4, 2014. Also find a link below to enter the giveaway for a paperback or an eBook copy!

 

On to the reveal!

SuchSweetSorrow-JennyTrout-cover

 

Blurb:

Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…But true love never dies. Though they’re parted by the veil between the world of mortals and the land of the dead, Romeo believes he can restore Juliet to life, but he’ll have to travel to the underworld with a thoroughly infuriating guide.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, may not have inherited his father’s crown, but the murdered king left his son a much more important responsibility—a portal to the Afterjord, where the souls of the dead reside. When the determined Romeo asks for help traversing the treacherous Afterjord, Hamlet sees an opportunity for adventure, and the chance to avenge his father’s death.

In an underworld filled with leviathan monsters, ghoulish shades, fire giants and fierce Valkyrie warriors, Hamlet and Romeo must battle their way through jealousy, despair, and their darkest fears to rescue the fair damsel. Yet finding Juliet is only the beginning, and the Afterjord doesn’t surrender souls without a price…

Goodreads/Amazon/Barnes & Noble/

 

Excerpt for Such Sweet Sorrow:

 

Prologue

 

Two figures, both alike in stature and purpose, ducked beneath a bridge in Verona. The swollen river made mud of its banks. The men slid and fought against it, their torches flickering.

“Let’s turn back, Romeo,” Friar Laurence urged, pushing down the hood of his rough brown robe. “Can we not let poor Juliet rest in peace?”

The younger man fixed his friend with a critical eye. “Peace? My Juliet knows no peace, only eternal torment. She took her own life, and that is my fault.”

They pressed on, Romeo’s steps becoming more determined the weaker his limbs grew. The poison that had incapacitated him, but not killed him, had ravaged his body. Tonight, he traveled farther beyond his father’s walls than he’d dared since the night he’d returned to Verona. Even though the prince had lifted his banishment, the streets still felt unfriendly. A truce had been called between Montague and Capulet there were plenty of young men who would like nothing more than to avenge their kin by killing Romeo.

Their destination lay far from the city center, in a small encampment of hovels beside the river. Faces peeked from behind tattered curtains as Romeo and Laurence traversed the narrow lanes between the dilapidated buildings, coming finally to the very wall of the city itself. It was at this border that they found the strega.

Her door was painted red, surrounded by talismans on long chains that hung from the recessed arch. Romeo ducked beneath a dried and crumbling chicken’s foot and brushed aside a crudely shaped metal eye.

“I go no further.” Friar Laurence backed away from the threshold, crossing himself. “Romeo, I warn you, this is a fearful path you tread. Your soul will be lost to darkness. You will perish in the flames of hell, I beg you not to do this.”

“I am already in hell.” Romeo pushed open the door and stepped inside.

The interior of the witch’s house was hot. It smelled of earth and the wood-like scent of herbs not used for cooking. A bent shape stood before the hearth, where a sulfurous cauldron bubbled. Romeo covered his nose and coughed.

“Ah, I was expecting a visitor this night.” The strega lifted her head, the veil of coins that obscured her face tinkling like fairy bells. “Your man of God could not dissuade you?”

“Nothing will dissuade me.” Even as he said it, his doubtful eyes took in the squawking black bird in the cage near the fire, the jars and bottles lining the shelves, murky objects floating in their slimy depths. “Benvolio told me you can communicate with the dead. He said you made him a charm to ward off attacks by ghosts.”

The strega shuffled across the room, her coins and jewelry clattering. She pointed a bony finger at a chair, and bade Romeo sit. “You are unwell. Poison, was it?”

“Poison, yes.” He could still taste the bite of it, still feel the stinging numbness in his veins. The physical evidence of it lay under his clothes, the dark stain of dying flesh spreading still, a little more each day. “Not enough.”

“That’s because you went to an apothecary,” the strega sniffed. “If you want poison to kill a man dead, you must see a witch.”

“I’ll… remember that. In the future.” Romeo clasped his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. “I came to you for knowledge of the dead. I will pay whatever it takes.”

“The price depends on the knowledge.” She rummaged through a trunk and produced a large, black bowl. Setting it on the floor, she reached into her clothes—it seemed she wore layers upon layers of tattered fabrics, in all shades and thickness—and withdrew a vial. The sight of it winking in the light caused something to recoil inside Romeo. Too recently, he had held a similar vessel.

Then everything had gone so wrong…

“What do you wish to know?” the strega asked, emptying the thick, black liquid into the bowl.

“My love, Juliet—” his voice trembled at her name, and he took a moment to repress his anguish.

“It was her you drank poison for.” The strega swirled the liquid in the basin. “I see her.”

“How do you know it’s her?” He leaned forward, peering into the dish. He saw nothing but his own reflection.

“The same as you know the sun rises in the east. I simply know.” She clucked softly behind her veil of coins. “Bound to you by the thread of holy matrimony. A secret wedding.”

Romeo swallowed back unexpected tears. “Yes, she was my… she was my wife.”

It still sounded strange to his ears. A wife was something an older man had, a man like his father. He could not imagine being so old. Perhaps that had been the poison’s cruelest jest, to let him believe his life would end in the vigor of his youth, only to return him with none of that youth left in body or mind.

“The young are foolish and brash.” The witch’s tone softened. “Black of hair, brown of eye. As fair as any maid from Verona.”

“Fairer,” he corrected her, his hand clenching to a fist. His nails bit into his palm as he struggled to hold back his tears. “Is she happy?”

The strega considered a moment, drawing one finger across the surface of the liquid. When she brought her hand away, it shone wet and red. “No. She is in despair. That is all I can see.”

His heart squeezed tightly. He couldn’t find his breath. He had hoped to hear that she was in a better place, as friar Laurence had assured him so many times. “There must be some way to assuage her grief. Some way to tell her—”

“Her eyes and ears are as closed as any dead woman’s. Whatever torments her will torment her for eternity.” There was no comfort to be had from the strega’s voice. She reached out one gnarled hand, palm up. “If that is all—”

“It is not all!” Romeo shot to his feet, placing his hand on the dagger at his side. He did not have the strength to use it, but the witch couldn’t know that. “You know dark magic. You can bring her back.”

Slowly, the strega unhooked her veil, letting the net of coins fall to her lap. Her face was as aged and withered as her hands. One eye protruded grotesquely, a milky blue, while the other, shrewd and black, fixed on him. “I no longer do such magic.”

“But it can be done?” Romeo asked, and when she nodded, he unsheathed his knife and prodded her knobby chin with the point. “Then you had better do it, witch.”

The old woman did not tremble in fear of him. She grabbed the blade and pushed it away; it felt as though he cut himself instead of her. He dropped the dagger and stepped back, cursing as blood coursed down his arm from the slice that split his palm. Faster than he could have anticipated, the old witch grabbed his wrist and jerked his hand over the basin, letting his blood fall into it.

“I no longer work such magic,” she repeated, swirling the blood in the bowl with her fingertip. “But there are others. To bring someone back, first you must find them. Are you prepared to walk with devils, boy?”

He nodded, his quick breaths flaring his nostrils.

“Are you willing to brave serpents and fire, to fight the keepers of the dead and hear ghosts speak?” She pushed his hand away. At once, the blood on his palm stopped flowing, and the wound sealed itself, burning with invisible fire. He gasped and clutched his hand, watching with horror as the old witch’s good eye rolled back in her head and she called out words he did not understand.

In the bowl, the liquid lightened, then glowed and turned an unearthly blue. A maelstrom formed in the shallow basin, and lightning crackled on its surface. All the while, the old woman chanted and howled, until the room filled with a spectral wind that seemed to originate inside the blue light. The bird screamed in its cage, and jars and bottles rattled and broke on their shelves.

The surface of the liquid rose in waves capped with frothy blue. As the peaks grew higher, the aquamarine light faded, leaving only a bubbling, roiling fount of blood rising as tall as Romeo himself. The burbling red took shape, into a form so familiar that Romeo at once recoiled from it and yearned to touch it.

His Juliet stood before him, or at least, the shape of her, frozen in blood, monochromatic crimson, but unmistakably her. Thick chains bound her across her neck, her waist, manacles clasped her wrists. Her eyes were the worst of all, open, bloody, blank and unseeing, yet somehow still accusing. Still hating him, for having let her go before him.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, his throat raw with emotion. He reached for her, knowing it a foolish thing to have done before his fingertips brushed her bloody cheek.

The vision of Juliet opened its mouth impossibly, terribly wide and a bone withering scream burst from her at the same time the vision burst, raining blood over the room.

The strega braced herself with her ancient hands on either side of the bowl, and lifted her head, the blood running in rivulets down her face. “You must go north. You will find the man who can help you there.”

“North?” He conjured up a map in his mind. “Grezzana?”

“Farther.” The strega pushed up from the floor, righting herself. She looked smaller somehow, more fragile than fearsome.

“Erbezzo?”

The eyebrow over her good eye arched in exasperation. “Farther. Farther than you have ever traveled. Over the mountains, to a castle by the sea. The seat of a murdered king.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off. “I know no more. In payment, I ask only that you never darken my door again.” She lifted the dagger from the floor. He reached for it, and she threw it, so that the blade stuck in the lintel. At once, her terrible, craggy face transformed, her skin going smooth and youthful, her spider web hair turning to glossy black silk. She narrowed her eyes, no longer milky but deep black, and pointed to where the dagger quivered in the wood. “Leave it. Let its absence remind you never to cross a sister of the fortunes again.”

When Romeo emerged, Friar Laurence rose to his feet, the worry that creased his brow relented only a bit. “I heard such howling, I thought you must surely be in the grips of the devil himself.”

“No devils here.” Romeo made no mention of the dagger. It embarrassed him now, to think he had threatened a woman so powerful. “To find those, I must go north.”

 

About Jenny Trout:

jennytrout author photo

Jenny Trout is a writer, blogger, and funny person.

Writing as Jennifer Armintrout, she made the USA Today Bestseller list with Blood Ties Book One: The Turning. Her novel American Vampire was named one of the top ten horror novels of 2011 by Booklist Magazine Online.

Jenny also writes award-winning erotic romance as Abigail Barnette.

When she’s not writing, she’s sleeping or otherwise incapacitated.

She is a proud Michigander, mother of two, and wife to the only person alive capable of spending extended periods of time with her without wanting to murder her.

Website/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads

GIVEAWAY!!!!

Isn’t that cover gorgeous? Want your own copy? I know I do! Follow this link to a giveaway from Entangled Teen for an ebook copy (international winners okay) or a paperback copy (US winners only) of SUCH SWEET SORROW!

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1cb554108/

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Just Made It! Book Necklace

Just Made It: Book Necklace

You can’t really read it, but the pages turn! This was my favorite book growing up. Necklace inspired by directions on twobutterflies as part of their “30 days for 30 dollars” craft challenge.

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Book Review: One Hot Knight by Christy Gissendaner


Title: One Hot Knight
Author: Christy Gissendaner
Genre: paranormal romance
Published: 2013
Rating: 3 ½ stars

Dog salon Regina’s had an…interesting day. While in the park on her break, she finds a stray Saint Bernard. He’s filthy and clearly hungry, but friendly—to her, anyway—so she decides to take him back to work with her to get him cleaned up and fed. Then she decides to sneak him into to her apartment, since his soulful eyes made her feel sorry for him. First, though, she needs to stop at the park again. He’ll need to be walked before being cooped up for the night. Except she no sooner gets him back to the park when he takes off at a run for the woods…and digs up an unusual jeweled collar.

Sir Yves Sucat has been a Saint Bernard for nine hundred years, thanks to a ticked-off witch named Maeve. His curse has an escape clause, though. Maeve’s apprentice, knowing Yves had been wrongly accused, used her own powers to create a magical collar that when fastened around his neck will turn him into a man again. Only it’s been nine centuries so far, and no luck yet. Until today; until Regina. But can he make the cure permanent? Or will he be cursed forever?

One Hot Knight was a cute story. I really liked seeing things from Yves’s perspective, especially when he was in dog form. He really enjoyed it when Regina first gave him a playful scratch under the chin at the park, for example:

His right leg gave an embarrassing jiggle as she continued scratching him. He hated when that happened.

Too funny—I never thought about how that reflexive action would feel from a dog’s point of view. Makes sense, though. And then there was his reaction to seeing Regina’s shop, Puppy Love:

Yves peeked inside the open doorway and froze. What self-respecting man, or dog, would willingly enter a shop decorated all in pink? Dogs might be color blind, but he was not.

He of course gives in—the combination of food, bath, and attractive woman being a bit too much for him, but there are conditions:

The bath was fine by him, but the first person who came at him with a ribbon or nail polish might draw back a nub. He hadn’t survived nine hundred years on the streets by giving up his masculinity.

Scenes like this were a hoot to read. The author obviously knows–and loves–dogs well! Yves had fortunately spent his time well since being turned into a dog—he was familiar with a lot of aspects of modern city life already, which made his transition easier. It was fun watching him adjust to walking on two legs again and trying to fit into Regina’s life and heart.

Some things in this book were a little too easy, though. There could have been a whole lot more drama and suspense—the confrontation with the witch, Regina and Yves’s declarations of love, their big moment at the dog show—it all felt a bit flat. At times while reading I felt like we were just grazing over the top of the story, glossing over the meatier bits.

Still, it was an enjoyable way to spend my reading time. I’ll be interested to see what Ms. Gissendaner writes in the future.

In a nutshell: a pleasant read with some very funny moments. 3 ½ stars.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Luck of the Dragon by Susannah Scott (Book one of the Las Vegas Dragons series)


Title: Luck of the Dragon
Author: Susannah Scott
Series: Las Vegas Dragons
Genre: Paranormal romance
Published: 2013
Rating: 4 stars

Dr. Luciana De Luca is a respected gemologist, in demand for her expert appraisals of gems and jewelry. She’s worked hard to put her family’s less-than-respectable past behind her. Except Joey, her twin brother, and his gambling addiction keep dragging her back….

Casino owner and King of the dragons Alec Gerard knows that Dr. De Luca was invited to his Las Vegas casino to appraise his brand new exhibit. So why has she palmed his keycard? And why does he feel such a primal connection to the human female? Surely she can’t be his destined mate—can she?

Luck of the Dragon is the first in Susannah Scott’s Las Vegas Dragons series, a series that definitely shows a lot of promise. I have read a lot of paranormals, but not many about dragons, and I am intrigued by the world that Ms. Scott has built here. She doesn’t spend too much time getting us bogged down in the details of that world, though, which is nice—we learn what we need to know gradually. Not everything is explained, but as this is first in the series, I’m assuming we’ll learn more as the story continues in other books. (I’m really looking forward to the next book, which has the amusing title of Stop Dragon My Heart Around—plus, the hero looks like Chris Hemsworth—bonus!)

This was a fun read. It had a really strong beginning. There was a lot to have fun with in Ms. Scott’s writing…like Lucy and Alec’s first time down in his vault, when he’s clearly attracted to her and she knows she needs to keep her distance:

Lucy scowled. “Let’s get something straight. I’m not interested in your private collection of obscure etchings…or anything else private you might have.”

“How do you know? The reviews on my, what did you call them…etchings are quite flattering.” Alec watched her face, liking the way heat flushed her pale neck, and her brown eyes snapped with annoyance.

“I am a gem appraiser. That is it.”

“But etchings can be so very stimulating.” Alec brushed her arm again, feeling the warm tingle in the tips of his fingers.

Alec’s wooing of his mate–once he decides she is his mate–was very steamy and sexy. Lucy didn’t believe him the first time he told her what he was—she thought he was role playing. It made for a very amusing—and hot—scene.

“You need to know that I am a dragon.”

Lucy’s jaw dropped, and a feeling not unlike the elevator vertigo made her wobble on her heels. “A dragon…”

“Yes.” Alec smiled, looking relieved. “I am a shape-shifting dragon. But, I have a human form.” He motioned to his body with both hands. “When we make love, it could be very intense.”

Lucy stared at him with her mouth open. He seemed sane. Her brain tried to process the information logically.

Alec Gerard thought he was a dragon…

Seriously?

Or was this some rich man’s way to push the envelope on sex?

“You want to role play as a dragon?” Lucy stepped toward him. She could try that, she guessed. Intellectual curiosity squeezed her brow, and she thought through what she knew of dragon myths. “Am I the medieval maiden then? Or am I the dragon, too?”

Alec laughed. The sound was low and mischievous, and it send a fresh cascade of anticipation through her body. “Definitely the maiden.”

All good stuff. Toward the middle of the novel, though, Lucy’s single-minded determination to “save” her brother got to be a bit much—Joey obviously didn’t appreciate it, nor did he deserve her devotion. At the beginning of the book I could understand her wish to save him, but once she finally bought into her emotional connection with Alec the fact that she was still okay with stealing from him to help her loser brother got to be a bit much. She eventually sees the error of her ways, thank goodness, though it does happen kind of abruptly. Still, it was a relief when it happened.

The novel too ended a little suddenly, but knowing that there are more to come that will continue the story helped. Not all the questions about the dragons and their ability to survive and thrive in Vegas were answered, so I’ll be on the lookout for book two for sure. The author’s website says “coming soon”, so fingers crossed….

In a nutshell: fun read, with only a few issues. I’m looking forward to the next book. 4 stars for entertainment value and series promise.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Fatal Justice by Marie Force (Book two of the Fatal series)


Title:
Fatal Justice
Author: Marie Force
Series: Fatal
Genre: romantic suspense
Published: 2011
Rating: 3 ½ stars

Fatal Justice, book two in the Fatal series, takes up Sam and Nick’s story right where Fatal Affair left off. Sam receives her promotion, and Nick is sworn in as the interim junior senator from Virginia. Nick’s about to close on a house just down the street from Sam’s dad’s, and things are looking up for the media’s latest golden couple.

So naturally, that would be the cue for everything in their lives to take a sharp turn, right?

Soon Sam’s investigating the murder of another friend of Nick’s—this time a Supreme Court Justice nominee. (Clearly it does not pay to be this guy’s close acquaintance. Hopefully he’ll be less closely involved with the victims in the rest of the series…otherwise, I say get yourself removed from his Christmas card list, people!) Oh, and the scene of a recent—and horrific—domestic disturbance might hold a clue to who shot Sam’s dad. Certain members of the press claim know something potentially damaging about Sam’s past. The senior senator from Virginia might not be too pleased with Nick. And’s that’s just in the first third or so of the book….

Fatal Justice was nonstop action, much like the first book. I enjoyed watching Sam and Nick’s relationship develop, and it was great to see most of the secondary characters from Fatal Affair back again. However, this one almost had too much going on—the hits just never stopped coming. On top of that, both Nick and Sam—but especially Sam—spent a lot of time in this one lying to each other; even though a lot of it was lies of omission, it still bothered me. Sam’s toughness—especially toward the end when she REALLY should never have left the hospital—felt too way over the top to be believed. (I might have rolled my eyes a time or two. Maybe–in between muttering What are you doing? Why? once or twice.)

Still, this is an enjoyable series. I’m taking a break from it for an audio book or two, but I’ll be back! I definitely need to see how Sam handles the aftermath of this book’s epilogue. J

In a nutshell: series remains strong, though I’d like to see a little less going on in future installments. A lot of fun, though! 3 ½ stars.

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