Monday, August 26, 2013

Coastal Magic Featured Author Spotlight and Giveaway - Sandy Williams!

If you've been following this blog you probably know that I will be a Featured Blogger at the Coastal Magic Convention again this year (formerly called Olde City New Blood) and I'm really excited to meet more author and bloggers and have even more fun this year!

Coastal Magic Convention
Daytona Beach, FL
Feb. 6 - 9, 2014

Bloggers will be featuring the authors attending this con from now to the when the con takes place in February so keep an eye out for posts and giveaways from the Featured Authors over the next few months!

Today I'm featuring one of my favorite authors:

Sandy Williams

The Shadow Reader (Shadow Reader, #1) The Shattered Dark (Shadow Reader, #2) The Sharpest Blade (Shadow Reader, #3)

I asked Sandy to tell us the top 5 things she is looking forward to about the Coastal Magic Convention!

First, I want to say thanks so much, Christen, for having me on your blog. I am so, so excited to meet you in person! And I’m looking forward to this conference in general. It’ll be my first small, reader-oriented conference. I’ve been to the Romantic Times convention twice now, but that con is HUGE, and there are so many different genres represented there it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. I like that Coastal Magic Con is much smaller than that and paranormal oriented.

What are the other things I’m looking forward to? The top five are below!

1. Laser-tag: 
Is it wrong that this is what pushed me over the edge and made me decide to go to this conference? It’s silly, I know! But ever since watching How I Met Your Mother, I’ve wanted to play some serious, Barney-style laser-tag. I want to geek out on it and pretend to be all special-forces-y, which means, of course, that I’ll probably be shot within the first twenty seconds! (Oh, look! Laser-tag with me is sold out! *fist pump* Who’s doing it Barney-style with me? (Um, did that sound weird?))

2. Fangirling about books: 
I love books - which is probably a good thing since I write them - but in my real life, I don’t have any friends who love urban fantasy and romance fiction as much as I do. My husband is a reader, but he’s into the long, epic fantasy novels (which I am, too, I just don’t read them very often because I crave romance) Plus, the husband doesn’t really “fangirl.” *grin* A couple of my other friends read and enjoy books, but they don’t go crazy over them either. I’m dying to to talk about my favorite books with people who love them as much as I do.

3. Breakfasts with an Author: 
I signed up to be available for breakfast every morning, I think. It’s not just because I like to eat. I think it’s an awesome way to get to know readers, and for readers to get to know authors and each other. I might actually remember names this way! (I’m so horrible at remembering them.) As of right now, there are a few spaces left if you want to sign up for breakfast with me or with the other authors. (Register here:

4. Meet & Greets: 
I’m attending this conference to meet readers (and bloggers!), and that’s the thing I’m looking forward to the most. I love book people. I love hearing about what they’re reading, who their favorite authors are, and what they’re looking forward to reading next. It’s also nice to meet people who’ve read the Shadow Reader books. I’m always floors me when anyone tells me they’ve read it, and I do cartwheels (inside my head; otherwise, I’d most certainly break something).

5. Meeting bloggers: 
I loooove bloggers, and I’m pretty much fascinated by them. They get to read so many books, and they’re able to write about their impressions of those books in a thoughtful and entertaining way. If I wasn’t an author - and if I could write a review that wasn’t giddy, fangirl babbling - I’d be a book blogger, so I’m really looking forward to putting faces with names!

Thanks Sandy!

Enter to win your choice of one of the Shadow Reader books!
The Shadow Reader (Shadow Reader, #1) The Shattered Dark (Shadow Reader, #2)
US/CAN only.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Audio Review: Eye of the Tempest by Nicole Peeler

Eye of the Tempest
(Jane True #4)
Nicole Peeler
Release: August 1, 2011
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Buy at Audible
Nothing says "home" like being attacked by humans with very large guns, as Jane and Anyan discover when they arrive in Rockabill. These are professionals, brought into kill, and they bring Anyan down before either Jane or the barghest can react. Seeing Anyan fall awakens a terrible power within Jane, and she nearly destroys herself taking out their attackers.

Jane wakes, weeks later, to discover that she's not the only thing that's been stirring. Something underneath Rockabill is coming to life: something ancient, something powerful, and something that just might destroy the world.

Jane and her friends must act, striking out on a quest that only Jane can finish. For whatever lurks beneath the Old Sow must be stopped...and Jane's just the halfling for the job.

I knew going into Eye of the Tempest that it was readers' least favorite book in the Jane True series but I had to read it, right? I mean, its right smack dab in the middle of the series - had to be done. And readers were correct, this one does not live up to previous books. I didn't hate it, but I certainly didn't love it like the other books.

The beginning of Eye of the Tempest starts off great. All of the fun characters are back, there's the never ending sexual tension between the king and queen of 'will they or won't they' Jane and Anyan, and there's this exciting mystery to solve involving four locks that if opened will unleash something that will destroy most of the Eastern side of the country. 39% of the book was great fun in typical Jane True fashion. I was especially enjoying listening to Jane for the first time on audio and loving how the series' new narrator was portraying all Jane's snarky self comments perfectly.

And then I hit the 40% mark and everything went downhill. From that point on the story was mostly absent of all the engaging side characters and completely absent of Anyan. Really? We've been waiting FOREVER for Jane and Anyan to get together and now he's not even in more than half of this book?

The book then became all about Jane and Blondie. And I mean ALL. Almost every scene was just the two of them and the scenes Blondie wasn't in still involved her in some way. There was info dump after info dump of Blondie's history and the history of all of the magical folk and while all the information I was learning was extremely important to the story and the series, I began to find myself not even caring anymore because it was just being plopped on my lap nonstop.

While most of this book is not indicative of how fun, charming, and hilarious this series can be, it did have great moments. Like I said, the first one-third of the book is typical Jane. And Jane maintains her awesome inner thoughts throughout the book and some of the things she 'says' to herself are just ridiculously funny and clever. I love all the great words the author comes up with and Jane's balance of hapless and quick-witted. She's a great heroine and I just wish this book had done her and the whole Rockabill gang justice.

I will definitely continue this series, especially now that I have this book out of the way. I can't wait to see how all the characters respond to everything Jane has learned, but I especially can't wait for Jane and Anyan to GET IT ON. Enough teasing already.

Notes on the Audio: I hadn't bothered with this series on audio before because I did not like the narrator's voice in the samples. She sounded like a child, not like Jane True. But this series has a new voice now! Books #4 - 6 have this great narrator, Khristine Hvam, who does a spectacular job of bringing all Jane's snark and humor to life in a voice that sounds grown up, but is also true to Jane. I recommend checking out the audios for the second half of this series for sure.

Recommended for fans of: magical creatures, game changers, and pantsless satyrs.

  3 / 5 stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Tempest Rising (Jane True #1)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Early Review: Twilight Hunter by Kait Bellenger

Twilight Hunter
(Execution Underground #1)
Kait Ballenger
Release: August 27, 2013
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Hunters of the supernatural, the Execution Underground are an elite group tasked with protecting humanity...but what happens when danger collides with desire?

Jace McCannon has one loyalty: the Execution Underground. Despite his mixed blood, his hatred for the werewolves he hunts is legendary. But in his search for a sadistic killer, Jace finds himself face to face with a stunningly seductive packmaster…and longing for a night with his mortal enemy.

Nothing can stop Frankie Amato from defending her kind--or catching the rogue responsible for killing women in her territory. For that, this alpha female needs Jace’s skills more than she wants to admit. But as their investigation exposes evil truths, need burns into a passion that dare not be fulfilled. For to do so will have deadly consequences for them both…

Twilight Hunter is the first full-length book in the new Execution Underground series about the members of a system for policing the paranormal world. Each member is an expert on a particular paranormal being: werewolves, vampires, ghosts, demons, etc. There is also a prequel novella that I haven't read yet but it's on my list to read soon!

In this book we focus on Jace, the member of the Rochester area Execution Underground tasked with keeping the werewolf population in line. Too bad Jace is secretly half werewolf himself. Even worse, he's falling for a another werewolf, and she's kind of an important one. They have some incredibly steamy sexy times, despite the fact that Jace hates all werewolves and can't seem to just let that go and let himself fall for Frankie.

As far as PNRs go, this is a pretty good one. Jace and Frankie are both likable and well done characters, although I felt like Jace really got more filled out than she did. Their back and forth romance runs alongside the hunt for a serial killer who is killing young women in a very gruesome manner. I liked this dark edge to the story (I have no idea what that says about me...) and was really interested to learn more about the killer and his motives.

This is classic paranormal romance. PNR has traditionally not been my favorite genre because the predictability doesn't hold my interest the way some other paranormal genres do. So, even though I really liked this book and would for sure recommend it to other readers, I can't give this as high of a rating as reviewers who adore paranormal romance might. This was a good romance that kept my interest and I really like the whole world of the Execution Underground, but it follows many typical PNR tropes and several plot lines were pretty predictable. I'm giving it an extra half a star for the great twist toward the end that took the werewolf mythology one step further.

I wonder if the next in this series will still focus on Jace and Frankie and let us further explore Jace's abilities, since a lot happened at the end of the book that really does need to be explained and shown further, or if it will focus on another member of the Execution Underground. The author set up a very enticing romance between David, the demon expert, and a complicated love interest that I'd love to read  more about.

Overall this is a series I will continue despite my small hangups. Lovers of PNR will really find a great new series to adore here.

Recommended for fans of: paranormal romance, werewolves, BDB series, Eternal Wolf Clan series.

This review is based on an advance copy of the book.

  3.5 / 5 stars

This author will be at:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: Web of Lies by Jennifer Estep

Web of Lies
(Elemental Assassin #2)
Jennifer Estep
Release: May 25, 2010
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Curiosity is definitely going to get me dead one of these days. Probably real soon.

I'm Gin Blanco.

You might know me as the Spider, the most feared assassin in the South. I’m retired now, but trouble still has a way of finding me. Like the other day when two punks tried to rob my popular barbecue joint, the Pork Pit. Then there was the barrage of gunfire on the restaurant. Only, for once, those kill shots weren’t aimed at me. They were meant for Violet Fox. Ever since I agreed to help Violet and her grandfather protect their property from an evil coalmining tycoon, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m really retired. So is Detective Donovan Caine. The only honest cop in Ashland is having a real hard time reconciling his attraction to me with his Boy Scout mentality. And I can barely keep my hands off his sexy body. What can I say? I’m a Stone elemental with a little Ice magic thrown in, but my heart isn’t made of solid rock. Luckily, Gin Blanco always gets her man . . . dead or alive.

Web of Lies is the second book in Estep's Elemental Assassin series, a dark urban fantasy following Gin Blanco. I listened to the first in the series on audio and loved the narrator, but I had previously purchased #2 and #3 for my Kindle during a sale so I'm being fiscally responsible and reading those two rather than listening.

The darkness in this series comes from Gin's long time job as an assassin and, unlike other books where the assassin has a heart of gold or something equally as unlikely, Gin does her job with little apology for who and what she is. While others might call Gin's character unlikable, I find it refreshing to have someone like Gin in the urban fantasy genre. Often UF sees heroines that go out of their way to not kill the bad guy for whatever reason. Gin's plan at the beginning is often, "I'm going to kill him. We just need to figure out how.".

Now that's not to say Gin doesn't have a heart or anything like that. She doesn't kill children or upstanding citizens and her loyalty to her friends and those she considers family trumps everything else. She often doesn't even realize the good deeds she's doing for others. She's a very damaged yet strong woman and she is super complicated. I'm excited to learn more about her and see more of her as the series goes on.

Police detective Donovan Caine is back in this sequel and man does he make me mad. Estep writes him sexy as hell, but he just can't get over what Gin is. At least we get some hot sex out of it, but Donovan emotionally hurts Gin in ways we don't see anybody else hurting her and these encounters also help to peel back Gin's layers a little bit and let us understand her better. In this book we meet another hottie, the charming Owen Grayson. Dare I say it...I smell an alternate love interest to Donovan Caine? God I hope so. I look forward to where things will go between the two of them in future books.

We get to see more of Gin's abilities with magic in this book as well. Even though she is an elemental, she doesn't rely on those abilities to do her work and actually, we barely saw her use her powers in book one. I wanted to learn more about what she can do and in Web of Lies we do learn a little more about Gin's elemental powers.

If you're into rich world building you will also find a home in the Elemental Assassin series. I find myself thinking about this world even when I'm not reading the books because its so realistic and well thought out. Reading an Elemental Assassin book is like being in Ashland.

I highly recommend this book and series to lovers of urban fantasy who enjoy darker material.

Recommended for fans of: dark UF, the Downside Ghosts series, damaged unapologetic heroines, hot car sex, elemental magic, and foodies.

  4 / 5 stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Spider's Bite (Elemental Assassin #1)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure
(Blood of Eden #2)
Julie Kagawa
Release: April 30, 2013
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Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.

The Eternity Cure is the sequel to last year's incredible series debut,  The Immortal Rules. The series focuses on Allie and her life as a newly turned vampire in her dystopian world. Rabids run wild, like super speedy zombies on PCP, and towns are organized into almost-kingdoms where vampires rule and humans either serve the vamps and offer their blood or they live like the homeless, barely scrapping by.

At the end of the previous book, Allie had left her human friends in the care of the people at Eden and taken off to find her mentor, Kanin. In The Eternity Cure, Allie is doing just that, searching high and low for Kanin and the insane vampire that took him. This one doesn't have that same 'hold your breath' quality that the first book had, due to the fact that in that book Allie was hiding her vampirism from her new human friends. In this book Allie is still coming to terms with what she is, but she's learning how to be a true vampire to her core.

The strength of both of the books in this series so far has been Allie and her inner struggle with accepting her new self. Allie is one of my all time favorite young adult heroines because she doesn't fall victim to the typical tropes of YA. She doesn't overlook the obvious, she doesn't fall head over heels for a cute guy and profess her love within the first day, and she is extremely smart and independent. She is a great role model for teens, but she is also complicated enough for adults to appreciate.

Zeke is back in this one as well. I won't tell you the conditions of his return, but you knew he had to be in this sequel, right? Of course! He is human to the end and has some serious issues with Allie being a vampire. That said, he still sees her for who she really is and and helps Allie better understand herself. They're a great pair.

The Eternity Cure ends with quite the cliff hanger, I'll let you know that right now. You will be staring at your book with lots of angsty feels when you get to the final page.

This is a terrific series, with a perfect combination of vampire, dytopia, ass kicking, and romance. I can't wait for the next installment, set to release in 2014.

Recommended for fans of: dystopians, vampires, strong heroines, and ass kicking with a katana.

This review is based on an advance copy of the book provided by the publisher. 

  4 / 5 stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Review: Wicked As She Wants by Delilah Dawson

Wicked As She Wants
(Blud #2)
Delilah Dawson
Release: April 30, 2013
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When Blud princess Ahnastasia wakes up, drained and starving in a suitcase, she’s not sure which calls to her more: the sound of music or the scent of blood. The source of both sensations is a handsome and mysterious man named Casper Sterling. Once the most celebrated musician in London, Sangland, he’s fallen on hard times. Now, much to Ahna’s frustration, the debauched and reckless human is her only ticket back home to the snow-rimmed and magical land of Freesia.

Together with Casper’s prickly charge, a scrappy orphan named Keen, they seek passage to Ahna’s homeland, where a power-hungry sorceress named Ravenna holds the royal family in thrall. Traveling from the back alleys of London to the sparkling minarets of Muscovy, Ahna discovers that Freesia holds new perils and dangerous foes. Back in her country, she is forced to choose between the heart she never knew she had and the land that she was born to rule. But with Casper’s help, Ahna may find a way to have it all….

Wicked As She Wants is the second in the Blud series, a unique steampunk paranormal romance. While this one doesn't have the same magic as the first one, this series continues to be a fun and unusual diversion from the typical PNR and I recommend readers check out the series for something a little different.

At the end of Wicked As They Come we were unsure of Casper's whereabouts, only that he was no longer with Criminy's circus caravan. In Wicked As She Wants we follow Casper as he meets Ahna and the two travel a long distance to Ahna's home of Muscovy. Casper is a famous musician but he's pretty down on his luck. We find him drunk and performing in a lounge. Casper is also still drinking the blood of Bludmen in order to keep himself from becoming the one on the menu, but he's getting close to the point where he must drink the blood to keep from going mad or make the full transition into a Bludman.  Casper takes care of a human girl named Keen, who is a smart ass street kid that I liked but didn't really feel was that important to the story as a whole. I could have taken her or left her, so to speak, but she was a snarky little addition.

Ahna is an interesting character. I think, for me, she was the reason I didn't find this story as remarkable as the first of this series. In Wicked As They Come, the story is told from Tish's point of view and she was an extremely likable character, very easy to relate to. In Wicked As She Wants, Ahna narrates the story. Ahna was difficult for me to connect with. She's often described as being very tiny and frail looking, she's kind of cold, and quite often she's just plain bitchy. Even well into the book she's still flaunting her royal status in Casper and Keen's face. I just had trouble seeing why the charming Southern hottie, Casper, would fall for her. This took me out of the romance a little. Many other reviewers have had no problem loving Casper and Ahna together so perhaps this is just my issue.

Casper and Ahna's journey is long and the reader gets to see much of the steampunk, alternate world of Casper, Ahna, Criminy, and Tish. The more we see of this word the better. The treatment of the Bludmen varies from location to location so that was interesting to read as well. I especially enjoyed seeing Ahna's home of Muscovy, an alternate form of Moscow, and the ball at the story's end.

This is a great series for readers who need a little diversion from the typical paranormal romance. Even though this one was no Criminy and Tish, it still had some great romance and, of course, Casper.

Recommended for fans of: steampunk, romance, dirigibles, Casper, unusual interpretations of vampires, and tiny women.

This review is based on an advance copy of the book provided by the publisher.

  3.5 / 5 stars

My reviews of other books in this series:
Wicked As They Come (Blud #1)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: Midnight Frost and Spartan Frost by Jennifer Estep

Midnight Frost
(Mythos Academy #5)
Jennifer Estep
Release: July 30, 2013
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Here we go again …

Just when it seems life at Mythos Academy can’t get any more dangerous, the Reapers of Chaos manage to prove me wrong. It was just a typical night at the Library of Antiquities — until a Reaper tried to poison me. The good news is I’m still alive and kicking. The bad news is the Reaper poisoned someone else instead.

As Nike’s Champion, everyone expects me to lead the charge against the Reapers, even though I’m still hurting over what happened with Spartan warrior Logan Quinn. I’ve got to get my hands on the antidote fast — otherwise, an innocent person will die. But the only known cure is hidden in some creepy ruins — and the Reapers are sure to be waiting for me there …


Midnight Frost is the fifth book in the Mythos Academy young adult series. This is a terrific addition to this fun series and I appreciate how recent installments have been slightly darker and more serious with plots that break away from the pattern of the first three books. Estep is really in tune with her characters now and while some still remain slightly flatter than others, the ones that count are fully realized and easy to relate to.

Our heroine, Gwen Frost, is one of these relatable characters. One of my complaints about Gwen from the first two books - the plot device that she overlooks the obvious in order to keep the story moving along - is no longer an issue. Gwen is a completely likable YA heroine that I can relate to and rally behind. Sometimes in a YA book its not believable that the heroine would actually be a heroine, but the Mythos reader can understand why Nike would choose Gwen to be her Champion. Plus, her psychometry power gets cooler with every book in the series.

Logan freaking Quinn, as Gwen likes to call him, was absent from most of this story, so I was thankful that he got his own novella, which I read just prior to starting this book (see more on the novella below). Logan and Gwen together are YA genre gold and like Gwen, he is an extremely affable character. You hurt right along with him as he tries to heal from the emotional scars stabbing your girlfriend in the chest while possessed must leave.

This book is different from previous installments in that here the Mythos gang is on a specific mission for most of the book, and they know this mission will bring them to the Reapers. This is as opposed to earlier books where the gang was going about their life and Reapers intervened. The 'mission' aspect is a nice change of pace and I enjoyed everything that came with it - a new setting, some new characters, and gryphons (especially the gryphons)!

I love this series and where its going. Mythos Academy is the perfect balance between dark and funny and the mythology is always deeply interesting. I highly recommend the series as a whole, and Midnight Frost especially!

Recommended for fans of: mythology, gryphons, young adult adventures, snarky swords, and goddesses.

This review is based on an advance copy of the book provided by the publisher.

  4 / 5 stars

Notes on the novella: Sometimes I don't bother with novellas in the series I read, but Spartan Frost focuses on Logan following the events at the end of Crimson Frost when he was possessed by Loki and almost killed Gwen. I felt like this would be an important novella and I was right. Not only do we get a bit of a Logan fix, which I'm glad for since he is not in a huge chunk of Midnight Frost, but we get inside his head. We also get to better understand the dynamic between Logan and his father and Logan and his father's team. I recommend reading Spartan Frost prior to Midnight Frost. Its a very quick novella that can be read in one sitting.

Spartan Frost (Mythos Academy, #4.5)

This review is based on an advance copy of the book provided by the publisher.

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