My Book Rating System

My book rating system is based on 5 stars. The book must be rated at least 3 stars for a review.

3 Stars: Good story, good plot, good writing.

4 Stars: I was wowed, but something about the story fell short of perfection.

5 Stars: I was either drooling, on the edge of my seat, or falling in love.

If you would like me to review your book, please contact me at

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: Dreamfever (Fever #4), by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning

Let me start by saying this:

What the hell did I just read?

I think I know what I read. I mean, I know what *happened*, I just don't know to *whom*...though my gut is leading me down a dark path of enlightenment, without a flashlight, or a candle, or even a match...and I don't like what my gut is telling me. This was the mudda of all cliff-hanging endings. Thankfully Marie's already written the next installment. Thankfully I already have it.

But I don't know if I want to know what happens next. OMG!

OK, I usually don't start with the ending, but obviously, this ending got to me. Sort of like eating desert before dinner, which people do. I've seen it. I've partaken in that delightful bizarro world of dining.

Anyway, I digress.

We start with Barrons bringing Mac back from the brink of insanity, because she was physically, emotionally and mentally brutalized at the end of Book 3. I didn't think it could be done...I thought at the end of Book 3 it was the end of Mac. I thought Marie was going to have to switch to someone's elses point of view because there was *no way* Mac could continue the story. Silly me. Barrons is the Shit, and he got the job done. His technique was rather, er, shall we say, unorthodox, but hey, Mac is Back.

In Book 4, we still had a tight, gripping read. Not a fast-paced grip like Book 3 (which I preferred, actually), but a slow-paced grip. Marie does a foine job of drawing her characters. One of my faves is Dani, a 13-year- old spunk of a gal, fast as a whip, loyal to the core, and the courage of a lion. She has a distinctive don't even need a tag line with know who she is.

No one annoys me more than Rowena. I like how Mac calls her "old woman" instead of by her name. I don't know if Rowena is dense, evil, or just plain selfish. I. Don't. Like. Her.

There's a lot of maneuvering in this book, and we see glimpses of the old selfish Mac. The Me! Me! Me! Mac. I'm not sure I like that Mac. I didn't like her in Book 1, and she was annoying me in Book 4. But maybe that's how all leaders are born...arrogant and selfish.

But damn, by the end, I felt sorry for the girl. She's lost it all. She's alone. She's raw.

I have to see what happens next! I can't wait to see what happens next!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sample Sunday: Kiss Me Dead

It's been a while since I did Sample Sunday...the rift started during the freak October storm when I lost internet for 2 weeks, quickly followed by a computer virus...still don't have the computer back, so "borrow" my work laptop on occassion to do stuff.

OK, so I have this new work in progress, an urban YA fantasy, that I'm just starting to peddle. I've also entered it in the Amazaon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It's nice to have something new under the old belt, a sense of accomplishment and a job well done, and all that. I'm now moving on to the editing process of Strong Blood, sequel to Fire in the Blood (#2 in the Last Moon Rising series). I'll get back to sampling Fire in the Blood soon.

So for this week, I'm posting a sample of Kiss Me Dead. Hope you enjoy.

Kiss Me Dead
Enslaved to the Goddess of the Underworld, Giltine, and addicted to her poison, half-reaper Christian longs to free himself from servitude and addiction. Enslaved to her phobic cocoon since witnessing a reaper steal her brother’s soul, seventeen-year-old Brooke longs to free herself from fear and phobia. When these two worlds collide, more than sparks fly, because there can be only one survivor.

Chapter One

Christian watched the dying girl, and did nothing.

Watery sprays shimmered in the moonlight from the girl’s flailing arms, and her fear chopped across the water like turbulent waves. Longing tightened his stomach. He dug his nails into his palms and, teeth clenched, turned his head away.

He despised his addiction.

Christian envied her and her release from this life. Not that he loathed life…he simply loathed the life he led. And though he yearned to walk away, he knew he wouldn’t. He would stay and watch her die.

And then take her.

Her flooded gasps saturated the night’s stillness and her head dipped below the surface. Christian crept from the trees that circled the lake, his movement stilted from cold. The iciness came from his bones, his marrow, his soul. He’d gone too long without a hit, and now he suffered.

Christian lurched over her discarded dress and stopped just short of wetting his boots. The lake was snow-melt frigid. He detested the cold, and the water, as all his kind did.

With a violent thrust, her body broke the surface. Christian’s short intake of breath followed him backwards. Wet moonlight clung to her breasts, and the mark on her cheek glowed like slick silver.

The girl’s hands slapped the water. She slid deeper into the shadowy lake, lifting her chin, but the water covered her mouth, sucking out one last, drowning breath before consuming her nose and fear-glassed eyes.

Still he watched, and did nothing to save her.

He rubbed his thumbs along his pants’ seams. Excitement tempted a tremble through his body. Soon she would come to him in death and defeat the decaying cold.

The girl’s stillness revived the nocturnal silence: the grinding cheeps of tree frogs, a distant owl’s chirruping hoot. Wooden docks crept into the water like skeletal fingers, and a red fox’s tail flashed lakeside. Moments later, like dust motes in a sunbeam, the girl appeared. Her skin shone with an ethereal glow, and her hair hung in damp ringlets. Christian could smell and taste Giltine’s poisonous mark on the girl’s cheek, so saccharine as to make his teeth ache.

Gods, how he wanted her.

He studied the drop of water that tickled her neck and trailed between her breasts. Biting his lip, he focused on the ground, trying to remain detached and unemotional as a proper reaper should, but he was also human. The girl might be dead, might no longer care about decency or modesty, but Christian believed in dying with dignity. He bent like an old man and scooped up her dress.

Put it on.” His voice squeaked like an adolescent boy’s.

The girl hesitated then took the dress. Christian averted his gaze until she’d slipped it over her head. The dress was old with a frayed hem and torn collar. Most of the buttons were missing, and it barely covered her nakedness. The loose flapper-style made her seem like a young girl, but he’d seen her nude, and her figure suggested she was one or two years older than him; maybe nineteen.

Christian slid a fingertip along the silver mark, sweet and sticky like icing on a hot bun, and then licked his finger. Giltine’s poison shot like bathtub gin down his throat and seared his lungs. His sigh bordered on a groan.

“Who are you?” She was pretty, with cat-green eyes, and hair that he was sure would lighten like honey when it dried.


She wrinkled her forehead. Her inner pain seemed to leak fragile tendrils that looped around his chest. Her soul wouldn’t open to him until he’d taken her to the underworld, but he could taste the earthy flavor of her confusion.

She turned to the lake. “I’m in there.” She smoothed her dress. “But I’m here.”

Christian hardened the anguish from his voice. “Only your body’s in the water, Mary. You don’t need it now.”

He tasted the first, metallic tang of Mary’s fear. She peered past his shoulder at the dark house tucked into the woods. Her fear increased, the taste pinching his tongue.

“I’m dead?”


“Oh, bugger.” Mary frowned at the lake.

A girl appeared on the porch of the dark house. Christian froze the air in his lungs, trying to melt into the shadows, while dead Mary wafted like smoke.

She stared at the girl and murmured, “I know her.”

Setting empty milk bottles by the front door, the girl tossed her light hair over her shoulder and slipped back into the house. Christian released the breath from his lungs. It was time to dust this place.

Mary’s poison-drenched soul made him dizzy with need, and he licked his lips. “Take my hands,” Christian said. “It’s your time.”

A pause, then warm fingers slipped into his. Christian closed his eyes, focused on that reaper essence deep, deep inside himself, and a tingling fizz burst from his core, enveloping him in an evanescent fog. He drifted into the darkness. He clung to Mary and her warmth, floating through time, not caring about the glacial space sweeping through him. He only cared about Giltine’s poison seeping from Mary’s fingers and touching the cold-rotted holes inside him. A shudder swelled along his spine.

His cells and muscles gelled, contracted, solidified. Time stopped flowing, and the air stilled. White walls loomed on either side, and behind them the dark-gray entrance to the underworld shimmered like a silken sheet in a breeze. Christian swallowed, trying to ignore the cries of souls lost in the void.

Mary clung to his sleeve. Her hair had dried. Not the color of honey, as he’d imagined, but the color of sunlight. It hung around her face in a tangle. Her soul cracked open, and her broken thoughts tumbled through his head:

It’s dark, and cold. I want to go home.

Not that Renkin slob.

Poor Izzy. Who’ll protect her?

Mary squinted down the tunnel. Christian knew that, for Mary, the tunnel held only darkness; the darkness of the unknown, the darkness of eternity.

Christian brushed her fingers. “Take my hand. I’ll guide you.”

Hand-in-hand, they crept forward. Giltine’s poison oozing from Mary’s hand teased him, made him dizzy, dried his mouth with longing. He wanted to take her, right there, but Mary needed to make the choice to climb the stairs and cross over.

It seemed an eternity before a marble staircase stretched upward and out of sight, licking the whiteness like a long, black tongue. Its hardened exterior was cracked and gouged from centuries of reapers and mourning and death.

Shadowy souls moved within the whiteness. Some stomped up and down the stairs, yanking their hair. Others crouched into recesses as though in hiding, and still others had settled on the steps to rock back and forth with their heads tucked under their arms. Christian’s head reverberated with their screams.

Like an ethereal ballet, reapers drifted among the pale shadows. Silver eyes glinted below dark hair, their black coats swirling a ghostly fog. Expressionlessly, they watched and waited for their next hit. Occasionally, a reaper would touch a soul, causing it to shudder.

Mary whispered, “Who are they?”

“The dark ones are reapers. The others are souls who are either undecided or lost.”

Mary squeezed his fingers. “Undecided about what?”

“Some people don’t want to take the stairs to meet their fate. They stop, or try to turn and go back.”

“Can they?”

“Not if they’ve been marked for death by Giltine.” Christian glanced at the silver mark on her cheek. He didn’t bother explaining that the others, the lost souls, were caught between life and death, lingering in the void until Giltine left her mark on their vacant bodies topside. Some unfortunate souls would be lost in the void for a very, very long time. Christian’s stomach clenched. He refused to dwell on that.

“Who’s Giltine?”

“Goddess of death. She marks people who are going to die so that reapers can usher their souls to the other side.”

“The dark ones frighten me.”

“Don’t be afraid. They’re merely guides.” Christian didn’t add that Mary was right to fear some reapers, the rogue reapers; but she was dead now, so none of that mattered.

Mary traced her bottom lip with her index finger and studied the stairs.
Christian tugged her hand. “Come on. I’ll be with you.”

Mary hesitated, and then let him lead her. They reached the top of the stairs, met by an iridescent-white wall that glimmered with rainbow streaks. The area was devoid of souls. Mary didn’t breathe hard, but to Christian the climb had been long and arduous. He needed a hit of Giltine’s poison very badly.

Reapers, attracted by Mary’s poison-drenched soul, skimmed behind them. Christian rubbed his chilled hands, and then took Mary by the chin. Tendrils of Giltine’s poison throbbed toward him like warm, seductive arms, holding him captive.

“It’s time.” He ran his tongue over his cracked lips. “Your mother’s waiting for you on the other side. You miss her, don’t you?”


Christian’s head snapped back.

Mary continued. “I can’t go. Who’ll protect my baby sister?”

He struggled to focus on Mary so he could answer in a hoarse whisper, “Your father.”

“No, he doesn’t know. That pill, Renkin, will come after her next.” Mary’s lips twisted over the name. She glanced down the staircase. “Who’ll protect Izzy?”

Christian reached for Mary, but she’d drifted away, her warmth receding.

“Will you?” Her eyes widened; so deeply green that if he stared too long he would become lost.

Christian turned away. He couldn’t promise her anything. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth when he tried to wet his lips. He’d promise her anything.

“Yes.” The word barely slid through his cracked lips.


Christian needed a hit. Now. “Yes.”

Mary’s mouth relaxed. The trust and gratitude that wafted from her eyes wrapped him in a warmth so foreign that he had to blink. Christian almost corrected the lie, but he couldn’t. He needed to take a hit, and the only way was for her to cross over.

“Thank you, thank you.” She took his hand in both of hers and kissed his knuckles. “I’m ready.”

Mary stepped into his embrace. Christian absorbed Giltine’s poison and the delicious, dizzying warmth. A small flash of light signaled Mary’s entrance to the other side. An explosion burst inside his chest and blossomed flowering heat throughout his body.

Christian tilted his head back and drifted in ecstasy.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: Finding My Escape, by Fran Veal

Finding My Escape
Fran Veal

17-year-old Hannah has suffered, and survived, a horrific trauma; a home invasion in which her parents were murdered. All that's left to Hannah are menmories, some scrap books, and a mysterious box. Hannah goes to live with her aunt in Tennessee, while her best guy-friend is moving to North Carolina. Now Hannah is suffering from life-like dreams where a hot, angelic guy likes her...except that these dreams appear to be following her into the daylight. And her nightmare follows her to Tennessee.

There are some very clever twists to this story. Looking back, there are subtle clues right from the beginning that heralds the ending twist. I like twists. Twists are almost as good as pretzels. I would take a few savvy book twists over pretzels any day of the week.

But, while this pretzel of a book flexed and twisted its plot...the dough-making process prior to baking didn't quite rise.

I felt like I was being told a story. I wasn't immersed. There was no emotion to draw from, other than what we were told the characters were feeling. This made the story read slightly flat. There was romance, but I didn't feel any cockle-warming...there was nothing to generate heat or friction.

Some plot points were a litrle weak. For example, we never quite know what her parents did for a living that made them an open target for murder...what they actually *do* is never really explained. The reason we're given for the murder has been done, and I'm not sure how her parents came across the information in the first place. Or maybe this was all glossed over quickly enough that I just don't remember.

I would have liked to have gone a little deeper into the characters. While like-able, there's nothing that had me rooting for them. Well, except maybe her best guy-friend, Matt. For some reason I couldn't help rooting for him. And I'm not quite sure what motiviated Jessie, the first friend Hannah makes in Tennesee, especially when she first meets Hannah. I was expecting something...I don't know...sinister maybe? But nothing ever really happened there.

Some of the dialogue didn't quite ring true for me. The transitions had to be kneaded a little more to make 'em smooth; there were some rough spot that caused confusion as to where my place was in the story line. Overall the story had that 'first book' feel to it.

The premise is cool and has a lot of potential. There's a whole other world that needs to be explored...though I'm not sure if Hannah can get back there. This is the first book in the series, so you can look forward to more writing from this author.

To purchase this book, go to:
You may also visit Fran at her website:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Faefever (Fever #3), by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning

I stood, crammed the page back in
my pocket,and pruned my dark thoughts in
the seedling stage before they could sprout.
Depression gets you nowhere but tangled in
the overgrown garden that can choke the life out of you.

Sometimes you go back and read a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, just for the clever beauty of it. Not because a sentence is tripping over itself to get its point across, or because you're lost in the point, or sometimes sentences are tossed out there with no point at all. Sometimes they're just so fecking clever, you want to read them again.

Now we're talking.

We're back to the streets of Dublin, where Mac is close to the Evil Book Thing that everyone wants. Because Mac has stuck her big toe in the dark side, she can now get close to the Evil Book Thing without completely passing out. She knows where the Evil Book Thing is, she knows who her sister's murderer is, she has new friends and new enemies, and the clock is ticking before the dark fae try to bring the walls between Mac's world and fae world down.

Like I said, now we're talking.

Unlike books 1 and 2, there wasn't a lot of mundane talk and page-filling slice-o-life-who-gives-a-fart-what's-the-point fillers...we are into the action. It starts from the beginning and takes you all the way to the end.

Oh, the end. I'll get to that in a minute.

Two Macs are battling to win the war against the fae; we want dark Mac to take control and kick some ass...and she does so nicely with a new ally by her side. She's keeping her options open; she has Plan Bs and Plan Cs. She's prepared and ready for the final battle to keep those dang walls up come Halloween, when the walls are at their weakest and the dark fae are ready to take 'em down.

And then all Hell break's loose.

There's betrayal.

There's death.

And then there's Mac, caught in the thick of it with no place to escape to. It's looking very bad for Mac. And the end...

Let's just say that while Mac is physically brutalized at the end of book 2, at the end of book 3 she's physicially, mentally, and emotionally brutalized. She's been broken. And I mean broken. One of my complaints about this series is sometimes the lack of detail, especially those climatic end-points where there's a battle, or fight, or something, and the author kindly skips those details because it's not lady-like or something. Lady-like, shmady-like. To me that's either a case of cowardice or lack of imagination. At least give one detail about what's going on. It's not like I'm into gore, but I need to have a peek at the badness. It's like driving by the scene of an accident and rubber-necking. We all do it even if we won't admit we're doing it. There's just base part of the human psyche that *needs* to look. So yeah, I admit it; I want to rubber-neck fights and the gore and the brutality in my books, too.

Whatever. It's just my opinion. Or maybe it's just me.

However, in a way I'm glad the author takes the easy way out in this climatic end-point; I'm not sure I *want* to know the details of what's done to Mac. My imagination can get the job done well enough, thank you very much.

Let me say this: I have no idea how Mac is going to pick herself up from this. I have no idea how she can go out and fight the good fight. I have no idea if she'll even survive. I have to wonder if that big toe that's dipped into the dark side will give her *something* to hang on to, something to fight back with.

I can't wait to read the next installment and find out!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: Bloodfever (Fever #2), by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning

In the 2nd installment of the Fever series, we find Mac still at the bookstore, still paired with Barrons, still out to avenge her sister's death, and still looking for the Book. The list of Mac's enemies are growing, including a group of sidh-seers, and one of those enemies has come back from the dead seeking revenge.

I like Mac so much better in this book. She's starting to peel away that glam exterior, she's starting to grow up, she's starting to think about more than herself and her hair and her clothes and her nails. While I like Mac better, Mac doesn't necessarily like herself better, and we see glimmers of the old Mac trying to push through. That's one changes overnight.

Unfortunately, for me, the total first half of this book was fairly mundane. Nothing significant happens, and I found myself hoping and praying we'd get a little action, some kind of substance to carry through what I considered a tedious start.

However, with that being said, the ending was riveting. Mac finds herself in a position where no one can save her from death. She finds herself in a very dark place with no strong male to save her. Not this time. And in order to save herself, she dips a toe into the dark side. Her purity is dilluted.

While on the brink of death, Mac learns what she's made of, and it's not glittery nails and pink skirts. There's another Mac inside her, and she's coming out.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's Time to Write

Okay, so most authors have day jobs. Some like their day jobs. Some despise their day jobs. Some simply tolerate their day jobs. But they all love to write. Which is why they do.

There's a lot of advice out there on writing process: seat of the pants, excel spreadsheets with timelines, plotting, outlining, index cards pinned to walls and bulletin boards and spouses' backs. Some say write a page a day. Or a chapter a day. Or an hour a day. Sometimes all you get out is a word a day. Some would advise to write every day. The list goes on.

I don't quite follow with the 'you have to write every day' mode of operandi, because life is life and writing is work. Yeah, we enjoy it, but it's still work. Could you imagine your boss telling you you have to work every day? No matter what? Even if it's only an hour? I'd tell him to pound sand. I'd tell him to sit on his job and twirl. I'd tell him to kiss my ass cuz that's all he's gonna see of me as I walk out that door. I have days off. I have vacations. I've gone *weeks* without writing sometimes just because I need the down time. I'm burnt. I'm toast. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

But not today.

So, you may be thinking, between working, and writing, and reading, and reviewing, and blogging, and laundry, and cooking, and cleaning, and grocery shopping, and chauffering rug-rats, and doctors appointments and sports events and practices, where the fwoop do I slice an hour out a day already busting at its 24-hour seams?

When you have the answer to that, call me.

I learned something the other day, and while it was a concept applied to my day job, I thought, why not apply it to writing? Not that the concept will be easy, because I still have to work, and read, and review, and blog, get it.

What I learned is that there is a certain time of day that people are at their most productive. Most people are most productive in the morning. Before you throw your coffee at me, I'm not saying as soon as you blink your eyes open morning, but after that first cuppa morning. Others could be at their best in the afternoon (not bloody likely, in my book), or at night. Only you can determine when you're at your best.

The trick is to turn off distractions during your most productive time. Turn off your IM. Turn off your phone. Turn off your email. Whether it be one hour, or two hours, or three hours, again is dependent on you. I like to use 2 hour blocks. During this productive zone, produce. That's all there is to it. Produce, with no distractions.

I'm an early bird. My production zone is the morning.

Twice a week, when I ride the bus to work, I get an hour production zone in the morning. I write the whole ride. I get the same hour on the way home, and while I'm not nearly as productive because my eyes are generally glazed and my brain is generally fried, I still write. Or try to. Sometimes I'm so fried I simply whip out the Nook and read. That's okay. I don't stress. I unwind.

I'm an early bird in a family of night owls. On the weekends, I get up well before the other laze-abouts. That's my time. I put off my cleaning (even though there are little eyes in my head eyeballing the dog hair on the rug, I try to ignore it); I worry about the laundry later; the grocery store isn't going anywhere; dinner is *hours* away. Here's the tricky part. Some distractions can't be turned off. Am I right? Yeah.

Today I arose at 6:30 because I got a list of crap to do: I desperately have to vacuum the dog hair off the rug, clean the house, do some laundry, bake lasagna for dinner, have 2 book reviews I still need to write up, resist cracking open the 4th book in a series that I'm just starting to adore (after staying up way too late last night to finish book 3) in order to start one of the 2 books that I need to read in the next couple of weeks to meet my review due dates, review my latest urban fantasy manuscript to send to an editor who just requested a read (yay!), and continue editing my 2nd novel in the Last Moon Rising series.

So after stoking up the woodstove and before I even get coffee going, I'm interrupted by my son puking his guts out. I stand in the kitchen, a silent witness to his misery. It goes on and on. And on. I squirm, I flinch (you know the sound effects), I give him a motherly pat on the back, make him rinse his mouth, send him back to bed with a bottle of water, but not before a little polite debate about the woes of being sick on a saturday and not a school day vs it's a good thing this happened on a saturday and not a school day. The coffee still needs to be made, but the dog needs to go out. Of course, she can't just do her business because it's snowing and running in the snow chasing birds is so much fun and she doesn't give a flying fwoop about production zones. Now it's 7:20. Stoke up the stove again. Get the coffee going (finally). And now I'm almost an hour into my production zone and, well, I haven't produced!

That's ok. Eveyone's back in bed, including the dog, and time is mine. I have my coffee. I have my laptop. I have my zone back.

It's time to write.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Life Blood, by Thomas Hoover

Life Blood
Thomas Hoover

Morgan Smyth James is a 38 year-old movie-maker who wants one thing: a baby. The problem is, she's invested years, time and money into the baby-making process, yet the cries she hears in the nursery are only in her dreams. So she sets off to make a movie about adoption, whereby she falls into a spiraling whirlpool of deceipt, betrayal, and conspriacy involving smarmy doctors and foreign military thugs.

I liked the charachter, Morgan, and though he doesn't play a largely active role in the book, I liked her boyfriend, Steve. The characters have depth, a down-to-earth real relationship, fraught with conflict and happiness.

But for me the book was long. Too long. The author could have cut a 1/3 from this book and had a smoother, better-paced read. Much of the first 1/4 of the book is filled with back-story and info dumps (this is where I would have taken out my axe and started chopping). Nothing slows down a story more than info dumps. To be honest, I just wasn't interested. I didn't care. The author even prefaced some of these info dumps by stating it was coming..."A little history here..." Beep, beep, beep! Take cover, the garbage truck is a'coming and it's unloading.

Also, and this may just have been to show off the author's technical prowess, but pages of movie-lingo was thrown about, complete with staff members' jobs and names...which would have been great if they had any bearing on the story. Most of them didn't. It just kept me flipping back pages to figure out who was being referenced. Most of these people disappeared before the mid-way point, so really, what was the point? None.

Even when the author hit stride and the story moved along at a rabbit's pace, little birdies would come along and peck at us, dropping little backstory tidbits that weren't necessary and interrupted pacing. And the constant internal questioning by Morgan had me hearing voices in my head. I wanted her to shut up and let me think for a minute. I can think for myself. I can ask questions while I'm reading. Don't feed them to me and please don't tell me what to think. I'd rather think something and be wrong. Red herrings, people, are what makes stories go round.

Speaking of surprises, this story was a little weak in that regard. 2 things struck me as being very transparent. The first was a betrayal. There was NO SURPISE regarding this betrayal. The author peppered the betrayal with broad hints. He may as well have just told us outright. This story would have been better served if the betrayal came as a complete and utter surprise. A face-palm to the forehead, I-never-saw-that-coming kind of surprise. I *want*, *long*, *wish* to be blindsided when reading. I would have loved that. Instead, I was more like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. No surprise there."

Second, I'd solved the whole medical mystery before the mid-way point. It was fairly transparent, so I wasn't nearly as surprised at the end as Morgan was. I guess when you're living the reality, things just aren't as in-your-face as they are to the reader. I guess when writing you should keep that in mind. I guess most readers are not so easily fooled.

Overall, the book wasn't a bad read, but it wasn't a great read either.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review: Blood Warrior, by H.D. Gordon

Blood Warror
H.D Gordon

17 year-old Alexa knows 2 things: she's pissed at her mother and her mother's rigorous training, and she would do anything to protect her sister, Nelly. She doesn't realize how important these 2 things are until her world comes crashing down and she's thrown into a dark world of the supernatural.

OK, there's one thing that's very hard to do, and that's find the right measurement of ingredients and combine them with just the right temperature to bake brownies (yes, I'm using a brownie metaphor for story). Most authors fall into one of 2 traps: either they start off too slow and don't draw the reader in until past the midway mark...their brownies are undercooked; or they start off too fast and don't find their story's groove until past the midway mark...their brownies are rock hard around the edges, with some good stuff somewhere in the middle. I myself have been accused of the latter, so I, unfortunately, am speaking from experience here. So has H.D. Gordon. It's very hard to find the right mix of ingredients to make the perfect brownie; you have to measure and mix those ingredients and find just the right temperature so that luscious brownie aroma lures you right from the beginning, traps you so that you can't stop at just one bite.

I will say this: the last 1/3 of this book was the shit; it was one good brownie.

The story started a little too quickly. It needed to slow down and help me see the surroundings, see the characters (especially Alexa), and immerse me into Alexa's world. Nelly was perhaps the most vividly drawn character, probably because we see her through Alexa's eyes and she's very dear to Alexa. But I have to admit I didn't have a good sense of Alexa. At one point, Alexa was thinking how a dress and a nice pair of shoes could make a girl happy (or something to that effect, I don't remember exactly), but I *do* remember stopping and thinking, "Wow, I thought Alexa was more a t-shirt and sweat pants kind of girl. I didn't know she liked to dress up!"

The other thing that I didn't believe about Alexa's character were 2 instances where she interacted with children. One of the driving motivators for Alexa was that she likes children and would do anything to protect them...and these are children she doesn't know personally. These are children she's just met. That's fine, but these two instances where she interacted with a child seemed contrived to me, as though they were inserted into the story to make me like Alexa. The first time this happened it seemed to come out of the blue, with Alexa "telling" us how she really like children. This aspect of her character wasn't developed enough to make it believable.

And yes, there was a lot of telling. If you've read my reviews, you know how I like visceral emotions, I like to feel what the character's feeling, I like stuff explained and described. Don't tell me a character is mad, or sad, or scared. Describe this to me. Make me feel it. Make me *believe* it.

With all that being said, this author hit her stride just past the midway mark. All of a sudden, I'm immersed in this new world. All of a sudden, H.D. Gordon found the right mix of ingredients to make this one kick-ass, delicous brownie. All of a sudden, I found myself interested in finding out what's going to happen to Alexa next. I couldn't eat up the words fast enough.

In fact, overall, I would call these brownies a success. The brownies, though hard around the edges, were delicous in the middle.

I look forward to more brownies from H.D. Gordon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: Dark Warrior: To Tame a Wild Hawk, by Lenore Wolfe

Dark Warrior: To Tame a Wild Hawk
Lenore Wolfe

This is a western/romance/supernatural type book...I'm not really sure I can pinpoint a specific genre. Mandy Kane inherits (sort of) her father's ranch upon his death...except that in order to keep the ranch, she must marry. One family, the McCandles, are out to get the ranch whether by threat, theft or marriage. Mandy wants to run the ranch herself, but in the old west it's unheard of to work for a lady rancher. So Mandy fabricates a fiance, a man she's dreamed about since she was a little girl. This dream man turns out to be a real man, Hawk, who is a white man raised by the Indians, and happens into town to help Mandy protect her ranch from encroachers.

I liked the characters in this book. In fact, the characterization was by far the best part. Mandy was strong and likeable, as was Hawk. She has a sweet best friend. Some of the minor characters could have been a little more developed in order to allow some of the story line to pack more punch, but overall, I liked the characters.

The plot and the writing, however, most times left me confused. In the beginning, there is a supernatural, dream-like reality going on, which interrupts the flow of the story. The supernatural, dream-like reality is not maintained throughout the story...whereas in the beginning it's quite heavy. And it's never fully explained what this dream-like connection is, though there are references to Mandy being a witch (however, I don't know if she's a real witch, or if that was just some nasty name-calling). And there's a dark shadowy type man (apparently with no face) who is able to shadow Mandy's powers...who or what he is I couldn't tell you.

I think I would have preferred this story to be in Mandy's POV only, as the focus was all over the place. At times I didn't know who was talking or acting or thinking. Also, especially with a romance, leaving the story in one person's POV (especially the girl's) leaves more mystery and suspense as to the conflict and tension with the partner. Some of that element of surprise is taken away when you know what everyone's thinking...for this type of story, I don't think you want that.

As for the romance, it left me feeling 'meh'. I like my romance to be fraught with tension and miscommunication (though the erotic scenes were nicely handled), and it has to be maintained through to the end of the story. While there was tension and miscommunication, it was always resolved almost immediately. And sometimes, I couldn't understand the basis of their conflict. They'd be mad at one another, and I had no understanding why anyone was almost seemed contrived in order to build a conflict that needed resolution.

Some of the dialogue, especially in the 2nd half of the story, rose to soap opera know, those tacky lines that no one would ever be caught dead uttering out loud and are so saccharine that you have to see the dentist to have the cavities filled from all that sweet talk.

So while the story started out with strong characters, the writing seemed to weaken (even more so than the befuddled beginning) around the middle, and the story quickly lost its "oompf" really couldn't be saved by strong characters.

At least for me.

So while the title leads you to believe a wild hawk needed to be tamed, he was tamed far too soon and far too easily.