Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Caline Conspiracy by M.H. Mead

The Caline Conspiracy
by M.H. Mead
Publisher: Ion Production
Genre: Adult Science Fiction/PI
Purchase: Barnes and Noble/Amazon

Calines are the perfect pets. Smarter than border collies, playful as otters, elegant as cats, calines have been genetically engineered to be everything a pet owner could want.
Except that they might kill you one day.
The world is shocked when geneticist Ivan Frithke is murdered, and his own pet caline, Madeline, is the prime suspect. Is this an isolated case, a flaw in the calines’ design, or something more? The widow doesn’t believe her darling could kill, and hires PI Aidra Scott to prove Madeline’s innocence.
Aidra wants nothing to do with animals—genetically engineered perfection or not. Losing her beloved Doberman was so painful that she’s sworn off pet ownership forever. But the more she investigates, the more Aidra becomes convinced an innocent animal is being framed, and murder is only the beginning of the conspiracy.(synopsis from Goodreads)

The Caline Conspiracy by M.H. Mead is a science fiction novel, set in the not so distant future of Detroit. Mead spins an intriguing tale of suspense and mystery as her protagonist, PI Aidra Scott, sets out to prove a genetically created pet is innocent of a vicious crime. She captured my attention from the first few pages and I consumed this in one evening.

The tale begins when geneticist Ivan Frithke is found murdered. His pet Madeline, a caline, is the prime suspect. The police believe this to be an open and shut case. The widow however, doesn’t believe sweet Madeline is capable of such a deed. She begs Aidra Scott to take on the case. While desperate for the income, single mom and PI extraordinaire Aidra, wants nothing to do with any case involving animals. After losing her Doberman, Nutmeg, she cannot stand to be around them. The widow dangles more money. The current creator of the caline raises her suspicions, when he doesn’t want her investigating. Curiosity takes hold and she finds herself in the middle of things. The tale that unfolds is fast paced and filled with twists. The more Aidra investigates the more she is convinced something sinister is afoot.

Mead presents some interesting characters. Aidra tries to be a hip mom to her teenage son, and is very inquisitive. She has made a career for herself as a somewhat successful private investigator. She has issues but isn’t afraid to face things head on. I adored Morris, her computer hacker and would love to read more about him. He was hilarious and his use of technology was smashing. Other characters were; Jon, Aidra’s son, her sister Quinn, Tawny a teenage girl and members of the Caline Company. We also meet Edo a scientist and developer from a rival company. They make Pericats a genetically engineered pet.  Aidra and Edo share an awkward scene when she is exposed to one of the pericats.

The tale and world that Mead creates had elements that reminded me of old dime store detective novels and steampunk. In this futuristic world there are holographs,everything is wired and science is on the cusp of new inventions. Genetics is a huge industry and a controversial one. Caline and its competitor Pericats are creating the perfect pets and are involved in some ground breaking advancements in cell manipulation. Meanwhile, picket lines are forming and sides are being drawn. The US has banned most procedures, causing citizens to travel to Canada for treatments. While delivering a mystery, Mead raises questions about the advancement of science. This would make a great club read as it begs for discussions. This novel wasn’t without flaws. I questioned some of the story-line and teeter between wanting more information or thinking scenes should have been cut. The writing style was good, and the tale was well paced. 

I would recommend the Caline Conspiracy to fans of science fiction and PI mysteries. This was an easy and entertaining read. M.H. Mead has also written; Fate’s Mirror and Good Fences. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I want to thank the author for providing this finished copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

I gave this novel 3 coffee cups out of 5. 

M.H. Mead

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Unholy by Heather Graham

The Unholy
by Heather Graham
Series: Krewe of Hunters #6
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: June 26, 2012
Genre: Adult Paranormal Suspense/Mystery/Crime
Purchase: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository

A Hollywood shrine hides unholy deeds The 1940s: hard-boiled detectives and femmes fatale are box-office gold. In one iconic scene, set in a deserted museum, the private eye arrives too late, and the buxom beauty is throttled by an ominous Egyptian priest. Now: the Black Box Cinema immortalizes Hollywood's Golden Age in its gallery of film noir tributes. But the mannequin of that Egyptian priest is hardly lifeless. He walks-and a young starlet dies a terrifying death. Movie mogul Eddie Archer's son is charged with the grisly murder. Eddie calls agent Sean Cameron, who specializes in...irregular investigations. As part of an FBI paranormal forensics team, Cameron knows that nightmares aren't limited to the silver screen. Working with special-effects artist Madison Darvil-who has her own otherworldly gifts-Cameron delves into the malevolent force animating more than one movie monster....(synopsis from Goodreads)

The Unholy is the sixth novel in Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunter series. Each of her novels follows a special unit of the FBI that solves difficult cases utilizing paranormal gifts. All of her novels can be read as a standalone. They each deal with one member of the team, their love interest and a new case. Unholy was a fun read involving a closed room murder, the ghost of Humphrey Bogart and an old Hollywood Cinema. I quickly became swept up in this tale, and was surprised when the murderer was revealed.

The tale begins when a murder occurs at the Black Box Cinema and the owner’s son is arrested for the heinous crime. Owner, Eddie Archer pulls every favor he has in Los Angeles to help clear his son’s name. He contacts former special-effects employee and friend Sean Cameron. Sean is now a member of the FBI’s special unit; Krewe of Hunters. He and the rest of this unusual team have recently finished their FBI training. Sean arrives a day ahead of the team, and Archie introduces him to Madison Darvil. She is a trusted employee and special effects artist. He puts Madison in charge of showing Sean around the cinema. The tale that unfolds was both delightful and creepy as we searched for clues to solve this murder.

Sean Cameron is a sweetheart. He is smexy, protective and sensitive. His back-story will delight you, and I found him to be completely swoon-worthy. He is a talented special-effects artist, and one heck of an FBI agent. His training and special abilities help him as he works to clear a man’s name, protect Madison and prevent another murder. Madison Darvil is talented, kind, head strong and lives with the ghost of Bogart. Yep, movie icon Humphrey Bogart watches television and chats with Madison in her bungalow! Their interaction was hilarious. At the age of six her best friend died and appeared as a ghost. She shared this experience with her mother. That experience taught her to never talk about her anyone, ever! While happy in her career she is lonely. Living with this secret and having Bogart around (who likes to sit in the living room when she entertains perceptive dates) doesn’t do much to help her non-existent love life. The rest of the Krewe team is there, but they work strictly on the case as the tale focuses on the murder, Sean and Madison. Graham gives us a great array of characters as suspects from an actor to a costume designer. She provides characters that scream guilty; like Archie newest wife. I wanted to slap this woman and then turn around and slap the loveable Archie for falling for a woman like this..eek gads!

The case is a good one. It features a favorite mystery classic; a murder within a closed room. I loved the setting of the old movie theater and the back history to the old black and white movies. I found the whole thing intriguing. Graham shows us the killer in costume and it is quite frightening. She reveals bits and pieces of the murderer’s psyche. As Cameron, the team and Madison piece together clues I became completely enthralled with the tale. I pieced together parts and totally failed on the masked killer. The romance is secondary to the mystery which is one aspect I appreciate in Graham’s tales. I get great suspense and a couple who I end up believing in and rooting for. There is some sexual content in this novel, but Graham has a talent for providing heated scenes that are all implied.

I highly recommend The Unholy to fans of paranormal mystery and suspense with a side of romance. Heather Graham is one of my favorite authors in the mystery/suspense genre and I encourage you to check out her other work. My personal favorite is her Bone IslandTrilogy. I look forward to the next two novels in the Krewe of Hunters series due out this summer. They are The Unspoken and The Uninvited.

I want to thank Harlequin and netGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.

I gave this novel 4.5 coffee cups out of 5. 

Reviews of earlier Graham novels on my blog:

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Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly meme
 hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine
It's a chance to spotlight books we are eagerly anticipating.

The Hiding Place
by David Bell
Publisher: Penguin 
Publication date: October 2, 2012
Genre: Adult Fiction/Suspense/Thriller

A shallow grave holds the deepest secrets in the new suspense novel from the author of Cemetery Girl .
The twenty-fifth anniversary of her brother's disappearance and murder has Janet Manning on edge—especially when a detective and a newspaper reporter start asking questions, opening old wounds and raising new suspicions. Soon, years of deceit will be swept away, and the truth about what happened to Janet's brother will be revealed. And the answers that Janet has sought may be found much closer to home than she ever could have imagined...

I am super excited about this new novel from David Bell. I read Cemetery Girl last year and loved it! You can see my review here. David has a gift. He quickly draws you into the story as he weaves mystery and suspense into his tale. This is a standalone novel and I am hoping to bring you an early review of it!

What book are you waiting for?
Leave me a link :)

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Heven and Hell Blog Tour: Charade

I am super excited because we have Cambira Herbert author, of the Heven and Hell series, joining us on the blog today. She is going to share an excerpt from Charade and I am showcasing the newest book in the series. 
We are also giving one lucky reader the entire eBook series of Heven and Hell...How cool is that? Uh oh..guess maybe I should have mentioned that particular pot of coffee has triple the caffeine. Cambira seems excited to start!

Hello everyone!!! *waves*
I am so glad to be here today! I am all caffeinated up and ready to go!*bounces in chair* For today’s tour stop on the Heven and Hell Tour: Charade, the wonderful Kimba has agreed to do a series showcase and share an excerpt from Charde (Heven and Hell #2) with you!!!

Here is the series at a glance:

Before (Heven and Hell #0.5) – A novella detailing what Heven was like before she met Sam, before she was scarred and before her life changed forever.
Masquerade (Heven and Hell #1) – The first novel in this series. Heven is disfigured, her self confidence shattered and she can’t even remember what happened to her. She is a mere shell of who she used to be and everywhere she goes she feels like she is being watched. Because she is. Sam comes along with his whiskey colored eyes and raspy voice and makes her feel things she thought she never would. But Sam has secrets. Dangerous ones.
Between (Heven and Hell #1.5) – A novella dedicated to a new, puzzling character that arrives at the end of Masquerade. Logan is Sam’s brother and he also might be trouble.
Charade (Heven and Hell #2) – The second novel in this series. Heven’s stalker might be out of the picture, she and Sam might be stronger than ever, but so is the danger. Witches, demons and even a dragon appear in this novel and they are all after the one thing Heven and Sam are trying to return to Italy, to its rightful place. New characters, new enemies, new betrayal. You decide who is real and who is putting on a Charade.

Excerpt from Charade
(Note: If you haven’t read Masquerade this excerpt contains spoilers)
*    *   *
I parked the car on a patch of grass shaded by a large tree and hurried to turn off the engine and shove the keys into my bag. I shut the door behind me and turned to face the little shack, my eyes already seeking Sam’s smile. He was down by the water watching a couple in a boat paddling out of sight. He turned slowly, drawing out my anticipation and making my heart thump unevenly.
We were staring at each other from across the soft expanse of bright green grass. My heart stopped altogether and a delicious warmth curled my toes and spread up, restarting my heart when it reached my chest. I raced forward, desperately wanting to close the distance between us. He was faster of course, reaching me in seconds, picking me up and swinging me around before catching me in a huge bear hug. I laughed. He squeezed harder and I squealed. He chuckled, planted me on my feet, and looked down.
I was nervous that he might not like my new style, but then I realized that I did and my nerves fell away. I smiled confidently as he slid his fingers through my locks and tugged at the corner of the side-swept bang. “I didn’t think you could get any prettier.” His voice was deep and raspy and it raised tiny goose flesh along my skin. “But you did.”
I grabbed his wrists and kissed him, standing up on tiptoe to press myself as close as humanly possible. I missed you this morning.
Me too, Hev. Me too.
Suddenly, he pulled back, breaking off our kiss. I pressed my lips together, trying to make it last just seconds longer. “You were with Cole?”
My eyes shot up to his at his accusatory tone. “Yes… no.” I shook my head trying to banish the haze of fog his lips left in my head.
He crossed his arms over his chest and stared at me. I glanced just beyond his shoulder, my eyes landing on a fish jumping in the lake. “I wasn’t with him. I just ran into him in the parking lot of the hair salon.”
His whiskey-colored eyes narrowed and I felt his anger.
“How did you even know?” I mumbled. I didn’t like when he got mad at me and I looked away again. The water was still rippling with the force of the fish’s jump. Must have been a big one… yet, it hadn’t really looked like a fish, in fact, it looked like…
“You smell like him,” Sam said, his voice hard, drawing me out of my thoughts and tugging my eyes back to his face. “What was Cole doing at the hair salon?”
“Getting a perm and some highlights.” I giggled. Sam didn’t seem amused. I let out an exasperated breath. “He works at the grocery store next door!” I demanded. Who cared anyway? Sam let out a gruff sound and then muttered something about Cole always being around, but I wasn’t listening. I was staring at the water again. Something wasn’t right.
Something was slithering closer to the shore, and the way it moved along the surface of the water half-in, half-out was creepy and odd. I watched as its long tail propelled it faster. Its skin was bumpy and green like a crocodile’s. Except we didn’t have crocodiles in Maine. “Sam,” I whispered, but Sam was still muttering and making noise about Cole.
I watched as the thing rose completely out of the water, standing on two legs, and I gasped. In one fluid motion, Sam turned, tucking me behind him. I thought I heard him sigh before his back went ramrod straight and his body began to quiver.
I peeked around him to look. It was a crocodile. At least half of it was. The other half was a man. From the waist down, the crocodile man was green and scaly with a long, curving tail and wide feet tipped with sharp claws. From the waist up, he had skin that was olive toned and shiny with slime. His fingers were gnarled and crooked, and he didn’t stand straight, but hunched over like his short reptile legs couldn’t support his weight. His face was more disturbing than his half-man, half-reptile body. His nose was overly long and hooked, and his eyes were a flat-black color that stared at me with a surprising amount of hatred, considering how vacant they looked. His skin was not smooth, but rough, suggesting scales where there were none. He had no eyebrows. In fact, he had no hair at all and his aura was white.
All these things had white auras.
The absolute worst color an aura could be.
“Go hide in the office,” Sam told me, not taking his eyes off the advancing creature.
I stifled the urge to argue. He knew how I felt about hiding while he took on all the danger. I splayed my palm along his back, spreading my fingers wide, while I debated my options.
Please, Hev. Don’t make me worry.
I exhaled and stepped out from behind him to run toward the rental shack. Now wasn’t the time to argue. The creature let out a long, loud hiss, planted himself firmly on his short crocodile legs, and tossed his tail in my direction. To my horror, he had a tail like Gumby that stretched with the force of his throw and I stared, frozen, as the thing wrapped around my feet and began to tug me closer.
His scales were slimy like his skin.
With a roar, Sam, now a sleek black hellhound, pounced and used his razor-sharp claws to sever the thing’s tail. The crocodile man screamed in anger or agony, I couldn’t tell, and he fell forward to land on all fours. I watched in horror as it scurried across the ground toward me. I shivered because it moved like a spider. Sam wasn’t having any of it and rushed forward, landing directly on top of him as the demon thrashed about. A long tongue darted out of his mouth and began to wind around Sam’s neck. Panic built up in me as I struggled to escape the tail, which was still wrapped around me amazingly tight. I struggled for what seemed like hours, desperately wanting to be free to help Sam.
I heard a sharp tearing sound and looked up just in time to see the creature’s head splash into the lake.
I stopped struggling.
It was over.
I couldn’t stop the tears that slipped down my face, so I settled for swiping them away quickly, hoping Sam wouldn’t have to see them.
He came to me, his skin slick with sweat and slime from the creature, his pair of running shorts hastily pulled on backwards. I managed to get one foot untangled from the crocodile tail and was fighting with the other. Sam reached down, gently removing my hands and then grabbed the tail and yanked. It gave way, curling around his arm. He made a disgusted sound and jogged to the lake, throwing it out into the center, following the creature’s horrid face, where it sank out of sight.
*   *   *

Want to know what happens next? Read Charade!  Lol.
Thank you for having me here today, it’s been awesome! ~ Cambria

Thanks for being here Cambria ! Below is the synopsis for Charade and links to order your copies! 

by Cambira Hebert
Series: Heven and Hell #2
Publisher: Otherworld Publications
Publication date: May 18, 2012
Purchase your copy of any of the books here:
Barnes and Noble /Amazon 

Dying at the hands of a psycho was a shock. Having my life returned to me by an angel was incredible. Being named a Supernatural Treasure and being given Sam as my guard was pretty darn awesome. Acquiring a debt for it all—well, I should have seen it coming.
Now here we are, fighting demons from Hell, caring for a boy that I just don’t trust, and traveling to faraway places to return a treasure to its rightful place. Nothing is as it seems. Everyone wears a mask; everyone puts on a charade. It’s up to us to separate the truth from the lies and reality from fiction. A hard task when my new reality involves fallen angels, witches and dragons… and did I mention Hell?
Anchoring me down through it all is Sam. Sam, who must face tragedies of his own and is put to the test again and again.
If we fail in our task, life as we know it—life as you know it—will end. Forever.

Be sure and enter the Rafflecopter below to win your ebook set of 
the Heven and Hell series!!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: Covenant # 1
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Publication date: Sept 20, 2011
Genre: YA-Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Purchase: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository 

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi—pure-bloods—have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals—well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.
Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:
Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.
Unfortunately, she’s crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn’t her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck. (synopsis from Goodreads)

Half-Blood is the first novel in the Covenant Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout.  In March, I brought you a review of Daimon (0.5) and you can read my thoughts on the prequel here. I picked up these books after reading some fantastic reviews by fellow bloggers. The Covenant series is an urban fantasy seeped in mythology. It has paranormal elements, a snarky protagonist and complex world-building that captured my attention. 

While it isn’t necessary to read the prequel, I did find it helpful when beginning this novel. The tale begins with our protagonist sixteen year old, half-blood, Alexandria. She is held up in an abandon building somewhere in Georgia and is being pursued by daimons. These are horrible vampire like creatures who can suck the life from a pure and change them into a daimon. A half-blood cannot be changed and are often sent into battle. Alexandria's mother who was a pure was killed and Alex has been making her way to the safety of Covenant. She manages to kill two daimon before she is overwhelmed, when two of the daimons gang up on her. Thankfully swoon-worthy, Aiden *faints* and some of the sentinels show up and rescue her. They take her back to the covenant and the tale that unfolds is fast-paced, filled with forbidden love, epic battles and a startling revelation. The story kept me completely enthralled. 

The characters Armentrout created are well fleshed out and my emotions ranged from despise to adore. Our protagonist Alex is snarky, hot tempered, fiercely loyal and stubborn. At times I wanted to just slap her and tell her to grow up and the next minute I wanted to hug her. I kept trying to remind myself how old she is, what she has been through and what she will become. Alex is determined to become a Sentinel and seek revenge for her mother’s death. Her step-father and Uncle seem to detest her. Aiden is a pure and also a Sentinel. He is under a tremendous amount of pressure; trying to raise his younger brother, and prove himself worthy. He is very serious about everything he does. It becomes completely apparent from the beginning that he harbors feelings for Alex. Because he is a pure, Alex thinks the attraction she feels is all her. She has crushed on Aiden since her days in the academy; before her mother took her and fled the coven. Then there is Seth who is a very unique and gifted half-blood. He’s opinionate, a stalker, arrogant and uber hot. He seems almost infatuated with Alex. He keeps asking her what she is. The romance between Aiden and Alex is bittersweet. It's filled with stolen moments that could totally get Alex killed. Thankfully the tale was free of insta-love, but I fear a love triangle is in our future. Other characters add to the tale, giving it believability and depth.

Armentrout’s world-building truly makes this character driven tale come to life. Living amongst us in locations all over the world are Hematoi. They descend from the union of gods and mortals. Children born of two Hematoi are called pure-bloods and have godlike powers. Those born from a Hematoi and a mortal are called half-bloods. Half-bloods have two options in life; become trained hunters of daimon called Sentinels or spend a lifetime in servitude to the pure. There are complex rules and a hierarchy within the covenants. Half-bloods cannot have children, and a relationship is forbidden with a pure. A pure is mated in an arranged marriage with another pure to sustain their lifeline. Sadly, if caught a half-blood is put to death or kicked out and a pure goes virtually unpunished. Armentrout weaves a suspenseful tale, as we learn more about Alex, and key players reveal information. We learn of discontent within the younger pure and half-bloods and talks of demanding changes to some of the rules governing them. As with any society where one type is oppressed, we see prejudice, entitlement and support. I love how she took Greek mythology and made it her own.  Her writing style, pacing and imagination left me wanting more. I am looking forward to diving into the next book.

I highly recommend Half-Blood to fans of urban fantasy, mythology and suspense.  While the romance is intense and I am all team Aiden, it was served as a side dish in this amazing action-packed fantasy. I will be bringing you my review of Pure, book two in the series sometime next month. Armentrout is on my must buy list. Her other series Lux is wildly popular right now, and I have begun purchasing those as well…reviews coming soon.

I gave this novel 4 coffee cups out of 5. 

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sunday Post

The Sunday Post ~ 5th Edition 
The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. 

Good Morning ~ the coffee is fresh. To my fellow Americans, I hope you are enjoying your three day weekend and the unofficial start of summer. To all of my followers across the globe..may you find time to slip into a good book today :)

This was a fun week on the blog and I brought you reviews of:
I also showcased an awesome urban fantasy for my Waiting on Wednesday post. So be sure and check it out!
Coming up this week on the Blog:
Look for an excerpt and awesome giveaway during my Charade Heven and Hell Blog Tour stop on Tuesday and a new Waiting on Wednesday. On Saturday, I will share the next read-a-thon I plan to participate in and hope you will join me. 
I hope you all have an awesome week.  ~Kimba

Here are my goodies if you see a book you aren't familiar with click on the title to read synopsis from Goodreads or add it to your reading list! 
For Review:
Seduced by Blood by Laurie London
courtesy of Harlequin and NetGalley
Dream of Me 
courtesy of author Jennifer Froelich 

Shadow's Edge (Night Prowler #1)
 courtesy of  author J.T. Geissinger

Rasputin's Bastards by David Nickle
courtesy of ChiZine Publications 


Thanks for checking out my news!
What's new in your world? 

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Croak by Gina Damico

by Gina Damico
Series : Croak #1
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication: March 20,2012
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Purchase: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository 

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business. Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer. Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in? (synopsis from Goodreads)

Croak is the first novel in a new series by debut author Gina Damico. I was immediately drawn to the cover of Croak. I love tales involving reapers and knew I had to read this. Damico offers us a fresh urban fantasy filled with mystery, suspense and a secret society of reapers. This novel is hilarious, perfectly paced, and highly entertaining. 

The tale begins with sixteen year old Lex Bartleby in the principal’s office. She is there, yet again for sucker-punching a classmate. Her parents are exasperated but manage to persuade the school from suspending her. Lex was a straight A student, but recently has been having violent outbursts, stealing and has been cursing up a blue streak. Her parents and sister don’t understand why she is so angry and quite frankly they seem terrified of her. When they get home, they inform her she will be spending the summer on her Uncle Mort’s farm. The next day they force her on a bus and seemed relieved. When she meets her Uncle Mort, Lex is ready to turn tail and run. He is riding a motorcycle, has tattoos and purple streaks in his hair. Lex is about to learn that the town of Croak is filled with reapers and that she is a reaper. The tale that unfolds is magical, fresh, funny and unique. I consumed this as Damico quickly swept me away to the town of Croak and its inhabitants.

The characters in Croak are all unique and certainly fall under the category of misfits. With the exception of Lex, all the reapers in training were essentially abused or abandoned by their parents, so you can imagine the personalities. Lex is feisty, extremely sarcastic and has a chip on her shoulder a mile wide. I didn’t love her, but she grew on me. Despite her attitude, she is good at reaping, and at her core is a good person. Uncle Mort is a giant kid, with huge responsibilities and I liked him. Driggs is Lex’s partner and he was both irresistible and irritating. Together they make the perfect team and you cannot help but fall in love with this duo. There is a romance here, and an implied love scene. The other characters offer us many different personalities from the geek to the jealous overachiever. All of them, and Damico’s light approach made for some funny moments.

The world-building was unique and I love the little town of Croak. Damico does an excellent job of explaining the reaper town and similar towns scattered across the world. Her imagination in how reapers teleport and find those who have just died was impressive. Her use of technology and animals was unlike anything I have ever read. I loved the transportation system for souls and laughed at what occurred when the souls arrived. Damico writing is well paced and the plot progressed well. The added mystery, murders and suspense kept me highly entertained as I tried to determine who was responsible. While the mystery was solved, this tale is far from over and I look forward to the next installment.

I highly recommend Croak to fans of light, funny urban fantasy. If you are a reaper fan like me, this book is definitely for you. I have added this author to my watch list and will pre-order Scorch, book two in the Croak series, which will be published September 25, 2012.

I gave this novel 4 coffee cups out of 5. 

Gina Damico

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
by Sarah MacLean
Series: Love by Numbers #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: March 30, 2010
Genre: Adult/ Historical Romance
Purchase: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository

* contains sexual content

A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen's club.
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she's vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she's been missing.
But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.
If she's not careful, she'll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .(synopsis from Goodreads)

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake is the first novel in the Love by Numbers series by author Sarah MacLean. I read a review by Chrissie @ Once Upon aSeries and simply knew I had to read this novel. I hadn't visited the ladies and gentlemen of the ton in quite some time and this novel delivered everything I hoped for and more. MacLean gave me feisty characters, hilarious antics and characters I adored.

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is on the shelf. At 28 years of age, despite a healthy dowry, she finds herself destine to be seated in the spinster section of every ball. Calpurnia is considered plain by the ton. Her buxomest figure is out of fashion and only old men and fortune hunters show her a care. When her younger sister becomes engaged, Calpurnia or Callie as she prefers, begins to wish she could be free of her reputation and have a little adventure. A glass of Sherri and a misguided conversation with her brother, leave this imaginative girl to create a list of nine things she would like to do for adventure. Some include; smoking cheroot, riding astride, gambling, firing a pistol and sharing a passionate kiss.  Determined to begin at once, she sneaks out of her home (at midnight) and finds herself at the door of Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston. He is breathtakingly gorgeous and a notorious rake. An act of kindness on his part when Callie was nineteen, made an impression on her. She has secretly loved him ever since. Thus, she decides he should be the one to kiss her! The tale that unfolds was deliciously romantic and absolutely hilarious as Callie gets herself in one predicament after the other.

I adored the characters MacLean has created for this novel. Callie is such a breath of fresh air. She is a true romantic at heart and a good girl. She wants adventure, but doing these things makes her nervous, creating delightful situations. Her ornery and wise maid made me laugh as did the famous seamstress. Callie’s mother despite having a big heart was dreadful. Her boisterous ways and horrific fashion sense had me bursting at the seams. Gabriel is a complete rake; with a fractured heart. Despite his dandy ways, he has a strong sense of family and looks after his twin brother and sister. With his crystal clear blue eyes and devilish smile he had me swooning. He believes himself incapable of love and watching his journey of discovery had me consuming this novel without pause. The romance was hot and steamy and the two of them danced a delicious tango. Watching Callie unknowingly rattle this man was divine. I found myself rooting for them, and anxious as I waited for my happily –ever after.

McLean’s plot was fantastic. She kept me riveted as she delivered elements of romance, suspense, adventure and comedy. I love when a novel sweeps you away and you drift into the realm the author has created. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake did exactly that. While the tale wasn’t completely original, the characters came alive and I believed in them. I read this almost completely straight through and enjoyed the rollercoaster of emotions McLean wrought from me.

I highly recommend Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake to fans of historical fiction. I plan to continue with this series and will bring you future reviews.  Books two and three are currently available. They are; Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart.  

I gave this novel 5 coffee cups out of 5. 

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Against the Sun by Kat Martin

Against the Sun
by Kat Martin
Series: Raines of Wind Canyon #6
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publication date: May 29, 2012
Genre: Adult Romance/Suspense
Purchase: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository

* warning contains sexual content.

Millions of lives are on the line. But for him, only one truly matters. It's not in bodyguard Jake Cantrell's job description to share his suspicions with his assignments. Beautiful executive Sage Dumont may be in charge, but Jake's not on her payroll. As a former special forces marine, Jake trusts his gut, and it's telling him there's something off about a shipment arriving at Marine Drilling International. His instinct is more ways than one. A savvy businesswoman, Sage knows better than to take some hired gun's "hunch" as gospel. And yet she is learning not to underestimate the man her grandfather hired to protect her. Determined to prove Jake wrong, Sage does some digging of her own and turns up deadly details she was never meant to see. Drawn into a terrifying web of lies and deceit-and into feelings they can't afford to explore-what Jake and Sage uncover may be frighteningly worse than they ever imagined.(synopsis from Goodreads)

Against the Sun is the sixth novel in the Raines of Wind Canyon series by Kat Martin. These are romantic suspense novels which deal with ex-military men and the woman who capture their hearts. Each is designed to be read as a standalone. As always this reader prefers to read them in order. I like to get a sense of all the players and enjoy knowing the back-history. Against the Sun held my attention from page one and I was swept away. 

In this novel we finally get Jack Cantrell’s story. He is a former special force marine who now works security jobs all over the world. He loves the ladies and respects them, but has no intention of settling down. Recently he has been doing work for his buddy’s security business in Houston. The tale begins with him arriving at the offices of Marine Drilling International. He has been asked to act as bodyguard for Sage Elizabeth Durmont as she entertains a Saudi sheik and his family. She is negotiating a multi-million dollar deal to buy a used oil drill platform and piping. She needs to understand customs, and be protected from those who oppose the deal. Sage doesn’t think she needs Jack’s help, but her grandfather insists.  She plans on letting this sexy jar-head know exactly who the boss is. Jack is not happy with having to deal with the breathtakingly beautiful and privileged executive. He figures she is a spoiled brat, who got her position due to birth. The tale that unfolds is filled with sexual tension and action packed drama, as threats are made against Sage and the sheik. 

Martin provides well fleshed out characters who make the tale feel genuine. Sage at times got on my nerves. Her wavering on decisions in her personal life made me crazy. I know she is a careful planner, but as a top executive in a cut throat business, I expected her to make decisions and stick with them. I did love the way she did what was morally right, even at the cost of business. Jake is complicated, and always in motion.  He has a strong moral compass and despite some Neanderthal tendencies is completely swoon-worthy. They are both convinced that what they have is a fling and that it could never work. Watching the two of them discover that with love all things are possible, was fantastic! Other characters including the Sheik’s family helped round out the tale and make the drama compelling.

The story line is fast paced, and there are many different components. All of which kept me delightful engaged. There is the business deal and a fiance' to deal with. The sheik's daughter is delightful and I loved her story line. The son is dark and his tale is filled with danger. The attacks occurring could be related to the deal or a personal attack against Sage. Watching Jack and his team piece together the clue and save the day was an awesome ride. Martin has an amazing ability to weave different plot threads together creating suspense and mystery. She has created a group of male characters that woman cannot help but fall in love with. I adore that she pairs them with strong, capable woman. 

I recommend Against the Sun and the Raines of Canyon series to fans of romantic suspense and swoon-worthy men. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Kat Martin writes romances novels in all genres from paranormal to historical. I have read quite a few and enjoyed them, so be sure and check them out.

I want to thanks Harlequin and netGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.

I gave this novel 4 coffee cups out of 5.

Kat Martin 

How do you like your romance delivered?
With a side of suspense, mystery, straight up or wrapped in paranormal? 
Or are you like me..and prefer the buffet? 

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