Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: Human Blend by Lori Pescatore

Title: Human Blend by Lori Pescatore
Genre: Paranormal/YA/Suspense

Summary: Marion, Virginia seemed like a nice place to live a normal life, but she is not a normal girl. Laney has special abilities that keep her looking over her shoulder as she makes her escape from the men who had kidnapped her. A young doctor's interest is piqued when he witnesses her mysteriously curing a young child's illness. He befriends her due to his growing fascination with uncovering the true nature of her abilities, but not without harboring secrets of his own. Laney's budding relationship with a local boy puts both of them in danger when the men she was hiding from find her. All of their lives will change forever as ancient secrets become unearthed.

Review: I won this book some time ago and Ms Pescatore signed it for me, too (Thank you :) which was very nice of her.
I had read some reviews of Human Blend on several book blogs and it seemed interesting and just up my alley, as they say. It seemed like a mixture of Dark Angel (loved the show) and Mutant X and several other exciting things.

The book starts very quickly, immediately introducing us to Laney who is running from men who were keeping her hostage and using her gifts, her supernatural gifts, to their advantage.
Her most lucrative gift is the fact that she can predict the numbers that win the lotteries and other games of luck, but it's not the only one. We realize that she can also heal humans by taking their illness into her system and absorbing them till they are gone. However, that takes a lot of energy out of her and because of that she
has a big appetite.
Laney may be on the run, but money is not an issue because she took some of what she had won for her captors with her, giving her the convenience of traveling and finding food, shelter etc quite easily. The fact that we are told she is quite pretty, doesn't hurt either.

Life so far hasn't treated her kindly and she might look like an 18-year-old, but in reality she is much older than that. It is under these circumstances, alone and on the run that she finds herself in the small town of Marion, Virginia.

She stops to eat and find a hotel, wanting nothing other than not to attract attention to herself, but her looks draw Austin to her.
Austin is a boy her age (at least the one she looks)and since he is a local, he takes it upon himself to show her around, find her the perfect place to stay and generally make her feel so comfortable and welcome that she will want to stick around.

Austin succeeds in all of that. The people are friendly, no one is over-the-top nosy and she finally believes she has found a home for herself. Somewhere quiet that she can help people and not get caught. She even successfully finds work as a volunteer at the local hospital, helping a girl with terminal cancer.

While she touches the girl absorbing the cancer, though (because she needs to touch the person she heals) the doctor in charge, Dr Eli Elsworth, catches her in the act and understands what her gift is.
He takes it suspiciously well and we soon find out that he has abilities of his own, not exactly like Laney's, though.

Laney (who calls herself Julia in this town), realizes the more people know about her, the more dangerous it is - not so much for her, but for them as her former captors would kill them- but she can't find it in her heart to leave, because she is falling in love with Austin and she has made new friends at the hospital.
Her selfless need to help and heal is so intense, that she even puts her own self in danger, as she even forgets to eat and replenish what she has lost.

Laney never had anyone to teach her and guide her so that she understands her abilities and can make the most use of them and when a new doctor appears at the hospital and claims he is of her species, Laney is both excited and mistrustful.
He claims to know who she is and what she can do and chastises her for not getting in contact with them for so long and for neglecting to harness and control her gifts, one of them being "lure" making her sexually irresistible to both humans and her own species.

What she doesn't know though, focused on experiencing love for the first time in Austin's arms is that one of her past nemeses has been stalking her waiting for the right minute to strike and use her again, taking advantage on the new bonds she has made with people. Having them die because of her is one of Laney's biggests nightmares.

I don't want to say any more about the plot and give it all away, but I can say that it was a remarkable journey.
The author really makes us feel about Laney. Most of the parts are narrated through her eyes and we come to feel for her and sympathize with her for all she has suffered through no fault of her own. It is not like she has a deadly ability. She can heal and she can make herself rich or make you love her. But selfless and idealistic as she is, she would never use them for evil.
I came to admire Laney as a character because even though she is in a dire situation, constantly having to look over her shoulder, she doesn't come off as whiny or too weak. although I have to admit that I would have loved to have seen her fight back more and take her chances instead of submitting.

Then again the threat wasn't to her, but to everyone she has come to care about, so one thinks twice before risking it. It's one thing to die and quite another to be responsible for the death of others.

Eli was another intriguing character and his species members look like they could go either way, good or evil (we saw a mischievous one towards the end)and I found that really good and original. I liked the fact that he was so serious and restrained and noble in his own way and he was a pretty reliable person throughout the story.

Austin's friends and Laney's nurse friends at the hospital were adequately explored and I really liked that we had one of Austin's friends be a bit irresponsible and annoying at first and then turn around and be much help.

At parts the author gave us insights into other characters' heads, as well, which made it easier to connect and follow the story.
The building of mystery and suspense was more than enough to keep you reading and the ending makes you eager to read a second book! :)

Verdict: A pretty original book, written almost like a movie in your head. Characters you will love and characters you will hate will keep your blood pumping and the suspense will build up not only because you will want to know who Laney really is and where she came from, but also because you will want to know what happens next, if everyone comes out safe and unharmed and if Laney can hold on to her true love.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars. I have to subtract half a star for some editing mistakes, but I think the ebook Smashwords editions have already taken care of that, so you shouldn't find any problems.

Find Lori Pescatore: Goodreads Facebook
Purchase Human Blend at: Barnes and Noble Amazon Smashwords BookDepository

On my Wishlist

I will have two more reviews up shortly, but for now I would like to post some books from my wishlist. Some of you may have already read them and loved them (I'm so jealous), some of you may have not. But after reading this, you might add them to your wishlists too! :P

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[1] Embrace: (The Violet Eden Chapters #1) by Jessica Shirvington
Synopsis: Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?
After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.
Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...

[2] Gifts of the Blood (Gifted Blood Trilogy #1) by Vicki Keire
Synopsis: Caspia Chastain, art student and barista, is gifted (or plagued, if you ask her) with the ability to draw the future, usually at the worst possible times. Her parents are four years dead; everyday she watches her brother Logan fight his cancer diagnosis. School, double shifts at work, art, and even her usually vibrant small town can't keep reality at bay.
Things get worse the day she draws an angry stranger surrounded by brilliant light and violent, bloody images. That exact same stranger walks up to her knowing all about her, including her name, her brother's illness, and her strange ability. When Caspia discovers that her hometown is a refuge for supernatural beings both Light and Dark, she and her brother find themselves caught up in a war between the two that predates their very birth. For protection, she turns to the man who walked out of her sketchbook calling himself Ethan.
But Ethan has his own agenda, Logan's getting sicker fast, and Caspia finds that drawing the future isn't the only strange thing she can do. Meanwhile, someone really wants all of them dead. In a town where Dark doesn't equal Evil and Light isn't always Good, Caspia and Ethan find themselves making strange alliances and even stranger sacrifices in order to protect those they love.

From Smashwords:
[3] The Dark Light of November by MJ Caraway
Synopsis: High school rocker, Jimmie Knight foresees others' misfortunes. But his inability to act on them has brought tragedy and plagued him his entire life. When his visions start up after a long absence, he is inexplicably drawn to Ember Grace, his crush, and their combined premonitions lead them to a soul seeking presence at the bottom of an abandoned ore pit.

[4] Balefire and Moonstone By Cynthia Gael
Synopsis: For Tommy Hopkins, rich and well-traveled, the idea of witches is ridiculous. When he turns nineteen, Tommy will be the new Witchfinder General, a line that stretches back to the original, Matthew Hopkins. The Witchfinder General directs WFG Ltd., the richest company on the face of the earth, providing clean, non-polluting power—though few know the power they sell is drained from witches.

[5] Gaunt Rainbow by Matthew Sawyer
Synopsis: Rainbow is cursed to drain life from living beings so that she remains in perfect health. As a girl, a self-proclaimed messiah, a pubescent boy, cured her blindness. Her curse began after the miracle, but the boy then vanished. Rainbow goes into the desert alone to find the errant messiah. She hopes he will remove her murderous curse.

~ Kelly ~

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Immortal Obsession by Denise K. Rago

Summary:As a young man in eighteenth century France, Christian Du Mauré impulsively follows his best friend into the complex and warring world of the Parisian vampires. Against the backdrop of the French Revolution and following an affair with a mortal aristocrat, he promises to watch over her daughter - only to learn the child is his. Now settled in Manhattan, only two descendants of his union remain, Amanda and her brother, Ryan. After Amanda witnesses a savage murder in Central Park, she is determined to find the ethereal stranger who saved her life. When their worlds inevitably collide, Christian finds he cannot prevent Amanda from becoming a pawn in a centuries-old struggle for power. As a confrontation between ancient enemies comes to a head, Christian must face a betrayal from his past that still haunts him and threatens the woman he loves.

I won a copy of this book and Ms Rago also sent me a great postcard.(Thank you! XD)
I was immediately drawn to this book not only because of the synopsis (having an immortal stalker y/y?XD), but also because of the gorgeous cover.

I think I may have started reading this the day after receiving it because I couldn't wait.
The book follows a centuries-old vampire, Christian from Paris to New York after a tragic conflict with his sire and the rest of her vampire party.
Christian was turned into a vampire shortly before the French revolution, not able to withstand the pain of living separate from his lifelong friend, Michel who had already been turned.
Embracing his vampiric nature came the blood lust, strength, speed and heightened senses, but also the eternal struggle for power. Had he been turned by another sire maybe things would be different, but Gabrielle was a shallow, selfish and cruel vampire who only craved for power and dominance over other vampires and the world.
Vampires often took mortal lovers and it wasn't long until Christian fell in love with a beautiful, dark-haired woman, Josette, who sadly, belonged to another vampire, Gaetan, unavoidably leading to a feud between them. And if that wasn't enough, his sire Gabrielle is not one to tolerate one of her "children" to fall in love with another woman, let alone a human woman.
When Josette dies at a fire, she confides in him that her child is his and beseeches him to take her with him. That he does and as he flees to New York, his daughter Solange grows up without knowledge of her true nature as half-human,half vampire, as he wants her to have a happy life.
She lives on and has children and when eventually she becomes a vampire she becomes a vicious one and joins forces with the vampire family he left behind.
Betrayed by his own child, he vows to look after her human descendants and protect them.
It is present day in New York and her last descendants are Amanda, who takes after Josette physically and her brother, Ryan. Amanda is working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has a love for anything French, particularly around the era of the French Revolution, whereas Ryan always gets into trouble, doing drugs, living on the edge as a bump and always asking Amanda for money.
His latest trouble is that he lets vampires feast on his blood underground, constantly putting himself in danger. What he doesn't know is that because he is a hybrid, his blood is not only irresistible to vampires, but can also give them the ability to walk in sunlight.
Although, it has been agreed that Gaetan and Christian will never meet again, Gaetan comes from Paris to New York following Lucien and by chance feeds on Ryan discovering his secret. Drawn by lust, his need for revenge and the intoxication of being able to walk in the day, Gaetan plans to use Amanda in his game. Amanda witnesses her other's murder by Gaetan and when Christian saves her she is unwillingly and unexpectedly entangled in the webs of an centuries-old struggle for power and revenge.

~ I must say I really enjoyed this book. I really like things that have to do with France, even though I can't for the life of me learn French (believe me, I've tried, I'm horrible at it).
One of the things I loved the most about this book was its wonderful and vivid descriptions. When Ms Rago describes a building or a scenery, she makes you feel as if you are there basking in the glory of architecture crafted hundreds of years ago.
I found myself mesmerized by the details of the architecture and everything from the French Revolution to today.
Even though I haven't read that many things about that era and I really haven't traveled abroad to know what Central Park is like of the Metropolitan Museum, somehow reading this I felt like I was there and seeing all that was part of my daily life. There's a lot to be said about authors who can do that.

Similarly good was the description of emotions and thoughts by the characters and it felt like being inside their heads, sensing their agony and torment.
The premise of the book was quite original and it remind a bit (a tiny tiny bit and if you squint- and usually do :P) of the show Moonlight, where the protagonist saved a a woman as a child and is still protecting her in her late twenties.( I loved the show btw)

In the first couple of chapters I got a little confused with the characters, because they were quite a few (Christian, Michel, Josette, Solange, Gabriel, Gaetan,Amanda, Ryan, Lucien, Etienne, Antoine, Thomas, Bethany, but in the end the most important ones were quite distinct and had their place and purpose.
I very much liked Amanda as the main female character, because she was strong and resilient and wouldn't back down. I wouldn't exactly call her fearless (that would be stupid under the circumstances), but after watching her brother get killed by Lucien (although he got his due by Gaetan) and a stranger saving her, it took a lot of courage and guts to actually go after the man that saved you, knowing there's something supernatural and so dangerous about him. Lucien lifted her brother as if he was nothing and killed him, something a normal human wouldn't be able to do. She wants answers and her brother's killer caught and punished and continually pressures the Detective in charge of the investigation (Thomas)into taking action.

It is by sheer luck that Thomas and Christian "work" together and she meets him in the policeman's office and after that she keeps coming after him - at his place, at his bar- demanding that he tells her what he knows.

The development of the romance between Christian and Amanda is also very good. Gradual, believable and undeniable. At first, Christian tries to pull away thinking that Amanda is a descendant of his daughters (hello? incest-like!), but as the story progresses we understand what's at play.
Even though Christian is a vampire, there's a sense of nobility in him, mostly because he values the concept of duty and protecting one's family, but he doesn't deny his true nature and I quite flinched at a scene where he grabs a bump on the street and feeds on him till he dies and then throws his lifeless body in the river.

Nothing is black and white but there are numerous of shades of gray in-between and I found that quite honest and real.

Michel, Christian's best friend, was another character I really loved. He comes off as a womanizer, who plans (and succeeds) in sleeping with all of the women in the city and I found myself wondering if that was the only thing about him. But gradually we come to understand that Michel is also a tragic character, compelled to keep a terrible secret from his friend, feeling guilty and it is this guilt, this sense of abandonment and failure that prevents him from giving his heart to a woman or asking it in return, instead settling for what he could have without bonding, sex.

I loved how it all played out and the ending. It put a smile on my face and I'm actually wondering if there will be a sequel! XD

Verdict: Great book. If you love tormented love stories, where vampires and humans intertwine in more ways than one, not just for sex, but also for comfort and companionship and would love to read about the power struggle that can permeate the vampire society and its repercussions, then this story is for you. There's intrigue, romance, mystery, (vampire) politics, friendship,banter, a strong female lead and corruption, loyalty, betrayal and ...well everything... Read it!

Rating: I'm giving this 4 1/2 stars because although it is a fascinating read, I got confused at first with all the names and believe that we could have done with fewer. I understand, however, that the multitude of characters was important to stress the whole vampire society and all the intrigue and power play, so it wasn't a big problem. :)

Find Denise K. Rago: Site/Blog Goodreads

Buy Immortal Obsession at Smashwords Amazon Barnes and Noble IndieBound Createspace

~ Kelly ~

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Award: The Stylish Blogger Award

Aik & Koey from The Bookaholics awarded me with the Stylish Blogger award! This is my first award ever on blogspot! You can follow The Bookaholics on Twitter or friend her on Goodreads.

There are 4 duties to perform to receive this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award. =D

2. Share 7 things about yourself.
[1] I live in Greece and have never traveled abroad
[2] Among my first book obsessions were: Dangerous Liaisons and Little Women
[3] I love both dark and light books. Sometimes I want humor, others I need angst. *shrugs*
[4] I always multitask. Sometimes I read, eat, listen to music and watch tv at the same time.
[5] I am really restless. I often find myself reading two or three books at once.
[6] I don't mind snacking while I eat, but I usually don't.
[7] I can't drive! :(

3. Award 156 recently discovered great bloggers and let them know!
* I am a really new blogger so most of the blogs I follow are already established and not new, so I just have to narrow this down and pick at random! *g*

- The Dark Eva
- Ramblings From A Chaotic Mind
- On The Tudor Trail
- Book'd Out
- The Qwillery
- Happily Ever After Reviews

It's really late in Greece, so I will let them know first thing tomorrow morning! I suck, I know!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

I got an E-reader: Bookeen Cybook Orizon

Yippie, I just had to say that I finally got an e-reader. One that I'm loving.
It's a Bookeen Cybook Orizon and it is ultra-thin, light, pretty and easy to use.
It can read epub,pdf, html, txt, which are pretty great. If I want to read something else I have to convert it, but at least it reads quite a few formats.
I have to admit that html and epub it displays perfectly. I tried some pdf documents and some appear well, others not so much, but you can flip the reader and (portrait and landscape) and control the reading area, so that is cool.

And did I mention it also has: WI-Fi and bluetooth? Awesome!!!
I need to read the manual though because I can;t remember where I saved it! Yep, only I could do that! *rolls eyes*

Anywell, that's it.. Off to read... *iz excited*

Mini Review: Day of Sacrifice & Rebellion by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Title: Day of Sacrifice & Rebellion by Stacey Wallace Benefiel
Genre: YA/Paranormal Romance

Day of Sacrifice: With only three days left until her twenty-first birthday, her Day of Sacrifice, Flora Hamilton should be living it up. But when another Supernatural family puts a hit on her she’s forced to go into hiding with Julian, her gorgeous new Guardian Angel. Sometimes running for your life isn’t so bad.
Rebellion (DOS #2): Cara needs something to live for. Abel just needs to keep her alive. As members of the newly formed rebellion against the Gods, Cara and Abel have their parts to play: she is a skilled healer and he is the Guardian put in charge of her protection. Or is it the other way around?

Review:I found these books over at Smashwords, looking for something short and exciting to read and let me tell you, they didn't disappoint. These two short stories/novellas follow Flora Hamilton, the first-born of the Supernatural Hamilton family and for that, the one who has to be sacrificed on her 21st birthday to the gods, so that their grace continues to provide the family with fortune and luck and prosperity.
Original? I thought so too. I hadn't read anything like that before.

Flora's birthday is in three days and she is trying to live life as passionately as she can, indulging in alcohol consumption, going out and generally being a bit wild... It is after a party that she wakes up hangover and beat. So much that her "guardian angel" quits and it is at that point in time, where she stands so vulnerable that an assassin comes after her. Why? you could ask, she would be sacrificed in three days anyways...
Well, supernatural families rely solely on these sacrifices for the continuation of the prosperity and the maintenance of their extraordinary powers. The sooner they make use of the good fortune, the sooner it exhausts and since a sacrifice is made every 21 years, there is a possibility that the grace of the gods will be exhausted sooner than that. This is what happened to the Fitzerald family, rival to the Hamiltons. They have no more grace left but Mr Fitzerald is hungry for power and as Mr Hamilton doesn't wish to do business with him anymore, he seeks revenge by killing his firstborn, hence taking away his grace as well.

Lucky for Flora, even though she knew she was to be killed, she didn't just have mindless fun, but dedicated herself to practicing the fire magic she possessed, becoming quite the formidable witch. As soon as her sister, Fauna, warns her she barely escapes the assassins attempts to save her, while at the same time her best friend, Aiden, gets sacrificed because he just turned 21. His Guardian, Julian, watched both Aiden and Flora grow up so he hurries to rescue her when she is attacked again out in the street.
Hoping for help, they go to Flora's father but he doesn't want to hear of anything else than preparations for her sacrifice. Consequently, Flora and Julian flee and it is there in his own safe house that they bond and Julian is compelled to reveal to her what is really going on... Something that leads to ... Rebellion...

In the second story we follow Julian and Flora as they try to overturn the regime and make sure that supernatural families are no longer obliged to sacrifice their firstborn child. You'd think most if not all people would jumo at this opportunity and join the rebellion army to save their children right?
Well think again...Some supernaturals really DO NOT want to lose their powers, the first being Fitzerald and Aiden's dad, Mr Grant. His wife and Aiden's mother, Cara Grant, being a powerful witch and a wicked spell/potion maker joins the rebellion and what happens is magical and tragic and dramatic and everything in between.

Can you tell I loved these stories?
I can't believe I have to wait till April for the next story! :(
Even though the first story was 28 pages and the second 38, they felt almost complete. Of course, I' d love it if we could have them expanded and elaborated on, so that we could get an even better feel of Flora, Julian, Fauna, Clark, Abel, Cara, Alexander, Meagan...
The language was nice and it flowed harmoniously, the dialogues and plot were believable and young adults acted the way we expect them to act. It was packed with action with a dash of romance (a generous dash) and adventure and drama, with a little sprinkling of humor. XD

In just a few pages, the author helped us create our own image of the characters in our mind and really get inside their head, as it was described through different people. Not exactly POV, but the characters feelings and thoughts were described.
All characters apart from Grant and Fitzerald were likable and I have indeed, difficulty in choosing my favorite character. Of course, Flora and Julian started everything, but Cara and Abel were adorable and I'd love to know more about Fauna and Clark who are clearly meant to be!

Verdict: For short stories, Day of Sacrifice and Rebellion were a fascinating read that kept me at the edge of my seat never wanting to stop reading. It was a real bummer that we had a cliffhanger and we have to wait for April.. I want the new story now darnit! :P

Rating: About 4 and 4 1/2 stars! Don't miss the chance to read them!

Find Stace: Blog Site Twitter , Goodreads Facebook

Get the books on
Day of Sacrifice || Rebellion
At Amazon:
Day of Sacrifice || Rebellion

~ Kelly ~

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Contests Around The Blogosphere [January 13th- 14th]

Slowly getting back on the horse! XD

Here are some contests I came across in the past couple of days!
Check back as I will be adding more as I find them.

Win Julie Kagawa's The Iron Queen at Musings of a Reader Happy
250 Follower Giveaway at SnifflyKitty ENDS TONIGHT
Win a Signed Copy of Suzy Davis's Amber Frost at Blkosiner's Book Blog
Win Imogen's Rose Portal Book 1 at I'm A Reader Not A Writer
Win Tom Olbert's Unholy Alliance at Suburban Vampire
Win Knight Angels Books 1 and 2 by Abra Ebner at I'm A Reader Not A Writer
Win A Signed ARC Copy of The Forest Of Adventures at I'm A Reader Not A Writer
Win 13 To Life by Shannon Delaney at Forever Young Adult.
Win Keeper by Kathi Appelt
Win a Signed 1st Edition copy of The Lost Saint
Win a e-copy of all of Tina Folsom's Novellas
Win The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Win The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner at On The Tudor Trail
5 Copies of The Iron Witch Giveaway INT + UK
Dreaming of Books Giveaway at Little Squeed
King of the Crags by Stephen Deas Giveaway at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews
Win Jimmy Stone's Ghost Town By Scott Neumyer at MotherLode
Win DarkFever by Karen Marie Moning at The Romance Reviews
The Armed & Dangerous Series Giveaway at Saucy and Sinful Reviews
Outrageously Yours by Allison Chase Giveaway at Romantic Crush Junkies
Laurel McKee Giveaway & Interview at Romantic Crush Junkies
ARC Giveaway & Another Giveaway: Book of Days by James L. Rubart at LovLivLife Reviews
Win a cope of Shadowfever at Dren's B- Spot

Win a Born A Midnight Prize Pack at Blkosiner's Book Blog
Delirium ARC Giveaway at Resugoreads
Blogging Success Summit Contest
Robin Kaye's 'Yours For The Taking' at Romantic Crush Junkies
Prom & Prejudice Review & Giveaway at GreenBeanTeenQueen
Dreamfever Discussion & Giveaway at Smexy Books
Win Nocturne by Syrie James at Suburban Vampire
Salvaged by Stefne Miller Giveaway at I'm A Reader Not a Writer
Win Command Influence by Robert Shaines at I'm A Reader Not A Writer
Audiobook Giveaway of Wolves of Andover at I'm A Reader not A Writer
Win Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney at World Of Book Reviews
Drought by Pam Bachorz Giveaway at I'm A Reader not A Writer
The Target by Bill Bowen Giveaway
Winning Mr. Wrong by Marie Higgins Giveaway
The Girl Who Ran With Horses by David Michael Giveaway
Giveaway of 2 audio copies of Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Shiff
Win Tick Tock by J. Patterson at CMash Loves To Read
Win a 10$ itunes gift card at The Book Cellar
Great Shakespeare-related Giveaway
Real Wifeys: On The Grind by Meesha Mink Giveaway at Lori's Reading Corner
Win The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson at Holly Cupala's blog
Vicky Dreiling's How To Marry A Duke Giveaway at Seductive Musings

**Various Giveaways

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Mended Heart by Mary Manners

Mended Heart by Mary Manners
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Summary:Jade McAllister returns home to Pineyville, Tennessee to help nurse her estranged mother back to health. She's grateful her friend found her a job as an administrative assistant at Pineyville Church. That is, until she runs into Shane Calkin, the bad-boy-wannabe who broke her heart.
Shane's job as Youth Director at the church is a far cry from his high school days as the town's privileged rich kid. The death of his sister has left him with a young niece to raise and a rambunctious puppy to tame. He's not the self-centered person who once hurt Jade, and all he wants now is a second chance to love her. But how can he prove it to her?

Review: I won this book over at The Romance Reviews and the author, Ms Manners, was kind enough to send me not only a signed book, but also shiny swag!! [Thanks so much!!]

I had already read the synopsis when I entered the contest, so I already knew I would enjoy the book. I am mostly into UF and PR these days, so Contemporary Romance was something I needed to read to take a little break from everything paranormal.

The book is all about love and missed opportunities due to misunderstandings. In a way it's like "Pride and Prejudice" in this respect! :P

Jade McAllister never had an easy life. Her father killed himself causing her mother to turn to alcohol and "easy" relationships with lots of men who made both Jade's and her life miserable. Shane Calkin's, the wealthy, it-boy's attitude towards her (all teasing and annoying boyish charm) wasn't helping, either.
Hence, Jade needs a way out and once she reaches eighteen she leaves the town of Pineyville, Tennessee, where she grew up, behind.

She only comes back ten years later after her mother has a heart attack and needs her help, sending her a heartfelt letter.
Even though it's been 10 years, her best friend, Claire, secures her a place as administrative assistant at the Piney Grove Church. She expects things to gradually get better between her mother and herself and she only wishes she has enough time to work on that.

One thing she doesn't expect however, is to find Shane Calkin again.
The boy who grew up having everything, born to the wealthiest family in town, showing off his money and bravado at every opportunity- or so she thought, annoying Jade even though she found him attractive.

They shared a kiss shortly before her eighteenth birthday, but she was too overwhelmed by her need to flee to slow down and pay attention to the feelings she had for him and the spark between them.

When she sees him again outside the Church, though, and she finds out he is the Youth Director - meaning she would see him every day - the feelings come rushing back, yet she struggles to keep them away.
She has been through too much to let her guard down now and believe that that superficial, spoiled boy has changed so much as to dedicate his life to helping others now.

She barely gives him the chance to prove her wrong, but Shane has, indeed, changed into a caring, noble, dignified man who is responsible and mature enough to take care of his late sister's daughter.
He is the only father she has ever known and even calls him "Daddy".

Through an excursion and activities organized for the youths - where both Jade and Shane follow as guardians, they get re-introduced to each other and though reserved and composed they can't help but fall for each other all over again.

I liked how the book was written. It was easy to read and quite short actually. I read it in a day or something. :)

I loved the way the book started giving as a peek into Jade's life and what it felt like growing up. It makes us understand how urgent it felt for her to leave her house and her mother and escape into something better.
In the beginning there is only one scene of her emotional turmoil, but we can feel the depth of it and the author weaves a wonderful scene of the outlet Jade chooses. She likes to ride on the roller coaster. She likes the speed and the thrill and the abrupt fear it springs in her, because for that moment at least it erases every other thought from her mind.
I think that might be my favorite imagery from the whole book. I could almost feel the speed and my stomach doing that little jump. XD

Jade was a likable character. We got to know her in depth because the author allowed us to deduct a lot from her facial expressions and her thoughts. She was strong-willed and generally a pretty resilient person considering how she was able to put her tormented past behind her.

In the book, we come to understand Shane, as well. I dare say that I loved Shane a little better than Jade. He might have been rich, but his life was far from perfect. It might sound as a cliche but his parents were really cold and aloof - although his mother redeemed herself in the end somewhat.
In a sense he had everything, but he was warmth and love-deprived, so he did the only thing he knew would surely attract attention.
He kinda acted out and went with the popular crowd, being frivolous and superficial.

In reality, he was never that superficial. He cared deeply for his family and especially for his sister who was like his best friend. Her illegitimate child was an embarrassment to his parents who were cold as usual, but her death touched him, deeply and altered him, rendering him deep in despair at first - causing a car accident that left his best friend with a limp.
But soon he found hope and chose to see everything in a positive light and start having faith in God and fate.

He didn't think he could be a person someone could depend and rely on, but he is a good father and a wonderful guide and counselor to the youths.
His scenes with Susi, his daughter (actually his niece) were heart-warming and sweet.

It is this quality in him that Jade appreciates and makes her start to believe in his transformation- if you ask me he didn't sound that bad even in the start.

I liked how everything was gradual and you could actually feel their way towards re-discovering each other. Even if sorrow and loss permeates the whole book, the sense of warmth and hope really conquer everything. It might take a while, but people do find their way back to what matters the most, each other.

The romance between Jade and Shane is deeply satisfying and believable and I particularly liked how the author (though writing in the 3rd person) really alternates between Jade's and Shane's point of view, really showing us how they felt and what they thought, causing an instant attachment to them (at least for me).

Notable Description/Scene:
"Jade? the sound of her name on his lips eased over her like warm pudding. the fact that he remembered her was just short of astonishing.
- Loved that line.

..."Wow he was momentarily speechless and his belly did a slow flip-flop.
The dress kissed Jade's long toned legs just below the knees and it took great restraint to draw his gaze upward to lovely glossed lips.
"You look" her eyes locked with his, questioning.
"Beautiful" he managed.

Verdict: A very nice book. Short and sweet that will make you smile and go all "aww", if you are into this genre. Anyone who has suffered loss and/or has difficulty trusting others would find this an inspiration to have some light shed in their hearts and souls.
I really wish it was a bit longer as I would enjoy reading a little more after the book ends and I also think that we could have a little more background information on both Shane and Jade.
Although we got a great opening scene for Jade I would have liked to see a day in her "old" life to sympathise more with her, and maybe a little more about Shane, because he might have seemed charming and a bit frivolous as a teenager but he didn't seem so bad that he had to feel so guilty during the course of the book.

Rating: 4 Stars.
I'm looking forward to her new book " Tender Mercies". XD

Find Mary Manners: Site Goodreads Blog
Buy Mended Heart: Smashwords Amazon

~ Kelly ~

Mini Review: To Teach An Ancient God by Sapphire Phelan

To Teach An Ancient God by Sapphire Phelan
Genre: Romance/Paranormal

Summary:Hades had waited a thousand years for Jenna Krinard, or Persephone as she had once been known to him. The problem is, Jenna is a modern woman and she'll have to teach an old god new tricks in love. What she doesn't know is how much she'll learn about love herself.

I got this quite some time ago, but somehow I didn't find the time to read it.
Which is a shame as it was very sweet and short.

I was already reading another book and I needed some kind of break (unfortunately it happens to me a lot - I get distracted while reading a book- which doesn't mean I am not enjoying the book, I'm just a Gemini and I have a problem concentrating on only one thing sometimes so I need constant change and stimulation).

Anyways, I liked the fact that it was short and to the point. For me as a Greek, it was really interesting to read because it was based on Greek mythology and more specifically on the story of Hades and Persephone.
[In the myth, Persephone the daughter of Demetra, the goddess of Agriculture and the land, finds herself kidnapped by Hades into his dark domain, he underworld, where everything is gloomy.
A "civil-God war ensues and Hades is forced to let her go, but not before he plays one last game.
By accepting food from the Underworld, Persephone is obligated to remain six months in the Underworld with him every year. This is how my ancestors explained the withering and the rebirth of the land and flora. I was never sure if Persephone actually grew to love the sober Hades, but my romantic heart always saw it that way! XD ]

I actually didn't see that coming, but it was sweet and I am always fond of stories where the man is more certain than the female for the relationship.
Jenna Krinard has just moved into her new house and though, she doesn't know it, there's someone watching her, wanting her, Hades.

It is too short for me to say anything else on the plot, but it was really nice.

Rating: 3 Stars. It was a nice distraction. Short and cute, but I don't think I will be reading it again.

Find Sapphire Phelan: Site |Goodreads | Twitter | Blog | Facebook

~ Kelly ~

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Head Cases by Scott Nicholson

Head Cases by Scott Nicholson
Genre: Horror/Thriller

Summary: A Collection of nine horror/thriller stories involving - as the title suggests- head cases. People whose minds and lives have been consumed by fear.

Review: I was offered a copy of this book by the author and having to read this on my computer took longer than I thought due to me not being at home much (plus being sick..meh)!
It is a collection of short stories, so it was really easy and fast to read. I finished it in the span of a couple of hours and I have to say that the stories had a lasting impact on me.
Even though I have watched a lot of horror movies and even read Chthulu-related horror stories by Lovecraft etc (granted maybe younger than I would be able to fully understand them because my older brother dared me to), I didn't think I could be scared by them, but I found these stories to be chilling and creepy.

The book starts with the story "Fear Goggles" in which Elvin Meister finally decides to visit "The Eye Doctor" disturbed by the hideous images he sees in the mirror and all around him instead of the "real" images. Confusing reality with imagination of the nightmarish kind, he needs help and he believes the Doctor can give it to him. But not everything is what it seems.

I liked the whole "conspiracy" feel to this story. From the minute Elvin visits the doctor's office, he encounters bizzare persons - especially a man- that seem to have somehow agreed to "chose" to see what is normal...
I liked the idea, it was quite original and it vaguely reminded me of "The Matrix", with the red and blue pill. Not that it was similar, just a feeling I got!

Then, the story "Beggar's Velvet" was immensely creepy. A woman afraid of dust might be something common,but you should think again, because it wasn't about the germs. She literally believed that dust could assume an actual physical body that meant to cause her harm.
If you think you can categorize it as silly, I dare you to read the story and not get the chills!
The description was flawless and evocative and the sense of dread permeating it, really took a hold of me.
I also, thought it was brilliant how the author associated it with a "real-life" trauma, giving us a sense of how the whole thing was set in motion.

The third story, "The White House", was written by John Everson and it made me shiver at how scary it was. Given the start I was expecting something along the lines of "Hansel and Gretel", but this was so much darker. The old lady recounting the story of the infamous, creepy White House to a little girl - a friend of her nieces- was a brilliant start and even though it seemed harmless, the level of unease associated with what she said and what you were expecting, made this a great read.
What can I say? It gives the term "White", a whole new meaning I certainly wasn't expecting!

The fourth story, entitled "Heal Thyself" , follows Jackson, a young man in therapy because he feels lost, fragmented and broken. Mr Edelhart, his therapist, uses a radical form of therapy in the form of deep retrograde hypnosis -if that is the correct term.
That is, he hypnotizes Jackson and gets him back to his previous lives, focusing mostly on his life as Dell Bedford, a plantation owner. It is the era of the abolition of slavery, though not on his side yet. He is a wealthy racist who totally abuses and maltreats his slaves not only for profit - pressuring them to work past exhaustion- but also for his own enjoyment, as he is a masochist...
However, this is not all that he is and the story did a marvelous job at exploring this.

The fifth story, "Metabolism", was not what I expected. It wasn't about your typical anorexic and phobic girl. She had taken her phobia one step further, believing that the "City" was a living entity looming over her, manipulating and controlling people and only if she was paper-thin could she escape and become almost invisible. The descriptions of the city through her eyes as snakes and hideous creatures was marvelous and really added a chilling factor to the story.
I think this was a story that felt the less paranormal to me and more about the extent of fear a disturbed person can achieve.

The Sixth story, "Letters and Lies", was a surprise. It's about a mailman who isn't getting the appreciation and respect he deserves (or thinks he doesn't) and has started to resent life, his wife and colleagues for the routine that his life has fallen into. The power he develops was a fantastic one. He could hear the text of the letters he was delivering by the voices of the people sending them.
How cool is that? I thought, but when he kept hearing about death, loss, misery and heartache in his head, I thought twice about it.
It literally drove him mad... It was a pretty original and riveting story!

The seventh story, "The Weight of Silence", was pretty straightforward, or so I thought. At first, I was expecting it to have some sort of supernatural element but there wasn't and there was no need for there to be.
A young couple lost their infant girl from SIDS and the woman is still plagued with sorrow and guilt. She keeps entering the nursery hoping for the baby to be there and she keeps the "intercom"? device open so that she may hear the coos and all the sounds her baby used to make. Her husband tries to make her get over it, unsuccessfully...
Towards the end I figured out what had happened, but I was wrong about the who! It was a brilliant story.

The eighth story entitled "Wee Robbie" by William Meikle, was the one reminding me the most of the "Chthulu- related stories I had read as a child. The description of creatures whose names cannot be uttered and whose faces/forms cannot be described. The unspeakable terror and the horror wrapping around your heart forcing your lungs to stop working... it was all there. The unexplained, yet undeniable pull towards a place although it is dark enough to forewarn you of its malevolence...
It was also difficult to discern whether what the main protagonist was seeing was the figment of his imagination or an invasion attempt from some sinister otherwordly creature and I liked it that way!

The last story, "Do You Know Me Yet?", was the most fun for me. It wasn't exactly scary, at least not to me, and I kept chuckling while reading it. The protagonist of this story, addressing the reader directly starts explaining how he is the one having the initial idea for several popular books, which are not named by author or title but are pretty easy to guess, and all the authors who became popular through actually writing them down and getting published stole them from him.
Although he never actually writes down any of his ideas, he claims to have whole stories and plots in his head and when "uninteresting, dull" things started getting published, it was because he had stopped "having thoughts" so that no one could steal them.

Notable Description/Scene:
The hand scrabbled along the side of the mattress. It clutched the blankets and began dragging the body that wore it from the vague ether Cynthia closed her eyes, tight like she had as a small child, so tight the tears pressed out. She trembled, her sobs in rhythm with the horrible rasping of the beggar's breath.
She could feel it looming over her now, its legs formed, the transition from dust back to flesh complete. Cynthia held her breath, the last trick. Maybe if she could hold her breath forever . . .

Verdict: Very enjoyable collection of stories. Creepy, intelligent and gripping. Any horror fan will literally devour them. I haven't read real "horror" in a while and this made me realize I miss it! XD
They are an intelligent set of stories, not what one could describe as "mindless fun".
They are not sloppy, fragmented or taking the easy way out (like leaving things unexplained). On the contrary, they made you think and appreciate (for the ones lacking a supernatural, paranormal element) what a person must go through in order to develop these phobias and hallucinations. Or were they not hallucinations? :P

Rating: I think a 4 star rating is in order here. Horror fans will adore this and those who just want a taste of horror on their Ereader or desktop are in for a treat.

Find Scott Nicholson:
Site // Blog // Goodreads // Twitter // Facebook

Purchase Head Cases: Amazon // Smashwords //

~ Kelly ~