Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Review...Second Chances by Lauren Dane

For Christmas this year, and to help keep me holly jolly, I picked up a few Happy Holiday offerings for the Kindle. (Still have to name it...I mean, who doesn't name their toys?) And, to keep with the theme, the Favorite Things (I had a music box that played the song when I was younger, and there was something that always felt like Christmas to me. *shrugs*)
Second Chances came my way by the means of Lauren Dane herself (I find it fitting that I won the ARC in a twitter contest since I discovered her through the twitverse. *G*)

Ten years ago, Rori Simon left town shy, unattractive and with zero self-esteem. Now, she's back, older, stronger, and finally loving herself - and it shows. Hot men are soon knocking at her door, including Jude Callahan, the bad boy who starred in her teenage daydreams...and her adult fantasies.
Jude can't believe the sexy, confident woman in front of him is actually Rori! She's gotten under his skin like no other woman has...and she brings out secret desires he can't resist. He wants to dominate Rori with every fiber of his being. Wants to own her and pleasure her. To cherish her as he makes her his.
Rori discovers she likes being controlled. She also knows Jude is not a one-woman man. Everything changes when she meets Zach Helm. Edgy, sensual Zach knows just what she needs, and before long, she's in love. Jude watches them together and wonders if he's lost his chance forever...
Second Chances, previously released in 2005, first came to my attention when I found Believe, a Holiday novella that takes place after the events in Second Chances...but, more of that in just a little bit...
Admittedly, there is something about this author that I just can't seem to get enough of, so I was very excited to get my...ugh, eyes? on this one, especially after getting to know the characters in the holiday novella. And of course, I expected all the hot steaminess mixed in with the heart and soul that permeates previous works I've devoured.
Here's the difference...even though Rori left an ugly duckling, she hasn't quite turned fully into a swan. She's confident and brushed off the uncomfortable fog that hung around her (mostly in the form of her over bearing and somewhat condescending mother) that plagued her as a teenager. Traveled and more experienced, Rori is most definitely a changed woamn. But, we get to take the final part of the journey with her. And what a journey...Jude, the lady's man, yet entirely the sexy object of her teenage dreams, becomes a reality. She decides to play his game against him and turn the tables. Too bad her heart won't get with the program. Or, for that matter, his. Jude doesn't know what he's got until he's too stupid to let it be gone (and, the commitment idea scared him right down to his sexy in command lil toes). Enter Zach...thanks to Jude, Rori knows what she likes, and Zach takes this to an entirely new level for her and she falls head over heels. (Zach is one of my all time faves!) Like any good friend, I wanted to smack Jude upside the head a few times for his, well, stereotypical commitment phobe don't know what you've got til someone else is tying her up-ness. (And, the smoldering is so hot I'm surprised you don't see smoke coming from the screen just thinking about it!) Zach is almost too good to be true for Rori, and the way they challenge one another is fun loving and sexy. Until things go not so happily ever after. Few books make me cry... is one of them. No spoilers here, but woah...and wow
Still want your Happily Ever After? Check out Believe...and my next review...

Holiday Reviews...Assasin's Heart by Monica Burns

HOLY SMOLY! This Saturday is the day...its Christmas! With that terrifying thought (I still can't find a Kindle at Target for the husband who keeps stealing mine!) lodged in my brain threatening my sanity, I decided to take a breather and blog deliciously (and quickly) about a few of my favorite, reads over the past few weeks. Enjoy...
I have major love for this series, having discovered it in my very first ARC tour. There is something beyond sexy about a secret order of the Sicari, assasins (but not in the evil, bad guy, assassin kinda way...think, sexy, Italian, and secretive in that way that somehow just lets you know you want to be held captive.) Okay, maybe I went a tad bit overboard. What can I say?

The half-angel, half-demon face that telepathic Lysander sees in the mirror is a reminder of the monster he must keep hidden to avoid expulsion from an order of assassins. His dreams of ancient Rome hint at a destiny with the woman he loves, but can never have.

When the gifted healer Phaedra travels to Rome in search of a legendary artifact, she works alongside a man who once rejected her love and healing touch. But her dreams of ancient Rome tell of an irreversible and possibly dangerous future. For the distant past and present are about to collide-with the one man she is destined to love.

I've always been intrigued by the legends and tales that surround ancient Rome...even as I walked along the ancient streets when I visited, I would imagine all the people who walked the same steps before me and marvel at the layer upon layer of history evident in each and every stone and building, relic and church. (Even as I cringed at the MacDonald's on the corner. Yuck.) Monica Burns brought back those feelings of wonder and made them even better, from the sexy Sicari men (and women) and the intertwining of past and present, to the use of Latin and Italian peppered in to entice...and the food *groan*! (I felt like I was back in my Nana's kitchen watching my big hunky Uncles cook...nothing cuter than a bunch of men, trying to out do one another with their culinary skills!) Not only a fantastic PNR, but this series has stolen my heart. and imagination...
Lysander may be damaged on the outside, but Phaedra knows there's something more beneath the scars and coldness. In her dreams, the man she knows is there, loving her in every way possible. But in the harsh light of day, she still wants to reconcile what her heart knows with what her eyes and head witness. Will searching for a legendary artifact bring them closer together, or will secrets drive them farther apart? There was something about Phaedra in Assasin's Honor that made her one my favorite female characters. Sassy and strong are two of my favorite characteristics of a smart heroine, and I have to say, I kinda want to borrow her wardrobe. And, silly silly Lysander...some men just need a girl to give them a swift kick in the, well, you'll just have to read more for yourself to find out what happens next...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Mailbox #1 (and Happy Holidays Contest #4)

(Hosted by the Story Siren) This is my first In My Mailbox, mostly because Sundays are always insane for me. But I thought I'd do a little twist on the subject...

First, here's what was in my "mailbox"...
  • ARC of Never Have I Ever by Alisha Rai (Won by me!)

  • Lady Mechanika #1 (hunted down by me!)

  • Despicable Me DVD (I still want minions...)
And now, what I am tackling from the TBR pile...

  • Blameless by Gail Carriger (Where's my parasol?)

  • Danger Girl by J. Scott Campbell (graphic novel)
For my wish list for Christmas...

  • Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia

  • Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning (I know, it doesn't come out until after Christmas, but I can hope for a Christmas MIRACLE, right?)

  • Touched By An Alien by Gini Koch (Seriously, it needs to be in my stocking, Santa!)

  • A parasol and a minion, as well, Santa. I've been extra good this year!!!!

What do you want in your stocking this Christmas? (Besides that candy cane....I call dibs!) Just answer below for a chance to win an oldie but goody - The Devil to Pay by Michele Hauf. Contest ends December 26th. (U.S. and Canada only, please...if only due to my inability!) Comment below with your email to be entered!

Steampunk Review...Lady Mechanika #0 by Joe Benitez

Lady Mechanika has no memory of her past. Her arms have been replaced with mechanical devices, found by authorities alive in an abandoned laboratory amidst cadavers and body parts, the only survivor of a serial killer (or, so it has been said). Now, she uses her unique abilities as a private detective in Victorian England, during a time when magic and mystery meets scientific reason.
This has long been one of my most anticipated books of this entire year. The zero issue has had three (yep...three) printings and was so hard to get to my hot lil hands on that it took until the third printing to get one at one of my local comic shops. (But, I did dish out a little to get a sketch variant at a comic con. I know, I have a problem.) The bright spot in all this reprint madness, of course, means more gorgeous covers!
In issue zero, we meet a mysterious creature on the run from a zealous group of hunters...but, then Lady Mechanika steps in, only to realize he isn't dangerous, only hungry and scared. For Lady Mechanika, her past is a shrouded in the dark, unknown...but, this creature recognises her. But, before he can give her the details she so desperately wants, the one of the members of the hunting party cruelly kills him and her chance to finally find out who she is...
The simple set up in this prequel not only made me want more (and thank goodness I have issue number one!!!!!) but set the tone for what I hope is a fabulous contribution to the steampunk genre. And interestingly enough, the creator of the series, Joe Benitez, shares his inspiration for the series (oh, yeah, there are a few comic con trips involved!), plus some steampunk recipes (which made me hungry) in the book. So many times, the inside artwork doesn't live up to the cover or the premise promised. Not so with Lady Mechanika...the attention to detail to bringing the steampunk genre to life not only lives up to itself, but exceeds.

To check out more on Lady Mechanika and its creator/owner, click here. And don't forget to go out and get it for yourself. If you can!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays Giveaway #3

Spreading cheer and hoping your holidays are everything you hope for, no matter what you celebrate! To win a copy of P.C. Cast's Goddess of the Sea, just answer this question in the comments below...

What word did I use to describe the Iron Duke in my review located here...(which, I may add, my spell check didn't recognise as a spellable word, but, hey, what does it know.)?

Happy Holidays!

(Contest ends Dec. 26th...U.S. only)

Book Review Steampunk Style...The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

From the back cover:

Seductive danger and steampunk adventure abound in the gritty world of the Iron Seas, where nanotech is fused with Victorian sensibilities-and steam.
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.
Mina can't afford his interest, however. Horde blood runs through her veins, and despite the nanotech enhancing her body, she barely scratches out a living in London society. Becoming Rhys's lover would destroy both her career and her family, yet the investigation prevents her from avoiding him...and the Iron Duke's ruthless pursuit makes him difficult to resist.
But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.

Admittedly, I am just a few days early for my review. Call it lack of patience, timing, or just plain old I couldn't wait to put my thoughts out there and make you (yes, make you!!!) go out and get this for someone on your Christmas list. Yep, I am that much in love with this book.

From page one, there was something decidedly different about The Iron Duke. So many people seem to be jumping on the steampunk train without truly getting not only the tone but the actual small nuances of their world that the reader starts to feel cheated. (I picked up a supposed steampunk romance this past year and disgustedly had to put it down. The word steampunk was so often rendered that it made me want to make a drinking game up. To help me finish. I'll keep the name to myself, but suffice it to say, it kinda jaded my opinion on steampunk for the rime being.)

At first I felt like I was transported into some alternate universe that felt like a new pair of leather gloves. A tad awkward at first, a little stiff yet snugly comfortable, but the more you wear them, the more it molds to you and makes your more movements that much easier. On world building alone, Meljean Brook dishes out exactly what you would expect and more. The back story and setting give meaning and purpose to each character's reactions more than any other novel I've had the pleasure of reading. No punches pulled here, the author knows her reader can handle any term she throws at them. Which is why The Iron Duke is a book meant to be savored and poured over, and took me a good week (after I found it again, but that's another story along with the crazy schedule that is life) to read each and every single word.
Mina may be a bugger, but her humor and depth of character shine and made me root for her even as she explored the gory details of dead bodies. Ew. Smart, even somewhat, dare I say, cheeky at times and full of character and heart, I loved the Inspector with each and very turn of the page even more. But, any heroine worth her salt has to have a worthy hero. Even if he seems a little rough around the edges.

The Iron Duke reluctantly saved England from the Horde, and his reputation, more often than not, proceeds him. Daring, and just a little dangerous, the Duke does all that he can to get under Mina's carefully controlled exterior...and other things. There was something so manly (sigh) and yet snuggable (what can I say...) about his actions and demeanor that I was hooked from the first.

And even better, the combination of airship travel (goggles, anyone?), intriguing characters (oh, to captain an airship!) with a few zombies and maybe a sea monster thrown in made The Iron Duke steampunk with the hottest amount of steam added to make you want more. Definitely in my top five for 2010, without a doubt!

(Hmm...this review will have its own role in my Happy Holiday Celebration...just sayin.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Preview...Steampunk Style

Being a fan girl at heart, this is one that I couldn't wait to get my hot little hands on. The hard part, though, is the getting hands on part. Because number zero has sold out not once, but twice and is on to its third printing. (Go Aspen Comics!) Which also means, for those of us who have, well, serious problems, more covers with fabulous art by Joe Benitez and J. Scott Campbell (and I'm sure a few others!). An artist owned title with kick booty artwork and storytelling from one of my favorite comic companies equals a win win...and its STEAMPUNK? Bonus!

(This one was a much anticipated contest prize that has had its ups and downs that have nothing to do with the actual book. Ahem, husband misplaced once. And now, I can't wait to share my thoughts with all of you.)

Being bitten in the past by various "steampunk" novels that maybe just didn't fit the bill for me (saying steampunk a dozen times or so a chapter does not a steampunk novel make), I was a tad skeptical at first but decided from the blog buzz to go for it just one more time. And, not that it really matters, but the steampunk episode of Castle made me, well, steam wanting. So, in deference not only to my fan girly-ness but the fun that is goggle-liciouness, onward and upward I read...

I have a feeling I'll be seeing you sooner than later!

Holiday Giveaway #2!!

The Holidays are fast and furiously approaching. Which is why I capitalized it. Because, somehow, they take over and speed toward a finish line that I am so not ready for! I still have a few lights to put up, a few gifts to get together. But, my Holiday cards are in the mail. CHECK!

To mark this monumental occasion (celebrate the little things!), I have a few little presents for someone special! A holiday CD by Joe and little Larissa Ione Swag.

To enter, just leave a comment below with your email so the winner can be notified. As always, two entries if you follow...Contest ends December 20th. (U.S. only please...)

Off to the lights....(I am grumbling, by the way. That's the noise you keep hearing as you read!)

Holiday Musings (or, Tuesday Musings a Day Late)

"There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor."
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

(And, from one fan girl to, I hope, many others, I hope you enjoy this piece by one of my favorite artists, Michael Turner. Posted as a loving remembrance someone who brought much beauty into the world.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Giveaway #1

Happy Holidays! With all the craziness and zany times that the season brings, I have been a busy little bee. (My kitchen is designed, the cabinets are in...and a wall is gone. WHO DOES THIS DURING THE HOLIDAYS? Yep, that would be me.) To help spread the love and the the spirit of's contest time. I know, it has been a loooooong time. And so, here is the first of just a few surprises to help make the season even more, um, sparkly.

So, on the blog, there are two reviews posted here and here. In my review of Lauren Dane's To Do List, how may variations of the word Holiday are there? And, because I know you looked, what colors are the stripe of the candy cane on my scrumptious review of Sweet Enchantment by Anya Bast?

To enter, simply post your answer below with your email...two entries if you follow.

So, what will you win?

Contest ends December 20th...Happy entering!

Holdiay Review...Sweet Enchantment by Anya Bast

The thought of combining the holidays with paranormal romance may not seem like your perfect pairing. Given the season, I set myself out to find some. Okay, a small white lie. Literally, it stared out at me from the table at the library. In case you don't recall, allow me to refresh your memory...

It's all about the candy cane, don't you think? Or is it the stocking? Roaring fire, perhaps...
In Sweet Enchantment, Bella lives the life of the pampered Seelie court. She has her own quarters, every beautiful dress, drool worthy shoes...pampered in the glittering court. The only problem is, in Piefferburg, everyone has long memory. Especially considering the fact that the walls have been enchanted by the Phaedir to keep everyone snugly inside. Years before, the mage Ronan left the Unseelie court, and Bella fell...hard. The heat that ignited between the tow of them made her burn. Until he publicly humiliated her and walked away. Now, Bella finds herself in a hard position. Ronan has stolen an artifact for the Phaedir, facing the terrible wrath of the Seelie Queen. Hoping to save him from death, she bargains for his life, offering marriage in name only to save the man who once held her heart in the palm of his hand and then crushed it for all to see. Tis Yule, after all. But, can she ever trust the mage, and the darkness she feels?
Anya Bast has created a world that encompasses all that I have ever loved about paranormal romance...from the multi-layered world that somehow exists entirely on its own to characters that somehow seem more than they seem. Multi-dimensional, and, if I do say so, incredibly hot. Smoldering. Having two characters that have a history may seem as if their story is being told in the midst, but having already met them through the first full length novel, it felt right to meet Bella and Ronan where I did. (, you have to love the fact we meet the mage without his shirt, even given his circumstances). Don't expect much holiday cheer, it's more a piece of the background than a major contributing factor. Once Ronan knows that Bella still has feelings for him, no matter how buried she has kept them, he'll stop at nothing to protect her. Sounds like a match made, in well, Piefferburg. Warning...there may be just a little lingering smoldery-ness invading your sense along the way.
But,the journey is well worth the destination.
(P.S. Happy Holidays Celebration hint...keep this page in mind!)

Holiday Review...To Do List by Lauren Dane

Hmm...combine one of my favorite authors with the magic of the holiday season? What could be better? Because, for some odd quirk of the universe, this year, I've decided to take the holiday cheer train by the horns and actually enjoy every single insanely crazy moment of the season. Even if it means the possibility of adding more insanity *G.

Holiday hotness abounds in Lauren Dane's holiday offering, To Do List. Imagine the life you think you've always wanted. The perfect job with the corner office with the firm, the big city condo with a view to die for, all the shoes you could ever want. Then, the reality of it all sets in. The family who brought you up lovingly is part of a distant memory, no doubt due to the numerous little special moments you've missed because your holed up in your office with filing after filing. Those fab shoes? In boxes. Waiting for you to actually have enough time to slip them on. The cell phone that never seems to leave your ear...or fingertips. What you need is a good old fashioned family Christmas...with all the trimmings. Including mistletoe...

When Belle Taylor goes home for the holidays, the first bit of Christmas spirit that greets her is the incredibly sexy frame of Rafe Bettencourt...right smack dab under a sprig of strategically placed mistletoe. And, really, who wants to fore go that holiday tradition? After a kiss that knocks her off her feet (whew!), Belle begins to realize there is more than just a yuletide rest awaiting her at home. But, can she look at her carefully planned out list and read between the lines?

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the sense of family...and, knowing that sometimes, family isn't just who you are born with, but those special people who you actually choose to invade your crazy life. As with every other work by Lauren Dane, To Do List combines the family closeness we all crave and the sexy hotness that makes the holidays (and everyday life) that much more festive. Rafe has the edge of a sexy cowboy (well, its a dairy farm, but I like the farm boy side!), yet he has the sense to know what he wants and to go after it. My only regret is the length of the novella, but, as with all good things, a visit back with old friends in a future story gives us a glimpse into the HEA (or, as I like to call it, the everyday effort filled side of reality). He's sexy, lets Belle be who she actually is (even if she doesn't realize what she wants for herself.). Which, along being, well, Rafe, makes things that much better.
On a side note, if I could carry mistletoe in the hope of finding the hotness that seems to make the holidays merrier...hmmm...
(P.S...there may be a good reason to refer back this review for presents...just sayin!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Preview...Er, Previews

Holidays are here, and what better way to take your mini vacation and dive into your favorite or newly discovered author's holly jolly-ness? (And the crazy malls...baking cookies...putting up the tree...wrapping...sigh)

After you're done fanning yourself (Candy Cane, anyone?)...wha? Oh, sorry. Just the teeniest bit distracted here. Usually I stray from anthologies or novellas because I am just so darn greedy and need more. Yes, I may be high maintenance in my choices but I have found a way around my loophole. Series by two of my favorite authors in lil novellas!

Check off your paranormal romance wish list with Sweet Enchantment (from the above Hot for the Holidays Anthology) by Anya Bast. Seelie court member Bella is desperate to save the mage Ronan, who spurned and stepped all over her heart years before. Defying her Queen, who has decreed his life forfeit for assisting the Phaendir in stealing an artifact, Bella decides to make any sacrifice, no matter the consequences, to save the mage in spite of his ill treatment of her heart and the anguish he has caused her. But can she do so and save her heart once again from Ronan? In this first in the Dark Magic Series, set before the first full length novel Wicked Enchantment (LOVE LOVE LOVE) we get the back story not only of Bella and Ronan but a glimpse into the world of Piefferburg, during the magical season of Yuletide.
For the contemporary lover, ahem, in you...To Do List by Lauren Dane (Thanks to my Twitter pimps for shoving her into my life. Forever grateful!).
He wasn't a part of her balance sheet. But one night in his bed could tip the scales. Since she could pick up a pencil, Belle Taylor has used lists and charts to map out her life. When she achieves a goal she marks it off her to do list. Simple. But now, just steps away from her corner-office, name-on-the-letterhead goal, she realizes that the life that she thought she wanted may come at too high a price. Exhausted, she retreats home for Christmas vacation to rethink her life, complete with all-new lists. What she hadn't expected is Rafe Bettencourt, her brother's best friend, the man who she thought only saw her as a pesky younger sister. But when he kisses her under the mistletoe, Belle finds herself with a whole new set of goals to balance with what she thought she always wanted.
Rafe knows Belle is trying to figure out what to do with her life. He also know he's done loving her from afar, and he's not beneath making it as hard as possible for her to choose to return to San Francisco.
Because Rafe can make to-do lists too--and his plan is to seduce Belle back home where she belongs. At his side. And in his bed.
Warning, this title contains the following: Smokin hot monkey love and naughty wish fulfillment, a few words you wouldn't say in your grandma's presence.
See you soon, lovies...Happy Holidays!

Holiday Celebrations...and Giveaways

There has never been a time when I haven't disgustingly and absolutely adored the holiday season. It always seemed school (of course, that is one of those I achingly miss), presents, family actually getting along (until they didn't, which I always ignored blissfully), and that special spark that permeated the air. Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, right?

Fast forward to being a big kid (I refuse to use grown-up to describe myself...not exactly Peter Pan but, eh) and I have found a different kind of appreciation to add to the pile of sparkly goodness I envelope myself in for a month and a half. (Sometimes, I include Halloween. I've never given up the whole dress-up thing. Bellydance costuming is a fabulous outlet, by the way!) Corny as it may sound, but giving and helping out others (especially furry little pumpkins who have no voice) has taught me the importance of paying it forward.

Interestingly enough, I've discovered all the different ways people celebrate the holidays (Bellydancers come in all kinds of faiths and are beautiful in so many ways. Sorry, gotta gush a lil for my girls.). Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa or any other celebration of the season, I hope its as magical for you as it is for me!

And with that gushy silliness, I will be posting a few special presents for the next two weeks to celebrate the season. So stop back to visit and enjoy the season...along with a few holiday themed reviews!