Tuesday, June 26, 2012

‘Taking a Shot’ by Jaci Burton

Reviewed by Jesi
3 stars

The last thing Jenna Riley needs is more sports in her life. While her brothers are off being athletic superstars, she's stuck running the family's sports bar, whether she likes it or not. Then in walks pro hockey stud Tyler Anderson. As much as Jenna would like to go to the boards with him, she's vowed to never fall for a jock-even one as hot as Ty.

Ty, intrigued by the beautiful bar owner, becomes a regular. He senses that Jenna wants to do something more with her life. And as he gains her trust, the passion between them grows, as does Ty's insistence that Jenna should start living for herself. With his encouragement, Jenna starts to believe it, too...

But first, Jenna has to figure out what she wants, what she needs, who she loves, and if she has the passion and pride to take a shot at having it all-including Ty...
(Amazon product description)

I buy Jaci Burton’s books on the lickable covers alone.  It’s a bonus when her stories are good.  :) 

Taking a Shot is the third book in her Play-by-Play series, which revolves around the Riley family and their uber-jock family and friends. 

I totally related to Jenna in her desire not to date a jock.  I never was much of a sports fan (that has changed a bit with age), and it was one of my criteria when looking for potential boyfriends also.  And like her, I ended up breaking this rule when I found the Mr. Right.  However, I was disappointed in Jenna as a character.  I thought she would be this tough chick who could challenge Ty.  Instead, I found her to be a bit of a weenie.  These two sides of her character did not balance well.  One small rejection in her youth completely holds her back from pursuing her dreams?  Oh, come on.  Maybe I’m callous because I’m a writer, and we have to wade in rejection daily, but this did not seem like an adequate stumbling block for the character to have to overcome.  I know the author could have come up with something deeper and more troubling. 

I had the same issue with the character of Tyler, even though I did like him better.  We are led to think there is some sort of really deep issue in his family history, but it just turned out that his mother is slightly bitter over her divorce and his dad has a really bad sense of humor.  I mean who isn’t embarrassed by their parents a little?  Aside from the boring backstory, Tyler was more likable. 

I found the plot entertaining enough, and the character chemistry was strong.  While I think this is the weakest book in the series so far, I still think Jaci Burton is a great writer.  I will definitely be first in line for the next book Playing to Win which comes out in September. 

Overall, I give Taking a Shot...

Plot - 3 1/2 bookmarks
Character development - 2 1/2 bookmarks
Love story - 4 bookmarks (The chemistry was good.)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Chris Hemsworth (Tyler),  Ashley Greene (Jenna)

Friday, June 22, 2012

'The Gathering' by Kelley Armstrong

Reviewed by Jesi
5 Stars

An ordinary town . . . full of deadly secrets

Strange things have been happening in sixteen-year-old Maya's small Vancouver Island community—from the mountain lions that have been constantly approaching her to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations. There's also a sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.
(Amazon product description)

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  I am not a big fan of shape shifters.  (I keep saying that, but look at all of the shape shifter books that I give good reviews to...)  I love the premise of this book.  We have a creepy small town in the middle of nowhere owned by a medical research corporation, a girl who has an abnormal talent with wild animals, a new guy in town with a secret past and a best friend who dies under mysterious circumstances.  This plot could go in a lot of different directions. 

I love the main character, Maya.  She is smart and kind--a little judgmental, but she’s working on that--and her talent with animals has me insanely jealous. Maya has a great sense of humor and she has some really funny lines.  I enjoy the way she teases her parents.

Maya: "Have you met the tattoo artist? Is he hot?"
Mom: "He's a she."
Maya: "Is she hot? Cause I'm still young, you know. My sexual identity isn't fully formed." (pg. 37)

The friendship between Maya and Daniel was really nice.  I liked how close they were in a platonic way.  Many male/female friendships in YA are fronts for one party crushing on the other, whether reciprocated or not.  Since this is only the first book in the series, there is time for something to develop between them, but I really hope not.  I like them just as friends. 

Rafe was also an interesting character.  Yes, it seems that every YA novel has a mysterious new guy in school who happens to be totally hot and only has eyes for the main character.  While Rafe fits this stereotype to a T, I liked him.  I can’t help having a soft spot for the bad boys.  

The paranormal elements of this story are really cool.  I’m happy to see the Native mythology used.  I also love felines of all kinds, so it’s refreshing to have a shifter story not focusing on werewolves. 

The book ends on a cliffhanger with a lot of unanswered questions.  I’ve come to expect that with the first book of a series, but some readers might find it annoying.  My advice is to have the second book of the series handy so you can keep going.

Overall, I give The Gathering...

Plot - 4 1/2 bookmarks (I wanted more with the medical research facility.  Left with too many questions.)
Character development - 5 bookmarks
Mythology - 4 1/2 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Q'orianka Kilcher (Maya), Zach Roerig (Daniel), Diego Boneta (Rafe)

Monday, June 18, 2012

'The Non Runner's Marathon Guide For Women- Get Off Your Butt And On With Your Training'- Dawn Dais

Reviewed by: Lindsey

Now, I know the MANY readers I have saw the title of this book and said, "Oh $%#, it's a running book..".

If you know me at all, you know I force myself to run the minimum amount I have to. I hate marathoners. The egos. Like it's a sport..me, myself and I.

Nonetheless, years ago I found this book in hopes it would motivate me to move my butt off couch...you may call it by the title, I refer to it as THE BIBLE...

I am convinced Dawn Dais and I are related, somehow, somewhere. This is not a how to, or conquer your fears book. Oh no..this is a, " I signed up for something so far fetched and I am hating every minute of it...you will all suffer with my constant whining and complaints..".

This is one of the best books I have ever read. I have given it as birthday gifts, bridesmaids gifts and just because you're one of the few I don't want to punch in the face gift.

Here is the Amazon description:

'Dawn Dais hated running. And it didn't like her much, either. Her fitness routine consisted of avoiding the stairs in her own house, because who really has the energy to climb stairs? It was with this exercise philosophy firmly in place that she set off to complete a marathon.

The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women is a fun training manual for women who don't believe that running is their biological destiny but who dream of crossing the finish line nonetheless. It opens with a realistic training schedule and is chock-full of how-to's, quizzes, and funny observations, which Dais felt were lacking in the guides she had consulted.

The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women also integrates entries from Dias' journal, sharing everything would-be marathoners need to know about the gear, the blisters, the early morning workouts, the late-night carb binges, and — most important of all — the amazing rewards.

Anyone can do a marathon. This book just makes the experience a little more bearable and a lot more fun.'

Gah!! Even this sounds like a gross self help book. Look, if you never want to run or get your own beer don't turn away. This book is hysterical, I am talking wake the house up laughing hysterical.

Out of nowhere Dawn signs up for a marathon in Hawaii. She has fantasies of jogging like she is on Baywatch. . .and pineapple drinks are waiting for her at the finish line.

She hides nothing, folks. The hate, the anger, the resentment. . .this is just her feelings about her running group. The marathon itself?? Whole other nightmare entirely.
Reading through the Amazon reviews, some are just mean. Keep in mind, the mean reviews? THEY ARE ALL FROM RUNNERS. Another issue? Marathoners tend to have the personalities of dry bark..ahhh gripe all you want , not my fault you think running is a straight line for 26.2 miles is a thrill..yawn.

Here is a quotation I found from Dawn on Goodreads:

“Even though I can’t tell others whether they should chase their marathon dreams, I highly recommend they do something completely out of character, something they never in a million years thought they’d do, something they may fail miserably at. Because sometimes the places where you end up finding your true self are the places you never thought to look. That, and I don’t want to be the only one who sucks at something.”

Preach, sister, preach.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

'Underworld' by Meg Cabot

Reviewer: Izzy

4 stars
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, the dark reimagining of the Persephone myth begun in ABANDON continues ... into the Underworld.Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn't dead.Not this time.But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.Her captor, John Hayden, claims it's for her own safety.
 Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they've come back as Furies, intent on vengeance . . . on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there . . . and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.And unless Pierce is careful, this time there'll be no escape.(Amazon Description)

I loved Abandon, so of course when I saw Underworld at the library, I raced a thirteen year old for it (and won). I started reading on the walk home (not safe, but I couldn't help it!!) and didn't put it down until I finished.

I love John and Pierce, especially Pierce, which is nice, because I usually don't like female leads. I like John because, for the most part, he's a bit wild and angry, but there are times when he gets a little sensitive (about Pierce, even cuter). That makes me like him.

I liked the plot, but in the book there were some things that possibly needed to be explained in just a TINY bit more detail.

For instance,  the pomegranate scene--the second one. I'm not saying I wanted a full-fledged sex-scene with an anatomy lesson thrown in; what I'm more concerned about is that I did not realize what was going on until I reread the paragraph a few times. I would have been fine with a steamy kissy scene that sort of led up to "pomegranates" in that story, but it was like smooch, question, then some clever metaphors. So, confused, I reread. Then again. And it dawned on me after I finished the book.

Anyway, it seems to me that if I'm reading a book and I am attached to the characters, I should at least be informed when they're dirty dancing.

Confusion aside, I did like the book and the writing style, and the characters.

Pierce's cousin Alex went a but crazed and it's driving ME crazy wanting to find out why he acted the way he did. Guess I'll know in the next book.

Anyway, I recommend the first one highly, the second one sort of. Maybe I was a bit confused, and you won't be.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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'Deadlocked' by Charlaine Harris

Reviewer: Tawdra

4 stars

It’s vampire politics as usual around the town of Bon Temps, but never before have they hit so close to Sookie’s heart…

Growing up with telepathic abilities, Sookie Stackhouse realized early on there were things she’d rather not know. And now that she’s an adult, she also realizes that some things she knows about, she’d rather not see—like Eric Northman feeding off another woman. A younger one.

There’s a thing or two she’d like to say about that, but she has to keep quiet—Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), is in town. It’s the worst possible time for a human body to show up in Eric’s front yard—especially the body of the woman whose blood he just drank.

Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s set out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down. (Amazon description)

I think it's an almost universally recognized truth that the longer a series runs, the more ammunition it offers to critics and disgruntled readers.  It's a simple matter of fact that even the most gifted author runs out of story lines or twists for the characters, no matter how many-faceted or complex those characters might be.
Toss a television component into the mix, and there's a recipe for reader discontent.

Such is the case with Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, which is often referred to by the name of its television counterpart, True Blood.  Deadlocked is the 12th book in the series, and there has been an overwhelming backlash against the book.  Longterm fans have expressed their disappointment in the direction of the story.

Like many fans, I was underwhelmed by the eleventh book of the series, and so I was prepared to be disappointed by Deadlocked as well.  And the beginning of the book bore out that fear. The story starts off very slowly, with the typical blow-by-blow telling of Sookie's day to day activities.  There is a sense of fond familiarity, as we have all come to know most of these characters well, and it was gratifying to catch up with them, much as it would be to visit with an old friend. 

However, that sort of homey storytelling is what I expect from Debbie Macomber or Philip Gulley, not from Charlaine Harris, which is why I found the beginning of the book so slow and not at all engaging. It took me days to reach the meat of the story.

There was a noticeable lack of Eric in this book, and his appearances are somewhat lackluster. There were none of the steamy love scenes that we've all come to expect between Sookie and Eric. Other than a few interactions with Bill and some sporadic sightings of folk from Fangtasia and the Las Vegas contingent, very little of the book actually included vampires. 

As the book began to draw to close, it did improve.  The action picked up slightly, and there was some resolution to certain story lines and relationships, which was gratifying.

Since we know that the next book will be the final one in the series, the direction of the story's wrap up is fairly clear by the end of this book.

I did feel that the end of the book almost redeemed the slow beginning, and ultimately, the warm familiarity of Harris's style and characters keeps the story from becoming completely yawn-worthy. I have cautious hopes that she will bring everything around next year and give Sookie the ending she deserves.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

'Unfaithful Wives" by Orrie Hitt and 'The Twisted Ones' by Vin Packer

Reviewer: Lindsey

4 stars

'One slut deserves another

While her husband was away, Rita Sharpe would play. Sometimes with her stupid but strong gardener. More often with slick Norman Williams. Yet she was no worse than bosomy Sandra Thomas! Sandra slyly cheated with practically every man who came along . . . not excepting Rita’s own rugged spouse . . .

His name was Fred, and he was perfectly willing to make the most of a wife—anybody’s wife. He could not foresee that thanks to smooth Norman, the cozy situation would explode into a frenzy of hate and wild brutality. In the end Fred was forced to deny both Rita and Sandra—and gamble his life on the sinful need of still another unfaithful woman!' (Amazon description)

This description makes the book sound like some cheap soap. One slut deserves another?? 
FAAAANNTASTIC!!! This book was crazy.

 There were evil, no-conscience divas; there were sweet, stupid morons; and there were housewhores..wives..whores...whatever.

There is murder, insanity and a lot of fun. The time is the 1950's, and the book is descriptive enough for readers to get a clear picture of scene and time.

There is enough smut to keep you who like that sort of thing in heaven.

For the rest of you-brace yourself. It's a lot of before, but fades out during.

Long ago I watched Peyton Place, the old movie. I had to see what was so racy. Much to my surprise, considering the time it was made, it was extremely sleazy.

This book was written in 1958 by Orrie Hitt.

There is a website dedicated to this author's books called "Orrie Hitt : The Shabby Shakespeare of Vintage Sleazecore".

Awesome. Truly.

4.5 stars


These were nice kids, model kids. They didn’t wear leather jackets and roam the streets in “wolf packs”; they didn’t steal and mug for dope. For kids, they were well mannered and quiet. They were attractive and nicely dressed. You’d have welcomed them as next-door neighbors.


one raped

one murdered

one killed by fire

What got into them? What dark thoughts tormented them when they were alone at night? '
(Amazon description)

Dope?? Hee hee...

This book was written in 1959 by Vin Packer (also known as M.E. Kerr, Ann Aldrich, and Marijane Meaker.)

Think Rebel without a Cause + Quentin Tarantino = The Twisted Ones.

This book was fantastic. There are three characters who have one person in common:
Mommy Dearest.

These women threw Dr. Spock's baby book to the side and read, "How to be THE ONLY woman in your son's life" by Mother of Norman Bates.

The story was crazy, bothersome and twisted, yet like a bad car accident, I couldn't look away.

I strongly recommend looking into Prologue's books on Amazon. There are tons to choose from. I am sure I will manage to read every single one--great way to spend a weekend.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Guest Post by Author Spotlight Darcy Town

This week's Spotlighted author, Darcy Town, is blogging today on why books are still great entertainment:

Ramblings on reading and writing…

I write with visuals in mind.  I plan my scenes like sections of a movie: quick action, witty dialogue, and well-paced eye candy.  I believe readers these days need their books to compete with video games, and movies that look like video games, and the internet as a whole.

That's not a slight of any kind to any of the aforementioned media.  I love video games, and I love the internet (or rather what I can find on it), but in an age where you can see anything (and some things can't be unseen), then the books that are going to get read (and remembered, shared, and purchased) have to be awesome.  They have to be over-the-top even in scenes that seem mundane.  They should be fantastically overloaded with rad action sequences, sexy-sexiness (yeah double sexiness), and memorable one-liners.  And let's not forget a plot that is as epic as it is twisted and intriguing.

A good book is an over saturated text that has whipped you into loving it, and has you coming back for more--no grey and dull, no long and wistful contemplation.  Quick, witty, violent.  Text that dives into seeming commonplace if only to catch a reader off guard when the next dive or rise comes around.  Make the text an emotional brain thrashing.  We readers want to be abused in the best kind of way.

And before anyone thinks that I don't like literary fiction, I do like it!  Nothing about "awesome" excludes that per se.  Rad action sequences can be a well-written chase down an alley, a race to a finish line, a hot kiss, or even something as simple as cookie baking, but damn it, for me...make it memorable and make it frenetic.

Characters should leap off the page, lure you in, and chase you down if you try to put the book away.  What's wrong with delirium and manic laughter?  Is everyday life really that normal?  Maybe I'm viewing through a lens half-blurred with cracks and grime, but my everyday is pretty sweet, funny, and memorable.

And I try to always write that way.

(See Darcy's Author Spotlight here!)

Monday, June 4, 2012

'Control Point' by Myke Cole

Guest Reviewer: Anastasia Pergakis
3 Stars Military Fantasy/Paranormal

Website: http://www.mykecole.com

I was so excited to read this book, I made sure to have plenty of coffee on hand so I could read late into the night. I had trouble reading through the first couple dozen pages, as I tried to get into the story and familiarize myself with who was who. Once I got past that however, the story picked up a nice pace, and I was able to discern one character from another.

The world created by Mr. Cole held my attention throughout the book. I did feel some parts were missing or not explained enough, but I hope that in future books those questions are answered. I think some description was traded for action, and the story was definitely full of action.

Despite how much I did love the premise of the story and will read future books, I have to say that the main character, Oscar Britton, annoyed me to no end. At first, it was understandable, even relatable, as Oscar first discovered his magical abilities and began his new training that he didn't know where he fit. Was he "army" or "rebel”? Could he live with his new life or not? But after a while, it just became annoying. I wanted him to make up his mind! And in the end, even though he took some sort of action, I don't think he ever really decided to do it, it was just how he reacted to the circumstances. So, even at the last scene, I wasn't sure where Oscar stood in the grand scheme of things on a personal level, although it was obvious where he stood based on the circumstances he was in (physically speaking).

The ending was slightly disappointing as after all the reading through training and missions up to that point, it was wrapped up in a few pages. Don't get me wrong, it was action packed and tense - I was on the "edge of my seat" as it were, but then all of a sudden it was over. I scrolled back a few pages to make sure I didn't miss something as I was certain I had. I understand this might be the first in a series. It wasn't a bad ending, just abrupt.

The fight scenes were really where this book shined. The amount of detail made me see each strike, each block, each magical projection. I was impressed with how the scenes were handled, knowing each character's movement without ever taking me out of the scene with too many adjectives or body parts to keep track of.

CONTROL POINT was a fun way to pass my evening hours and I don't regret picking it up for a read. I enjoyed it despite the hiccups I mentioned above. I'd look forward to more from Mr. Cole in the future.

**A free copy of this book was given by the author for review, without guarantee of a review.**

 Anastasia V. Pergakis is the author of Cleanse Fire: The Kinir Elite Chronicles Book 1.  Follow the Kinir Elite as they track down a traitor and find more than they bargained for. This military fantasy has edge-of-your-seat action, epic battles, suspense, and a bit of romance too!

To learn more visit:Author Website: http://avpergakis.com
Book Site: http://kinirelite.com

Friday, June 1, 2012

'Run' by Blake Crouch

Reviewed by : Lindsey

5 D A Y S A G O

A rash of bizarre murders swept the country…

Senseless. Brutal. Seemingly unconnected.

A cop walked into a nursing home and unloaded his weapons on elderly and staff alike.

A mass of school shootings.

Prison riots of unprecedented brutality.

Mind-boggling acts of violence in every state.
4 D A Y S A G O

The murders increased ten-fold…
3 D A Y S A G O

The President addressed the nation and begged for calm and peace…

2 D A Y S A G O

The killers began to mobilize…

All the power went out…

They’re reading the names of those to be killed on the Emergency Broadcast System.

You are listening over the battery-powered radio on your kitchen table, and they’ve just read yours.

Your name is Jack Colclough. You have a wife, a daughter, and a young son.

You live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. People are coming to your house to kill you and your family.

You don’t know why, but you don’t have time to think about that any more.

You only have time to….

(amazon description)

I have had this on my kindle for months. I am a severe cult member of J.A. Konrath's Jack Daniels series. Mr. Crouch has occasionally joined in on this series.
In fact, my favorite books in the series are the Konrath/Crouch books.

I notice that these these books tend to be slightly scarier. I am a closeted pansy. I admit it. Vampires, zombies, ghosts and ghouls, bring 'em. Serial murderers?
Stay behind the yellow line...preferably behind bars in a far away country.

If you are a reader of class and refinement such as I, you would know how terrifying Crouch's
Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite character is..

This book was recommended to me by Steven Konkoly , author of The Jarkarta Pandemic. Loved his book so I gave it a whirl.

On Monday night, I started the book.  At 1:30am I forced myself to put it down.  I had to get up at 5 AM. After snapping at anything with a pulse due to lack of sleep, I continued to  read through breakfast, bus stop and lunch. I was glued.

Something has occurred to cause folks to become killing machines--looting, killing and all kinds of terror. I want to just spill out what happened...but I CAN'T.  The story follows a family who is running for their lives, literally.

For the squeamish--well, it's bad. It is. Honestly, I probably fell asleep around 2am as I lay in bed wondering what every noise was.

Here is where Crouch redeems himself and keeps wimps like me going. This family is fairly normal .They are not superheros. Dad isn't John McClane from Die Hard.  I was uncomfortable reading scenes where the family has gone without food  for 5 days. When the kids are crying from being cold and tired it is brutal. 
This book is written in such a way you feel as though you are there.

When bad guys show up it is a adrenaline rush. When the family is separated it is brutal. The constant unknown is terrifying. There were a couple times I had to put kindle down  and get a breather. It's that unsettling.

To those who are convinced only a sparkly vampire can give you an adrenaline rush, then I don't ask, I demand,  put it down and read this.
Right now.

I could go on but I am convinced I would ruin this for all. This is a book that I will definitely stay with me for a while.

Definite 5 stars on this one..