Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Kept by Shawntelle Madison

Kept by Shawntelle Madison
Ballantine Books, 2012
Fantasy; 320 pgs

I don't know what is wrong with me.  I have started this review what seems like a million times, only to draw a blank.  What's sad is that I really liked the book and had such fun reading it.  There is plenty of action, a good lot of humor, eccentric characters who I just love, and steamy romance.  There is a car chase, a jealous girlfriend, fairies, and a steep competition with an obstacle course to boot.  What more could I ask for?  
From the Publisher: 
Fresh from defending her pack in battle, Natalya Stravinsky, a whip-smart werewolf with a lovable neurotic streak, wants a little rest and relaxation. Once an outcast, she's now eager to rejoin the ranks of her New Jersey pack, and has even gotten a handle on her obsessive urge to hoard holiday ornaments. Yet Nat barely has time to revel in her progress before the next crisis comes howling at her door.

Nat's father has suddenly gone missing, captured by the Russian werewolf mafia. And as Nat steps up to save her dad from a mob boss's deadly game, two men step in to play another round for her heart: her gorgeous alpha ex-boyfriend, Thorn, and her new flame, the sweetly sensitive wizard Nick. With her life growing more harried by the minute, Nat must stay cool, calm, and collected . . . or else risk losing everything.  
I liked the first book in the series, Coveted, but I really liked Kept.  Shawntelle Madison takes it up a notch in the second book of her series featuring Natalya, a werewolf suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Natalya is such a likeable character--and easy to relate to. I appreciate that she's not like most urban fantasy heroines, which is such a refreshing change.  Natalya struggles with anxiety and OCD and is (mostly) working hard to overcome them.  Given what she's had to deal with though, I'd say she manages quite well!  It helps that she has found a great set of friends--from a surprising place, her therapy group.

I adore just about all of them.  There's the charming Nick, who I've developed a slight crush on, and Abby the Muse, who I hope will figure more prominently in future books because I want to know all her secrets!  Add in a succubus who struggles with relationships, a mermaid afraid of water--and for good reason!), and an insecure dwarf who has height issues.  And of course, there's Thorn, who is, as ever irresistible.  Reading about them all in action together just makes the book all the more compelling and entertaining.

There is quite a bit going on in the novel, from Nat seeking to fulfill her father's moon debt to her wanting to re-establish herself in her old pack.  It was almost like reading two different books about the same characters.  Still, I didn't mind.  I was sad when I finished the book.  Overall, this is such a fun series, and Kept was a great addition to it.  

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Shawntelle Madison and her books on the author's website.

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher for review.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Kiss of Surrender by Sandra Hill

Kiss of Surrender by Sandra Hill
Avon, 2012
Romance/Fantasy; 384 pgs

I was less than thrilled with the first book in Sandra Hill's Deadly Angels series but decided to give this second book a try anyway.  I was a little curious to see what the author could come up with next.  I mean, a Vampire Angel as a Navy SEAL?  This I had to read to believe.  

Having read the first book in the series and knowing what to expect, I had a better time reading Kiss of Surrender. A book like this is meant to be pure fun and fantasy, and so I went in with no real expectations.

Trond is one of seven Viking brothers who committed one of the Deadly Sins.  Archangel Michael, with God's blessing, turns the Viking brothers into Vampire Angels as a means of punishment and to provide them with an opportunity to do penance for their sins.  It is their responsibility to save the souls of humans who are being targeted by Lucifer's Vampires.

Trond's most recent assignment is with the Navy SEALS.  If the devil wants a powerful army, what better place to search for new souls?  Trond and Karl, another although younger Vampire Angel, must find the souls at risk of being turned completely evil before it is too late.  

Trond is a relatively likeable guy.  Trond is easy going and a bit of a jokester.  He's certainly creative--I mean, he's the one who thought up "near-sex" which he swore to his brothers in the first book, Kiss of Pride, was much less a sin than actual sex.  Trond's actual deadly sin, and the one he still struggles with, is sloth. He prefers to take the easy way out of most situations and the less energy he has to exert the better.  Clearly Archangel Michael has a sense of humor, assigning him to train with the Navy SEALS.  

Given Trond's biggest flaw, is it any wonder the woman who catches his eye is the complete opposite?  Nicole Tasso is a WEAL, the female counterpart to a SEAL.  She is a self help guru, the penultimate planner, and always has something going on.  A former cop with a past she would rather forget, Nicole is all about the need to be in control.  Trond's attitude irks her no end.  Add to that the secret she is sure he is hiding that she just MUST uncover, and, well, you have a match made in heaven.  Sort of.

There are plenty of sparks between Nicole and Trond along with a lot of denial of feelings and resistance--but it's all to be expected in a book like this.  Trond tries to throw off Nicole by divulging a make believe secret about himself that is so unbelievable--it was hard for me to buy into Nicole, who supposedly is a smart woman, believing it--or even considering it might be truth.

My favorite part of the book had actually very little to do with the love story, but was rather a major side story.  Several times in the book, Trond comes up against a very powerful demon, Zeb, who is evil incarnate--or is he?  I liked the banter between Trond and Zeb and appreciated that Zeb was a more complex character than I expected.

I admit to a passing curiosity about a family of time traveling Vikings which were introduced in this book.  They had a very brief role, really, but it hints at another dimension to the books to be explored.  I can't help but wonder if there's a tie-in to the author's Highlander series.  I am not sure I'm curious enough to want to explore her earlier books though.

While I did enjoy this book more than the first in the series, I am still not sure how I feel about it overall.  There were too many moments when I was pulled out of the book by something or another that was said or that happened, my suspension of disbelief not strong enough to withstand it.  Just the term "Vangel" (Vampire Angel) was enough to set me off giggling.  I never grew to like Nicole much--I found her character rather annoying.  Still, I read right through to the end so that's saying something.  It certainly wasn't boring!  I think books like this will appeal to quite a few readers.  I'm just not sure I can be counted among them.

Rating:   (Fair +)

To learn more about Sandra Hill and her books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about Kiss of Surrender on the TLC Book Tours route!

Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. E-copy of Kiss of Surrender provided by publisher.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2012
Fiction; 432 pgs

I had never read Susanna Kearsley before, but I suddenly began seeing her name everywhere. Reading her most recent novel, The Shadowy Horses, was like a breath of fresh air.  I easily lost myself in the story, set on the coast in Scotland, in a small fishing town called Eyemouth.   Kearsley is one of those authors that can bring a setting to life, making the reader feel as if she or he was actually there.  I WANTED to be there the more I read.  
From the author's website: 

With its dark legends and passionate history, the windswept shores of Scotland are an archaeologist’s dream. Verity Grey is thrilled by the challenge of uncovering an ancient Roman campsite in a small village. But as soon as she arrives, she can sense danger in the air.

Her eccentric boss, Peter Quinnell, has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he’s finally found it – not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has ‘seen’ a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.

Surprisingly, Verity believes in Peter, and the boy, and even in the Sentinel, who seems determined to become her own protector...but from what?

Described by some as a Gothic romance, this ghostly tale is definitely one of love and faith with an air of mystery about it.  I liked how simple the love story was, how naturally it came together over the course of the novel, woven around the mystery of the ghost and the eerie goings on at the archeological dig.  

Verity Grey was easy to like and identify with.   She is smart and honest, thoughtful and adventurous.  She's certainly got her own opinions about things and is a skeptic at heart.  Still, she sees something in Peter Quinnell, the eccentric man behind the dig.  And I did too.  His charm was enough to convince me Verity should join his team to uncover an ancient Roman legion from the very first moment too.  His faith they would find what they sought, his trust in a boy with the second sight, never wavered--and I wanted, much like Verity, to believe him--to believe in him.

I enjoyed spending time with all of Kearsley's characters.  They were all unique in their own way.  I had my doubts about a couple, not quite warming to them, but others I fell in love with instantly--like David and his mother.  And, of course, Robbie, the young psychic.

The historical aspect of the novel was of particular interest to me and I found the details about the archaeological dig quite fascinating.  History has always appealed to me and it amazes me the things we can learn about the past thanks to archaeology   The town of Eyemouth itself has quite a history, some of it quite tragic.   

Shadowy Horses was a joy to read, and I look forward to reading more by Susanna Kearsley in the future.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

You can learn more about Susanna Kearsley and her books on the author's website.

Source: I received an e-copy of Shadowy Horses from the publisher for review.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: The Prophet by Ethan Cross

The Prophet by Ethan Cross
The Story Plant, 2012
Crime Fiction; 400 pgs

From the Publisher:  
Francis Ackerman Jr. is one of America’s most prolific serial killers. Having kept a low profile for the past year, he is ready to return to work – and he’s more brutal, cunning, and dangerous than ever. 
Scarred from their past battles, Special Agent Marcus Williams cannot shake Ackerman from his mind. But now fully integrated into The Shepherd Organization, an underground law enforcement agency, Marcus has to focus on catching the Anarchist, a new killer who drugs and kidnaps women before burning them alive. 
Marcus knows the Anarchist will strike again soon. And Ackerman is still free. But worse than this is a mysterious figure, unknown to the authorities, who controls the actions of the Anarchist and many like him. He is the Prophet – and his plans are more terrible than even his own disciples can imagine. 
With attacks coming from every side, Marcus faces a race against time to save the lives of a group of innocent people chosen as sacrifices in the Prophet’s final dark ritual.

Serial killers make for interesting reading, especially being able to get into their heads and figure our what they are thinking--why they do what they do.  Albeit, it can be scary too.  And no matter how a person grew into a serial killer, how sad his or her story is, it is still hard for the average person to wrap his or her mind around it.    

I used to gobble up books like this on a regular basis, and while I still read these types of thrillers occasionally, it's not nearly as frequently.  So often books like this become too familiar after awhile and it's hard to tell one apart from the other.

Ethan Cross's The Prophet is one of the better ones in terms of execution and characterization.  Cross did a great job of bringing the many threads of his story together.  There are quite a few unexpected twists mixed in with more predictable ones.  Every character, down to the most minor, was well drawn out.  I appreciated the depth of back story for the Anarchist, and especially liked getting a glimpse of him in his personal life, with his family. 

Marcus is one of those all-testosterone male characters, which could easily have been a turn off, but I came to really like him.  He is smart and extremely gifted. He isn't full of himself and he's very dedicated and loyal to his team.  Marcus struggles internally with what he does for a living, and I really liked that aspect of his story.  Although sanctioned by the government to go after violent predators and use any force necessary to find and stop them, he still struggles with the ethical side of his job.  He wonders if he is much different than the killers he is going after.

Ackerman . . . Now he was an interesting character.  I never came to like him--not that I was ever intended to.  He's one scary man.  His obsession with Marcus is explained in the course of the novel, but it doesn't make him any less creepy.

Although I didn't warm up to her right away, Vasques character was one I came to respect quite a bit.  She didn't let ego get in the way of her getting the job done, something that too many people do in her situation.  Or at least in novels like this.  And she definitely held her own with the men in the book, I thought.

Having not read the first book in the series, The Shepherd, I am not sure how much back story I missed in regards to the continuing characters.  Regardless, The Prophet stands well on its own and I felt the author did a good job of setting up the characters and their stories for first time readers.

I liked so much about this novel, and yet . . . And yet I was weary of the violence and, while I liked part of the ending, I wasn't thrilled with another part of it.  I came away from my reading of The Prophet with the realization that this type of novel doesn't hold the same thrall over me that it once did.

Just the same, Ethan Cross definitely is a talented author with a gift for spinning a thrilling story, and I am glad I took a chance on The Prophet.

Rating:  * (Very Good)

To learn more about Ethan Cross and his books, please visit the author's website.

I hope you will check out what others had to say about The Prophet on the Partners in Crime Tour route!

Many thanks to the Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. E-copy of The Prophet provided by publisher.

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. - Night Circus, Erin Morenstern

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Narrated by Jim Dale
Random House, 2011

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is amazing. I so have to read it in written form! The language is gorgeous, the story mesmerizing, and the characters--mysterious and charming and utterly intriguing! There wasn't anything I didn't love about the novel. I am sure I missed something--the downfall of listening to the audio version. And this is a book I want to savor in all its written glory.

That isn't to say Jim Dale didn't do an excellent job as a narrator. My experience with audiobooks being so limited, I don't have many narrators to compare him with. Regardless, I felt his tone and melodic reading of the novel captured the essence of the characters and story. I was pleased with his performance--so much so that I absolutely loved the book and am glad I listened to it.

From the publisher: 
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

From the first moment I met Celia as a little girl, thrust into the care of a father who knew nothing about her existence after her mother's death, I knew I would like her. And the same went for Marco, an orphan taken in by a magician for the sole purpose of training and pitting against Celia and her father in a life altering competition. Both are trained in very different ways: Celia by practical usage of magic and Marco through books and the more technical aspects. The two do not actually meet until they are adults, and even then they lead their separate lives, the only tie being the circus which is the venue for the competition. Marco works behind the scenes, most often remaining in England, whereas Celia performs on stage as an illusionist, traveling with the circus. Their love for each other comes on very subtlety.  And yet even the reader cannot help but feel the pull of the two towards each other--and I more than anything wanted them to be able to find a way to be together despite the dire conditions of the competition, a competition neither of them volunteered for.

As the story unfolds, the two use their magic to create such beautiful and amazing spectacles for the circus, often building on each other's craft. They speak volumes about their makers and their hopes and dreams. It's truly enchanting. Oh, how I would love to have been able to attend the circus myself!

The circus is not your ordinary everyday circus. It almost has a life of its own, fueled by magic that many of those involved with its running aren't even aware of. The talented and eccentric people that make up the cast of characters are every bit as interesting. From the contortionist and tarot card reader to the human statues to the red-headed twins, Poppet and Widget, and their antics and the avid circus followers with their red scarves and loyalty. I think my favorite character, however, was Bailey, who was not part of the circus at all. He is simply a farmer's son, a patron of the circus, whose fate is somehow tied to the circus unbeknownst to him.

I was reminded a bit of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as I listened to Night Circus. Although set at different ends of the 19th Century, the two share a similar tone. Both novels are more than what they seem on the surface, intricate in their complexities and thought provoking at their cores.

Night Circus has the feel of a fairy tale--it is a love story at its heart and a beautiful one at that. This is one of those books that casts a spell on its reader, and even away from the book, one can't help but continue to have one foot in Morgenstern's world--at least that's the way it was for me.  Erin Mogenstern's novel, Night Circus, has earned a place on my favorite books of all time list.

Rating: * (Outstanding)

You can learn more about Erin Morgenstern and her book on the author's website.  And for more information about Jim Dale, check out his website on his website.

Source: My husband purchased an audio copy of this book for my personal pleasure.  Isn't he the best?

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Bookish Thoughts: Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill

Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill
Avon, 2012
Romance; 384 pgs

What to say about Kiss of Pride?  I was craving a little romance and so decided to give Sandra Hill's Deadly Angel series a try.  The idea of a vampire angel seemed a bit ridiculous to me, but if I can buy into other supernatural beings, why not a Vangel?  

The author spends quite a bit of time at the beginning setting up the story, introducing the concept of a vampire angel--how seven Viking sons each committed one of the seven deadly sins and are given several hundreds of years of life to pay penance by saving the souls of those targeted by Satan's vampires, the Lucipires.  They travel through time, suck blood and get into their fair share of trouble, enough to earn more years of penance.  

Kiss of Pride is the first book in the series, this one featuring, Vikar Sigurdsson, whose big sin was--you guessed it--pride.  He's a hunky all masculine Viking who has been assigned to prepare an old mansion for the Reckoning, a gathering of vampire angels.  Reporter Alex is assigned to interview the ever elusive Vikar, her boss wanting to get her away from the city as she waits for the men who murdered her husband and daughter to go on trial.  Alex's soul is at risk and Vikar must save her.  Only, Alex doesn't want to be saved.  

And so the two meet in a Pennsylvania touristy little town called Transylvania, where even former Amish have gotten into the vampire spirit.  I think my favorite part of the entire book was the story about how the town, down on its luck due to the economy, was able to turn itself around by cashing in on the vampire craze.  Little does anyone know, however, they have real vampires in their mist.  

Anyhow, Alex and Vikar are attracted to each other.  Both fight it.  Both end up in bed together.  They fight some more . . . You know how these things go. There's a little more to it than that, of course, but you get the idea.   It never got to the point of being tiring, however, something that can happen all too often in novels like this. Vikar is your alpha male type and Alex is your stubborn heroine type.  Both are beautiful, but neither perfect.  Vikar clearly still has issues with pride--he came across as cocky through most of the book--and I never really warmed up to him.  Alex  wasn't as fully developed a character as I might have liked, but I did like her.  She really struggled with the whole concept of vampire angels, much less the supernatural, which I appreciated.

After my initial disbelief, I kind of like the idea of a vampire angel, and even the explanation Sandra Hill's given as to why they exist (although, I can't stop giggling at the nickname "Vangel").   The execution, on the other hand, left something to be desired.  I reminded myself the book isn't meant to be taken too seriously.  It is a fantasy, after all.  Still, it was hard sometimes to tell what the book was trying to be--funny or serious or something in between?   I did eventually get into the story and just went with it, curious to see where the author would take me.

The novel is a bit more romance focused than I am used to--or like--but I knew that going in, so acknowledge the built in bias there.  I found the book to be okay and was disappointed overall.  I will be reading the second book in the series as part of a book tour, but if that book isn't better, I likely won't continue with the series.


You can learn more about Sandra Hill and her books on the author's website.

Source: I purchased an e-copy of this book for my own personal pleasure. 

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge 2012 November/December Reviews

If you haven't already, please sign up for the Merely Mystery Challenge here!

One of my favorite parts of challenges is supporting and cheering on my fellow participants--not to mention all the great new-to-me book recommendations I come across! Please leave direct links to your November/December review posts for qualifying reviews for the challenge here. Participants without blogs can post reviews on general review sites such as LibraryThing, Goodreads or Shelfari. And if you have the time, stop by and check out some of your fellow participants reviews as well! I am sure they would love to hear from you!

Please include your name or blog name along with the title of the book you reviewed as well as a direct link to your review post (not just a general link to your blog). Thank you!

© 2012, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.