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Friday, September 30, 2011

Armand Rosamilia Guest Post and GIVEAWAY!

Today my guest is Armand Rosamilia, horror author and indie publisher, who's stopping by with a peek into a day in the life of an ebook publisher as well as a giveaway that should get you in the mood for Halloween!

A Day In The Life of A Publisher
How I Spend My Sunday Mornings
Armand Rosamilia

Besides being a world-class rich and famous author (sarcasm!) I dabble in publishing as well. So far this blog tour (Skulls World Blog Tour 2011, shirts and bumper stickers coming soon!) has focused on my writing, but today I'll tell you about publishing… you know, all the tricks and smoke and mirror stuff that goes on behind the scenes to make me a rich publisher (yeah, more sarcasm!).

Typically, my Sunday mornings are the best times to get into the routine. Everyone in the house is still asleep, I sneak out of bed at seven and make coffee. You have to make coffee first or you're wasting your time.

I open up the laptop, pop open several websites - my various e-mails, the Rymfire website, Facebook, Amazon - and by then the coffee is ready. Add tons of sugar and some fancy creamer and you're ready.

Ready for what? Most of the time I have several projects going in various states. Take this past Sunday, for instance: I'll spend time posting on Facebook, my own blog and a bunch of message boards to promote all of the recent releases Rymfire has just come out with. I usually begin this first, to get me going and get into the groove. I'll talk about a recent book, add a few comments on GoodReads and Amazon, maybe respond to a couple of posts that pique my interest.

Once that first cup of coffee is done I get serious, making a list on a Post-It for the day, with all of the projects and where I stand with each. I try to get each of them 1-3 steps ahead.

What are the steps? Generally, an anthology release (for me) goes through these steps:
1. Read submissions as they come in if possible, and make a short-list of the ones I like and immediately reject the ones I didn't…
2. Once my short-list is done and the reading period is over, I put all the potentials onto one list, along with word count and basic storyline. The plot needs to be one or two sentences so I get a general idea and not have too many of the same ideas overlapping.
3. I pick the final stories I like, and put them in a potential order. Then I reject the ones that almost made it.
4. I send out the congrats on the ones that made it, followed within a day or so by…
5. The contracts, along with the ask for bios, payment info, and anything else I need.
6. Once the contracts are all back and signed, I begin formatting the stories in the order I selected. I never start putting the book together until all the contracts are back. Superstition.
7. I edit the stories as they stand, making them as uniform as possible and checking for the flow once again.
8. Once I'm happy with the order, and the bios are added as well as the title page, table of contents, etc. I send out a word doc of it to the authors for a last-look at their tales, in case I missed something. No matter what I do, I always miss something.
9. Everyone e-mails me corrections in a timely manner (I wish) and then I do the last look-over and make the corrections.
10. I start uploading it to Lulu (print copy) and then SmashWords and then Amazon Kindle. That's always the order I do it in, don't know why.
11. I sit back and start watching the cash roll in, sometimes swimming in the bills like McScrooge in those cartoons.

OK, except for number 11, that's pretty much the steps I take. Of course, there are a few minor things you need to do in the meantime and some steps take a couple fo hours and others take days, so I try to keep the steps moving along.

I recently put together the State of Horror: Massachusetts horror anthology, while reading for the State of Horror: California horror anthology. At the same time the initial volley of stories for the upcoming Rymfire Erotica horror anthology was coming in, so I was reading those as well. My Sunday was spent reading potential stories while finishing off a pot of coffee, making two pork roll sandwiches (if you don't know what that is, you haven't lived! Trust me, it's the only breakfast staple if you're from New Jersey) and then taking the anthologies through as many steps as possible. And doing all of this without waking anyone in the house and hoping they sleep in until noon.

I'll try to catch up a few steps during the week as well as take care of my own writing, but Sunday mornings are spent on Rymfire business.

So, to summarize: two pork roll sandwiches will get you through a Sunday morning.

Attention writers!  Check out the ubmission guidelines and what's open for submissions at Rymfire: http://rymfireebooks.com/submissions.html

And there you have it!  I have to say, I make a lot of contacts with people on the author and reader sides of the book equation, but not so many on the publishing side, so it was neat to get a peek into another facet of how stories get into my hot little hands.  With that said, on to the giveway!

Armand has offered up a copy of the State of Horror: Massachusetts anthology that was mentioned in his post.  To enter, just leave a comment on this post and make sure you include a way to contact you.  That's it!  The giveaway ends Friday, October 7th at 11:59 pm EST and the winner will be announced the following Sunday.  Good luck and Happy Friday, and thanks again to Armand for having me as a part of the Skulls 2011 Blog Tour!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Archangel's Blade

Title: Archangel's Blade
Author: Nalini Singh
Page Count: 336 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was purchased by me


The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…
Warning: Possible spoilers ahead. Ye be warned.

There are a few plot elements that usually turn me right off in a romance. The love triangle is probably the biggest one- the conflict just doesn't appeal to me and I'd rather read about two people really getting to know each other than read about one person agonizing over a choice that we as readers can see coming a mile away. Likewise, reincarnation is a touchy issue for me as well- are the characters falling for each other because they really want to, or are they just powerless pawns in some kind of cosmic game? Would they have wanted to be together if they weren't somehow already predestined to not want anyone else? When I heard this element was included in this story, it made me itchy. I completely trust this author to write an amazing story, though, so I went ahead and dove in.

I'm glad I did, because my fears were completely put to rest. Dmitri and Honor as a couple blend fantastically- the element of reincarnation only comes into play after many, many other things have happened, so both of them have already committed to living in the now and moving on past truly unspeakable things that have happened to them. They are survivors, and they are committed to happiness and to the future; they end up finding peace in a place they hadn't expected and that totally worked for me as a reader.

The unspeakable horrors are truly unspeakable. If you're sensitive about blood and guts in a book or about depictions of violence then you're going to want to proceed with caution here. I cried while reading this story and I am totally not ashamed to admit it. The writing was vivid and powerful, and the awful things that happened to Dmitri while he was a captive of Isis and Honor while she was imprisoned are very real. They have to be, as they're central to the story and what initially drew Honor and Dmitri together; each of them understands pain, and each of them understands loss.

I enjoyed the interplay between Raphael and Dmitri as well- we see that they're the closest thing either of them has (besides Elena and Honor respectively) to a friend and confidant, and that their loyalty is based on a shared history that very few people share. Raphael would spare Dmitri any further pain if he could, but he understands that Dmitri is the master of his own fate. Likewise, Dmitri's loyalty to Raphael is unshakable, and you're in some serious poop if you think he doesn't know everything that goes on. Now they have another shared connection, in that each of them finally understands what love is and how important it is to keep once you've found it.

If you're a newcomer to the Guild Hunter series, you probably don't want to start here with the series, even though this is a sort of stand alone book.  To get the full effect I still think you should read the first three books and you should probably have them all on hand, because once you start you will be sucked in.  I'm looking forward to the next installment in this series in the upcoming anthology Angels of Darkness.

Overall Grade: A+

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: The September Society

Title: The September Society
Author: Charles Finch
Page Count: 320 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: historical mystery
Copy for review compliments of the public library

In the small hours of the morning one fall day in 1866, a frantic widow visits detective Charles Lenox. Lady Annabelle’s problem is simple: her beloved son, George, has vanished from his room at Oxford. When Lenox visits his alma mater to investigate he discovers a series of bizarre clues, including a murdered cat and a card cryptically referring to “The September Society.” Then, just as Lenox realizes that the case may be deeper than it appears, a student dies, the victim of foul play.

What could the September Society have to do with it? What specter, returned from the past, is haunting gentle Oxford? Lenox, with the support of his devoted friends in London’s upper crust, must race to discover the truth before it comes searching for him, and dangerously close to home.

This book took me awhile to get through, although that's not a bad thing. Rather, the pacing of this book was much more leisurely, with several different stories going on all at the same time. We have the mystery element concerning the missing Oxford students, Charles dealing with his feelings for Lady Jane, and the appearance of a young man who wants to be apprenticed to Charles to someday become a detective in his own right. There's a lot going on, and each story gets time in the spotlight, so things are happening in the background even though we may not be seeing them right at the moment.

Charles has finally decided to ask Lady Jane to marry him! He's finally realized that he loves her and wants to be married, and he can't think of anyone he'd rather be married to. He's not sure of his reception, as they've never spoken of these issues before, but it's always in his mind. He's not sure how to go about making sure that Lady Jane says yes, though, and isn't sure when to make his move, which adds a little bit of suspense to the story that isn't directly related to the mystery.

The mystery is definitely different from the one in the first book. At first, it isn't completely obvious that a crime has been committed at all. A young man has gone missing from Oxford University and hasn't checked in with his mom in quite some time. Oxford happens to be Lenox's alma mater and he welcomes the chance to go back and visit a place that has such fond memories for him. He isn't sure there's anything specific that he can do to allay concerns about the missing student; specifically left clues in the student's room indicate that something is wrong but Lenox will be dipped if he can figure out what it is.

As time goes on and other events occur, it's apparent that there's bigger forces at work and that someone did indeed do bad, bad things in Oxford; the police and Lenox begin working together to try to determine who it was and why they targeted a student who, by all accounts, never did anything bad to anyone. The solution lies in a decades old crime and a secret society- The September Society.

As with the first installment, the language, character development, and historical details were superb.  I enjoyed reading about daily life as a university student during this period as well as the way that the university was divided up.  It added depth to the story and definitely held my interest.  I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this series- it's a perfect choice for the blustery cold days that are ahead.

Overall Grade: A

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review: The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu

Title: The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu, Vol. 1
Author: Michelle Franklin
Page Count: 143 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: Red Willow Publishing
Genre: fantasy romance
Copy for review provided by the author and Bewitching Book Tours in anticipation of an honest review

When Frewyn's last line of defense falls, Boudicca MacDaede, leader of the Frewyn armed forces, enlists the assistance of Den Asaan Rautu, one of the Haanta giants from the islands to the far north. After winning a war, spending a year fighting by her side, Rautu is called back to his people but finds it impossible to leave without the woman he has come to love. Now he must find a way to make her his mate while fending off an impending attack against his people that threatens to break them apart forever.

This was the first fun installment in what promises to be a very good series. Originally posted as a free online serial at The Haanta Series, this is the beginning of the much wider story arc and introduces the basic cast of characters.

Rautu, the giant hero of the story, is a bit of a grump. He's far away from home and just wants to get back and finds himself constantly bamboozled by the strange customs and attitudes in Frewyn, homeland to the Commander- the two facts that she's a woman and also a great military leader just don't compute in his brain for a long time. That doesn't stop him from falling in love with her, though, and while he's okay with admitting that to himself, he doesn't have the foggiest notion about how to go about communicating that to her, so instead he grouses at her at every turn. The Commander sees through the act and teases him right back, which was quite amusing to read.

This book really sets the stage for the wider setting of the story, and we get to meet a lot of other interesting characters as well as learn about Rautu's culture and how it's different from the one in Frewyn. The Commander quickly realizes that things that seem like common sense to her are completely foreign to the giants, and that she needs to tread lightly or risk causing a big stink. Well, she tries anyway- a big stink happens regardless.

Rautu and the Commander's love story is front and center in this story, and it was a pleasure to read. The ground is laid for future installments of the series and I hope that more of the online content is released in book form. I had the pleasure of reading Tales of Frewyn during the giveaway carnival back in July and it definitely made me want to read the actual series. If you're a fan of fun and unique fantasy romance then definitely make plans to read this.

Overall Grade: B+

WBiT Sneak Peek (3) Fall Into Reading 2011

Another week has come and gone, and it's time to look ahead to what's coming up! The first order of business is to sign up for Fall into Reading 2011 hosted by Callapidder Days, in which you set a reading goal for yourself and then attempt to achieve it. It's that simple!

 For myself, the challenge is pretty straightforward.  Among the other books I'll be reading between now and the end of 2011 (specifically through December 21st when this challenge ends) I'd like to also read the following books from my various review piles.  I've selected five from my personal shelves, five from NetGalley, and five from my general review queue.

Personal Shelves:
Red Hot Fury by Kasey MacKenzie
House Rules by Jody Picoult (Christmas gift from last year)
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (also a Christmas gift from last year)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter (yes, I haven't read this yet....shame...)
Motor City Wolf by Cindy Spencer Pape
Fire, Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste by Steve Spangler
Antiquitas Lost by Robert Louis Smith
Avenger's Angel by Heather Killough-Walden

General Review Queue
Brightest Kind of Darkness by P.T. Michelle
Devil Without a Cause by Terri Garey
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
The Egyptian by Layton Green
Ready Player One by Ernie Cline

Easy enough, right? With that said, here's what's on the slab for this week:

Bonus review time!  Later today I'll be reviewing The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu as a part of the book tour sponsored by Bewitching Book Tours!

Tomorrow (Monday) I'll be reviewing the second book starring Victorian detective Charles Lenox- The September Society by Charles Finch.

Wednesday I'll be reviewing Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh- this book made me so nervous!  You'll have to check in on Wednesday to see if my nerves were calmed...the suspense!

Friday, I'll be hosting Armand Rosamilia, horror author, ebook editor, and generally cool guy for a guest post and giveaway!  He'll be giving us a peek at a day in the life of a publisher along with some great horror reads just in time to get in the Halloween spirit!

Saturday I'll be reviewing Galaxy Girls by Edie Ramer.  I read and enjoyed Dragon Blues over the summer as a part of the indie author carnival so I'm really looking forward to this new story.

That's it for me! To get your week going on a good note, here's a little something fun from my YouTube favorites:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Let it Bleed

Title: Let it Bleed
Author: S.L. Schmitz
Page Count: 409 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: Alternating Reality Books, Inc.
Genre: supernatural mythpunk (author's own words)
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

1983. A Razorblade Boy, lead singer with an obscure industrial band. A Dead Girl, a wandering, bruised waif living on the edge of madness. One’s the voice of youth - the other, the mother of the next Savior of the human race.

But there’s a problem – the Dead Girl was only meant to produce the Savior, not fall in love with the Razorblade Boy. That means trouble for All-God – catastrophic trouble, with cosmic repercussions. The Dead Girl, All-God’s most beloved and most damaged of all his creations, becomes a beacon of assault for all those beings of Light and unLight, and her fall into spiritual decline threatens to unleash forces beyond even the comprehension of the most enlightened human.

The Angels of the Apocalypse are standing in the wings, just waiting for the trigger.... the Razorblade Boy or the Savior – which is it to be?

It is safe to say that Let it Bleed is quite unlike anything I've read before.  Others have made references to writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg, and I can see where they're coming from, but beyond the first blush similarity in the sometimes ethereal, sometimes rambling prose that teeters on the bring of unconsciousness, this story stands apart.

This story is a retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph set against the underground punk scene of 1980s Midwestern America.  I arrived at the punk rock half of the description on my own, but probably would not have guessed at the religious references on my own.  Once I was pointing in the right direction, the references were much more clear.

These are not the Mary and Joseph of Sunday School yesteryear- Mary is portrayed by The Dead Girl, a strung out mess who finds herself cohabitating with The Razorblade Boy, the lead singer of a local band of some repute and an unwilling Joseph.  Infatuation is a fair way to describe the emotions between these two; despite being a talented musician, The Razorblade Boy is no catch, and The Dead Girl is an easy victim to her own self-destructive tendencies.

The author's love for the music and culture of the 1980s punk scene is clear throughout the story.  The prose is lilting and beautiful, and sometimes I paused just to consider the imagery that two words next to each other evoked.  I found at the end of each chapter that I wasn't always able to articulate what had gone on in the chapter before to predict what the next chapter might bring, but the lyricism of the words kept me reading when the non-linear plot might have given me pause.

I confess myself unfamiliar with elements of Gnosticism that were apparently present in the story and that's okay- like I said, my interest was held by the word usage from the start of this book until the end.  In the Acknowledgements section, the author says that this book took forever to write, and I can totally see how- the level of detail and the intensity of the wording reminded me of lace or embroidery- the kind that takes the maker an eternity to make but lingers once it's complete.

As a side note, I learned that "mythpunk," according to the mythpunk Wikipedia page, is "a brand of speculative fiction which starts in folklore and myth and adds elements of postmodern fantastic techniques: urban fantasy, confessional poetry, non-linear storytelling, linguistic calisthenics, worldbuilding, and academic fantasy."  I think that Let It Bleed definitely falls into this category.  Reading it is an investment of time, and some folks may find the slippery nature of the story problematic, but those who are looking for something different are definitely in for an experience here.

Overall Grade: B

Friday, September 23, 2011

Series Review: Monsters in Hollywood by Lila DuBois

Series Summary: When monsters need a makeover, they head for the one place that can make it happen: Hollywood.

Before we go any further, I need to bring an old friend out of retirement:

These are seriously scandalous books that included a lot of sexual content (and I do mean a lot) of a quantity and nature that may not appeal to everyone.  The synopses and product warnings don't pull any punches so ye be warned.

With that said, on to the series!

Book 1:
Lights...Camera...Monsters by Lila DuBois- Luke is desperate to save his people. A lifetime of sneaking in to human houses and watching movies has convinced him that if he can make a great movie about monsters, humanity will change its opinion of them. With his friends at his side, all in shiny new human bodies, Luke heads for Tinsel Town.

A rising Hollywood producer, all-business Lena knows a good story when she sees it. Luke? He’s just another amateur who wants to get famous. But Luke’s too gorgeous to pass up. And there’s something vulnerable about him that leads her to throw caution to the wind and invite him to dinner.

One night of incredible sex later, Lena wakes up next to the surprise of her life. She’s sleeping next to a monster. Literally.

Appearances aside, she finds herself wanting to help Luke save his people. But they’ve got more to worry about than just human prejudice.

Some of the monsters would rather stay in the closet—and to make them all stay there, they’re willing to kill.

Warning, this title contains the following: multiple orgasms, spanking, misuse of kitchen utensils and sex with monsters.

Quickie Review:  Oh hai this first book counts for the Show Me the Free challenge! This is a short and spicy introduction to a series that isn't afraid to go off the beaten path.  Micheal and Lena are a cute couple and they certainly know how to light the sheets on fire.  The idea of monsters living in secret and being close to extinction coupled with the love affair with the movies and all the work and effort that goes into them made this a unique and interesting story.  Seriously though, I will never look at a kitchen spoon ever again.  Adults only people!

Book 2:
My Fair Monster by Lila DuBois-
She agreed to everything but sex. She hadn't counted on his monstrous creativity-
Since the day three incredibly hot men in disguise walk into her office and proved Monsters are real, intrepid screenwriter Jane Darby is obsessed with one task: to give the creatures a mythical makeover by writing a revolutionary, blockbuster screenplay. Now if only she can get over her own fear-and get the closed-mouth Michael to talk about his people.

Michael is fascinated by the demur and docile Jane, whose efforts to hold him at arm-s length hide an untapped sexual passion-a beast within her waiting to be set free. There-s only one way to get under her lovely skin: strike a bargain.

For one week, she agrees to let him do anything, anything, he wants. But Jane-s got conditions. First, no actual sex. Second, she has to enjoy it.

Jane's not really worried. What can happen if he sticks to the bargain? After all, she-s not really turned on by the idea of Michael tying her down. Or bending her over his knee. Or-
Warning: This title contains hot sex, spanking, ice, light bondage, anatomically dubious positions and misuse of an electric toothbrush.

Quickie Review: Good gracious!   This second installment takes the spice from the first book and ramps it up, yet has a really sweet ending all the same.  The story of the development of the plot of the movie the characters are making to help change people's perceptions of the monsters only adds to the story.  Lock up your toothbrushes!

Book 3:

Gone With the Monster by Lila DuBois- Runako has good reason to distrust humans. His sister's murder taught him it's safer to keep his Monster form under wraps. Now comes word that a woman is making a movie that will supposedly "help" his people. He's not sure about that, but one thing is sure…Margo is too beautiful to be ignored.

Presented with the opportunity to use his people's Captive Caves—a secluded mountain fortress designed to hold hapless, tasty humans prisoner—Runako knows exactly whom he wants to star in his ultimate fantasy.

Margo knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. At least where her career is concerned. Runako is just the kind of bad boy with whom she'd like to heat up her nights. In a land of skinny blondes, though, a hottie like him would never notice her lush, Latin curves.

No one is more surprised when she finds out his version of "wooing" includes kidnapping. Forced to stand before him in chains, her paper-thin confidence is burning up fast in the heat of his desire. And when it turns out she can identify his sister's murderers, they both must decide where their loyalties lie...

Warning: This title contains light bondage, spanking, anal play, sex with a Monster and misuse of home decor.

Quickie Review:  In the most serious of the series so far, we get to see a sort of villain from the first book, Runako, not only firmly weigh in on the side of the good guys, but get his own happily ever after too!  We learn more about the monster culture and the things they hold dear in this book, and we get to learn new uses for home decor.  A trip to Pier 1 will seriously never be the same people.  We also meet some new characters who will hopefully make appearances in future books (book four is currently being written.)

The fact that you can have the entire series for less than ten dollars in Kindle format certainly doesn't hurt things either.  This series is definitely not for everyone or for folks who aren't into erotic paranormal romance, but if you're looking for something different then you'll certainly get that here.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Red Velvet and Absinthe

Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic RomanceTitle: Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance
Editor: Mitzi Szereto
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Cleis Press
Genre: paranormal romance, gothic romance
Copy for review provided by the editor in anticipation of an honest review

Red Velvet and Absinthe explores love and lust with otherworldly partners who, by their sheer fantastical nature, evoke passion and desire far beyond that which any normal human being can inspire. Although the greats such as Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Daphne du Maurier are long dead, these contemporary authors keep the Gothic spirit alive and well by interpreting it in new and exciting ways.

Red Velvet and Absinthe offers readers a collection of unique and original stories that conjure up the atmospheric and romantic spirit of the Gothic masters (and mistresses) but take things a bit further by adding to the brew a generous dosage of eroticism. Lie back and listen to the wind howling outside your window as you read these stories in the flickering light of a candle, the absinthe you’re sipping warming your body like the caressing touch of a lover’s fingers . . .

This review is best accompanied by visual aids.

This is red velvet:

And this is absinthe:
That sense of richness and decadence is prevalent throughout this anthology.  As with most anthologies, not every story will suit every taste, but this is definitely a book that should be on the radar of people who like their stories darker and their romance a little naughtier.

This collection features fifteen different stories all based on the broad theme of gothic romance. Kelley Armstrong wrote the foreword for this collection and highlighted how gothic elements- innocence combined with mystery, curses, brooding evil, secrets, and elements of the unkown- have gone in and out of style over the years but appear to be back with a vengeance in the blossoming arena of paranormal romance.  Lots of different paranormal elements are present in the various stories here, but there is a strong thread of passion through each story that's entirely unique.

Favorites of mine among this anthology were surprises to me.  I loved "A Rose in the Willow Garden" by Elizabeth Daniels, which is the story of a serial killer who finally meets his dream woman and finds out her surprise and is based on murder ballads.  Likewise, "The Blood Moon Kiss" Mitzi Szereto was unique- a soap opera star (and vampire) finally meets his dream woman...again.  Probably the biggest standout for me was "La Belle Mort" by Zander Vyne, where a noblewoman sentenced to hang for theft meets a mysterious stranger who teaches her to have faith in the most unorthodox of ways and then ends on the biggest cliffhanger.  It's like Choose Your Own Adventure taken to the extreme.

Like I said, not every story in an anthology will suit every reader, but this collection was one of the more cohesive ones I've come across in awhile and was a pleasure to read.

Overall Grade: B+

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Black Gold

Black Gold: Takhini Wolves, Book 1Title: Black Gold
Author: Vivian Arend
Page Count: 382 KB (novel length, Kindle format)
Publisher: Samhain
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by Fatin at Novel Sidekick in anticipation of an honest review

Their wolves are howling at the moon. Their human halves are on different planets.

Takhini Wolves, Book 1

Lone wolf Shaun Stevens’s automatic response to the words “happily ever after”? Kill me now. Yet with all his friends settling down he’s begun to think there may actually be something to this love-and-roses crap.

One thing’s for sure: his dream mate will have to out-cuss, out-spit and out-hike him. So he never expected the one to push his forever button would be a blue-blooded Southern debutante with a voice as dark and velvety as her skin.

When Gemmita Jacobs steps off the plane in Whitehorse, Yukon, it’s about more than her caribou research project. It’s her declaration of independence from an overprotected upbringing. Except there’s something in the air she can’t quite define—something that unexpectedly rouses her mating instincts.

Moments after their eyes lock, the deed is done—and done thoroughly. When the pheromone dust settles, though, all the reasons they don’t belong together become painfully clear.

It’s enough to make a wolf learn a whole new set of cuss words…

Warning: Two strong wolves getting exactly what they deserve. Includes wilderness nookie, shifters being naughty in public places, the Midnight Sun as a canopy for seduction and grizzly shifters on the loose. Oh, and don’t forget the sarcasm.

Hmmm.  If I had to pick a word to describe this book, it would be...multifaceted. There is a lot going on in this story- some of it is good, some of it is not so good, and some of it is just confusing.  I'm a big fan of this author's work so it pains me to say that Black Gold didn't really hit the mark for me.

The story suffers for a lack of character development.  Shaun and Gem as a couple work, the attraction is definitely there, but they do thinks and think things and believe things and we never really get to know why any of those things are happening. Why is Shaun so stand-offish and uncertain and frankly, immature?  Why did Gem decide to study caribou? What's with the kind of unorthodox way her family lives? Facts were just thrown out there and then abandoned with relatively little reference after that.  Gem comes from a super wealthy family back in Georgia and grew up pretty much isolated from the entire world because of the danger that her being out in public would pose- she would fetch a hefty ransom, after all.  As a result, she grew up in a compound and everyone catered to her, so every experience she's had so far has been fabricated to a certain degree.  I mean, I don't think the girl has sat down in a restaurant with other people, but she doesn't have a problem just jumping right into a major research expedition.  The inconsistencies were kind of a distraction after awhile, and frankly, in a full length novel I was hoping for a little more in this department.

I feel like we didn't get to know Shaun all that well, and the little bits of character we did get to see were pretty unflattering.  He struck me as kind of an immature waffler.  He just wants to meet his mate and share his life with someone, which is a definite positive thing, but because they met and fell for each other so quickly, it kind of took the mystery and the momentum out of the romance.

Likewise, I needed more details about what the heck was going on with the bear shifters?  We got a
sense that something was up, but the element was introduced and then kind of shoved aside.  Then when the big ultimate conflict broke out it was like, where did this come from?

The romance between Shaun and Gem was great, and the setting was fantastic- I really got the sense that I was in the wilderness and seeing the nature and the details all around. While this wasn't my favorite book, I'm still on board for future installments to see if some of the details get fleshed out.

Overall Grade: C-

Sunday, September 18, 2011

WBiT Sneak Peek (2)- Is It Fall Yet?

Yesterday and today were terrible teases, with cool temperatures necessitating HOODIES be brought out of the closet! It's back to reality for this coming week, but a girl can hope, right?

Here's what's on the agenda for this week here at WBiT:

On Monday, I'll be reviewing the first in the Takhini Wolves series, Black Gold by Vivian Arend.  Hold on to your hats for this one.

On Wednesday, I'll be reviewing Red Velvet and Absinthe edited by Mitzi Szereto, a really unique paranormal anthology that's bringing gothic back.

Friday brings a series review, this time featuring the Monsters in Hollywood series for those who want something a little spicier for their Friday.

Saturday's review is another indie title, Let it Bleed by S.L. Schmitz.

I'm also in the midst of the Read Your Own Books Readathon, and will be checking in at some point this week with the final total of books read and titles.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, have a great week everyone!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: Voodoo Dues

Title: Voodoo Dues: A Lian and Figg Novella
Author: Stephany Simmons
Page Count: novella length (Kindle format)
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

As an anthropologist, Lian Cairn specialized in the study of others, the not so totally human races that exist in the shadows around us. After a life changing event, he decided to leave that career behind to become a bar owner. Settled firmly in his new life, he’s looking forward to the mundane, but finds that his old life isn’t going to disappear as he’d hoped.

When the local Voodoo Queen’s Grandson is murdered outside his bar, and she comes to Lian for help, Lian and his quirky bartender Figg, are sucked back into the world he’d hoped to leave behind.

Voodoo Dues was a fun book.  It was a good palate cleanser for in between other projects and had a cool vibe with very fun dialogue.  As a debut offering, this book had a lot of strong points and several areas where improvement will only make the story more enjoyable.

This story seriously cannot wait to get started- we bust right into the action right from the beginning, with minimal introduction to the main characters, Lian (an anthropologist turned bar owner) and Figg (his bartender/love interest.)  The point of view shifts back and forth between the two, which was a little jarring at first, but once I got into the groove of the story I didn't notice the shifting as much.

The secondary characters really stole the show for me.  I enjoyed the factoids and information that they delivered and the details they added to the story and the snappy dialogue that was maintained throughout the story.  I think a little more lead in, establishing the main characters and the setting and what's going on in the wider world and how all these people know each other would have taken care of a lot of pacing issues for me.

I think this story could have done with just a few more pages to add some details and flesh everything out (and anyone who makes a zombie reference is getting the Teacher Face, I'm warning you) but beyond that, this was an interesting, off the path offering from a new author whom I'm looking forward to reading more from in the future.

Overall Grade: B-
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