Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: Unholy Ghosts & Unholy Magic

UNHOLY GHOSTS (Downside Ghosts #1)
Stacia Kane

Urban Fantasy
339 pages

Random House
Available Now

UNHOLY MAGIC (Downside Ghosts #2)
Stacia Kane

Urban Fantasy
343 pages

Random House

Available Now


The ghosts that haunt Triumph City are not your typical spooks. Not friendly spectres unable to cross over due to unfinished business. Not deceased relatives wanting to watch over the loved ones they left behind. No, these spirits are terrifying and vengeful and have a single-minded murderous focus.

The only ones able to banish these ghosts from whence they came are the witches under the employment of the Church, an organization that came into power after hundreds of ghosts
reeked havoc on Triumph City, brutally killing all those with whom they came in contact. The Church knew how to harness the magic that would defeat them, and a revolution was born.

Now, the witches who work for the Church investigate cases of reported hauntings, trying to debunk those who seek financial gain by proving to the Church their residence is truly inhabited by a hostile spectre. The Church pays a hefty fee to those whose hauntings are proved legitimate, and extract an equal fee from those proved false.

Chess Putnam is a Debunker, a Churchwitch out to investigate those who could be charged with "conspiracy to commit spectral fraud". Her job is far from simple and certainly more than a little dangerous as she calls upon her magic to drag spirits back to the City, a final resting place for ghosts. Chess is also addicted to a variety of narcotics, a habit that puts her in debt to not one, but two rival drug lords. This debt introduces her to Terrible, an enforcer whose very presence causes sweat to bead on the brow of everyone he passes, and to Lex, an unapologetic flirt and highly ranked opposing dealer.

The books follow Chess as she builds her cases against potentially fraudulent claims, as she is forcibly immersed deeper in the drug trade than she should ever go, and as she hovers on the precipice of two potentially disastrous relationships.

This series is chaos. Beautiful, dark, blissfully addictive chaos that leaves me craving more page time the way Chess craves her next fix. The world Ms. Kane has created is absolutely frenetic, pulsing with energy that electrifies the pages and shocks you to your very core. And I love every second of it.

The Downside ghosts are not the stuff of campfire folklore, but rather of sleep-stealing nightmares. Lock-your-doors, latch-your-windows, sleep-with-the-light-on horrifying. There's no emotion and no reasoning with them. They just appear, and if they take notice of you, they come full force with a soul-sucking efficiency and leave nothing alive in their wake.

Chess makes herself a very difficult character to care about, and she will definitely not appeal to everyone. Like any addict, she lives for her next fix and does what is necessary to get it, pride and self-respect of little consequence. The drugs are her saving grace, her safety blanket of numbness and oblivion that renders her brutal past ineffective in its persistent haunting. She also uses her body as a tool to help her cope, trading the physical for a miniscule moment of blessed mental peace brought on by a few minutes of pleasure. Her history, brought to readers in disjointed fragments and memories, has taught her to believe in her own worthlessness and deluded her into thinking she is undeserving of anything positive or pleasant. And though Chess is a complete and utter disaster, Kane infuses her with enough emotion and enough vulnerability that readers cannot help but see her as worthy of redemption, and will her every step of the way to find an inner fortitude to match her external witchy strength.

Terrible, like Chess, has a past filled with unfathomable difficulties that have left him cold, brittle, and emotionally unyielding. His job is to collect the dues owed to his boss, and he is granted permission to use any methods necessary to do so. His hands are often bloodied, his body is repeatedly scarred, and his sense of self-preservation is lacking. But through his friendship, and potential romance, with Chess, we get to see a glimmer of hope for him. A hand to the back of his neck here, hands stuffed in his pockets there, all nervous gestures that belie his outward visage of impenetrability when it comes to her and show us that his ability to care hasn't been snuffed out by a life on the streets.

This series is positively haunting and it has nothing to do with the ghosts. Chess and Terrible, with their respective struggles to be more than their past would define them as, grip you from their introduction. Every wrong decision they make of their own accord, and sometimes are forced to make by an outside influence, is tormenting. Chess's drug use is continually frustrating, and Terrible's lack of communication creates a cluster of avoidable problems. But through it all, and there is certainly a lot to which Ms. Kane subjects her characters, there is a hope that their end together will be lighter and brighter than their separate beginnings.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves getting attached to characters, who likes having to walk away to take a breather when the content gets overwhelming, and who loves to hope that against all odds, and with no guarantee, good things might happen if they keep reading.

Unholy Ghosts: 4/5

Unholy Magic: 4.5/5

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blog Hop #6

Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?
I would have to say my new favorite author would be Stacia Kane, author of the Downside Ghosts series. Last week I started her first two books, with the third installment releasing this past Tuesday, and I cannot stop thinking about Chess and Terrible. The series absolutely vibrates with energy and presents two protagonists who have haunted my thoughts even though I've finished reading.
The series is gritty, dark, sometimes emotionally overwhelming, but absolutely worth it.

In the young adult realm, I was thoroughly impressed with Jennifer Lynn Barnes and her werewolf novel Raised by Wolves. The paranormal world is dominated by werewolves and vampires at the moment, but she manages to bring a fresh perspective and a unique mythology to the table and I can't wait for the second book next year!

A big thanks to Crazy for Books for hosting the blog hop!

BEFORE YOU HOP SOMEWHERE ELSE: check out my giveaway for the Hunger Games Trilogy in hardback.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Giveaway: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Synopsis of The Hunger Games (by Goodreads):

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

This is one of my absolute favorite series. It's a young adult series, but much in the way of Harry Potter and Twilight, I feel it transcends the age gap and is a must-have for anyone that loves a gut-wrenching story, beautiful characters, and a haunting message.

Since we're just 4 short weeks away from the much-anticipated release of Mockingjay, I thought I would offer up the entire trilogy (in hardback) to one lucky winner. I don't have an advance copy of Mockingjay, so all three books will be shipped on release day (August 24th). This contest is open to US residents only (sorry international friends, I hope in the future to do another contest open to everyone).

I'm just going to keep things simple. To enter, leave a comment saying you want to be eligible for the contest. Be sure and leave your email address in your comment if it's not included in your profile so I can contact you (if you're not comfortable leaving your email, you can email it to me, just put GIVEAWAY in the subject line).
If for some reason you are unable to leave a comment (Blogger can be tricky when it wants) just email me at with your entry. You don't have to follow the blog to enter, but I would love it if you did, it's always fun to meet new followers!

For one extra entry each you may do the following:
1. Follow the blog (if you're already a follower, you'll automatically get an extra entry)
2. Follow me on Twitter (@sprntrlsnark) - please leave your screename as well!

3. Tweet about the contest - leave the link in your comment.

The contest will run for three weeks, a random winner will be chosen Tuesday, August 17th (one week prior to release day).
Hope you love the series as much as I do!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: The Iron Daughter

Julie Kagawa

Young Adult

304 Pages
Harlequin Teen

Available August 1, 2010

Received from publisher

Warning: Contains spoilers from
The Iron King


Meghan Chase has experienced a lot in the last couple months. She turned sixteen, was promptly thrust into the complicated and terrifying world of the fey, discovered a shocking family history, and topped it all off with an impossible attraction to a prince of the Winter Court.

But the complications are just beginning for Meghan. In keeping with her contract with Prince Ash, Meghan returns to the Nevernever and to the Winter Court where she will be detained for an undisclosed period of time. Here she encounters not only the strange and unfriendly denizens of the Unseelie Court, but she also catches brief glimpses of Ash's two older brothers Rowan and Sage. Ash shakes off the emotional thaw he experienced in The Iron King, and returns to his previous cold and remote state, leaving Meghan truly alone deep in enemy territory.

Turns out that Queen Mab has much more to concern herself with than the presence of Summer's half breed daughter though. Ever quick to jump to conclusions, Mab incites a war with the Summer Court when she discovers the Sceptre of the Seasons has been stolen shortly after Oberon made the transfer, and no one but Meghan saw those responsible.

Now Meghan must race to locate the sceptre before all those she cares about are destroyed in a battle under false pretense. Old friends return to aid her in her quest, new friends come in unexpected forms, and relationships are continually tested as the Iron Fey make their presence known to all and threaten the very fabric of Faery itself.


This series is unparalleled in it's imagination and creativity. New species of fey are continually introduced, each more fanciful and inspired than the last, and the different landscapes that make up the Nevernever are nothing short of spectacular in their whimsy.

In addition to amping up the world-building ingenuity, Kagawa also gives us a little extra romantic tension in the love triangle established in book one. Puck, ever the fun-loving, mischievous, laugh-inducing prankster makes his feelings known to Meghan. And Ash, the very antithesis of everything Puck embodies, realizes his feelings for Meghan cannot be easily cast aside as he so valiantly tried to do when he returned home. Fans of both Team Puck and Team Ash will be licking their lips in anticipation of Meghan's inevitable romantic decision.

Though the Iron King suffered his demise at Meghan's hand, the Iron Fey have not abandoned their hopes of gaining ground in the Nevernever. New leadership is in place, more cunning and destructive than the last monarchy. Though the Iron King didn't play a huge role in the first novel save for his destruction at the end, the Iron Fey influence is prominent in this second installment, and Kagawa has created a decadently monstrous foe to face off against Meghan, Puck and Ash.

The action is non-stop, causing my fingers permanent disability due to rapid page flipping, the humor is in full swing, and the surprises are in plentiful supply as we learn more about Meghan, more about the Iron Fey and their plans, and more about the romantic entanglements of the three protagonists.

A brilliant sequel to The Iron King, and I am eagerly counting the days till The Iron Queen and the conclusion of this fantastic series.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi over at The Story Siren and is a great way to get to see what other bloggers are reading and reviewing for the week. I had a pretty quiet week in terms of quantity, but a great week in quality:)

For Review:

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

The Thirteenth Chime by Emma Michaels


Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #1) by Stacia Kane

Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts #2) by Stacia Kane

Friday, July 23, 2010

Blog Hop #5

What book am I currently reading you ask? Well that would be Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane. All the twitterverse has been going crazy over this Urban Fantasy series and I needed to get in the loop and see what all the fuss was about! So far, I'm not the least disappointed, this series is action packed. I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading!

A big thanks as always to Crazy for Books for hosting the event!

Cover Critique: Firelight

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts stemming from my design experience.

There are some seriously beautiful young adult book covers out there at the moment. Firelight is one of those, and one of my personal favorites. First, there's the single striking image of this young woman's face. I'm always partial to simplicity in book covers, I think the "less is more" concept is exquisitely fitting and always catches my eye more than a busy cover with lots of fonts and transparent images layered on top of one another.

Perhaps it's the trauma of years of design work where marketing would seek to fill any gloriously empty space with type, or an image, or a giant starburst screaming "look inside for a chance to win!" But nothing makes my eye start to tick more than a beautiful cover ruined by trying to include too much, making it hard for the eye to focus on anything at all, let alone what they really want potential buyers to see. But I digress into boring designer-mode:)

Once her face and bright red hair grab your attention, there's the subtle scale pattern covering her eye that makes you want to read the premise of the book and figure out just why this beautiful girl seems to be sprouting scales. It actually took me several minutes to notice that her eye is slit like a dragon's (now the scales are making sense Jenny, way to be brilliant) and not that of a human's at all.
This cover is subtlety at it's finest.

Furthermore, dotting the "i" is a little flame, an inconspicuous nod to the title. The flourishes on the font are nice, balancing well with the graphic instead of overpowering it. Overall, this is just a really beautiful cover and I can't wait to see it printed to get the full effect.

Do you agree?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: Siren

Tricia Rayburn

Young Adult

344 pages

Egmont USA
Available Now


Vanessa Sands and her sister Justine look forward to the summer for many of the same reasons any teenage girls would. One, they get to spend time at their lake house in Winter Harbor, Maine. Two, their next door neighbors just happen to have two sons around the same age as the girls. Each and every summer is like the one before, with Vanessa and Justine spending time in and near the water, and Justine flirting with younger brother Caleb while older brother Simon spouts off weather forecasts and science-related facts.

This summer was supposed to be more of the same, only instead of relaxing with friends and family, Vanessa and her parents find themselves coping with the sudden, tragic death of Justine. Everyone believes Justine jumped to her watery grave in a cliff-diving excursion gone wrong, but that reasoning seems inexplicable to Vanessa despite coming to the realization that she doesn't know as much about her sister as she once believed. She returns to Winter Harbor to speak with Caleb, the only one who was with Justine the night of her passing.

Only Caleb is missing as well. Simon and Vanessa team up to search for Caleb and the answers Vanessa so desperately needs, but Caleb's absence is not the only unexplainable occurrence plaguing this seaside town. Strange weather phenomena beleaguer Winter Harbor, more bodies are washing ashore with horrific smiles forever frozen on their faces, and Vanessa is nearly knocked unconscious due to a searing pain in her head whenever in the presence of certain individuals.

Simon and Vanessa know there's more to Justine's death and Caleb's disappearance than disastrous teenage exploits, and in their search, they discover that Winter Harbor isn't merely a human tourist attraction, but a mythological one as well.


What a refreshing premise. In a time when Weres and vampires rule the paranormal adult and young adult fiction world (not to mention movies and television), it's wonderful to stumble across a supernatural story that's so completely unique. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of anything werewolf or vampire, but it's a welcome change to have a new supernatural force take center stage.

The story gets its hooks into you first thing with Justine's tragic death, and though there is a slight lull in the middle where Ms. Rayburn is leaving clues and setting up events that will come into play later in the story, it picks back up a short time later as the body count begins to rise.

In addition to the plethora of eerily cheerful male victims for readers to focus on, there's also an unwarranted hostility between some of the permanent town residents and Vanessa that's extremely intriguing. One in particular takes an instant dislike to Vanessa for reasons we aren't privy to as readers, only serving to make me want to read faster in the hopes of discovering why. The depth of Rayburn's characters is a huge part of the novel's appeal. Each and every character has a questionable history
and a slew of secrets, making it extremely interesting to try and decipher which ones are more than their facade would suggest.

The budding romance between Vanessa and Simon is adorable and sweet, and I like that Vanessa's entire world doesn't revolve around her interest in him. She's able to see past the attraction and stay on task while keeping her swooning to a bare minimum.

The ending is action packed and emotionally draining, and only a few of the questions that have arisen in the pages before it are brought to the surface, leaving me no choice but to pine for next year's sequel. The history surrounding the sirens is only partially illuminated by the time this story wraps up, the tie between the odd weather patterns and the murders isn't quite clear, and questions surrounding the futures of all those involved are plentiful. I'm not a reader who minds unanswered questions in a series, I actually enjoy letting my mind come up with several potential outcomes while I wait, however, if you like things wrapped up with a pretty little bow upon conclusion, this read may frustrate you.

All in all, Siren is a fun, entertaining story perfect for reading on a summer vacation. Especially a vacation involving water.

Rating 4/5

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: The Iron King

THE IRON KING (Iron Fey #1)
Julie Kagawa

Young Adult

363 pages

Harlequin Teen
Available Now


It's the day before Meghan Chase's long-awaited sixteenth birthday. The day she can finally get a driver's license and escape the backwoods swamp she lives in with her mother, half brother and stepfather. She wants nothing more than the freedom to become part of the real world. A world that embraces cell phones, computers that don't rely on dial-up, and transportation other than a bus.

But Meghan's birthday signifies more than just being a heartbeat closer to that wished-for freedom, it also signifies the beginning of a latent destiny. Flashes of unusual creatures, quick glimpses of inhuman faces on familiar people, and a little brother's insistence of a supernatural being in his closet all make Meghan question her grasp on reality.

It's not until her young brother goes missing that Meghan realizes the home that was once so commonplace actually masks the strange, mythical world of the fey, and she must immerse herself in that which is foreign and unbelievable in order to bring him home. Bizarre creatures and environments flourish as Meghan and best friend Puck navigate through the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, with the reluctant help of fae prince Ash, to find Ethan and perhaps save the Nevernever from a new and sinister foe.


This is a very interesting read. I will say that I had some trouble with the world building at first, finding the lack of definable boundaries hard to navigate. I know that sounds strange since the majority of the books I read are supernatural or paranormal, thereby existing outside definition by nature, but of late most of those novels have been set in the human world where I understand the parameters. Sure vampires and Weres run amuck and faeries tempt humans with their beauty and charm, but all of those creatures exist for the most part in our world, where they either seek refuge or just wish to live among humans. The mythology is familiar to me, though it can at times deviate from previously established notions of such creatures.

Ms. Kagawa's world has no such recognizable guidelines, and that took some adjustment on my part. Once I delved into her world and adapted to the fact that truly anything can happen in this imaginative place, I came to thoroughly enjoy the story.

Meghan and Puck have a fun and easy-going relationship. He often gets exasperated at her lack of understanding when it comes to anything fey, and she frequently finds herself in debt to a number of creatures for making a deal or just saying "thank you". Puck is fiercely protective of Meghan, and there are hints at a potential romance though Meghan is quickly distracted by the appearance of Ash.

Ash is utterly uninterested in aiding Meghan and would instead prefer to rid himself of her in a more permanent fashion save for the fact that her lineage prevents him from doing so. He is cold and closed off, much befitting a prince of the Winter Court, but every once in a while we get a little glimpse of a thaw that betrays his outward lack of interest. Though he begins to warm to Meghan, it's still very difficult to read his true intentions in regards to her well being. Does he really care for her, or does he intend to carry out his original agenda and deliver her to the Unseelie Court? Such questions make their relationship very interesting indeed.

I truly can't say enough about the creativity of Ms. Kagawa. Unusual creatures pop up at every turn, impossibilities become the norm, and the new race of iron fey redefine all previous faery folklore. And yet through all the artistry, we are anchored by the emotions and relationships between Meghan, Puck and Ash.

A fun and truly entertaining story for anyone looking to escape reality for a little while.

Rating 4/5

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In My Mailbox

This is my first In My Mailbox! This was created by The Story Siren and I'm so excited to participate this week!

For review:

(Elemental Assassin #3) by Jennifer Estep

by Andrea Cremer

The Iron Daughte
r by Julie Kagawa


Night Myst
by Yasmine Galenorn

by Tricia Rayburn

The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Review: The Darkest Lie

THE DARKEST LIE (Lords of the Underworld #6)
Gena Showalter

Paranormal Romance
436 pages
Available Now


Gideon, keeper of Lies, is plagued with the inability to speak the truth. Instead, he's forced to voice the opposite of what he truly means, with only those closest to him understanding what he's trying to say.

Scarlet, a vessel for the demon of Nightmares, travels to Budapest to issue a warning to the Lords. Cronus, the new king of the gods, has issued a set of scrolls to the Lords with names of other beings who are demon-posessed. Scarlet's name is on such a list, so she demands the Lords not search for her in any way. Of course, the Lords cannot let someone as powerful as Nightmares loose in society, so they capture her and throw her in the dungeon.

Here she meets Gideon, a man from her past she is unable to escape, and a man she desperately wants to be part of her future. Gideon, however, is unable to remember anything of his history with her, and constantly struggles against his growing feelings while trying to get her to understand the convoluted language he has to speak.

The Titans, ever watchful and ever conniving, keep a close eye on both Scarlet and Gideon as the two of them explore their past life together. They continue to insert themselves in the Lords' war with the hunters, providing aid when necessary and refusing it when it suits them. Temporary allegiances are made, old enemies are remembered, and a new supernatural force continues to make it's presence known.

Gideon and Scarlet have a history together. They don't simply meet by happenstance and fall instantly into lust and decide to try and make a relationship work. In all the previous novels, the women have been strangers to the Lords, and I like that in Gideon's case there is much more present in their interactions than simple physical attraction.

Gideon himself is hard not to adore. He so badly wants to just once tell a woman she's pretty instead of ugly, call her "angel" instead of "devil", and scream at his enemies that he wants to kill them instead of kiss them. The Gideon Speak does take a little getting used to however. Trying to decipher what he's saying slows the plot down a little, and every once in a while you can't help but take what he's saying at face value and are left slightly confused.

Scarlet I find to be a little frustrating. I genuinely feel for her as her past is revealed, and empathize with her plight to find Gideon after they were separated when the Lords were kicked from the heavens, but her constant inability to commit to a decision lessens my opinion of her. She's extremely naive with regards to her feelings, and though Gideon has given her no reason to doubt otherwise, she refuses to believe he truly cares for her and therefore constantly pushes him away thinking his life will be better without her in it.

Because she continually recants on this decision and comes back to him, poor Gideon is forced to deal with the repercussions of having his feelings taken from one extreme to the other. She loves him and is going to stay, then she can't possibly stay because she's hurt him enough already, then she can't imagine her life without him, then she fears her staying will result in godly wrath so she must go. Gideon, as a result, is happy one minute and then constantly trying to make peace with her decision to go the next. Phew, that is a lot of decision making in a short period of time.

I still truly enjoy these books and will of course be continuing the series. Amun and Strider are next, so I can't wait to see what's in store for Secrets and Defeat.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blog Hop #4

This week's question asks us what book are we dying to get our hands on, so here's my answer:

There are so many I'm dying for at the moment I don't know where to even start. In the young adult world, the time cannot pass quick enough to bring me
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I finished Catching Fire months and months ago and have to know whether Katniss ends up with Gale, Peeta, or neither.

In the urban fantasy world, I need Karen Marie Moning's
Shadowfever. I blew through the first four in a week and am not-so-patiently watching the calendar as I get one day closer to January. She left us with the be-all-end-all of cliffhangers and inumerable unanswered questions, and I need to know what Barrons is like I need to breathe. Can't wait!

I Have Well Behaved Dogs?

I'd like to take a break from reviewing books today and bring you another snippet of my life with two ridiculous boxer dogs.

We were on our daily walk through the neighborhood and passed a woman going door to door (note to self: shut front door when you get home to avoid sales pitch). She turned and looked at us, smiled, and opened her mouth to say something. I'm thinking she might tell me they're pretty and ask a question about them, as this is usually the case (please see my previous post about the attractiveness of my dogs). Instead, she said, "your dogs are really well behaved."

I was so startled by her comment I'm fairly certain my only reply was "whuh?" Kind of a cross between "what" and "huh". Don't be jealous now, not everyone can be born with my eloquence, it just comes naturally to me.

This comment was so absurd that I giggled to myself the entire walk home. My dogs are most certainly not well behaved. In the slightest. Griffin (on the right) pulls like a freight train the entire time, earning us the oh-so original statement "who's walking who" from many a passerby. He also feels it necessary to pee on every single tree, bush, leaf, or stick he passes and, as a result, is the proud owner of the entire neighborhood. Well done Griffin, well done.

I've seen dogs in our area that are well behaved. They sit quietly with their owner while waiting to cross the street and walk beside them at a normal, non-frenzied pace. Meanwhile, my dogs have hallucinated a squirrel or rabbit that is invisible to everyone else in the yard we're passing and are hopping up and down excitedly as though it's really there. Pretty fantastic.

Passing another dog on the street is always an experiment in strength and endurance on my part. Luckily, my dogs aren't super vocal and don't bark in the presence of other dogs, but they do however find it highly amusing to spin in circles, tangle themselves up, and then simultaneously try to rip my arms from their sockets while swiping my feet out from under me with their leashes. Passing people on the street creates a similar reaction.

Gatsby and Griffin are both extremely friendly and loving, but "well-behaved" is most certainly not the first thing that would come from my mouth when describing them. They have their moments of brilliance, but on a walk those moments are often few and far between.

Don't let the above picture fool you. That sweet, unassuming pose they adopt is a ruse. Just ask the poor UPS man. Griffin engages in guerrilla-style warfare when he comes to the door. He sits at the front door, looking adorable and innocent, then waits patiently until the UPS man makes it to the front step and deems it safe to approach. As soon as he gets within 2 feet of the door BAM! Griffin jumps up and bangs on storm door, creating a very loud noise and making a second pair of brown shorts a necessity for the UPS guy.

I love these dogs, I should have taken them to obedience school yes, but my life would be much emptier and less entertaining without them both.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Twice Bitten

TWICE BITTEN (Chicagoland Vampires #3)
Chloe Neill

Urban Fantasy
355 pages

New American Library

Available Now


Merit is Chicago's newest vampire. Changed against her will and inducted into Cadogan House by master vampire Ethan Sullivan, she has struggled with her life's new direction. One minute she's working on her dissertation at the University of Chicago, and the next she's dealing with First Hunger and an unwanted physical attraction to her maker.

Ethan is cocky, arrogant and completely infuriating. He toys with Merit's emotions on a regular basis, and routinely calls her in to aid him in dangerous situations as per her job requirement as Sentinel for Cadogan House.

This installment has Merit working security for Gabriel Keene, the apex of the North American shapeshifters.
Shifters, unlike vampires, have not revealed their existence to the public and are convening in Chicago to decide whether they will literally tuck tail and run to their stronghold in Alaska to avoid the impending war that's been set in motion by former master vampire Celina, or if they will stand their ground alongside the vampires as they never have previously. Of course, opinions on the action they should take vary greatly among pack members, and not everyone is pleased that Gabriel is even considering aiding the vampires.

Ethan and Merit are chosen as vampire representatives, in charge of Gabriel's security and a visual reminder to the shifters of who they could be fighting for and beside. Planted straight in the path of a professional hit, Merit and Ethan fight to keep Gabriel safe and win the pack's allegiance, even as they struggle with a sexual tension that has been building and has nearly reached it's breaking point.


This is the book for which Ethan and Merit fans have been waiting. One of Neill's talents, among many, is her ability to create an absolutely palpable tension between Ethan and Merit that literally radiates from the pages in suffocating heat waves. Their typical witty banter is saturated with innuendo and their forced physical proximity during Merit's training is cold-shower inducing.

Ethan is one of my all time favorite heroes (or anti-hero as he sometimes proves himself to be). Neill has created a character that I simultaneously want to kiss on the lips and knee in the groin. He gives you a taste of his sweet side one page, then morphs into master vampire mode the next and makes you want to cry at the loss. In this story however, we get a glimpse of vulnerability. The master vampire facade crumbles ever so slightly as he reveals his need for Merit. Not just his desire to possess. Not just his alpha male ego wanting to claim someone who has pushed him away previously. We get to see his
need. A little chink in the protective armor Ethan so fastidiously polishes and shines and shows to the outside world, and it's oh-so-good.

But Ethan would not be Ethan, the vampire we so begrudgingly love, if things stayed perfect in his personal relationship with Merit. Her dedication to her master, both physically and emotionally, is put to the test as tensions with the shifters rise and a vampire from Ethan's past comes to visit.

Neill masterfully creates a story that leaps off the page, events playing out as though they're in front of you, forcing you to keep reading into the wee hours of the morning lest you miss a single sentiment or piece of action. Secondary characters Catcher, Mallory, Luc, and Lindsey are hilarious as always, providing snarky comments to help ease Merit's emotional strain. Though I wish for more page time with them, their particular brand of humor never failing to make me laugh, I'm able to appreciate that this is truly Merit and Ethan's book.

Oh, and we finally learn Merit's first name. I cannot wait to see what's in store for Merit and gang in book four.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cover Critique: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts stemming from my design experience.
I love Jeaniene Frost. Love her. Love Bones and Cat. Thinking I'm going to seriously love Mencheres in just a few weeks. However, I do not love this cover. My first issue isn't as much a design issue as a casting one. Mencheres is the oldest and most powerful of Ms. Frost's vampires, and as such, he positively exudes raw energy and sex appeal. He can literally send waves of his power through the air and caress another body (for a complete and utter tease, see Jeaniene's chat forum where this particular power is demonstrated via snippet).

No offense to the cover model, but for me, that sexual bravado I expect from Mencheres doesn't quite emanate from him. Instead, he's hidden behind the female model and seems almost short in stature as opposed to looming over her in an alpha male/master vampire "you're mine to claim" type of way. Any fan of Jeaniene's knows that if she had her way, we'd have a shirtless Oded Fehr on the cover. Win. Might I also suggest Joe Manganiello?

Either Mr. Fehr or Mr. Manganiello (better known as Alcide on True Blood) would be a suitable cover model for Mencheres. Not only do they fit the character description, but they have a rougher look about them that makes me believe that should my life be in mortal peril, they'll be able to step in and do something about it. The current model looks as though he would be content to stand behind me and let me take the hit. Not the most romantic of gestures really.
My second issue with this particular cover is the use of color. The image is too monochromatic, the blue tones dulling the image down so it seems to fade into the background. And the background is most certainly not where Ms. Frost's books should be. They should be front and center of any paranormal romance fan's bookshelf. I enjoy the cover for First Drop of Crimson, I think the colors pop well, and the switch from a single woman on the cover, as with her Night Huntress novels, to a couple suits the more romantic feel of this spinoff series.

This cover just lacks that extra spark to separate it from the other books. The colors are lifeless (ha! I made a pun), though her name and the title are nice and readable, and the layout and positioning of the characters on the cover isn't as visually interesting as I would like.

Cover critique aside, I'm counting down these last few days until this book comes out. I need something to tide me over until we get a full Cat and Bones book in February!

What do you think? Oded, Joe, or current cover model?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review: Sisters Red

Jackson Pearce
Young Adult

328 pages

Little, Brown
Available Now


Seven years ago Scarlett March was viciously attacked and forever scarred by a Fenris, a soulless creature with the ability to sprout fur, grow claws, and ultimately shift into a gruesome parody of a wolf.

Scarlett escaped with her life, and the life of her sister Rosie all those years ago, but as a result, she dedicates her remaining existence to hunting down the creatures responsible for the loss of her eye and her extensive scarring.

Fenris are always male, and are therefore susceptible to young, defenseless female bait. Scarlett and Rosie, along with the help of their childhood friend Silas, prowl the streets of their home in small town Georgia luring Fenris to their deaths one by one. Things seem to be business as usual until the beasts' hunting pattern changes. They hear talk of them hunting one person in particular, as opposed to seeking out any available prey, and that person is supposedly spotted in big city Atlanta.

Scarlett, Rosie and Silas decide to pack up and temporarily relocate to Atlanta in search of this Potential, a boy or man with a specific set of attributes that allow him to shift into a Fenris if bitten. All the Fenris are searching for him, intent on increasing their power by increasing the size of their pack, and Scarlett wants nothing more than to find him first and use him as her own bait to destroy them all.

Twists and turns abound as the three of them fight physical battles, emotional battles, and find themselves in a race against time to save an unsuspecting public from the horror of learning that monsters don't only exist in fabled children's stories.


This is a really fun book. It has fairy-tale feel to the folklore, complete with the girls wearing hooded red cloaks to draw the wolves' attention, and classic Little Red Riding Hood statements:

"You have weird eyes, " she added,

"...The better to see your lovely faces with, my dears..."

The mythology surrounding the Fenris is intriguing and imaginative. Fur covers their skin in a leperous fashion, covering only patches at a time, they have a distinct smell that sets them apart, and each has a small tattoo of an arrow, bell, or coin on their wrist to indicate the pack to which they belong.
They are all male, are all attractive on a number of levels, and all have an inability to hold their human form when faced with tempting bait.

In addition to a story packed with action, we also get a glimpse of romance between younger sister Rosie and childhood friend-turned-hunting-partner Silas. Their interactions are adorable as both struggle with the awkwardness of having feelings that could possibly go unrequited. Humorously foolish statements tumble from their mouths without provocation, and you can't help but root for them to make their feelings known despite the disastrous effect it could have on their individual relationships with Scarlett.

The story moves lightening fast, thrusting the three protagonists into a bevy of dangerous situations and emotional upheavals. The mystery surrounding the Potential is frustrating in the best possible way, as finding him is paramount to their very survival, but their clues to do so are few and far between.

The only negative aspect of the story for me is Scarlett herself. She is horribly scarred and carries the weight of caring for her baby sister in their mother's absence and the wake of their grandmother's death, but she cannot seem to let go of her self pity and resentment of her situation. She saved her sister's life those seven years ago, and as payment, she fully expects Rosie to be as dedicated to hunting the Fenris as she herself is. No hobbies, no love interests, absolutely no life at all outside of that single focus. Though some sympathy for the hand she was dealt is understandable, her continuing reminders and whining of her sacrifice to both Rosie and Silas gets to be a bit trying at times.

Overall, this is a great read and a fun take on the werewolf genre, I highly recommend it to any paranormal fan.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blog Hop #3

This week's twist asks me to name my favorite authors. I don't know if I can narrow it down to just a few, there are so many great ones I stalk, er, follow. In paranormal romance I'm a huge J.R. Ward and Jeaniene Frost fan, in urban fantasy I adore Jennifer Estep and Ilona Andrews, and in young adult I love Richelle Mead and Suzanne Collins. There are so many, many more, but those are the ones that jump out at me. I love the worlds they've created, the characters they've made me fall in love with, and the stories that have made me both laugh and cry.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

The Romance "Look"

A couple of days ago I went to the bookstore to feed my addiction, and at the checkout counter I received the "look" from the woman working. Any romance reader will know the look to which I'm referring. The glance at the book cover, then the slight quirk of the lips as they take in the title, and suddenly they look at you as though your IQ just dropped 20 points for buying something they consider "smut". Somehow, I'd spontaneously become less intelligent now that I was at the front of the line than when I was in the back and no one knew what book I was buying. I'm sorry bookstore clerk, but a slightly melodramatic title and a sexy shirtless gentlemen on the cover does not a poorly-written novel make.

I find it frustrating when people quite literally judge romance novels by their covers and their genre. The "look" says "I can't believe you read this fluff" and "you must lead a sad, lonely life and have an affinity for feline companionship". Well, I do read this fluff, I'm not lonely, and I can honestly say that I'm much more of a dog person, thank you very much. Are there some romance novels out there that lack substance and favor gratuitous love scenes? Absolutely. But anyone who is a fan of the genre will tell you that those novels are not the ones that appeal to us. Novels boasting men of heightened sexual prowess wearing denim prisons bursting at the seams are nothing without a strong storyline, and love scenes are worthless without character development and interaction.

To those who assume romance novels are poorly written and only indulge in a woman's need to fantasize, I say you are correct that some will never become literary classics like Crime and Punishment or Pride and Prejudice. However, I will argue that there are equally poor mysteries, sci-fi thrillers, fantasies, and general fiction novels. Most romance novels that I'm a fan of are brilliantly thought out, engaging, and create characters that stay with me long after I've put the book down.

I'm also a fan of young adult novels. Does the fact that they're targeted to people 15-20 years my junior make them less applicable to my life? Does it make them less creative, less imaginative, and less powerful because they're aimed at a younger generation that hasn't completed their higher education? Not in the slightest. In the same vein then, just because the subject matter of a romance novel surrounds the physical relationship between two characters, it does not mean the world building, supporting characters, and storytelling are anything other than outstanding. These authors are no less educated or creative than mainstream fiction writers and should be afforded the same respect for their talent.

I'm proud to be a romance reader, how about you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Raised by Wolves

Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Young Adult

418 pages

Available Now


Bronwyn Alessia St. Vincent Clare is a girl with a lot of names. A lot of names, but not a clear identity. She is a human girl raised in the biggest and strongest werewolf pack in the United States. Though she lives with them, understands the pack mentality and rule system, and is on teasing terms with pack alpha Callum, she still doesn't quite fit in. She eschews the pack's bond, having erected mental shields the moment Callum Marked her as a pack member when she was four, is only close to one other Were her age named Devon, and prefers to spend her time in her art studio than run with the pack or join in pack business.

Everything changes when she finds a newly bitten and turned Were in the basement of Callum's house. Problem is Weres are supposed to be born, not made, and humans almost never survive an attack that would lead to a Change. Suddenly, everything Callum has taught her over the years about Weres and their instincts comes to the surface, and she forms a mental bond with Chase, a bond unlike any she has experienced with other pack members.

As it turns out, Chase is not the only secret Callum has been keeping. Memories from Bryn's past return to haunt her, as those memories are eerily similar to the experiences that led to Chase's induction into the werewolf world. Once a stubborn teenage girl who sought nothing more than to establish an identity outside of Were culture, Bryn soon becomes fully indoctrinated in pack mentality, methodology, customs, and justice as she fights to save those who are important to her, and strives to finally find her place amongst the wolves.

I love Bryn. She's got a level head on her shoulders, she meets difficult situations with wit and sarcasm, and she isn't consumed by teen angst or have tunnel vision when it comes to boys. Instead, she constantly looks inward, and seeks to find her place in a foreign culture and to define herself outside of Callum and his pack.

The story itself is completely engaging, and leads the reader through the trials and tribulations of a society driven by the basest of instincts. The pack culture is beautifully depicted, the werewolves way of life both alien yet completely understandable. Pack members are to be protected. Rules are to be obeyed. The alpha's word is law.

Bryn, teenager that she is, has a stubborn streak and often interprets Callum's orders in the opposite way he intended they be received, and thus often finds herself in quite a bit of trouble. Her interactions with older-brother figure Callum are humorous and endearing, her relationship with best friend Devon is filled with good-humored jesting, and her fights with adoptive mother Ali are completely realistic.

Chase is a fascinating character, and I like how things play out between him and Bryn. Their relationship doesn't consist of covert glances from across the room, and they don't exist solely for a brush of the other one's lips or fingertips. Their connection is intense, and has every possibility of becoming life threatening if Chase loses control of his wolf. Their shared memory of a Rabid wolf with a star-shaped mark on his head strengthens their bond, and helps each of them find their way from outsider to intrinsic member of the Were world.

The ending is wrapped up well enough that I'm not cursing every minute until the next book comes out, but opens the door to enough future possibilities that when it does, I will be knocking people out of the way to get my hands on it first.

Rating 5/5

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cover Critique: Beautiful Darkness

Let me preface this post by saying that my design critiques of these covers are in no way, shape or form a reflection on the author, the content or the publisher. I know the authors have very little, if any, control over the design. These are strictly my thoughts stemming from my design experience.

Did I just drool? I think I did. This cover is breathtaking. I've seen 2 versions of it, one with the stairs as pictured above, and one with a wrought iron fence, but both version have this spectacular type treatment for the title.

The image matters little really, it's all about the piece of art that is the words "beautiful darkness". I love that the designer(s) didn't merely just choose a font from a list for this cover, instead, they hired artist/illustrator Si Scott to create a custom piece. It looks as though the type was wet, and then someone came by and ran their fingers through it to create the tendril-like flourishes that drip off the letters. Just gorgeous.

I also love that despite the fact that "beautiful" is used in the title of both this book and the first novel, Beautiful Creatures, the type treatment is not the same. Instead, Mr. Scott created a new design where the swirls interact with the letters in "darkness" differently than than they did with "creatures". It's exciting to see so much thought put into the cover design, and it most certainly pays off as this cover's color scheme and illustration set it apart.

Simplicity is such a wonderful thing in design work, and this cover keeps everything clean and clutter-free, accentuating the focal point. Even the authors names are small and unassuming at the bottom, making sure that the title is the first and only thing you focus on. Walking by the shelves in the young adult section, I know I would remember the title of this book even if I didn't stop to look at it. It makes an impression, makes itself memorable, and that is something every designer likes to see.

Yes, well designed covers make me happy. I can't help it:)

Seen a cover that's either gorgeous or absurd? Email me at and let's have a look!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review: The Darkest Whisper

THE DARKEST WHISPER (Lords of the Underworld #4)
Gena Showalter
Paranormal Romance

406 pages


Available Now


If you are unfamiliar with the Lords of the Underworld series, see my review of The Darkest Pleasure for a brief summary.

The Darkest Whisper
brings us Sabin's story, keeper of the demon of Doubt. The war with the hunters, a group of humans sworn to destroy the Lords in order to return the world to a state of utopia, has been raging for thousands of years. Recently, however, the stakes have increased exponentially as it is discovered that the hunters are not only seeking to capture the Lords, but are also seeking Pandora's box. They plan to use it to relieve the Lords of their demons, thereby killing them once and for all.
In order to locate the box, four specific artifacts are required.

The Lords are currently in possession of two, but are in a race with the hunters to locate the remaining artifacts and destroy the box so it's no longer a threat to them.
Sabin is the most focused on this particular quest, and on one of his searches, he stumbles across a hunter lair where they are torturing and raping supernatural females to create a hybrid race that will be better able to hunt their enemies. Here he meets Gwen, a harpy with an unconventionally timid nature.

Drawn to her instantly, Sabin frees her from the hunters and takes her back to the Lords' fortress in Budapest where he seeks to enlist her help in the war against the hunters. Harpies have unmatched strength and swiftness, and Sabin wants nothing more than to tip the scales in his favor by enlisting someone with such attributes.
He doesn't anticipate his feelings for Gwen however, and has to decide whether his precious war or his newfound love are more important, and Doubt nags at him every step of the way.

This is my least favorite of the series thus far. Part of why this story falls a little flat for me is due to the focus on the demon of Doubt. Sabin's possession of this particular demon causes everyone around him to question themselves. Are they strong enough? Pretty enough? Are they better than the hunters? Will they fail? Even Sabin himself cannot escape the constant questioning, and routinely doubts his actions. The uncertainty of all the characters gets to be a little overwhelming.

That being said, I did expect Doubt to play a bigger role in Gwen and Sabin's relationship. In the past, Sabin's demon has driven his lovers to commit suicide, but Gwen is able to tame Doubt rather quickly and easily for all the trouble he has caused previously. Instead of being plagued by Sabin's Doubt, she is instead weighed down by her own insecurities as a rather demure harpy when harpies are supposed to be strong, lethal and fearless.

Both Gwen and Sabin are likable characters, they just don't jump off the page the way some of the characters in the previous stories have. The connection with Sabin isn't there for me as much as it is with the other Lords (especially Paris and Torin, though we have only gotten little snippets of their lives) and therefore my investment in the outcome of his story isn't as intense.

The Darkest Whisper
is still a fun read, just not as powerful as some of the other installments. I hear wonderful things regarding Aeron's book and Gideon's book, so I look forward to the next two!

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hop Hop Hop


I'm honored to be the featured blog this time around, so a big thanks goes out to Parajunkee for asking me to be a part of this week's hop!

My name is Jenny and I've only been blogging for about two weeks. I started the blog because I was devouring books like it was my job and thought other people might enjoy reading some of the books I was pouring through. I tend to be a little sarcastic at times, hence the title of my blog. I love to read paranormal romance, urban fantasy and paranormal young adult, but I'm always open to other genres.
Can't wait to get to know all of you and thanks so much for popping in!

Also hopping with Crazy for Books hop: