Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review of The House of Dead Maids by Clare Dunkle

Title: The House of Dead Maids
Author: Clare Dunkle
Pages: 146 pages, hardcover
Genre: Gothic ghost story
Standalone/Series: standalone (written as a prequel to Wuthering Heights)
Release:  Sept. 14, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Received from Blue Slip Media
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: In the clear
GoodReads Blurb: Young Tabby Aykroyd has been brought to the dusty mansion of Seldom House to be nursemaid to a foundling boy. He is a savage little creature, but the Yorkshire moors harbor far worse, as Tabby soon discovers. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby in peace, yet this spirit is only one of many. Why do scores of dead maids and masters haunt Seldom House with a jealous devotion that extends beyond the grave?

As Tabby struggles to escape the evil forces rising out of the land, she watches her young charge choose a different path. He is determined to keep Seldom House as his own. Though Tabby tries to befriend the uncouth urchin, her kindness cannot alter his fate. Long before he reaches the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights, the boy who will become Heathcliff has doomed himself and any who try to befriend him.

This is definitely an atmospheric book from the creepy cover to the dust covered and haunted Seldom House you learn about inside. Though The House of Dead Maids is not the typical type of book I read, I really enjoyed the gothic feel of the book and the stark and dreary ghost story. We start the book with Tabby's journey to Seldom House and the crossroads she takes and a mysterious boat journey which all leads her to a house that seems sinister and uninviting. Little hints are dropped thoughout the beginning of the book that something is not right with her companions or the house she is going to but the truth of what is going on is all the more spine-chilling.

Tabby, the main protagonist in the story, has a no-nonsense way about her and faces her challenges well for an eleven year old. Tabby is based on the Brontë sisters housekeeper whose ghost stories might have inspired the sisters future tales, such as Wuthering Heights. I highly recommend this book for those looking for a good ghost story to read during Halloween.

4 out of 5 stars, a great and goose-bump raising gothic tale.

Don't miss the author's guest post and your chance to win the book here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Post and Giveaway with Author Clare Dunkle - Author of The House of Dead Maids

Today we have Clare Dunkle visiting - the author of The House of Dead Maids - a sufficiently creepy gothic ghost story that is perfect to read on a cold fall night. Stay tuned to the end of the post to find out how to win The House of Dead Maids and check back later today for my review of the book. Enjoy! Also are there places you have visited in your life that fill you with a sense of dread or give you the creeps?

When I wrote my new novel, The House of Dead Maids, I wanted to create an atmosphere that would disturb my readers. I didn’t just want to scare them because scares are temporary, and they often end in a laugh. No, I wanted to make my readers uneasy. I wanted them to feel unsafe. So I thought about places where we humans feel unsafe, and why they make us feel this way.

One of my earliest memories has no words or data attached to it. In essence, it’s nothing more than a snapshot. I see in my memory a small room brightened by a single grimy window. Flyspecks and dirt obscure the window so that I can’t make out a view beyond it. A spindly table stands in the center of the room, but it is cheap, old, and gray with dust and time. I notice a rug on the floor beneath the table, but its pattern is obliterated by dust.

In my memory, I feel wonder. This room is so like other rooms I know but so completely different. I am afraid of who—or what—might be living here.

I have no idea now where this place was, but when I went to college, I learned its name and why it frightened me. My dusty room was a liminal place, and such places awaken in us a feeling verging on instinctive dread. Liminality is a transitional state, emptied of one thing but not yet another, and the deepest, oldest layers of our brains warn us of its danger. Twilight, for instance, is neither day nor night. So is an eclipse. Caves, springs, volcanoes, mountaintops, and shorelines mark places where things change from one state to another. Our ancestors worshiped such places and peopled them with dangerous sprites. Magic rituals focus on liminal places and objects in liminal states. The corpse is such an object—it is, temporarily, neither the loved one we knew, nor is it dust, a part of nature. And the abandoned house is neither a place to live nor a place with another use.  It is a “corpse” house—a place to avoid.

Liminal places seem supercharged with possibility. The normal rules don’t apply there. Anything can happen. These possibilities frighten us because they threaten to overturn our orderly world. The devil waits for us at the crossroads. Closets—small uninhabited rooms—make us uneasy. Monsters hide in the empty darkness under our beds. We feel nervous about long, dark hallways.

My book is a prequel to Emily Brontë’s Victorian novel, Wuthering Heights, and that classic story is all about intruding upon liminal places. Over and over, the text mentions doors, windows, fences, and stairways. Over and over, characters force their way into places where they are unwelcome. The focus of the novel is a woman who has been dead for seventeen years—a liminal figure. The story ends at her grave—a liminal place.

So my novel, too, lingers on liminal places and liminal states. My main character, Tabby, comes to her new house over the ancient pathways of fire, water, earth and air—driven down dirt roads, ferried upriver like a lost soul entering the underworld, and carried in, at the end, with a lighted lantern before her. She finds herself in a place that is not really lived in but not abandoned, a dusty maze of a house where she is the Young Maid, neither a servant nor a person in charge. She discovers that the furthest point inside Seldom House is an empty courtyard, neither inside nor outside. This empty courtyard contains an empty grave. And it isn’t long before she meets the last Young Maid: that most liminal of figures, neither alive nor dead—an empty-eyed, gray-faced ghost.

Special Brontë-themed giveaway!
One Grand Prize winner will receive The House of Dead Maids, a gorgeous Brontë sisters pocket mirror, and the HarperTeen edition of Wuthering Heights! Two lucky runners-up will receive the two books. To enter, send an email to with your name, email address, and shipping address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and email address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on October 31. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on November 1 and notified via email.

The next stop on the tour is Adventures in Children's Publishing at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review of Healer's Choice by Jory Strong

Title: Healer's Choice
Author: Jory Strong
Pages: 384 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic paranormal romance
Standalone/Series: Series (Ghostland World #3)
Release:  September 7th, 2010
Publisher: Berkeley
Received from author for review
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Some spoilers for previous books
GoodReads Blurb: In a post-Apocalyptic world where supernaturals have emerged from hiding, ancient, unseen enemies play a game that began at the dawn of human civilization. War is coming and neutrality isn’t an option. For Were shapeshifters, a healer’s gift holds the key to their survival…
Born into a world of violence and paid-for-sex, Rebekka longs for a family of her own and dreams of freeing those trapped in the shapeshifter brothels of the red zone. A witch’s prophecy claims she’ll one day use her gift to heal the Weres made outcast by their mixed human-animal forms. But Rebekka knows all too well that everything comes at a cost. Made a pawn in a game she can barely glimpse, by beings whose motives she can only guess, she must navigate a dangerous course that might well cost her life. With her gift changed in terrifying ways, a plea to save five children sends her into the arms of Aryck, a Jaguar enforcer—and into territory controlled by pure Weres. It’s a place where humans and outcasts aren’t welcomed. Where dead ancestors watch from the shadowlands and have the power to judge and punish the living. It’s a place where plague threatens and the fate of the Weres hangs in the balance. And where the choices Rebekka and Aryck make are paid for with their hearts…if not their souls.

REVIEW: This post-apocalyptic paranormal romance (say that three times fast) takes you on a dark journey into a world that has been ravaged by catastrophic wars and now is run by Vice lords who deal in human and were (shifter) flesh.  The protagonist of this story, Rebekka, uses her powers of healing to help these abused sex workers and carve a niche for herself in her dark world. This is the third book in the Ghostland series and the first of the series I have read, though I was lost at a few parts, particularly in the beginning, you don’t need to read the previous books to delve into this story. Rebekka really draws you into the story as you try to comprehend the cruel world she lives in and really I don’t know if I could be as strong and compassionate as she is given all she faces. Quickly in the story, Rebekka gets caught up in another dangerous situation when she is called on to go the aid of the Jaguar clan that lives in the hills outside Oakland, her home. Some cubs have become gravely ill and Rebekka is seen as these kids last hope. It turns out that the disease these kids suffer in is a lot more ominous than first believed and hints at someone wanting to unleash germ warfare to systematically destroy all weres. The bad guys in this story are seriously sinister and creepy and once again drive home the brutality of this world. This is definitely a dark book and even though the story is good and engaging after reading I had to medicate with some lighter paranormal romance afterward. 

Rebekka also gets entangled with an enforcer for the Jaguar clan, Aryck. Aryck’s animal soul instantly is attracted to Rebekka but his rational human half knows that nothing good can come of them being together. Aryck is constantly fighting a battle between his animal instincts and his better sense when it comes Rebekka – while ratcheting up the sexual tension it also gets frustrating. Aryck is dark and sensual while Rebekka has remained untouched for fear of what giving herself to someone will do to her magic. She has plenty of reason to stay away from the sexy jaguar enforcer, including her fear of how Aryck will judge her once he finds out more about her upbringing, her mother was a prostitute, and the marks it has put on her body. 

Overall 3 out of 5 stars for me, an interesting tale of a strong and loving healer in a dark and sinister world.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review of Sin Undone by Larissa Ione

Title: Sin Undone
Author: Larissa Ione
Pages: 400 pages, mass market paperback
Genre: paranormal romance
Standalone/Series: Series (Demonica series #5 (last of series))
Release: August 24th, 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Purchased by me
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Small spoilers for previous books, small plot spoilers
As the only female Seminus demon ever born, master assassin Sinead Donnelly is used to being treated like an outcast. She spent decades enslaved, and now vows she’ll die before she’ll relinquish her freedom again. Then Sin’s innate ability to kill her enemies goes awry: She creates a lethal new werewolf virus that sparks a firestorm of panic and violence.

Half-werewolf, half-vampire Conall Dearghul is charged with bringing in Sin to face punishment for the plague. And she’s no stranger: He’s bound to her by blood, and the one sexual encounter they shared has left him hungering for her raw sensuality. Worse, Sin is the underworld’s most wanted and Con soon learns he’s the only one who can help her . . . and that saving her life might mean sacrificing his own.

REVIEW: This is the last entry into the Demonica series and by far one of the best books of the series (though really I love them all). Ms. Ione’s writing is as dark and sexy as the black leather pants her heroine Sin wears. Sin and the Sem brothers are a tough and loyal bunch and the backdrop of Underworld General makes an excellent setting. Sin is the only known female Seminus demon, a hybrid of human and demon genes that shouldn’t exist. Sin’s life has left her with a huge chip on her shoulder and the inability to trust and rely on anyone since everyone she has relied on in the past has left her. She has a hard time with her brothers due to this, her full brother Lore and her half brothers, E, Shade, and Wraith. It also doesn’t help that Sin’s Sem powers let loose a highly contagious plague that affects wargs (weres) that now her brothers are frantically trying to find a cure for before humans start noticing the massive amounts of deaths. Add in a dark and sexy dhampire, Conall, who both wants to destroy Sin for the disease she unleashed and do naughty things to her, and Sin has a lot to handle.

The story does an excellent job of drawing Sin out of her tough and jaded shell as she starts to let go of her hard assassin exterior and remember what it’s like to feel again. Though she retains her sharp wit and even sharper tongue – a characteristic of her I love! It doesn’t hurt that Con is there to help her along this journey in so many ways. And as we learn along the way Con has a dark past and a lot of secrets as well which keep him walled off from most of his friends outside the dhampire community. Con and Sin’s relationship is complicated to say the least and with all the secrets they keep from each other it seems doomed from the start. Though as they dodge the attempts on Sin’s life the action heats up and of course this wouldn’t be a Demonica series book without a lot of action on and off the sheets (they are sex demons so what do you expect..).

The book kept me happy with glimpses of the other Sem brothers and their women as well as an introduction to the Lords of Deliverance – which will be Ms. Ione’s new series based in the Demonica world and comes out early 2011 ( I can’t wait). We also get to see more of Luc – who has been a paramedic at Underworld General since the first book in the series and has generally ended up getting beat down by the world throughout the series. I was happy with his side story and I thought it tied in nicely with Sin and Con’s story though I wish there was a little more Gem in the story since I love the Goth girl half-demon doctor. 

Overall 5 out of 5 stars, sad to see one of my favorite series end!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Early Review of Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

Title: Bayou Moon
Author: Ilona Andrews
Pages: 480 pages
Genre: Rustic Fantasy or Redneck Romance (according to authors)
Standalone/Series: Series (The Edge #2)
Release:  September 28th, 2010
Publisher: Ace
Received from agent
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: small plot spoilers
GoodReads Blurb: Cerise Mar and her unruly clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands between the state of Louisiana and the Weird. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect number one. But all is not as it seems. Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge—and Cerise’s life. William, a changeling soldier who left behind the politics of the Weird, has been forced back into service to track down a rival nation’s spymaster. When William’s and Cerise’s missions lead them to cross paths, sparks fly—but they’ll have to work together if they want to succeed ... and survive.

REVIEW: Hands down Ilona Andrews (a husband and wife writing team) is one of my favorite authors, the worlds they build are starkly beautiful knotted messes that you just want to start pulling on the threads to see where they lead. They have the ability to build books that create action sequences that make you forget how to breathe, complicated but ultimately satisfying romance, biting humor, and worlds you would like to see for yourself. Bayou Moon, the latest book by Ilona Andrew, contains all those things I love wrapped up in a great heroine and hero, Cerise and William, and one of the weirdest and most interesting worlds out there – that of the Broken/Edge/Weird. We were first introduced to this world in On the Edge – though you don’t need to read the first book to understand what is going on in Bayou Moon it was another awesome book so why wouldn’t you want to? – Broken is basically our world with no magic and lots of technology; Weird is a world full of magic; and the Edge is what exists between. The Edge has both magic and some technology but is a hard place to live – like some kind of refugee camp for those trying to escape or where exiled from the Weird but have too much magic to survive in the Broken for long. Therefore the Edge is inhabited with a lot of people who will kill to keep their secrets hidden, distrust outsiders to the point of killing them on sight, and like to take care of their problems themselves. And in the Mire – the part of the Edge Cerise is from and where the majority of this book takes place – those Edge attributes take on a more sinister form since the Mire is basically a gigantic prehistoric deadly swamp with gators the size of houses and 15 foot dead eels piloted by necromancers – so being an outsider there is definitely a one-way ticket to deadsville. The outsider in this story, William, is a tough and deadly sort that could do some damage to those gigantic gators and is no stranger to secrets since he has many of his own to hide. William is sent to the Mire to hunt Spider, his nemesis for many years who leads a team of magically altered spies.  This isn’t a pretty alteration either, the spies don’t sparkle in the sunlight or have beautiful wings, no they have tentacles, poison sacs, fangs, scales, and other nastiness. This was definitely a case where I was glad I was reading a book rather than having to see the disturbing images on TV. Unfortunately Cerise and her family become a target for Spider and his team of spies known as the Hand and William works with Cerise and her family to bring them down.

William and Cerise were a great pair from the start – so many hilarious misunderstandings had me giggling throughout the beginning of the book as well as their pet names for each other. The author does an excellent job of conveying that William thinks differently than most people due to his being a changeling and growing up in the equivalent of a harsh military school environment. This difference in the way William thinks led to some great foot-in-mouth moments for him as well. It also gives William a primal edge when it comes to battles and when it comes to what he wants from Cerise as well. Cerise is definitely tough enough and brave enough to attract William’s interest. Her ability to smash things up and to kill are quite the attractive attributes to him. Cerise also has a lot of responsibilities resting on her shoulders as the leader of her family and she has many of the attributes I love in an urban fantasy heroine –strong-willed, non-whiny, sarcastic, witty, deadly, and likes those strong and deadly types of men. 

This book is definitely a 5 out of 5 for me, Cerise and William make up a deadly and awesomely entertaining team!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Winners of Blogfest!

Since there were so many entries to my Blogfest post and many hours spent tabulating entries to figure out winners I decided to do 2 winners!

Winner of the YA prize pack is:


Winner of up to $15 in books at Book Depository is:

Mariska H

Congrats to the winners and you will be receiving an e-mail shortly! Thanks for everyone for entering and telling me which new releases you are most looking forward to - I like to see that I have alot of book choices in common with my readers!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review of Warrior by Zoe Archer - An excellent cross of Tomb Raider and Mummy on the Mongolian Steppes!

Title: Warrior
Author: Zoe Archer
Pages: 354 paperback
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance/Adventure
Standalone/Series: Series (#1 of The Blades of the Rose)
Release:  September 1st, 2010
Publisher: Zebra
Purchased by me *right now on sale at the Kindle store for $4.47 so go get it and pre-order the next three at the same price!
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Small plot spoilers
GoodReads Blurb: To most people, the realm of magic is the stuff of nursery rhymes and dusty libraries. But for Capt. Gabriel Huntley, it’s become quite real and quite dangerous…

IN HOT PURSUIT…The vicious attack Capt. Gabriel Huntley witnesses in a dark alley sparks a chain of events that will take him to the ends of the Earth and beyond—where what is real and what is imagined become terribly confused. And frankly, Huntley couldn’t be more pleased. Intrigue, danger, and a beautiful woman in distress—just what he needs.

IN HOTTER WATER… Raised thousands of miles from England, Thalia Burgess is no typical Victorian lady. A good thing, because a proper lady would have no hope of recovering the priceless magical artifact Thalia is after. Huntley’s assistance might come in handy, though she has to keep him in the dark. But this distractingly handsome soldier isn’t easy to deceive…

REVIEW: What do you get when you mix Laura Croft from Tomb Raider and Rick O’Connell from Mummy – you get Warrior by Zoe Archer. Though since the story takes place in 19th century England and Mongolia at least where the Laura Croft analogy is concerned there is less technology and other “enhancements”. The book is a great mix of swashbuckling adventure with a dash of paranormal and a very satisfying helping of romance. The protagonists in this story, Gabriel and Thalia, are thrown together as they try to stop the Heirs of Albion from stealing a magical Source. In this story the British Empire is the bad guy as it tries to take over and subjugate the world by finding Sources imbued with magic that if they fall into the wrong hands can be used by the empire to rule the world. The Blades of the Rose, a group that Thalia’s father belongs to, works to stop the Heirs from obtaining the Sources and to return the Sources to their natural protectors, the people or groups that the magic was borne from in the first place to create the Source. Thalia takes up her father’s cause when he becomes too injured to go out on a critical mission and Gabriel comes to her rescue again and again while the attraction that burns between them gets hotter and hotter. Thalia is a great character – she has grown up on the steppes of Mongolia most her life and loves the land and acts and dresses like a Mongol although she was born an English lady. She is no meek English rose to shy away from action or to be outraged at bad language which is good because Gabriel, a former captain in the British Army, has a very filthy mouth. The chemistry between these two was burning hot and made my heart go a-pitter patter as they both fought the passion they felt for each other. And the love scenes Ms. Archer writes are panty scorching hot and fit well in the flow of the story. It was one thing that stuck with me from her Blades of the Rose novella in Half Past Dead (another favorite of mine) is how well balanced the love scenes are with the main story – there is no sacrifice of overall plot to have gratuitous sexy time and the sexy time is just as well written as the action scenes - though it is very descriptive so be warned if you are not a fan of explicit love scenes.

I also loved the setting of the book – I think historical paranormal romance/ action-adventure is becoming a new favorite genre of mine. The settings and descriptions of the Mongolian steppe and Gobi desert were stunning – I found myself looking up pictures of many things described in the book and much of what Ms. Archer described is real. Although I do not have a heightened desire to go riding around on a camel, I now have a new locale added to the places I wish to visit! I’m looking forward to where Ms. Archer takes us in her next books since a new book from the series will be published in the beginning of September/October/November/December. The language of the book is authentic (at least as far as I can tell) and charming as well – now I know how a British soldier might swear or a lady raised on the Mongolian steppes speaks – and it fits the time period of the book and the characters very well. That’s a pet peeve of mine –when the language does not match the character and time period the book is written in – thankfully Ms. Archer’s writing is delightfully British.

Overall a 4.5 out of 5 for me – delightful romance and swashbuckling on the Mongolian steppes!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Review of Cold Magic by Kate Elliot

Title: Cold Magic (Spiritwalker #1)
Author: Kate Elliot
Pages: 384 paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Standalone/Series: 1st of Spiritwalker Trilogy
Release:  September 2nd 2010
Publisher: Orbit
Received from author for review
Author info: and twitter @KateElliottSFF
Spoiler Alert: In the clear
GoodReads Blurb: 'I was not a bard or a djeli or an historian or a scribe and I was certainly not a sage, but that didn't mean I wasn't curious ...'
Young Cat Barahal thinks she understands the world she lives in and her place in it, but in fact she is merely poised unaware on the brink of shattering events. Drawn into a labyrinth of politics involving blood, betrayal and old feuds, she will be forced to make an unexpected and perilous journey in order to discover the truth, not just about her own family but about an ancient secret lying at the heart of her world. 

Cold Magic is a captivating mix of high fantasy, steampunk, romance, alternative history, mythical creatures, mysteries, epic betrayals, and adventure - all surrounded by a wall of ice. If you feel a little intimidated by the mix don’t worry – Kate Elliot is an excellent story teller (she’s been one of my favorite fantasy authors for years) and her main heroine Cat quickly draws you into the story.  The story revolves around Cat as she deals with very personal betrayals and faces a world turned upside down though thankfully as her name implies – she’s a cat and always lands on her feet. Even though Cat is young and just coming into her age of majority (twenty years old) she has already had a difficult life since her parents passed away when she was very young and the only way she has to connect to her father  is through his travel journals which she still has. She also belongs to a social group, the Phonecians, that is much maligned in her society and has learned to be a fierce defender of her heritage as well. Cat faces many of these challenges with her best friend and cousin Bee. Though Bee is more like a fanciful teenage girl with her crushes on boys at school, both girls are very loyal to each other and thankfully don’t fall into the trap of many YA heroines do by bemoaning and complaining about the unfairness of life. Through the course of reading the book you definitely get to see the girls grow up as the world they thought they knew changes completely and irreversibly. 

Another favorite part of this book is the world building. The Romans, Celts, and Phonecians have a much different historical trajectory than what we are used to in our world’s story and these familiar names exist alongside things such as trolls, cold mages, ghouls and otherworldly portals. I am not a big history buff so I enjoy books that play with what I know and twist the story a bit. Another big theme the story highlights is that history always favors the victors. With that in mind, there is great upheaval in the world Cat lives in when people who have nothing left to lose decide it's time to fight back against those "victors". I loved the story of the cold mages and I am looking forward to learning more about the world Cat lives in where zeppelins rule the skies and cold magic trumps technology.

5 out of 5, I can’t wait for the next part of Cat’s adventure!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's a Party! Welcome to Blogfest!


Today is Blogfest 2010 - over 250 blogs are giving away just about everything - books, jewelry,candles, gift cards and tons of other fabulous gifts! Don't forget about the massive BlogFest 2010 grand giveaway!  Head on over to  to use the exclusive tracking site. Once there you can register with a valid email address (to be used solely for the purpose of contacting the winner for the Grand Giveaway).  This site will allow you to track your progress through BlogFest 2010!  You can log on from anywhere at any time and continue where you left off.  The best part is that every blog that you visit and mark off through this tracking site will give you one entry into the massive giveaway!  You can also find out more about the giveaways at We have a great collection of books, goodies and other swag that is looking for a new home!

I am number 216 on the blog list (when I last checked) if you are keeping track and you should check out the giveaway over at number 217!

The Giveaway is International! If you are from the US there are two options: you can win the YA book prize pack or choose the fabulous International Prize pack where you can chose up to $15 in books from the list here (some of my favorite September releases) anywhere book depository delivers. For those International entrants you can only chose the International Prize pack.

YA Prize Pack

 To Enter:
- Leave a comment that includes (1) name; (2) e-mail; (3) Release coming up that you can't wait for!
- Extra entry - blog follower (+1) but you do not need to be a follower to enter!

BlogFest goes from midnight September 10th to midnight September 12th. If you get a chance check out the blog while you're entering and I hope you enjoy the festivities!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ARC Review of Cruel Enchantment by Anya Bast - Don't Mess with the Blacksmith!

Title: Cruel Enchantment (Dark Magick #2)
Author: Anya Bast
Pages: 336, paperback
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series (#2)(see my review of Wicked Enchantment here)
Release: September 7th
Publisher: Berkeley Sensation
Received ARC from author
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Small plot spoilers
Blurb:  Even the most powerful hands need a delicate touch…
Emmaline Gallagher is a master of wielding personal glamour. As a free fae who lives among humans, she must hide her true self at all times as she works undercover within the powerful Phaendir—for if certain factions within the Phaendir gain control, the fae will be wiped from existence. Now, an object of fae power lies within a locked ancient box. And there is only one fae who can forge the key.
Known as “the Blacksmith” Aeric O’Malley can create or destroy almost anything with his forging skills. Emmaline has come to him in need, but he and Emmaline have a past—and he has spent centuries wanting to take revenge on her for her transgressions. But now that he has her within his grasp, something about her keeps him from exacting his vengeance—or is it merely her glamour blinding him?
Trapped by fate, Emmaline must hope that she can reach Aeric’s furious heart before it’s too late…

Emmaline has been trying to atone for her past sins as the Summer Queen's assassin many centuries previously by trying to find a way to destroy the detention center that the Phaendir built to imprison the fae - Piefferberg. Emmaline's ability to use personal glamour has allowed her to avoid being imprisoned in Piefferberg and to get close to the Phaendir who run the prison to gain a way to enter and exit Piefferberg in the guise of a human Faemous crew member (the fae "Entertainment Tonight" equivalent that resides in Piefferberg). Emmaline uses this "in" to seek out Aeric the Blacksmith to ask him to build a key that will hopefully unlock a relic that is needed to tear down Piefferberg's walls. Unfortunately for Emmaline, Aeric hasn't forgotten or forgiven her for murdering his fiancee centuries earlier while she was the Summer Queen's assassin. Quickly Emmaline's trip to Piefferberg changes from asking Aeric to build a key to asking Aeric to spare her life.

I loved the main character Emmaline! She is a survivor and isn't afraid to kick a little ass. Since Emmaline has been living on her own away from other fae for centuries one of the scenes that really struck me in this book was when she first steps in Piefferberg. She expects it to feel like a prison but is surprised by the connection she feels with the land and many of the things she's missed from living away from the fae for so long. That revelation was the first of many for Emmaline during her adventures in Piefferberg - the second was that Aeric put the equivalent of a magical lo-jack on her to know the instant she stepped inside the fae prison. Though Aeric captures Emmaline with the intent to kill her, his life instantly gets more complicated as he begins to have conflicting feelings about killing Emmaline and learns more about the situation surrounding his fiancee's death. Of course Aeric faces these conflicting emotions like any grumpy alpha male does by drinking some whiskey, smashing stuff up, and stealing some kisses that end up leaving him more conflicted. Thankfully things change from comflicted to more steamy as Aeric begins to forgive Emmaline for her past mistakes and starts to see her as a woman rather than an assassin.

The bad guys in this book are truly evil. Gideon, the Phaendir member who we first meet in Wicked Enchantment, is still trying to take over the leadership of the Phaendir and is eliminating those who stand in his way by any means necessary. He really is a creepy character who practices self-flagellation to such an extreme that he nearly passes out from blood loss afterward and justifies the murders and foul acts he commits by saying it's his god's will. Another big bad guy from Emmaline's past is Lars who we learn shaped Emmaline into an assassin when she was just a teenager. What Emmaline went through at Lars's hands was truly terrible and helps explains many things that happened in her past. Though the biggest bad guy in this book is the Summer Queen, as we get further into the series the more evil and questionable the actions of the Summer Queen are - she seems like she should belong to the Black Tower with all her underhanded dealing and tricks.

The overall story is complex and engaging as we delve into Emmaline and Aeric's past and developing relationship while following the parallel story lines of Gideon and the Human's for the Freedom of Fae, the organization that Emmaline works with on the outside. We also get glimpses of the hunt and the rulers of the Black Tower and the Unseelie court, who we met in the first book, though I don't think it's necessary to read Wicked Enchantment to understand what is happening in Cruel Enchantment, but it will help to understand the back story of some of the characters.

Overall this book is a 4.5 out of 5 stars for me, Emmaline is a tough heroine who earned her chance at love with the sexy blacksmith Aeric.

Monday, August 30, 2010

September-mas! So many great releases this month it's Christmas in September!

via crooked house
There's so many great releases this month that I am giddy with excitement as I eye the new releases list though my credit card is quacking with fear of being repeatedly used and abused all month - it's not used to this kind of work out. First I want to point out my favorite early book gift to myself this September-mas season and that is Sin Undone by Larissa Ione. I love the Demonica series - I reviewed all 4 previous books at Darkly Reading and had a couple giveaways of her books when Ecstasy Unveiled came out (my first giveaways ever). The author, Ms. Ione, is a sweetheart and left nice comments on all my reviews and then afterward asked for my full name to put it in the acknowledgments for Sin Undone. And guess what - when I picked up my copy of Sin Undone and turned to the acknowledgments - there was my name listed with some other great blogging ladies and readers. I was grinning from ear-to-ear of course and had to resisted the urge to grab complete strangers at the bookstore and point to my name and say  "hey look that's me that's me!" though when I had a few friends over later I did grin ear-to-ear and point out my name - couldn't help it! So I wanted to say a big thank you to Larissa Ione for putting my name in her book! I plan on snuggling up with Sin and Con from Sin Undone this holiday weekend - it's always bittersweet to read the last book in a series but I'm looking forward to reading Sin and Con's story! And then we have the Lords of Deliverance series based in the same world coming out starting in March of 2011 so I don't have to completely go demon-loving cold turkey.
Me at Hachette booth at BEA
Now that we got my early September-mas gift out of they way I wanted to point out some other releases I'm super excited for (All Things Urban Fantasy and Wicked Lil' Pixie also have great new releases lists)-

August 31st/September 1st
Blameless by (Parasol Protectorate #3) Gail Garriger
Married with Zombies (Living with the Dead #1) by Jesse Petersen
The Darkest Edge of Dawn (Charlie Madigan #2) by Kelly Gay

September 7th
Assassin's Heart (Order of the Sicari #2) by Monica Burns
Cruel Enchantment (Dark Magick #2) by Anya Blast
Healer's Choice (Ghostland Worlds #3) by Jory Strong
No Mercy (Dark-Hunter #13) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Warrior (The Blades of the Rose #1) by Zoe Archer
An Artificial Night (October Daye #3) by Seanan McGuire

September 9th
Cold Magic by Kate Elliot

September 28th
Bayou Moon (The Edge #2) by Ilona Andrews
Double Cross (The Disillusionists #2) by Carolyn Crane
A Midwinter Fantasy by Leanna Renee Hieber, L.J McDonald, Helen Scott Taylor

Many of these releases are books in series I love and have been waiting patiently (or not so much) for the next in the series to arrive. There are so many good books in this list I am bouncing up and down with anticipation (poor hubby!). One of these books - No Mercy by Sherilyn Kenyon - is a recent addition to the list. I read the first book in her Dark-Hunter series - Night Pleasures - over the weekend because it was on sale in the Kindle store for $2.99. So if you've been thinking about starting the series now is a great time to start (though in my copy there were some weird typo's - maybe that's why it was on sale ;).

Now onto the gifts of September-mas - Blogfest! This September 10-12 Darkly Reading is taking part in BlogFest - where a bunch of blogs get together and coordinate giveaways. You can check out the list of participating blogs here - it looks like close to 100 blogs or more are participating and giving away some great gifts. I'm going to be giving away 2 books from my list of favorite releases above so stay tuned to find out which books. I also will be giving away some ARCs from my shelves later this month so stay tuned for that as well!

So what releases are you excited for this month?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review of Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch - Love in a Elevator baby!

Title: Touched by an Alien (Katherine "Kitty" Katt, #1)
Author: Gini Koch
Pages: 389 pages, paperback
Genre: Science Fiction Romance
Standalone/Series: Series (#1)
Release: April 2010
Publisher: DAW
Purchased by me
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Minor plot spoilers
GoodReads Blurb: Marketing manager Katherine "Kitty" Katt steps into the middle of what appears to be a domestic dispute turned ugly. And it only gets uglier when the man turns into a winged monster, straight out of a grade-Z horror movie, and goes on a killing spree. Though Kitty should probably run away, she springs into action to take the monster down.

In the middle of the chaos a handsome hunk named Jeff Martini appears, sent by the "agency" to perform crowd control. He's Kitty's kind of guy, no matter what planet he's from. And from now on, for Kitty, things are going to be sexy, dangerous, wild, and out of this world.

Surprisingly I've never read a book before that has aliens taking the center stage much less being romantic leads. I've read about vampires -sparkly and otherwise, werewolves, weresnakes, witches, demons, zombies, and the list could go on but no aliens from another planet. Perhaps I was a little worried to try out a new genre - aliens can be scary you know with the alien abductions, aliens bursting from chests a la the Alien movie and Spaceballs, and we know they might already be here with Area 51. So I wasn't sure what to expect with Touched by an Alien. Thankfully there was no need for alarm since the alien good guys looked like super models and the story that Ms. Koch wrote was humorous, entertaining, and had some excellent rock song references in it.

Kitty gets thrown into the saving the world business which she stops what looks like an angry husband turned monster from destroying the Pueblo Caliente courthouse. Soon she gets approached by sexy men in Armani suits that want to recruit her to their organization, she starts receiving marriage proposals, and learns that her Mom could definitely kick her ass. Kitty takes all these revelations in stride and doles out her own brand of sarcasm and wit that keeps the book entertaining throughout.

I loved the tongue-in-check approach to aliens in this books - all the good aliens were super model sexy and the women aliens were all scientists that were attracted more to mental attributes (think Stephen Hawking) than the package it came in, even if the women were surrounded by Brad Pitt look a-likes. Although the aliens are easy on the eyes, it turns out that they have a convoluted back story as to why they ended up on Earth and what their connection is to the bad aliens that seem to be able to turn regular humans into monsters. As Kitty tries to get to the bottom of what is going on she has an excellent distraction from the new dangers in her life in the form of Jeff Martini - who proclaims his intentions to marry Kitty and have lots of babies within minutes of meeting her. The action in this book is fast-paced - the entire book only covers a few days in Kitty's life but it is filled with excellent interactions between Kitty and Jeff and some great patented glares from Jeff's main romantic rival Christopher. Add in some Aerosmith, a few hot and heavy elevator scenes, and some alien ass kicking and overall you have a great book.

5 out of 5 stars for me, a unique sci-fi romance that will have you head banging to the soundtrack.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why my reading habits are like a Journey song

Lately I have been working alot, reading alot, and blogging not at all (opps), I feel like my reading habits are like Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " song just substituting the "Believin'" for "Readin'" and you got the same song stuck in your head now too. Just imagine me jammin' away my hair all teased up and playing air guitar with some awesome books and you've got the full picture - I know pretty lame but sometimes you got to call them like you imagine them at least.

Since my last book review I've read about 16 books:

Re-read the Aisling Grey by series (you can read about my reason's why you should read the series here)
Love in the Time of Dragons by Katie MacAlister (can't get enough of the demon Jim)
Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost (Yummy Mencheres)
Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch (Loved this book and the use of rock and roll and elevators)
A Girls Guide to Vampires and Sex and the Single Vampire (Dark Ones books 1&2) by Katie MacAlister - I didn't love these ones as much as I did the dragon's books - maybe cause the vampires in these books weren't as growly as her dragon book men.
Cruel Enchantment by Anya Bast - Loved this book! Review coming soon!
Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill- Oh Ethan how you make me melt and make me angry within a few pages!
Eternal Hunter by Cynthia Eden- Ohh - White Tiger shifter!
Demon Night by Meljean Brook - Hmm bad boy Guardian - ahh yes!
Healer's Choice by Jory Strong - Post-apocalyptic paranormal romance - quite a mouthful!
Demon Moon by Meljean Brook - Vampire so beautiful he mesmerizes other vampires - yes please!
Ecstasy by Jacquelyn Frank- I think the title pretty much covers it!

I plan on posting reviews for some of the books soon! So when your life gets busy what do you find suffering the most - your reading, review posting, laundry pile, video game addiction, etc.?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mmmh..more medicine please..and dragon shifters..the Aisling Grey series by Katie MacAlister

I find when I get really stressed out, like I have been alot lately, I tend to medicate myself with some of my favorite reads. One of those favorites is the Aisling Grey series by Katie MacAlister. I first read this series when I was still coming to terms with the fact that yes I read romance and man do I love it. Though with my romance there has to be the bad boy alpha male, a bit of action, and some smoking hot love scenes. For me, the Aisling Grey series has to be hands down it one of the best combinations of urban fantasy, humor, and romance - not an easy combination to achieve. The heroine of the series, Aisling, is kind of a mess though she tries to pretend she is professional and in control. Unfortunately for Aisling from the first book of the series (and there are four total) she is kind of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole as she gets further ensnared in the paranormal world she was abruptly introduced to. Thankfully her introduction to the paranormal world is by Drake Vireo - dragon shifter, alpha, and bad boy all rolled into one who I think probably looks a bit like Jared Prudoff (I included a pic for your viewing pleasure). Although Aisling and Drake's relationship is fiery from the start there is alot of passion there which makes it very entertaining to read about - Drake is used to bossing women around and Aisling is not standing for it so their constant struggles with each others nature make for an entertaining read.

What makes the series even better Aisling's sidekick - a demon in dog form known as Jim. He loves his canine Newfie form, has to wear drool bibs (oh man am I happy my dog doesn't drool that much), and is in love with a Welsh corgi named Cecile (he likes to suck on her ears- eww!). He really sets the tone for his comedic sidekick status when he discovers the amazing things a dog can do (from You Slay Me).

"Give me a couple of minutes. You're not going to believe what I found I can do," Jim said, its voice muffled as it engaged in a bit of groinal hygiene.
"The eww factor on that is borderline vomit territory," I (Aisling) said, tugging on its leash until the great furry black head emerged from the depths of its crotch. I ignored the glazed look in Jim's eyes and got to my feet, heading out of the park and toward the nearest Metro stop. "Come on, you'll like the Merto. As a dog, you've got carte blanche to smell strangers' crotches."
"Really? That's something, although not nearly as good as licking my own-" Jim

To round out Aisling's inner group of friends is Rene the cab driver who teaches her some interesting French phrases like: "J'ai une grenouille dans mon bidet" (I have a frog in my bidet) for when Aisling needs help, and "Tu as une tete a faire sauter les plaques des egouts" (You have a face that would blow off the cover of a manhole) for when a man hits on her when she doesn't want him to.

Overall these books have me laughing out loud, on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what happens next, and makes my ereader steam up at the sex scenes so if you haven't read this series yet I highly recommend it!

You can find more about Katie MacAlister's books here:

So do you have any books or series you like to "medicate" with when you've been having a rough week? Do you go for the more humorous/sexy/action-packed books or a combination of all three?

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm Back! Announcing some winners!

So I took a work trip for a professional development seminar (which was surprisingly really awesome)/ visit with the family in Michigan and I ended up not posting for a few weeks. I counted on being off for a week of blogging but didn't factor in the week of preparation before I went and the week to catch up with work after I got back. Oppsie! I will blame it on being a kinda newbie blogger - I can still use that excuse right *bats eyelashes and smiles innocently*! I have a few winners to announce as well as a welcome back to Darkly Reading..sorry it's been so quiet!

Onto the winners - who will also get get lovely e-mails in their boxes as well!

Books and Bane wins these two lovely books by Sean Cummings!

Christine wins a copy of one of my favorite reads this summer - Siren!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review of Frost Moon by Anthony Francis - What magical tattoo would you chose?

Title: Frost Moon
Author: Anthony Francis
Pages: 284 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series (Skindancer #1)
Release:  Already out (March 2010)
Publisher: Bell Bridges Books
Purchased by me (was 99 cents at iBooks!)
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: In the clear.
Good Reads Blurb: In an alternate Atlanta where vampires and werewolves prowl the night, magic is real, and tattoo magic is the strongest magic of them all, a serial ki...more In an alternate Atlanta where vampires and werewolves prowl the night, magic is real, and tattoo magic is the strongest magic of them all, a serial killer is targeting the magically tattooed on the full moon. Dakota Frost, best magical tattooist in the Southeast, learns from the police she may be a target ... just when she receives a lucrative commission to ink a magic tattoo for a werewolf before the next full moon. Caught between the rough and tumble world of the werewolves, the law and order rules of the vampires, and a sexy man-in-black whose motives are in doubt, Dakota must tread carefully to survive - because she doesn't know whether her werewolf client is the tattoo killer ... or the next victim.

What would you do if you saw a six-foot tall woman with a deathhawk walking down the street covered in beautiful tattoos that seemed to move while decked out in leather – run to the other side of the street and hope she doesn’t see you or giggle a little when you notice her climbing on to her fierce vespa and slowly driving away? (For me I’m going with the giggling part – as long as she doesn’t see me) Dakota Frost is an interesting mix for a deathhawk sporting tattoo artist – she tries to be green (hence the vespa which gets 65mpg), she’s vulnerable (still hiding from the emotions of seeing her now vampire ex-girlfriend again), and she’s fiercely loyal to her friends. Oh and did I mention she is a magical tattoo artist – it adds a whole other layer of awesomeness. Dakota lives in Atlanta but an Atlanta with a paranormal twist that contains the Edgeworld which is inhabited by vampires, shifters of all shapes and sizes, and others that deal in magic. Dakota is a member of both worlds, the dark and dangerous Edgeworld and the human world as well. The magic of Dakota’s tattoos can lead to extraordinary feats – by using the energy stored in her body she can power her butterfly tattoo to fly off her hand, get the elaborate dragon tattoo that covers her from foot to shoulder to dance, make flowers blossom on her back and the gems in her tattoos sparkle. As we learn through the book - the tattoos also have more powers than just putting on a good show.

Dakota gets pulled in to consult with the police on a case where someone has been stealing magical tattoos by skinning them off the person when they are still alive. Of course since Dakota is a magical tattooist she is concerned not only for her clients but also herself when it turns out that this is the work of a serial killer. Dakota is also drawn in to help a mysterious and sexy man in black, Phillip, who works for the Department of Extraordinary Investigations – and man does he have all the cool toys (including a stealthy black hawk helicopter). Dakota is a big flirt and is drawn to the secret agent man from the start while conflicted about how much information about other Edgers she should give-up to the Feds. As the search for the killer heats up Dakota finds herself drawn more into the Edgeworld and seeking help from her Edger friends – including her ex-girlfriend Saffron (the scene in which she first lays eyes on her ex again is pretty awesome and that “cage” had me giggling). Unfortunately, Dakota’s friends aren’t able to protect her from all her enemies but Dakota is tough and finds a way to deal with her nightmares while helping find the killer. And let me tell you I totally did not guess who the killer is – I love it when I can’t guess who the bad guy is until the big reveal!

Mr. Francis expertly interweaves the present day Atlanta into his take on the world. He describes many of the neighborhoods, like Little Five Points and Buckhead (and there is quite the twist with that one), along with the streets and stores in the area that I feel like I could go to the neighborhood right now and get a tattoo at the Rogue Unicorn where Dakota works. This is one of the parts of a story I love when an author can expertly describe the location in present day terms – like how St. Louis was described in the Anita Blake series so well that readers actually started to track down the locations (including specific houses) that Laurell K. Hamilton describes in the books (imagine the homeowners surprise when a stranger tells them their house was the scene of a fictional paranormal partner swapping).  Mr. Francis has created a character in Dakota and a paranormal world that I can’t wait to read more about. Thankfully a second book, Blood Rock, is already in the making.

4 stars out of 5 for me, loved the flirty tough girl Dakota and her magical tattoos.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Interview with Sean Cummings - author of the Valerie Stevens series and a Giveaway!

Today I would like to welcome Sean Cummings to Darkly Reading. He is the author of a new urban fantasy series that takes place in Calgary, Canada. There are shadowy forces, a mentor that seems alot like Yoda, and a zombie borg brain hive. His heroine - Valerie - is a great no-nonsense girl that may not be as tough as nails but is tough enough to get the job done. Stay tuned till the end of the interview for your chance to win a copy of Shade Fright and Funeral Pallor - and the giveaway is international.

Q: Thanks for visiting Darkly Reading Sean (love the zombie pic btw)! Could you do a quick introduction to your books for my readers and why you decided to place a hot bed of paranormal activity in Calgary, Canada?

A: Thanks for having me! Calgary is where I grew up so I wanted to write a setting that I was familiar with. What I learned was that because I was familiar with, say for example the giant statues outside of the Calgary Board of Education, I came up with a whack of ideas I could use for the plot. (Hint hint to anyone who hasn't read the book - statues are awesome at kicking demon butt.) It's a great city and a great place to have an urban fantasy series. :)

Q: I loved that the books were located in Canada! Do you base some of your locations on actual places in the Calgary and the area? When you were going through the editing process did you ever get responses back that something in your books was too "Canadian" and might not be understood by non-Canadian readers? I was also wondering what a Mickey pocket is and if Tim Horton's is just like Dunkin' Donuts?

A: Excellent questions. There isn't enough Canadian urban fantasy out there and from the outset, I wanted to write something as seamless as any other quality urban fantasy novel available in bookstores today. My mindset had always been, well damn ... why NOT Canada for a setting? All of the places in both books are actual places and I've peppered book one in particular with Canadianisms, like Tim Hortons. Canadians LOVE Timmies. (Dunkin Doughnuts is pretty good, but Timmies coffee is addictive!)  A Mickey pocket is an inner breast pocket of a jacket or blazer where one can slip a flask of hootch.

Q: Valerie has some interesting friends in the book - D.T.a troll who is her mentor who looks alot like Yoda, Fifty Dollar Bill a ghost and a former Prime Minister, and Caroline - a zombie who retained her soul. How did you come up with this cast of characters? And is D.T. really based on Yoda?

A: D.T. sort of happened by accident and Yoda was a big part of it. I'd intended for her mentor to be a human but it seemed to me the story would be far more interesting if there was a diminutive creature from the preternatural world who spoke in King James English. Plus in having a dwarf troll as a mentor, I get to make all the characters refer to him as "The Yoda Dude". Fifty Dollar Bill is by far my favorite character in both books, though he's much more prominent in book one. William Lyon Mackenzie King during his life was a huge occultist and when I started writing book one in 2007, it seemed to me that I thought it would be cool/ironic that he was interested in hanging out with the living now that he's dead. He's eccentric, wise, a pain in the butt and a really fun character, so I hope readers will get a kick out of him. As for Caroline, well - I love zombies and I hate lawyers. :)

Q: How many books do you hope to do in this series? What do you have planned for future books? Do we get a final showdown with the Conclave? Does Caroline regain a living body? Any hints?

A: The Conclave is going to be featured extensively in book three because someone is going to be kidnapped before someone's big day and someone is going to have to come to the rescue. Someone is going to die - a central character - and Valerie is going to be tempted by the Conclave as well as a dead sexy guy who wears black and doesn't do sunlight.
I have three more books I'm planning so I might well end the series at five - we'll see.

Q: In the first book,Shade Fright, we are first introduced to the love of Valerie's life - Dave the dump truck driver. But rather than being a typical tough guy boyfriend like many an urban fantasy love interest he is freaked out by the supernatural world - why did you decide to give Valerie a boyfriend who is not as embedded in the supernatural world as she is?

A: One word: Fargo.  Anyone who has seen the BRILLIANT movie Fargo will know that Marge Gunderson has a steadfast husband who loves her unconditionally and supports her 100%. He is the inspiration for Dave - as well, (and I might take flack for saying this) but urban fantasy is filled with male love interests who aren't named Dave - they're always STEEL or RICARDO or something like that. I wanted a down to earth love interest for Valerie and no serious complications. It would suck if he died though, eh? Val might go off the deep end. (Not saying I'm killing him off. There are things far worse than death that can happen to Dave.)

Q: In book two, Funeral Pallor, Calgary is having a bit of a zombie problem that Valerie and her friends have to solve - and these zombies aren't your typical shuffling and mumbling type but seem to work together and possibly have a hive mind - did you base your zombies on the Borg from Star Trek?

A: You bet - 110% ripoff from the Borg and I'm not ashamed to admit it! They lack a Queen though and readers will hopefully pick up on the rather large hint I've dropped in FUNERAL PALLOR.

Q: I loved the newest cast of supporting characters in book two - the Newby brothers and Reaper - will we be seeing more of them?

A: The Newby Brothers are really fun characters so they'll be back. They're my homage to heavy metal music (I'm a bald headbanger). Tim Reaper is getting his own novel (which I'm doing revisions on right now) and you can read the first chapter at . I'm planning a series for him because he's just a blast to write. He's a misogynist, he's amoral, he kicks butt and he tries to do the right thing.

Q: The covers for your books are great - do you have any input on their design? What do you think of them?

A: I do, actually. Anna Torborg did my cover art and from the start we wanted cover art that didn't feature scantily clad women in leather pants with tattoos on the small of their backs. That's what most urban fantasy covers look like where there's a female protagonist. Shade Fright was all Anna and for Funeral Pallor, I was really lucky because I wanted to do an homage to the Queen II album cover. :) I love the cover art - it's unique - it's fun (like the characters) and it contrasts all the other urban fantasy novel cover art that's out there.

Q: Do you know when we'll be seeing more of Valerie and Calgary?

A: I've just started writing book three - finished the outline in the last month, actually. I don't have a date for it but I would expect it to be available sometime in 2011.

Thanks for stopping by Darkly Reading Sean!

Places you can find Sean:
facebook: Sean Cummings
Good Reads: Sean Cummings

Now for the giveaway - Sean is giving away a copy of each of his books and the contest is international. To enter leave a question for Sean or answer the following - what public figure would you most like to be haunted by? (Would you go for a government figure like Fifty Dollar Bill or maybe a "100 Dollar Ben" or would you prefer a haunting by Elvis Presley or another celebrity?)
Extra entries:
+1 Tweet the contest (leave link in your comment)
+1 Follow @DarklyReading or @saskatoonauthor
+1 Follow blog

Contest will go till July 24th!

Review of Funeral Pallor by Sean Cummings - beware the zombies!

Title: Funeral Pallor
Author: Sean Cummings
Pages: 320, paperback
Genre: urban fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series (Valerie Stevens, #2)
Release: Already out (July 1st 2010)
Publisher: Snowbooks
Received for review from author
Author info: Twitter: @saskatoonauthor
Spoiler Alert:  Spoilers for book #1
GoodReads Blurb: There's a nest of rotting husks in an old Calgary warehouse and they've got a hankering for human flesh, but that's the least of Valerie Stevens' problems. While necromancers are a dime a dozen, these mindless killing machines all share one thing in common: they're former occupants of every funeral home in the city.

The evidence points to the zombie Caroline, especially now that she's been experiencing short term memory loss and an inability to account for her whereabouts. If Valerie plans to clear her best friend's name, she'll have to move fast: someone has dispatched a zombie assassin and Caroline's only hope may rest with a pair of middle-aged head-bangers with a few secrets of their own.

In this installation of the Valerie Stevens series, we catch up with Valerie many months after the events in Shade Fright. She is still under the tutelage of the ancient mage/Yoda-like mentor D. T. and still trying to learn about her powers including the “clarity” she apparently glows with before her next encounter with the Conclave. Valerie is still dragging her heels with trying to find a solution to Caroline’s undead situation and has had some bumps in her relationship with mustached dump truck driver Dave.  Unfortunately for Valerie, the big baddies of the supernatural community are still interested in her and one evening during the course of her job she gets trapped in a warehouse by a gaggle of flesh-eating zombies. This near-death experience is just the start of wild adventures for Valerie as she tries to get to the bottom of why zombies are loose in Calgary and what her undead friend Caroline might have to do with it.

Funeral Pallor starts out the action pretty quickly with one of the most fearsome (at least for me) supernatural creatures out there – the zombie. And these zombies seem to be working together to get their little piece of flesh like a borg-hive (double shiver) so Valerie needs to get all the help she can get – including the aid of metal loving headbanger brothers, the Newby brothers. The Newby brothers cracked me up with their modified Zombie killing pick-up truck with a snow plow attached and their constant reverence to Valerie as “toots”. Although their headbanging may have dislodged any higher level  reasoning skills they do seem to be good at killing zombies and are important to unraveling the mystery of why all these zombies are roaming the streets of Calgary. We also see a lot of Caroline in the installment and the lengths she’s had to take to preserve her zombie form (self-service embalming anyone) though less of the rest of the cast of friends from Shade Fright including Fifty-Dollar Bill, D.T., and Dave. Caroline has been having black-outs that have Valerie worried that Caroline is giving in to her darker zombie nature and while investigating what is going on they delve into conspiracy theories, shady business organizations, and survive a few assassination attempts.  We also meet a new character – Tim Reaper – along the way who I hope we get to see in future book installments.

Overall it was a well formed mystery –although I had a good idea who the bad guys worked for I had no idea who the bad guys were till the end – one of my favorite things with a mystery is not guessing the outcome from the beginning. The ending of this book is very sweet too – Valerie’s got quite the man in her life.

3.5 out of 5 stars for me, fearsome zombies and head-banging zombie killers make an interesting mix.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review of Shade Fright by Sean Cummings - Something supernatural is happening across the border

Title: Shade Fright
Author: Sean Cummings
Pages: 320 pages, paperback
Genre: urban fantasy
Standalone/Series: Series (Valerie Stevens, #1)
Release: Already out (March 2010)
Publisher: Snowbooks
Received for review from author
Author info: Twitter: @saskatoonauthor
Spoiler Alert: In the clear.
GoodReads blurb: 'I fell into this job quite by accident, when I discovered that I possessed the ability to see the preternatural world. There are a handful of people with similar abilities, and part of my job is to locate them, since Government Services and Infrastructure Canada like to keep track of these things. Don't ask me why'. There's a malevolent force in town, and it's quite literally Valerie Steven's job to determine who's behind it and why they want to destroy the world, starting with Calgary. She'll have help, in the form of her best friend (now more or less a zombie, unfortunately), a powerful dwarf troll, and the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (but he goes by 'Bill' these days). But that's not all - Valerie has some tricks up her sleeve and, she hopes, luck on her side. Oh, and her boyfriend, Dave. He drives a dump truck.

Valerie Stevens is an alchemist who works for a shadowy arm of the Canadian government (I know it is kind of hard to believe the Canadian government can have a shadow arm - but you know there has to be a darkside to all the Canadian niceness right?). Most the time Valerie's job involves tracking or capturing supernatural elements in Tupperware and sending them to her boss near the North Pole and to avoid attempts on her life by unhappy elements of the supernatural community. This time Valerie's job is alot tougher than trapping the supernatural element she finds herself up against a terrorist organization with dark magic at it's roots. Thankfully, Valerie has friends in the form of an ancient mage, a former Canadian prime minister now ghost, a zombie that has retained part of her soul, and her dump truck driving boyfriend Dave.

Although this book starts out a bit slow for me with much of the world building by way of Valerie's  inner monologue - once the world and the players are established the book really starts to take off as Valerie rushes to find out who or what is behind the attempts on her life and stop them before they bring about more death. Valerie is a great character and has an interesting group of beings that she calls friends. She is the kind of no-nonsense heroine I can appreciate that doesn't do more than the usual amount of grumbling about the deck she has been dealt in life and she does some serious bad guy supernatural butt-kicking. Her friends also add some interesting spice to the mix with Fifty Dollar Bill being just how I would imagine the eccentric former Prime Minister William Mackenzie would behave with long winded speeches and antiquated views of how a woman should behave (though he does pop in on her in the shower), while her friend Caroline is a unique mix for a zombie - though she is one of the undead she retains her soul and therefore her sharp wit yet she has a zombie's strength and immunity to pain, and flesh eating habits as well (though she stays away from humans). Another great character, though we don't see enough of him, is her boyfriend Dave. Dave is a dump truck driver and is totally freaked out by the supernatural though he is sweet and cooks for Valerie, listens to opera, and sticks by her through all the craziness because he loves her so much.

And let's not forget the location - Calgary, Canada. Though I have read books that have been based in Canada before but they never made good use of the location and local flavor as Mr. Cumming's book did. Several of the locations used in the book actually exist in Calgary and he includes the all important Tim Hortons (if you ever meet a Canadian and are looking for things to discuss just bring up Tim Hortons and they'll be talking about how wonderful it is for a while..and then bring up hockey and they'll talk all night ;) Overall this was a good first entry into a new series that I am looking forward to reading.

3.5 out of 5 stars, some serious butt-kicking of dark forces by a tough Canadian heroine who has the best dump-truck driving boyfriend ever.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with Tricia Rayburn - author of Siren and a Giveaway

Today we have Tricia Rayburn visiting - the author of Siren. It was one of my favorite YA reads so far and Tricia agreed to stop by Darkly Reading and answer some questions. She is also giving away a copy of her book! So please check out the interview and follow the details below to enter the giveaway (US only) and make sure to wish Tricia a happy release day while you're here!

Darkly Reading: Could you give a little introduction about Siren for my readers and talk about why you decided to write this book?

Tricia: Siren tells the story of 17-year-old Vanessa Sands, a self-proclaimed scaredy-cat who's used to hiding behind her fearless older sister, Justine—until Justine jumps off a cliff and that's no longer an option.  While everyone else thinks Justine's death is a tragic accident, Vanessa knows better and returns to the scene of the crime to figure out what happened.  Along the way she finds romance and faces some of her greatest fears...including one that will change her life forever.

I'd been wanting to do something different from my younger books, so when the idea occurred to me, I ran with it.  And the idea came about because of my somewhat recent fear of all creatures of the deep!

Siren takes place in Winter Harbor, Maine - Is there such a place and if not did you base the town on a real place off the coast of Maine?

Winter Harbor is a real town, and I chose it after learning that it earned its name because the harbor never freezes, not even in the middle of winter.  That, as you know, plays a key role in the story!  But you won't find Betty's Chowder House or the Lighthouse Resort there—they were inspired by other New England places I've visited over the years.

Siren touches on alot of great themes for summer vacation - traditional ones like summer vacation boyfriends, townies versus vacationers, summer jobs and some non-traditional themes like murder, paranormal seductresses, and unusual weather patterns- did you have some experience with these as a teenager (either traditional or non-traditional)?

I've lived near water most of my life and spent many childhood summers at the beach, and my family and I also used to rent a cabin once a year in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.  Those experiences combined helped with the setting and tone of the book.  And I live on eastern Long Island now, which definitely sees its share of townies and vacationers.  Thankfully, I don't have any personal experience with murder, paranormal seductresses, or unusual weather least not yet!

Vanessa is such a great character, fearful of alot of things though strong and true to her family and friends, whereas Justine is what I think alot of girls want to be - fearless and beautiful. Why did you decide to make these two very different girls into sisters?

I wanted to play with the idea that you may never know someone as well as you think.  Vanessa idolizes Justine for being all the things she wishes she were, but she'll eventually learn that Justine acted the way she did for a very specific reason...and that they were much more alike than Vanessa realized.

I was checking out your blog - Maggie Musings & More and it features alot of oddities from the sea - any favorite or book idea inspiring oddities you would like to share?

The Montauk Monster is a recent favorite.  It washed onshore two summers ago and no one ever decided what it really was; it could've once been a dog or raccoon, but that wasn't definitively confirmed.  This suggests to me that maybe there are OTHER mysterious creatures lurking beneath the surface that we don't know about...which is as intriguing as it is scary!

Vanessa has a very specific favorite breakfast food - do you have a favorite vacation or breakfast food? How much are your characters based on your or people you know? Do you see any celebrities fitting with your characters?

When my family and I vacationed in NH, my brother would make amazing breakfasts (pancakes, eggs, bacon—the works!), and we'd all eat together by the lake.  That's definitely a favorite pasttime!

The only character who's somewhat based on a real person is Vanessa, who has some of the same fears I do.  And I think Dakota Fanning would do a fabulous job playing her!  :)

Although many questions were answered by the end of Siren there were definitely a few about Vanessa's future that aren't tied up - do you have more books planned for Vanessa's story?

There are currently two more books planned.  The sequel will be out next summer, and the third book will be out Summer 2012!

Thanks Tricia for stopping by Darkly Reading!

Thank you for having me!

Where to find Tricia:
Twitter: @triciarayburn

To enter to win a copy of Siren from Tricia Rayburn (US only) please leave a comment with any questions you have for Tricia or any oddities of the sea stories or summer vacation tales you would like to share. You also need to follow Tricia on twitter to be entered  so be sure to leave your twitter name as well in the comments. The contest is open till July 18th.