Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Transplanted Tales Tour Stop

Today Kate SeRine is here as part of the blog tour to promote her second Transplanted Tales novel, The Better to See You, out February 7Amazon B&N | Kobo

The blurbage: "Once upon a time, a spell went awry and Make Believe characters were cast into the ordinary world. And the results aren’t always happily ever after…

Everyone thinks fairy godmothers can do no wrong. But if not for a certain spell mis-cast by Lavender Seelie, Cinderella’s former fairy godmother, the Tales would not be stuck in the Here and Now. Fortunately for Lavender, she’s about to get a second chance at a happy ending…

The Refuge, a sanctuary for wayward Tales, seems like the perfect place for Lavender to start a new life—especially when she discovers an unexpected ally in Seth, the brooding werewolf who’s been typecast as a villain ever since his run in with Little Red Riding Hood. But when humans from nearby towns start turning up dead, their bodies mutilated with archaic Tale symbols, Lavender wonders if Seth’s deep sensuality has blinded her to the truth. And that distraction could put innocent lives in danger. Including her own…"

My take: I really liked SeRine's Red (see my review here). Where that one felt more UF with a heavy dose of romance, this second installment had the romance aspect front and center. It is still first person, as we see everything from Lavender's POV. We just get into the romance faster than in book 1. It surprised me at first, until we find out why everything happened so fast. I liked Lavender's dilemma, and it showed how far her character has progressed.

When I first heard about book 2, I wasn't surprised that Seth was going to be the male lead. However, the choice of Lavender as the heroine did surprise me at first. Lavender is one half of the reason that the Tales are stuck in the Ordinary World. She made a lot of mistakes in the past, and in book 1 we see her as an alcoholic mess. At the start of book 2, a year has passed, Lavender is now friends with Tess, and she is trying to turn her life around. She also pisses off some powerful people and so Tess sends her to the Refuge to get away from the heat.

Being the reason the Tales are stuck in the real world doesn't endear her to many, but I like how she sticks it out and owns her part. 

Lavender is not a grandmotherly "bippity boppity boo" type. She's a little hottie and in the end I was very happy with how the romance came together. Both she and Seth have a lot of skeletons in their respective closets. They need someone who will accept them for who they are.

Having a hell of a lot of chemistry doesn't hurt, either.

And Seth? Seth was really endearing once we got to meet him in book 1. His life has been so tragic. I just wanted him to be happy. He can cook too. If you really dig romantic heroes, I think you will be quite satisfied with Mr. Wolf.

The overall conspiracy first unearthed in book 1 is still a big part of the problem in book 2. I was glad to see some parts solved, although there is still plenty left to explore. We also get to see a bit more of Trish Muffet, the heroine of book 3. That one involves Nicky Blue and I cannot wait to read it.

For those who really loved the world of the Transplanted Tales, this book fleshes it out more and gives us a peek into how the Tales who don't get along so well with the Ordinary World live. We also get to see one of my favorite literary characters: Puck. 

And now let's move on to a little Q&A with Kate SeRine:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Sultry With a Twist

Sultry With a Twist by Macy Beckett

I do not read a lot of contemporary romance. Generally, if there aren't monsters, magic, action, gadgets or airships, I don't read it. True, I do occasionally read a historical romance, but too often with contemporaries I find myself thinking that the couple really just needs counseling. Then I get bored.

Most of the time. Sometimes, though, a contemporary comes along and I really get into the characters and have fun with the story, sans explosions and big bads. That happened for me here.

I also follow the author on Twitter and she's pretty funny, so I thought I would be in good hands. I was right.

Sweet romance with childhood friends reconnecting. June left home a long time ago and never looked back. She had a falling out with her very religious grandmother, and given that her dream is to own her own bar, she doesn't think there is any way her only relative would approve. Right when she is about to get her dream, an old warrant from her old town hinders her licensing and she needs to spend a month in Sultry Springs.

She happens to also encounter her old friend and crush, Luke, who is trying to earn enough money to buy back his family's land.

Sparks fly, but Luke's emotional walls keep them apart. There are misunderstandings, and Luke was a jerk several times. I was more than a little surprised by June's actions in the end, but it did fit with her character and what she really wanted to be doing with her life.

I loved how June and her grandmother reconnect. Very well done. The other supporting characters, especially Luke's friend Trey, were very good. Trey is the male lead in book 2. Looking forward to that.

This book wins for one of the best uses of letters in a Romance. It got me. I loved that part.

Fun, engaging Romance. The town has many characters who are religious, but I never felt like I was being preached to, that was just a part of the characters' lives.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's Been a Year....

...and quite a year at that. Over the holidays, as I prepared my 2012 best of posts, reviewing my high and low points of the year, I found myself in a funk. Really unable to think about my favorite things until I'd sorted out the crazyness that was last year. What follows has nothing to do with books, geekyness or any of the fun stuff. It's probably the most serious I will be this year. I'm indulging myself a bit.

2012 was an insane year for me and my family. Other than a welcome to the world of skin cancer (I'm OK! Just a proud wearer of hats along with buckets of sunscreen), we welcomed a new little future reader to the group, but her start was more than a bit rocky.

About a year ago we found out that our baby was going to need surgery soon after birth and would be spending an indeterminate amount of time in the NICU. I don't think I can ever put into words what this felt like. Sitting there as the doctors tell you the news, expecting just to hear if we're having a boy or girl, and then getting hit with a bombshell. And I know it could have been worse. The little pamphlet they gave us had some very terrifying information on other disorders. I actually think this piece, "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Perl Kingsley sums it up when you look at the experience as a whole.

Several things happened in our favor - for one, both the hubs and I were on the same page with what to do. There were several different decisions to make, and if we had been arguing about each one that would have made a hard time a million times worse. We also have a great supportive group of family and friends. Also, we chose our doctors well and got hooked up with a rockstar surgeon who is one of the best in our area. It was scary, but knowing that she was in good hands made a huge difference.

Review: The Six-Gun Tarot

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Another book where I sit here trying to categorize it, think who would be most interested in reading it, and how to describe it without veering off into spoiler land. It is a Western with fantasy elements. I really like the blend of Western and Fantasy, so I've been looking forward to this one for awhile.

Very interesting mix of mythologies and apocalyptic prophecies. We have angels, Lucifer (in a minor role), Coyote's son, a man who cannot die, a boy with a magical artifact, a priestess of Lilith, Chinese legends, Mormon legends all mixed together in the happy little town of Golgotha.

Considering Golgotha is pretty much synonymous with suffering and sacrifice, "happy" is relative.

The town is home to miners, a notorious saloon and mine owner, many Mormon families, and a very interesting team with the sheriff and his main deputy.  Most of the characters are trapped in the societal cage they built for themselves, or at least helped to build. You have the priestess in a loveless, abusive marriage, the Mormon leader who hides his homosexuality behind his 3 wives, the Native American deputy who has been cast out by his tribe and the white world. This isn't a story about how they all rose above the constraints of society and fight to live freely. No, these characters fight even though they will still largely be in exactly the same place. Except it's the apocalypse, so failing means good night Irene. 

There is some rape symbolism as the evil infects some of the townspeople. It was disturbing and horrific, as it is meant to be. I would say that what is going to happen is telegraphed quite a ways off, so if those scenes are too much for you, you can skip ahead without missing anything.

If you are good with the idea that belief itself is a power, more than the power being one particular belief, you might like this. Good for those who like their myths being mucked with. You know I do like it when things get mucked around.

There were A LOT of different POVs. Lots of flashbacks. While I liked some of the background info, it also got to be a bit much. Even though I was "shown" what happened in the past, given that it took away from the main story timeline, it felt off. I was itching to get back into the main story, and the asides made me think - Ooh, I'd like to hear more about that...but then you don't, because it is just a memory of what happened. A good chunk of the book is like this. 

I also feel like there was more promise of ass-kicking than what was delivered. There was one character in particular that I wanted to see light a fire under some villain butt, but I didn't get it. There is action, but I wanted a little more.

Sometimes when you are in so many different heads, it can be difficult to get into the characters. I did like most of them. They were down-to-earth and I did hope that many of them would survive. There were so many characters though, that I lost track at one point of who was where. 

I'm not sure if there will be more in this series. It is kind of set up to allow for more, although the main story is done. If there are more, I would hope for a little more "present", a lot less backstory.

[received review copy]

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Review - Legacy

Legacy (The League of Illusion #1) by Vivi Anna

Jovan, a magician, is called home to his dying father's bedside. His father is the head of The League of Illusion, a governing body of magic users. Jovan is the black sheep of the family. He and his brother Rhys have A HISTORY with much bad blood. His father tasks them with teaming up to find their older brother Sebastian who has been missing for several years. They bring in a Druid tracker who happens to be Jovan's former flame, Skylar.

Cue some angst and some action.

I liked the world with its mix of magic and a touch of steampunk gadgetry. The romance was all right. I felt the inevitableness of it all, but the coupling just sort of happened in the end. And the end was really quick.

Also, the main issue of the book is still ongoing, although the relationship issues have been settled. So romance wise, you're good, but story wise, you're kind of in the middle of things.

I have to say that I didn't think that Skylar and Jovan's issues were dealt with so much as they were done away with. There was a step or two missing there. It was a really quick read.

I felt like we got a good start to something. Like I mentioned before, I kind of dig the world and we haven't seen that much of it yet. I actually think that Rhys is more my type of hero, and his book is next.

[received an ARC to review]

Review: Broken

Broken by A. E. Rought

This retelling of Shelley's Frankenstein has lots of angst. I never felt that it got to New Moon levels, but still, there is a lot of angst.

Angst is of course inevitable when the new guy in your life shares so many characteristics with your boyfriend who recently died.

The whole book is told from Emma's perspective. She has been wallowing in grief and her friends and family want her to move on. Then new boy Alex Franks comes into her life. This brings out a lot of feelings she didn't think she would have again, and also brings a whole metric ton of danger in her life.

For the vast majority of the book, it is Emma and Alex and their burgeoning relationship. The last fifth of the book is all action.

I like Emma. She weathers the high school gossip train and is not helpless. I also like Alex. He's had a rough time. His dad's a mad scientist and an all-around a-hole, there's this girl he can't get out of his head, he has memories that aren't his own. That wears on a body. A part of me wishes we got to spend some time in his head instead of Emma's throughout.

I do give credit to the book for having parents who aren't completely clueless and are actually involved in their kid's life. This doesn't always happen in YA.

I also liked Bree, Emma's best friend.

If you have a knee-jerk reaction to high school romance stories, you should probably steer clear. However, if you don't mind some angst and you like retellings, you might want to give this a shot. I always thought Frankenstein's Monster got the shaft. It's kind of nice to read a book where he is the good guy.

[received an ARC]

Review: Grounds to Kill

Grounds to Kill by Wendy Roberts

This hit me as more of a cozy-ish mystery with a touch of the paranormal.

Jen is a barista and she's just found out that her boyfriend was cheating on her. She discovered this when her spirit guide told her through automatic writing (the paranormal bit). Then the other woman is murdered and the cops think they have a likely suspect: Jen;s dad, a schizophrenic homeless man who has been hanging out near Jen's coffee shop.

Of course, this means some amateur sleuthing with her two best friends, some help and maybe more from a concerned co-worker, and trying to figure out how to use her "gift" to keep her dad, and herself, out of jail.

This isn't my usual read. There wasn't a whole lot of action. Jen's love life is also a bit messy. However, I really enjoyed it. It was a nice diversion, a quick read, and although I already knew whodunnit, I still was happy after finishing.

If you prefer the police procedurals or need some heavy romance, you might not be so happy. This is a Carina book, but has considerable less steam than other titles I've read. At the same time, it was kind of nice that Jen didn't jump right into another relationship with all that was going on.

I'll keep an eye out for more from Roberts.

[received an ARC to review]

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!

Happy New Year fellow readers!

Has everyone recovered from the holiday hangover? While the Book Pile is still bereft of a Best of list for last year, I have contributed to others:

Stellar Four's Best of 2012
See "Kindle-aholic's Secret Stash" at Bear Mountain Books

I also was in a couple of 2013-geared posts:

Stellar Four's Geeky New Year's Resolutions and Geeky Delights Coming Your Way in 2013.

I am working on the mammoth list of books coming out in 2013, as well as a full list of my fav reads from 2012.