Monday, July 27, 2015

[Blog Tour] Excerpt & #Giveaway - Forsaken by S.J. Harper!

Series: Fallen Siren, Book 2.5
Genre: Paranormal romance
Publisher: All Romance eBooks
Date of Publication: July 1, 2015
Cover Artist: Erin Dameron Hill

Join Agents Emma Monroe and Zack Armstrong.

She protected him. He loved her. 

They can trust one another with their lives, but what about their hearts?

Special Agent Emma Monroe is a Fallen Siren seeking redemption. Thousands of years ago, she was banished from Mount Olympus by Zeus and cursed by Demeter for failing to prevent the kidnapping of Persephone by Hades. Now she’s working for the FBI, seeking salvation while searching for and finding the missing. Her partner, Zack Armstrong, is a werewolf with a grievance of his own. 

The former Black Ops sniper who once carried out a string of questionable assignments is atoning for his past. Ironically, Zack’s just discovered an important piece of his past has been magically wiped from his memory—an affair with Emma. It doesn’t matter she used the spell to save his life, that’s something he’ll never know. With trust eroded and love overshadowed by betrayal the only thing holding them together is the job.

When the son of multi-billionaire Roger Maitlan is kidnapped and his babysitter murdered in cold blood, Emma and Zack travel to New York to work the case. They go undercover, infiltrating a playground of private dungeons where those who are rich and powerful can live out fantasies without consequence. What they find is a conspiracy born of a twisted mind and fueled by greed. The clock is ticking. Will Zack and Emma be able to find the missing boy and their way back to one another?

I’ve learned that it can take a lifetime to mend a broken heart. Right here, right now, I’m ready to stop suffering this one. To stop suffering altogether. I glance over at Zack who is sound asleep. He didn’t get any rest Friday night, thanks to Demeter. He was too preoccupied with feeling betrayed, manipulated, played the fool. Just as Demeter intended. Fuck Demeter. Fuck the world. I’m not giving up. I’m not giving in. I have a role to play, a duty to perform, a failure to make up for. It’s what I do, who I am.
A Siren is a Siren. A sexual creature, born of Gaia. I’m one of three, cursed by Demeter thousands of years ago for failing to protect Persephone. It’s for this I atone, for this I pay. It’s the reason I work for the FBI and search for the missing. It’s the reason I avoid love at all costs. Finding the missing brings me closer to redemption.
Finding love? I swallow hard. That always ends in ruin and death. Once again, my gaze drifts to my partner, Zack, a dark, rugged werewolf who was formerly, and quite secretly, a badass black ops assassin. Also, formerly, my lover. We met during a case in Charleston about a year and a half ago. The attraction was instant, giving into it seemingly safe. The assignment was to be temporary after all. He was to go his way. I was to go mine. There was to be no contact between us. And there wasn’t until he transferred to San Diego, to my unit. Until he became my partner both in and out of bed. Until we fell in love and I made the only choice I could. I took his memories to save his life.
“Can I get you anything else?” the flight attendant asks quietly.
I hand her my empty cup and shake my head.
She moves on down the aisle.
I transfer the case file I’ve been perusing onto the seat between Zack and me along with my laptop and cell phone. I’ve read the dossier on real estate mogul and philanthropist Roger Maitlan a half-dozen times along with what little is known about the kidnapping of his seven-year-old son, Robby. Maitlan’s missing child is the reason we’re on our way to the Big Apple. The reason our boss, Jimmy Johnson, denied the request Zack made for transfer just yesterday morning.
I notice the light above the forward lavatory has turned from red to green. I consider waking Zack for a fraction of a second before deciding against. I’m agile, limber, and frankly not looking forward to once again facing his ire. I quietly unbuckle, lift up the arm separating the window and middle seats, then slide over. I stand in so much as I can, considering the outcropping of overhead bins, and turn to face him. Left hand on the middle seat, I lift my right leg up and over his. He doesn’t flinch. There’s no alteration in his breathing. My toe touches the ground, and I begin to shift my weight to the foot that’s now firmly planted in the aisle. His hand brushes my thigh, his eyes open.
He sits up straighter in his chair. “You could have woken me and asked me to move.” His tone is irritable, bordering on accusing.
I avoid eye contact, avoid his touch. “Let’s pretend I did,” I say before slipping out of the row and making my way toward the front of the plane. I feel his eyes on me. Never did I imagine viewing an airplane lavatory as a refuge. I take care of the most immediate needs first, then I wash my hands. When I reach for the paper towels, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I have to admit, I look a little worse for wear. Considering what I’ve been through in the past twenty-four hours, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
This time yesterday Zack and I were staging the rescue of ten missing girls, all young, blonde virgins—pawns in a power play between two ruling vampire factions. The losing side led by the now dead Southern vampire King, Philippe Lamont. The winner? Kallistos Kouros. My betrayer, my savior, and now the Sovereign of both the West and the South. Kallistos and I had been sharing a bed for the better part of six months. The no-strings-attached relationship worked for us both—the vampire who made no demands, except for the most exquisite sexual ones, and the Siren who could fulfill those demands without sacrificing her heart. Only in the end my heart did suffer as I watched him take the lives of humans to ensure his position, grow his kingdom, and increase his power. I’d like to condemn him, but I can’t. Kallistos told me what to expect of him more times than I could count. And I have to admit he’s delivered supremely on both his promise to be there when needed and to disappoint. If he hadn’t healed me two nights
ago, I’d be gone. Not dead, Demeter would never have allowed that, forced to move on to another life. Problem is, I’m not done with this one.
I lean closer to the mirror and study my appearance, seeking assurance that the two spells I pay my best friend Liz for are still firmly in place. The first, a reverse glamour that hides my true appearance and furnishes me with the wholesome, plain-Jane facade I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. The second, a dampening spell that diminishes both my innate powers of seduction and the nifty little side effect that makes me the most reliable lie detector ever. I realize that Liz, who is not only the baddest witch this side of the Mississippi, but my touchstone when it comes to matters of the heart, doesn’t know what happened in the last couple days between Kallistos and me, between Zack and me, between Demeter and me—that I’m on my way to New York, that everything is different, my life changed.
I make a half-hearted effort to smooth down my hair, which is long, dark, and pulled back into a simple ponytail. I can’t help noticing that my skin, normally fair and unblemished, is paler than usual. Not because of a lack of makeup. I never wear makeup. No mascara. No lip-gloss. Nothing. I reach up and pinch my cheeks. It doesn’t help. The inside of my lower eyelid contains only the barest hint of pink. I’m anemic. I’ve lost too much blood. Not during the mission. Though there was plenty of blood shed last night, none of it was mine. My near death experience came this morning at the hand of my favorite vindictive goddess, Demeter. After she betrayed me. After Zack discovered my betrayal of him.

S.J. Harper is the pen name for the writing team of Samantha Sommersby and Jeanne C. Stein, two friends who met at Comic-Con in San Diego and quickly bonded over a mutual love of good wine, edgy urban fantasy, and everything Joss Whedon. 


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[Coffee Shop Talks] Share a Snippet From Your Current Read!

 Ace (August 4, 2015)

She knew what he offered. He would kill her first, with the gun or the knife or his fists if he had to, and make certain she was never trapped in that cage again. From another man this might be terrifying, that he would so blithely consider murdering his companion. But she understood that from Hatcher this was tantamount to an offer of marriage. This was what he could do for her, how he showed he cared.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

[Early Review] ~ The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings #1) by J. R. Ward

Release Date:  July 28, 2015
Publisher:  NAL
Source:  NetGalley
Author Links:  Goodreads | Website | Twitter

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood delivers the first novel in an enthralling new series set amid the shifting dynamics of a Southern family defined by wealth and privilege—and compromised by secrets, deceit, and scandal....

For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.  For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.  As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.

Have you ever read a book that you loved, and then immediately regretted it?  That's how I feel about this book.  It's nothing negative - it's actually a positive thing.  This book slowly built and grew on me so that I was captivated by the end.  The reason I regret reading it now is that I have to wait a whole year before the next book in this series is released.  

As a little girl growing up in the 80s, I spent a lot of time pretending I was asleep at night while my mom lay next to me in bed watching Dynasty and Dallas.  When I was in third grade, I was already obsessing about the Crystal-Blake-Alexis relationships and the fictional lives of an uber-wealthy family.  And the cat fights!  There is nothing in this world that can compare to 1980s primetime soap operas!   

The Bourbon Kings is not nearly as melodramatic as Dynasty, but it has many similar elements.  Lane is the main protagonist in this book.  Here is a run down of his life:  An uber-rich family.  Family tied to the land for many generations. A family business that is in trouble.  A sick, oblivious mother.  An underhanded, selfish father.  A conniving, vindictive wife. A feisty, strong ex-lover.  A brother who is emotionally damaged.  A sister that is in turmoil, paying for her father's sins.  A best friend fixer that carries a torch for Lane's sister.  Another brother who is MIA.  

Lane has been away from his family for many years.  Although raised with privilege, he has been affected by his past with his father and family.  He has a beloved baby sitter that taught him how to be a good person in the midst of all the craziness of his wealth.  Lane left his home of Easterly because he could not deal with what his life had become.  Mainly, he was married to a beautiful bitch that he did not love, and his heart was scarred by his smart and practical ex-lover, Lizzie King.  

Lizzie is the head gardener at Easterly.  She isn't the person who is out weeding the gardens, she is the botanist and flower arranger that keeps Easterly looking beautiful.  She is educated and driven by a need to take care of herself, by herself.  Lizzie's heart was ripped to shreds by Lane, and she does not intend to allow him a repeat performance when Lane returns due to the illness of his childhood care taker.  There are steamy and swoon-worthy moments between Lane and Lizzie, but there are also hurtful misunderstandings and missed messages.  It is definitely a love story I can get behind, and I can't wait for the continuation of their story.

Lane plays it slow as he goes after Lizzie.  He never stopped loving her and goes out to prove the depth of his feelings for her.  Unfortunately for Lane, he is often sidetracked by the events going on around him.  First and foremost, he must deal with his bitch of a wife, Chantal, which uncovers a secret that keeps his head spinning, and creates loads of angst between Lane and Lizzie.  Lizzie refused to allow Lane to break her heart again, and Lane will do anything to break down her barriers.

Lane has to take the time to deal with his party-girl, promiscuous sister, Gin.  Gin feels trapped in her life, but can't imagine living without all the privileges she has become used to.  Lane's best friend, Samuel T., is not only a fix-everything lawyer, but he has a long and complicated history with Gin.  He hates Gin passionately, but underneath is always a fire burning for her.  Some of the best, angsty scenes happen between Samuel T. and Gin.  Lane also attempts to help his emotionally damaged brother, Edward.  Edward is one of my favorite characters in this book.  Vulnerable and pissed off makes for a great combination!  Lane's other brother, Max, is mentioned throughout this book, but we never meet him.  

As the story progresses, the drama increases.  Lane's father, the head of the family and the family business, is not what he appears.  Secrets are revealed, memories revisited and lives are changed forever because of this man.  Lane is pulled in two directions - as much as he wants to leave Easterly and live his life away from his family, he feels honor and duty-bound to help his family when he is needed.  Lane's father makes it necessary for him to be involved in the family, and we are left at a crossroads in the Bradford family's lives.  

JR Ward eloquently writes with passion and a strong voice for her characters.  Each character, with the exception of Max, is well-developed and layered.  These characters make you want more.  I couldn't possible imagine not reading the next book in this series because I already care a great deal about these characters.  If you thought Ward was going to have difficulty switching from paranormal romance to contemporary writing, you are wrong.  Ward is a strong writer and has proven that she can cross genres with great success.  I was delighted by this book and cannot wait to see where the road leads Lane, Lizzie and the rest of the Bradford bunch.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Early Review: The Veil (Devil's Isle #1) by Chloe Neill

Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: NAL Trade
Source: NetGalley
Author Links: Goodreads | Website

Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil's Isle.
Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.
Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.
But when the Veil threatens to shatter completely, Claire and Liam must work together to stop it, or else New Orleans will burn…

This was a pretty decent start to a new urban fantasy series.
I can't say I'm chomping at the bit to read the next book, but a lot of the first books in series are sort of iffy, so I'm not particularly upset.
Claire, as a character, was a bit meh to me. I certainly didn't hate her or find her annoying, but nothing about her personality made me sit up and take notice. Same with her friends. They were likable, but if they had disappeared off of the pages, I wouldn't have cared.
Liam? He was ok, but (again) I didn't really get attached to him.
I can't say I was really feeling the Liam/Claire relationship, either, but maybe it will heat up as the series goes on?
Basically, my plan is to just wait for the next book, and see if it gets better...

So. Plot?
Fairies (or the equivalent) ripped apart the Veil that separates our dimension from theirs. A Great War ensued, but at long last (10ish years) we won.  Our forces managed to push them back, seal the torn Veil, and imprison any fairies still on our side.
Humanity, FTW!

But, unfortunately, there are some leftover complications from the Veil being torn apart.
The biggest problem is the residual magic that has seeped into our world has caused some humans to become Sensitives, giving them different magical powers. Which in and of itself, wouldn't be such a big deal, but they all eventually go into magic overload and turn into wraiths.
Wraiths are like zombies. They run around mindlessly killing folks in an attempt to get more magic.
Or maybe it's just because they like killing? I'm still a bit confused about their reasoning.
At any rate, they're dangerous!

Liam is a bounty hunter who tracks 'em down. And Claire first comes to his attention when she goes after a couple of wraiths with a stick, while trying to protect a stranger who was being attacked.

Thing is, Claire didn't just save the woman with a tree branch. Claire is a Sensitive, and she uses her powers (albeit badly) to throw a sign at the wraiths, which allowed her to make a hasty getaway.
Or so she thought.
When Liam shows up at her shop a few hours later, she's sure he's going to turn her in to the authorities. Luckily, as she soon finds out, nothing in their world is what she originally thought...

The end result was (to me) a decent story with somewhat forgettable characters. But then, I thought the same thing about Kate Daniels & Co. when I started, so I'll definitely give the next book in the Devil's Isle series a shot.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

[Review] - The Black Wolf (In the Company of Killers #5) by J.A. Redmerski

Release Date:  July 1, 2015
Publisher:  Independent
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

Since devastating secrets were uncovered by Nora Kessler, Niklas Fleischer and Victor Faust have been divided as business partners and brothers. But ultimately Niklas is persuaded to lead a mission to Italy, and he sees it as an opportunity to set in motion forgiveness—or retribution—for his brother’s betrayal.

The mission: play the role of a wealthy German investor and kidnap a beautiful, notorious madam named Francesca Moretti. No stranger to these types of roles, Niklas is the best man for the job, but this time the risks will be much greater as he will not be doing it alone. Izabel Seyfried, still fresh out of a life of imprisonment and sex slavery, could be negatively affected by the things she will see in Moretti’s mansion, and Niklas must keep her in line so she does not blow their cover and get them killed.  But Niklas isn’t the only one who must play a role—Nora takes on the humiliating task of playing Niklas’s slave, and Izabel must play the role of his lover.  On one hand, Niklas couldn’t be enjoying himself more. On the other hand, the emotions that continue to rage inside of him may be too much for him to control, and it may be Niklas—not Izabel—who needs to be kept in line. He cannot forget what Victor has done, and this mission may just be the beginning of his downward spiral.  Can the blood bond that Niklas and Victor share as brothers be stronger than resentment? Or will vengeance dig the blade so deep that their bond be eternally severed?

If you are not reading this series, you need to get on this now.  J.A. Redmerski's dark and turbulent In the Company of Killers series just keeps getting better and better with each new book.  In The Black Wolf, Niklas takes center stage, and the fall out from the previous book, Seeds of Iniquity, is just beginning.  This series must be read in order - none of these books can be read as a stand alone.  

At the beginning of The Black Wolf, Niklas is still estranged from his brother, Victor, and Victor's new Order.  Izabel and Nora are picked for a mission in Italy, but with the caveat that Niklas accompanies them.  The team is going into the den of a viscious Madam who at best, is insane.  The Madam, Francesca Moretti, deals in flesh and sex.  She sells the services of her girls, but also sells girls to the right buyers.  Victor is hesitant to send Izabel on this mission because of her past, but Izabel is head strong and determined as always.  She refuses to be treated any differently than any of her cohorts in the Order.  This mission tests Izabel, mind and spirit, while Nora is noticeable throughout most of the story by Izabel's side.

The action and the character relationships are constantly twisting and turning.  Redmerski does a phenomenal job with the characters in this book.  Each one is so well constructed and operating on several levels that one would think it would be difficult to write a plot to go along with them.  Not for this author.  For as excellently drawn as her characters are, the plots are action-packed and just as twisty and turny as the relationships.  Even a one-time-only side character like Francasca Moretti is carefully created to function on so many tiers of evil.  

But this is Niklas' book.  Niklas fights so many internal battles in this book - from his feelings of betrayal from Victor, to possibly becoming the betrayer to Victor.  Niklas' feelings for Izabel are convoluted to say the least.  As much as he once despised her, he realizes that he is only alive because of her humanity - something that he lacks and is striving for in his own life.  I think that Niklas looks at Izabel and sees the kind of person that he wants to be, and it frustrates him to no end that that person is the love of his brother's life.  Not only does Niklas see something special in Izabel, he begins to question his feelings for her...and I'll leave it at that.  Niklas might put on a hard facade in front of Nora, Izabel and the rest of the Order, but it is very clear that it is just a facade.  This man has deep feelings of loyalty, abandonment, betrayal and love.  Redmerski has only scratched the surface with this character.

Izabel is becoming stronger - physically, mentally and emotionally.  She is special in her ability to become an operative for the Order, yet still hold on to her humanity.  She shows that she is determined and stubborn, but that she is learning how to control those basic parts of her personality.  No matter what the situation is, Izabel will always champion the underdog - the victim - and this is due to her humanity.  Izabel has come along way since she was called Sarai, and her character continues to grow and evolve with each book.  Every character in this book has a special connection to Izabel, whether it's Victor who is in love with her, Niklas and Nora whose lives were saved by her, or Frederick and Dorian, who both have a brotherly soft sport in their hearts for her.  Whatever happens in the future to Izabel will have harsh and lasting consequences with every other character in this series.  

Nora Kessler.  Crazy, psycho bitch.  Nora is back, due to the grace of Izabel.  Nora is tough on Izabel, always speaking up to point out Izabel's failures.  Izabel wants to be just like Nora, which is a really bad thing.  Nora is present in this book, but mostly as a silent observer.  I began to question it until I figured out why at the end of this book.  I do not like the relationship forming (non-romantic) between her and Victor.  I don't like the task that Victor assigned to Nora while on the Moretti mission - it could even be framed as a betrayal of Izabel.  Nora is very observant, and for whatever reason, feels the need to report her findings back to Victor, which is going to lead to a lot of friction.

Victor. As much as I have always loved Victor, this book left me reeling.  Victor will never betray Izabel by cheating on her, but he has the I-know-what-you-need-better-than-you-do syndrome that is often seen in dominant, intelligent, alpha males.  Victor knows that he will never love anyone like he loves Izabel, and he is hell bent on protecting her, even if he has to hurt her to do so.  Victor wasn't a huge part of this book, but his conversations at the end of the story are crucial to the story line.  Victor learns one of Izabel's secrets, and does not inform Izabel.  The potential for angst and heartache is growing with this series.  

This series, again, is one of the best I have read.  I highly, highly recommend it.  It combines dark romance with mystery and suspense.  This series has a lot of violence and a lot of very dark and gruesome situations.  There are sex slaves, guns, torture and murders for hire.  However, I have yet to read another series that weaves together characters as flawlessly as Redmerski does.  The characters are the real gems of the series.  I can't wait to see what happens to them next. 

Reading Order:

Monday, July 20, 2015

[Giveaway - U.S. Only] Racing the Sun by Karina Halle

Release Date:  July28, 2015
Publisher:  Atria 
Source:  Publisher
Author Links: Goodreads Website Twitter

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Where Sea Meets Sky comes a new adult novel about a young woman who becomes a nanny in Capri and falls for her charges’ bad-boy brother.  It’s time for twenty-four-year-old Amber MacLean to face the music. After a frivolous six months of backpacking through New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia, she finds herself broke on the Mediterranean without enough money for a plane ticket home to California. There are worse places to be stuck than the gorgeous coastline of southern Italy, but the only job she manages to secure involves teaching English to two of the brattiest children she’s ever met.  It doesn’t help that the children are under the care of their brooding older brother, Italian ex-motorcycle racer Desiderio Larosa. Darkly handsome and oh-so-mysterious, Derio tests Amber’s patience and will at every turn—not to mention her hormones.  But when her position as teacher turns into one as full-time nanny at the crumbling old villa, Amber finds herself growing closer to the enigmatic recluse and soon has to choose between the safety of her life back in the States and the uncertainty of Derio’s closely guarded heart.

I am giving away one paper back copy of Karina Halle's Racing the Sun to a U.S. follower.  To enter, please follow our blog in some way (let me know how) and leave a comment letting me know which country you wish you could experience via backpacking.  I'll randomly pick a winner on Friday, July 24, 2015.

[Coffee Shop Talks] Most Anticipated Fall Releases

Signet (November 3, 2015)

Katherine Tegen Books (October 6, 2015)

Tor Books (September 8, 2015)

Ace (September 29, 2015)

Balzer + Bray (October 13, 2015)

Roc (November 3, 2015)