Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Frosty Relations by Tara Quan

Attorney Jack Frost never understood why holidays did weird things to people. His secretary went on vacation, his best friend ditched their annual Aspen trip, and the law firm’s stubborn human resources assistant refuses his clerical support request. What’s a warlock to do on Christmas Eve but go on a 1-Night Stand? But when an oddly familiar empath shows up as his date, this ice mage has a hard time denying the magic of the winter solstice.

Faced with an anemic employment market and financial woes, college graduate and former witch Mina Mao lands an HR assistant job at Frost and Sons. Having spent her day saving Christmas from Frost Junior’s Grinch-like behavior, she accepts the gift of Madame Eve’s service and heads over to the Castillo Capital. When her date turns out to be her childhood crush and workplace nemesis, she braces herself for the sexiest icy ride of her life.

Where to Buy

Whew! It's hot in here! Or, er, is that freezing? Hmm...freezing hot? That certainly describes this sizzlingly cold little story by Tara Quan. The descriptions will have you shivering and reaching for a sweater against the cold and shivering and fanning yourself at the same time for entirely different reasons. So grab a cup of cocoa and whoever or whatever you prefer to help warm you in other ways and prepare to be delighted. Trust me, you'll want the latter when you've finished reading. ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Love's Paradox by Laura Kreitzer

Stalked by her abusive ex-fiancĂ©, Rae Zachery retaliates by singing karaoke and spilling all their dirty secrets to the entire bar. When her ex attempts to silence her brazen performance, sexy, leather-clad Parker comes to her rescue and soundly punches her ex in the face. As valiant and comedic as that may be, Rae finds Parker’s violent assistance unsettling, yet she can’t help but be drawn to him and his tragic past.

Fighting her attraction for Parker is a battle Rae can’t win, and soon their night of sharing secrets morphs into an undeniable bond. But fate won’t so easily relinquish her grip on their romantic, happily-ever-after. Instead of blissfully skipping into obscurity, Rae and Parker are subjected to her ex-fiancĂ©’s vicious proclivities. Who knew love could hurt so good?

Get lost in this contemporary romance with just enough comedy, drama, and suspense to keep you on your toes. 

Where to Buy

This book was something of a departure from what I normally read, but I'm glad I took the chance on it when it came recommended by a friend whose tastes often coincide with my own. While the overall situation that Rae and Parker find themselves in with Ian is dangerous and often dark, there is enough levity and happy times intermingled with the other to keep this from being a dark read overall. While I have some quibbles with things here and there that kept it from being a 5 star read for me, I'd certainly still rank it as one of the best books I've read this year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Operation: Cupid by Allyson Lindt

Kaylee lost her true love on Valentine’s Day, so to say she’s not a fan of the holiday is the understatement of the decade. When being bombarded by hearts and flowers pushes her to the brink of tears, she wishes for her lost love back. A stranger, who reminds her of the past in every way, offers her comfort—but he summons painful memories, leaving her torn.

Devin enjoys his job as a cupid, helping lonely souls move on from lost loves and heartbreak and seeing their joy return. His life was taken too soon and being a cupid allows him a second chance. When he’s assigned to Kaylee, he’s inexplicably drawn to her, but she triggers unfamiliar memories and emotions. He finds himself breaking all the rules of his job to make her happy, but he still can’t offer her the one thing she wants: her lost love.

As Kaylee and Devin grow closer, the demons of their past still haunt them. If they can’t reconcile what could’ve been, they’ll both lose out on their second chance at happily ever after. Can true love survive all obstacles?

Where to Buy

A sweet story about a second chance at love that comes about in a most unexpected way. Certainly neither Kaylee or Devin could have foreseen that they would get the opportunity they are given here, and really, who would? How exactly it comes about is kept rather mysterious, leaving many unanswered questions, but that is likely for the best. It allows the story to remain focused on the two main characters as it should in a story of this length.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christmas Spirits by Christy Gissendaner

Kia Mays has little time for anything as her lifelong dream of being a fashion designer comes to fruition. For Christmas, she takes time out of her busy schedule to visit her family in Georgia. Her beloved grandmother, Naya, reveals a secret of her Baule heritage. In Baule, located on the Ivory Coast of Africa, the people believe in spirit lovers, which you are separated from at birth. Tedros, her lover from the spirit world, appears to her and reveals that he is there to assist her in finding a mortal lover.

Elliot Melton, the brother of Kia's new sister in law, is also invited to share the season with the family. With the help of a meddling grandmother and an otherworldly spirit, Elliot and Kia soon find out that Christmas is the best time to fall in love.

Where to Buy

I found this to be a rather refreshing holiday romance story that doesn't rely on any of the "alone for the holiday" tropes that seem to predominate in this sub-category of romance. It read primarily like a contemporary romance to me, though with a large dash of the paranormal thrown in to spice things up a bit. There's no insta-love here, and wedding bells aren't ringing yet at the end; instead we have two ordinary people who are simply willing to take a chance and see where their instant attraction will lead them.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Music Box by Alice Brown

It’s Christmas Eve and Beth Montgomery’s life is a mess. She stops by the nursing home to visit her last remaining relative, her grandmother, Adeline Montgomery. Then she can go home and have a glass or ten of wine and cry over her latest string of bad luck. She was released from her job earlier.

She arrives to find Alex St. Claire visiting with her grandmother. What she doesn’t know is that he is a very lonely vampire, who made a mistake years ago when he thought he was in love with Adeline. He has spent many years trying to help out the family where he can. But Adeline’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse, and Beth knows her grandmother doesn’t have very much longer to live.

Both alone, Beth and Alex make a spontaneous decision to spend Christmas Eve together and are recipients to more than one miracle. But what will happen the next morning? Is Beth strong enough to handle the truth about Alex?

Where to Buy

I wanted to like this book. The blurb hooked me in, for it sounded like exactly the sort of story I typically enjoy (really, a book usually has me at "vampire"), as well as sounding somewhat similar to some Christmas romance stories I've greatly enjoyed in the past. The opening scene in the nursing home was quite promising, for it drew me in and got me interested in the characters. Unfortunately it started going downhill for me after Alex and Beth left the nursing home and didn't really redeem itself until the last quarter or so of the book. It recaptured my interest then, at least to a certain degree, and pulled my final rating up considerably.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Stroke of Midnight by Robin Danner

It’s New Year’s Eve… What’s a fairy to do?

The king of the Fairies has granted his daughter Mariel one year in Regency London before she must return to their realm to be married. Several hours before midnight on New Year's Eve, a fairy is sent to fetch her home—her childhood love, Rhys. Even though part her is glad to see the dark, handsome fairy again, she knows he’s been sent by her father to collect her. And she’s not about to give up her last precious hours in the world she’s grown to love. But when Mariel learns that her father has chosen Rhys as her husband to unite their two clans, the idea of marriage sounds much more appealing. Especially once her new husband takes off his clothes and leads her to bed…


Where to Buy

This was a sweet little story, though a somewhat confusing one at times and also a bit lacking in substance. While I enjoyed the story, and liked the characters, I don't feel as though I really got to know them very much and thus never truly became invested in their tale. Still, it made for a pleasant half hour's reading.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Oathbound by Mercedes Lackey

The Swordswoman
She was Tarma, Born to the Clan of the Hawk of the nomadic Shin'a'in people, she saw her entire clan slain by brigands. Vowing blood revenge upon the murderers, she became one of the sword-sworn, the most elite of all warriors. And trained in all forms of death-dealing combat, she took to the road in search of her enemies...

And the Sorceress
She was Kethry. Born to a noble house, sold into a hateful "marriage," she fled life's harshness for the sanctuary of the White Winds, a powerful school of sorcery. Becoming an adept, she pledged to use her talents for the greatest good. Yet, unlike other sorcerers, Kethry could use worldly weapons as well as magical skills. And when she became the bearer of a uniquely magical sword which drew her to those in need, Kethry was led to a fateful meeting with Tarma.

The Oathbound
United by sword-spell and the will of the Goddess, Tarma and Kethry swore a blood oath to carry on their mutual fight against evil. And together, swordmaster and sorceress set forth to fulfill their destiny.

Where to Buy

Tarma and Kethry are two of Lackey's more memorable characters, conceived in a time when sword and sorcery was one of the popular flavors within the fantasy genre. They were first given life in short stories that were published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthologies, and a few of those stories have been incorporated into this novel. As such, this book tends to be slightly episodic in nature, particularly through the central portion of it, and it's fairly evident where a few of the short stories were pasted in, likely with only light edits to keep it consistent with the timeline of the rest of the novel. Still, these two women are interesting enough characters to be worth reading even in short snippets, and I enjoyed revisiting this tale of their early days together.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flirting With Fire by Tara Quan

Apprentice witch Catalina Gato is prohibited from assuming her human form in front of her new employer without his express permission. Since he doesn’t know he’s a warlock, he can’t give it, leaving her in a familiar’s limbo. To make matters worse, she’s barred from leaving his house, and her attempts to enlighten him of his true nature results in burnt notes, charred walls, and exploding laptops.

On All Hallows’ Eve, she gets one night of freedom. Deciding some no-strings-attached sex might take the edge off the intense attraction she feels for her clueless boss, she signs up for Madame Eve’s service. When she meets her masked mystery date at the Castillo Capital, she realizes she might have gotten much more than she bargained for.

After being gifted a one-night stand from his annoying best friend, attorney Leo Difuoco reluctantly ventures to the Castillo Capital to celebrate Halloween. When he meets his oddly familiar green-eyed date in a Cat Woman costume, flames literally ignite, sparks magically fly, and life as he knows it changes forever.

Where to Buy

Tara Quan's novella's are always a sure thing in my book. She is very talented at bringing her characters alive in a very short space of pages such that they never feel like cardboard stereotypes as is the case in many short stories and novellas. Her gift extends to storytelling as well, and she almost always manages to fit a lot of story into very few words such that you feel you've read a work that was twice as long as it actually is when you're finished. All of these caveats hold true in this latest tale of hers, though I have to admit that this one did leave me a bit less satisfied than some of her others have. While thoroughly enjoyable, I did feel that it could have done with a little more fleshing out perhaps.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Legend of Sarah Latham by Marci Boudreaux

Family reunions can be Hell.

Nearly four hundred years ago, Sarah Latham and William Fuller disappeared without a trace.

Legend has it she was a wicked witch and he was her demon. Legend also has it that whenever a Latham descendent reaches thirty years of age, Sarah comes to drag them to Hell.

Good thing twenty-nine year old Elizabeth Latham doesn’t believe in legends. Or at least she didn’t until she happened upon a woman in the family cemetery who just happened to look an awful lot like the paintings in the local museum.

Elizabeth is determined to stay ground in reality, but her idea of reality is shattered when she realizes Sarah and William have returned. But Elizabeth quickly realizes that Sarah is about as far from wicked as William is from being a demon.

So if Sarah hasn’t been killing generations of Lathams…who has?

Where to Buy

I loved this story. Simply loved it. The characters, the story, pretty much everything about it, except perhaps the length. A part of me would have liked more time with these characters, more chance to get to know some of them better, just...more. And yet in this instance, I think the work as a whole might have suffered had it been extended out very much more.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Dragon Revealed by Nulli Para Ora

What do you do when you can't stop yourself from becoming something you hate?

Tarial is changing. She knows what she'll become and she despises it. Half human, half dragon, duty demands she make use of the magic of her heritage.

But when an unexpected guest enters her life, everything she knows will be challenged.

Will his unique view alter her perspective? Can she hide the evidence of her ancestry, find love, and live a normal life? After a lifetime of denial, can she truly cage her dragon? Find out in Dragon Revealed.

Where to Buy

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book going into it, and having finished it I'm not sure if it was what I wanted it to be. I had faith that it would be good because I've never been very disappointed with any of this author's works, and I wasn't disappointed with this one either. Rich characters that come alive and pull you into their story combined with a steady pacing that keeps you engaged and turning the pages make this a fairly quick and entertaining read. Still, as I read, I found myself wanting something more -- though I'm not sure I could say what exactly.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Arrow's Fall by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Fall is the third book in the Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy.

With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald returns to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth's future.

But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar. And, to her horror, Talia soon discovers there is far more going on at Prince Ancar's court than just preparation for a hoped-for royal wedding. For a different magic than that of the Heralds is loose in Ancar's realm- an evil and ancient sorcery that may destroy all of Valdemar unless Talia can send warning to her Queen in time!

Where to Buy

With this, the final book in the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy, we see many different plots come to maturity. Chief among them of course is Talia's story, for we finally get to see her taking on her full responsibilities as Queen's Own and we see her dealing with her personal problems and relationships in a much more mature fashion. Her main story arc comes to a close here, with most of her various relationship problems finally being resolved one way or another, though as the Weatherwitch Maeven had predicted in Arrow's Flight, her greatest joy is preceded by her greatest sorrow and by the darkest time in her life. The ending isn't really that, however, for as is a recurring theme with these books the ending of one thing is often simply the beginning of another. So, while the immediate introductory story concludes here, a much larger story that will encompass Valdemar and several of her allies and enemies is only just beginning.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Arrow's Flight by Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Flight is the second book in the Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy.

Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. Yet though this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispensing Herald's justice throughout the land.

But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest, enforcing her rulings, would require all the courage and skill Talia could command- for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!

Where to Buy

As I will likely note in future reviews of other books in the Valdemar/Velgarth saga, I've often found that the middle books in the various trilogies are often the weakest. Such is not the case with this one, however, for I feel it is stronger than the first book, though probably not quite as strong as the one that follows it. The story of Talia's intern journey is engaging, frustrating, and heartbreaking by turns. She must experience one of the darkest times in her life thusfar on this trip, though as usual she comes through it with flying colors and stronger than she's ever been.

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Arrows of the Queen is the first book in the Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy.

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen's own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason which could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen's heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen's own foes!

Where to Buy

I have read this series, along with most of the other series that make up Lackey's Valdemar universe, several times over the last twenty-odd years, and they never really get old for me. Having decided it was time to do another read-through of the whole saga, I debated about whether or not to cover them here on my blog since they are rather different from the majority of the things I review here. The fact that they still stand among my favorite books of all time, and that they have played a significant role in my life in various ways convinced me that they deserved my attention here as well. My reviews of them may not always be as extensive as some of my reviews for more recent works are, but I'll do my best to offer up at least a handful of comments about each one as I read them again (though please don't ask me how many times I've read some of them because I stopped keeping count long ago.)