Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (July 28, 2014)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I had another, and I'm afraid the last, quiet week when I didn't have anything to do but read. I am feeling pretty good about my reading goals and am getting ahead on my daunting September review stack. 

Of course, just to keep it interesting, my laptop is starting to have some serious problems. It looks like this coming week will include shopping for a new one. That's okay. I think my current machine is over five years old. But I have lots of files I have to get off it including iTunes and OverDrive files that make the idea of switching computers a little intimidating.

I am also planning a road trip to attend an author event on Friday night and going to my winter home for a quick overnight this week.

Read Last Week
Mercy Burns by Keri Arthur has been on my TBR stack since 2011. It was a pretty average urban fantasy/paranormal romance. It was about dragons which made it more interesting because dragons aren't the usual paranormal being found in urban fantasy. My review will be posted on August 20.

No Limits by Lori Foster is the first in a new romantic suspense series. I really liked the characters in this one and appreciated getting to see characters from earlier series. too. My review will be posted as part of the blog tour on Sept. 11.
Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes is a YA contemporary review book. The style of writing with a very tight first person narration made this one a little hard to get into for me but the ending redeemed both the main character and the story for me. My review will be posted on August 20.

The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth has been on my TBR stack since 2011. I enjoyed this book which combines a political thriller with the paranormal. My review will be posted on August 23.
Starry Night by Isabel Gillies was a YA review book about first love and changing friendships. The narrator was an interesting character who seemed younger than her 15 years. My review will be posted on Aug. 28 for this Sept. 2 release.

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay is a cozy mystery that had been sitting on my TBR mountain since March 2, 2012. I enjoyed the library setting, the librarian main character, and the other quirky characters. I laughed out loud and had a chill up my spine when the mystery got tense. My review will be posted on August 28.
The Jewel by Amy Ewing is a YA dystopian story from my review stack. It is the story of a future society where poor, young girls with physic powers are raised and trained to be surrogate mothers for royalty. Violet is one of those girls. My review will be posted on August 27.

Eight Million Gods by Wen Spencer is from my TBR mountain. This is an urban fantasy set in Japan about a young woman who has OCD and a compulsion to write who is running away from the mother who wants her medicated and institutionalized. It is filled with characters and creatures from Japanese mythology and has a nice romance too. My review will be posted on August 30.
Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson is a YA contemporary review book about a girl who has some mental problems. The main one is her fear of touching or being touched. This becomes a problem when she wins the role of Ophelia in the school play and has to touch the cute boy who is playing Hamlet. My review will be posted on August 30.

I am currently reading Wood Sprites by Wen Spencer. This is a review book that I thought was YA. However, despite the 9-year-old main characters, this is an adult story. The plot is long and complicated; the magic is also complicated. It is also the 4th in the Elfhome series. 

Next Week

Since I am waiting for a couple of adult books that I want to slot into my book review calendar, I'll be concentrating on reading the YA books I have on my review stack until I get them. These are all September releases.
Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Get Even by Gretchen McNeil
Blackbird by Anna Carey
The Vault of the Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
I have read 32 of 52 of the books I brought home from my TBR mountain to read this summer but now I'm going to be concentrating on reading the YA review books on my stack. I may be able to read a couple more of the adult books I brought home for summer reading but I also want to read some new books that will be arriving in the next week or two.

What was your week like?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves (July 27, 2014)

Tynga of Team Tynga's Reviews has a meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. Visit her site to check out the linky and see what everyone gets. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow.

This was mostly a "stock my Kindle with books I've already read" week. I took advantage of some Kindle Daily Deals.

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews was on sale for $1.99 each so I bought the ones I didn't already have on my Kindle. For some of them, this means I now have at least three copies. I have two print copies of Magic Bites (original edition and new addition), an audiobook, and this one for my Kindle. At least, these are not raising the height of TBR mountain. I've already read all of them.
I also bought Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara for my Kindle when it was a daily deal. I enjoy this series and was glad to get the first book in a convenient Kindle copy. I just reviewed the most recent book in the series yesterday. 
Finally, I added two books that are going on TBR mountain.

Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark is the third book in her Rachel Knight series. I bought a print copy of this one from Amazon Marketplace.

Midsummer Moon by Laura Kinsale is a historical romance that was a Kindle Daily Deal. 

What did you add to your stack this week?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

ARC Review: Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Flame
Author: Michelle Sagara
Series: Chronicles of Elantra (Book 11)
Publication: Harlequin MIRA (July 29, 2014)

Description: Any day that starts with dragon arguments is going to be bad

Kaylin returned from the West March in one piece. Now that piece is fraying. She's not at home in the Imperial Palace—and she never intends to be. All she wants is normal garden-variety criminals and a place of her own. Of course, normal in her new life involves a dragon as a roommate, but she can handle that.

She can't as easily handle the new residents to the city she polices, because one of them is Nightshade's younger brother. On a night when she should be talking to landlords in perfectly normal buildings, she's called to the fief—by Teela. A small family disagreement has become a large, complicated problem: Castle Nightshade's latent magic is waking.

And it's not the only thing.

My Thoughts: Private Kaylin Neya just wants a home and for life to get back to normal. But for someone who is a Chosen and whose roommate is the only female dragon, things aren't easy. This story is largely about Kaylin's search for a home. It seems that each of these books focuses on Kaylin's relationship with a certain group of the people who live in Elantra. This one is a little different because a lot of the focus is on Kaylin's understanding of the sentient buildings that inhabit her world.

When Kaylin goes house hunting, she isn't very successful because the dragons put unreasonable demands on any landlord who might house them. Their main concern is keeping the dragon Bellusdeo safe. However, Kaylin gets a lead from the Keeper that leads to a house on Ashwood Street. She learns that the house is something like the towers that guard the fief lands but that it is different too. Kaylin feels an immediate sense that it is the home she is looking for but she has to go through many hard things before it can be.

When Kaylin returned after her adventures in the West March, some friends of Teela's returned with them. These two - Mandoran and Annarion - were recovered from some alternate world and, despite looking like young Barrani, they were greatly changed by the experience. They were Teela's childhood friends and she is worried about them. Annarion is Nightshade's brother. Nightshade and Annarion argue because Annarion is disappointed with some of Nightshade's choices. Their argument has the unfortunate effect of releasing two of the Ancients who were held captive in the bowels of Nightshade's castle.

The Ancient has the power to unmake lives and all of the residents of Elantra - dragons, Barrani, and Hawks - muster to try to defeat them before they destroy the city. Kaylin and her familiar are also an essential part of the battle which tests her in new ways and forces her to make some hard decisions.

I really liked this story and found it very compelling. The author has a way of making the viewpoints of all the various races distinct. She has also created a marvelous main character in Kaylin and surrounded her with a cast of fascinating people. I can't wait to read the next episode - CAST IN HONOR.

Favorite Quote:
Maybe home is something we have to make, and remake, over and over. But it's hard to make things when you're afraid—or you're certain—that they'll just be broken.
I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Memes: Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara

Happy Friday everybody!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This week I am spotlighting Cast in Flame by Michelle Sagara. This is the 11th book in the Chronicles of Elantra which is a long-running fantasy series with all sorts of fantastic creatures. Here is the description of this July 29 release which I got from NetGalley:
Any day that starts with dragon arguments is going to be bad

Kaylin returned from the West March in one piece. Now that piece is fraying. She's not at home in the Imperial Palace—and she never intends to be. All she wants is normal garden-variety criminals and a place of her own. Of course, normal in her new life involves a dragon as a roommate, but she can handle that.

She can't as easily handle the new residents to the city she polices, because one of them is Nightshade's younger brother. On a night when she should be talking to landlords in perfectly normal buildings, she's called to the fief—by Teela. A small family disagreement has become a large, complicated problem: Castle Nightshade's latent magic is waking.

And it's not the only thing.
On the second day after her return to Elantra, the city she policed as a groundhawk, Private Kaylin Neya fell out of bed, daggers in hands,knees bent. 
Friday 56:
The water was once again confined in the deep, still pond; the brazier in the fire looked no worse for the deluge. The breeze was warm, but gentle.

Evanton, however, was soggy. He resembled an elderly, bedraggled rat, but with less hair. "Don't give me that look, Private; I assure you I am drier than you are."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Mercy Kill by Lori Armstrong

Mercy Kill
Author: Lori Armstrong
Series: Mercy Gunderson
Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (January 11, 2011)

Description: Former Black Ops army sniper Mercy Gunderson isn't adjusting well to the laid-back rhythm of civilian life on her family’s ranch in South Dakota. To fill her time, Mercy accepts a temporary bartending gig at a local watering hole. Yet her attempts to settle in back home are tested when Titan Oil, a Canadian company proposing to run an underground pipeline through Eagle River County, sends Jason Hawley, Mercy’s former army buddy, to the area to convince ranchers to get behind the project.

While local business owners support the pipeline, Hawley’s presence riles the landowners, and Mercy is torn. After ugly threats and multiple altercations escalate tensions in the county, Mercy discovers Hawley’s brutally mutilated body in the bar parking lot. When it appears Sheriff Dawson cares more about campaigning for reelection than investigating the case, Mercy vows to find Jason Hawley’s killer—even if she has to run against Dawson for sheriff to ensure justice is served.

But Mercy soon learns her former military pal had plenty of secrets. Her search for the truth brings unwanted exposure to the county’s dark side and risks deadly repercussions for the entire community.

My Thoughts: Mercy Gunderson is out of the service where she was a sniper in a covert ops team. She is back home in South Dakota and trying to figure out her next steps. She bartending and knows that isn't what she wants for her future. She also knows that running the ranch she and her sister inherited isn't it.

Mercy has gotten over the hard drinking she did when she first got home but she is still plagued with the nightmares and flashbacks that bring her military service back to her. She is also having a secret affair with the County Sheriff Mason Dawson.

When an old army buddy shows up working for the oil company that wants to lay a pipeline through the area, Mercy is torn between her old memories of the man who literally saved her life and her hatred for the idea of the pipeline. When the buddy is found dead outside the bar where Mercy works, she wants to know who killed him. When Dawson doesn't seem to be investigating, Mercy gets involved by deciding to run for sheriff opposite him.

The story is filled with action, old friends, drug dealing, and conspiracy theories and Mercy trying to make sense of it all. The story also shows a strong love for the South Dakota landscape and lifestyle. This is the second book in the series and I really have to read the first one to find out what I missed.

Mercy is a great character. She is a loner, probably suffering from PTSD, and in the middle of a life crisis. But she is also smart, loyal, and honorable. It was great to get to know her.

Favorite Quote:
Probably everyone in the whole damn county was whispering about the crazy Gunderson woman.

Probably they were right.
This one is from my TBR mountain. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ARC Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life
Author: Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy (Book 3)
Publication: Viking Adult (July 15, 2014)

Description: The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

My Thoughts: Make time when you decide to read this "chunkster" because, once you begin, you won't want to put it down before reaching the satisfying conclusion.

THE BOOK OF LIFE is the third book in the All Souls Trilogy and follows the adventures of Matthew and Diana as they return from the Sixteenth Century and deal with impending parenthood, creature politics, and de Clairmont politics too.

I was just about defeated by the start of this book because in the first few pages no less than eighteen people were mentioned by name. It has been quite a while since I read the first books in this trilogy and had no context for most of the names. However, I kept on and quickly got back up to speed.

I like the combination of magic and genetics that are interwoven in this series. I like that Diana is a history professor and a witch who has an unusual kind of witchcraft. I like that Matthew is a scientist, poet, vampire, and assassin. I like the strong love that binds the two of them together. I especially loved the way the two of them built and supported each other's strengths.

This is a richly detailed story with strong, well-rounded characters who face real problems. While this ending wraps up the loose ends of the series, romance lover that I am is left wishing for a story about Gallowglass that gives him his own happy ending. Are you listening, Ms. Harkness?

Favorite Quote:
"So let me get this straight. Matthew's Bad Seed is engaged in some down-home genetics research involving a hereditary condition, a kidnapped witch, and some half-baked ideas about eugenics." Chris folded his arms over his chest. There were a few details missing, but he had sized up the situation in no time at all. "You left some important plot twists our of the fairy tale you told me yesterday, Diana."
I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

ARC Review: Invincible by Diana Palmer

Author: Diana Palmer
Publication: Harlequin HQN (July 29, 2014)

Description: He's everything she fears…

and everything she wants

Mercenary by name and by nature, Carson is a Lakota Sioux who stays to himself and never keeps women around long enough for anything emotional to develop. But working with his friend Cash Grier on a complex murder investigation provides Carson with another kind of fun—shocking Cash's sweet-but-traditional secretary, Carlie Blair, with tales of his latest conquests.

Then Carlie lands in deep trouble. She saw something she shouldn't have, and now the face of a criminal is stored permanently in her photographic memory…and Carlie is the key piece of evidence that could implicate a popular politician in the murder case.

Her only protection is Carson—the man she once despised. But when she learns that Carson is more than just a tough guy, Carlie realizes she's endangered herself further. Because now her only chance to live means losing her heart to the most dangerous kind of man….

My Thoughts: INVINCIBLE was a typical Diana Palmer romance. It was a little repetitious, had a host of characters who all dropped hints about their backstories, and had a romance between the innocent, poor young woman and the cynical older man.

Carlie Blair has spent in life in Comanche Wells, Texas, a suburb of Jacobsville - the town where everyone is apparently a former mercenary. She works for the police chief as a secretary. She has a major crush on Carson who, besides being a mercenary, happens to be Lakota Sioux - giving plenty of opportunity for Palmer to give tidbits about Lakota history and culture. Everyone knows, and tells Carlie, that Carson is too much for her - too cynical, too much like a wolf to ever settle down. Carlie agrees but that doesn't stop her from falling in love with him.

Someone is trying to kill Carlie which unites the mercenaries, government agents, and law enforcement personnel in trying to protect her. Of course, they could also be trying to kill her father - former government covert agent now turned Methodist minister.

The plot of this one is quite convoluted and apparently begun in an earlier book by the author. All the guys on the good side are trying to find evidence to bring down Senator Matthew Helm who is a criminal who used underhanded, and illegal, tactics to gain his political position.

The romance had the usual Palmer tensions. Carlie was a woman of faith who held to old-fashioned values regarding intimacy; Carson was known for the constant parade of beautiful women who came and went in his life. She had faith; he had long since lost his. She had difficulties in her past that could have broken her, but she healed. He had difficulties in his past that he hadn't yet come to terms with. One thing that I particularly notice about Palmer romances is how friendless the female lead is. While everyone in town seems to respect and look out for her, she doesn't have any close female friends. On the other hand, the hero has a whole network of men who are close to him.

This was a good romance for those who like suspense in their books too.

Favorite Quote:
She crossed her arms with a sigh. "You can't run away from the past," she said gently. "It's portable. No matter how far you go, it travels with you. Until you come to grips with it, face what you're running from, you'll never be satisfied."
I got this ARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.