Review: Charming Blue (Fates, Book 8) by Kristine Grayson

charming blueHeroine: Jodi is a light skinned black woman and is very old (bless those witchy genes!), though she doesn’t look it. She calls herself a fixer. It is what she excels at and she combines it with helping other magical beings to realize their Hollywood dreams. Jodi works as a talent agent and helps book clients into fantasy and paranormal movies and television shows. We open with Tank (a mouthy fairy) who asks Jodi to help her friend Blue.

Hero: Somebody is going around scaring women ala Bluebeard-style by appearing in their rooms and threatening them. Bluebeard does have a reputation of being a woman killer (supposedly committing 15 murders), but is there any truth to that? Most are too scared to get to know Blue, and those that aren’t are repelled by his drunkenness. Good thing we meet him in a rehab center!

Review: Entertaining and enjoyable. I could have used less of Tank. Loved that Blue is a virgin hero, but wish he had been more guts. Jodi was fine, but tended to use magic when things got too tough. The romance was slow going, while the mystery was not.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Charming Blue

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Review: Kiss of the Goblin Prince (Shadowlands Series, Book 2) by Shona Husk

kiss of the goblin princeReviewed by Sharon S.

Kiss of the Goblin Prince is the second book in Husk’s Shadowland series. I reviewed the first book The Goblin King and loved it because the author veered away from the same old PNR formula and gave me something different. I was hoping she would continue this in Kiss of the Goblin Prince. I won’t keep you in suspense though…Husk does it again with Kiss of the Goblin Prince.

In book one we met Roan, the Goblin King, and Eliza, the woman who rescues Roan and his brother Dai from the Goblin curse that imprisoned them in the Shadowlands for 2000 years. This book is about Dai and his struggle to find his place in the fixed realm now that he is truly free to make his own choices for the first time. Dai is scared figuratively and literally. His body is covered in scars from the 4 years he was a slave to the Roman General Claudius. He went from that to being cursed with his fellow soldiers who tried to rescue him. He spent the next 2000 years trying to find a way to break the curse while fighting to keep his humanity and not turn completely goblin. He learned just about everything there is to know, but magic wouldn’t work in the Shadowlands so he didn’t know how to apply all his knowledge. He has lived with so much guilt and vengeance and rage that it actually manifested itself as a claw that grips his heart.

Once in the fixed realm again, he realizes he can use his magic, but it is no longer used or believed making him possibly the last magic user. I loved how Husk explained Dai’s use of magic and the romantic way she used it in the connection between Dai and Amanda. Amanda found the man of her dreams 7 years ago. He died 4 months later and she was left to raise their unborn child. Amanda still wears her wedding band, not willing to let go of what she lost. Her daughter Brigit has chronic asthma that eventually will kill her. Amanda hasn’t felt a longing for another man since her husband and feels guilty when she finds herself attracted to Dai. Their love story is all about forgiving yourself for the past, letting go and moving on. These two don’t go jumping into bed like in most PNR. Their lives are complicated and they are both smart but over cautious. It is a slow and beautiful romance…and yes they do eventually end up in bed.

The beginning was a little slow, but once it picked up I was hooked. The first book divided time between the romance and the world building. This book focuses on Dai and Amanda’s relationship. There is no villain to explore because the conflict comes from within them. Husk brilliantly wove in a secondary storyline about how people will keep coming being reborn and repeating their same mistakes until the soul can finally break the cycle. She also set up the next book in the series with a little twist I didn’t see as a result of the curse being broken.

Husk is a fabulous storyteller and has written a PNR that doesn’t use the same old clichés. You don’t have to read the first one to enjoy the love story, but you will enjoy the world building better if you start with The Goblin King.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Kiss of the Goblin Prince

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Review: The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1) by Suzanne Collins

hunger gamesBrief Overview: Roman  Gladiators + Lord of the Flies = The Hunger Games. Panem is a dystopian society that runs on suppression,  fear, and death matches. 13 Districts rebelled against the Capitol; the 13th was destroyed; the other 12 aggressively oppressed and subdued and forced to pay tribute each year for their rebellion. The tribute required is their children from ages 12-18; 1 boy, 1 girl from each district.

My Top 10 Favorite Scenes from the Hunger Games:

  1. The Boy with the Bread: Peeta gives Katniss bread in a flashback memory. This is important because Katniss (approx age: 11.5) has already lost the innocence of youth and knows everything in the world has a price.  The bread is an unexpected gift that breaks through the pessimism, grief, and anger that has grown since her father’s demise, her mother’s withdrawal, and her desperation to provide for herself, her sister, and her catatonic mother. She doesn’t understand gifts though, and is very uncomfortable with feeling like she owes Peeta for the life saving bread.
  2. Katniss Volunteers: Circumstances make her hard, aloof, and cynical but that’s just Katniss’ outer shell, underneath is a 16 year old girl who loves her sister. Katniss would do anything to keep Primrose safe, even volunteering to take her sister’s place in what amounts to a death sentence, because while 24 tributes go into the arena, only 1 comes out alive.
  3. You’re Great!: They might not have spoken since they were younger, but that didn’t mean they weren’t conscious of the other  during that time. On the train ride to the Capitol after the Reaping, Peeta tells Haymitch, their mentor and previous winner of the Games, all the ways in which Katniss is great and flustered/angry Katniss whips right back with what she knows about Peeta. Somebody’s paying attention!
  4. Girl on Fire: Cinna, Katniss’ stylist for the games designs and creates works of art in his fashion statements for the coal mining District 12. His costumes incorporate fake flames that look and move like the real thing. His creative genius, coupled with Portia’s cooperation in making matching outfits for Peeta, give Katniss and Peeta their first edge in the games. They are on fire!
  5. Televised Confession: Peeta has been crushing on Katniss since the age of 5 and his confession shocks Panem’s jaded Capitol viewers. It comes as a complete surprise to Katniss and she hates it because love ties you down, makes you weak, and can get you killed. She doesn’t realize that Peeta’s confession is not only the truth, but their coup d’état against their competition, effectively gaining the crucial sponsors’ attention that they need.
  6. Tracker Jackers: Katniss is horribly surprised after a forest fire when Peeta and the Careers show up and chase her until she’s treed. She views it as a sign of betrayal and wonders again what Peeta’s televised confession meant, if it meant anything other than to confuse her and make her an easier kill. It is now when Rue, who has been shadowing Katinss for a while makes an appearance and shows her how to get away from the murderous group by dropping a highly poisonous genetically engineered wasp hive on the group. This sequence also provides Katiness with a bow and arrows from another tribute and a hazy hallucination sequence in which Peeta appears to have warned her to run away when the leader of the Careers wants her dead (real).
  7. Rue’s Funeral: One of the saddest moments is also one of the most touching where Rue dies after being caught in a net and speared by a boy Career. Katniss is distraught and instead of abandoning Rue, comforts her before she dies and sings her a lullaby. When Rue is gone, Katniss goes a step further and arranges Rue on the ground like a sleeping girl and places wildflowers around her, showing all of Panem that Rue wasn’t a tribute, but a little girl brutally struck down for entertainment. The Game Makers only pick up bodies once all other tributes are far enough away to secure the dead safely without fear of attack from the tributes. They can’t take Rue away until Katiness leaves. Her final defiant act is to grace Rue and the audience with the token of deepest, most sincere respect from her District, a three fingered kiss and salute.
  8. Rule Change, Rescue, and Cave:  For the first time in Hunger Game history a rule change has been issued that allows 2 winners if the winners are the boy and girl from the same district. There are 3 districts left that could claim this; Peeta and Katniss are one and Katniss immediately strikes out to find him, as she’s heard he’s wounded. She finds him camouflaged by the river and helps him clean his leg wound before moving them to a more secure location downstream in a cave.

    Here is one of my favorite quotes:

    “You have a…remarkable memory,” I say haltingly.

    “I remember everything about you,” says Peeta, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “You’re the one who wasn’t paying attention.”

    “I am now,” I say.

    “Well, I don’t have much competition here,” he says.

    I want to draw away, to close those shutters again, but I know I can’t. It’s as if I can hear Haymitch whispering in my ear, “Say it! Say it!”

    I swallow hard and get the words out. “You don’t have much competition anywhere.” And this time, it’s me who leans in.

    Katiness also knocks Peeta out in order to leave the cave to go and retrieve the medicine needed to heal him of blood poisoning. This is the first time she’s actively risked her life for his.

  9. Unexpected Savior: When Katniss rushes to secure Peeta’s medicine she knows she’s heading into a trap. All the remaining survivors are being led to a bloodbath, but Katniss hopes to make it out before anyone shows up, except Foxface does and escapes before she makes a move. Determined to do the same Katniss leaves her hiding place in the forest and is nearly killed by a girl Career and rescued by Thresh, the boy tribute from Rue’s district. It’s a one time deal to pay her back for being kind to Rue.
  10. Katniss Freaks Out: At the end of the games, most people like the double suicide bluff but it reads a little too Romeo and Juliet for me. What I like and what I feel is most revealing on Katniss’ emotions is when Katniss and Peeta are retrieved and then separated on arrival inside the hovercraft from the arena. Katniss freaks out and tries to get to Peeta only to be knocked out for her wild and feral behavior. Every time she tries to get up to find him they knock her out again until she is allowed to wake up in the hospital with all physical marks of her time in the arena wiped clean with a body buff.

What are your favorite moments from Hunger Games?

Buy: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set, The Hunger Games Trilogy (digital)

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Review: A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards

A Hint of FrostReviewed by Susan S.

Summary: Araneae Nation, Book One It is with a heavy heart that Lourdes replaces her mother as maven of the Araneidae clan. A single act of betrayal has thrust her into a position she was neither prepared for, nor expecting. These circumstances call for a strength-of-steel. And a bravery even stronger than the silk she spins. Her clansmen have turned to her for protection, guidance, and leadership. Make no mistake-she “will” rise to the challenge!

But first, Lourdes must join forces with a Mimetidae warrior referred to as “Rhys the Cold.” Rhys is duty-bound to locate and kill the Theridiidae responsible for the death of her parents. Vengeance they were prepared for. Love? Well, love caught them completely unawares.

Review: I especially enjoyed the differences between the main characters. Lourdes is wealthy. Rhys is penniless. She has a loving family environment. He doesn’t. It’s those differences which made me appreciate how the author bridged those gaps. And although I prefer the sexually experienced heroes, Rhys’s masculine näiveté was, I’ll admit-lovely.

A Hint of Frost will entrance you with spirit walkers, entertain you with sibling wordplays, and bring you novel characters with spider-like characteristics. If I was to attribute Hailey Edwards with a modus operandi – it’d be great storytelling! However, I’m still weeks away from erasing the death of the sickly pecora from my memory bank.

Recommendations: Suggested for readers who enjoy the arranged marriage tropes and for booklovers who flock to fantasy romances, Indian folklore, and strong fearless warriors.

Caution: This novel contains several beheadings and some cannibalistic themes. Definitely “not” for the weak of heart! Although if you think about it, these characters exhibit spider-like qualities and there really is such a thing as spider cannibalism.

Favorite Scenes:

Scene # 1: When Rhys bares his soul and tells Lourdes what her love is worth. That scene was sigh-worthy!

Scene # 2: Will settle the debate regarding what’s under a man’s kilt.

Scene # 3: Lourdes is grieving the loss of her parents and Rhys understands this. He joins her in bed and holds her while she cries.

Comedic Touch: Rhys’s brother (Vaughn) is being disrespectful. O.k., honestly? He’s being annoying! He keeps interrupting an elder’s storytelling. So Rhys forks him in the thigh. Heck, even I wanted to fork him! Reviewer takes a sly look at her sharp utensils.

Disclaimer: I received this novel free of charge in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: A Hint of Frost: Araneae Nation, Book 1

Samhain Publishing, Ltd., Copyright 2012, Fantasy Romance, eBook, ISBN# 978-1-60928-756-6.

Review: Sloane Hall by Libby Sternberg

Reviewed by Carla F.

Libby Sternberg takes Jane Eyre and turns it on its head in this imaginative tale of Hollywood in the 1920’s.

Summary: Young John Doyle spent time in reform school after killing his abusive stepfather, and stayed on to work there after his time was done. Fascinated with motion pictures, he decides to head to Hollywood. However, he wants to be a cameraman instead of an actor. He gets a job as a low-level assistant on the set of a movie. One day he is upset at being thrown out of his apartment and accidentally causes an afternoon’s worth of film to be destroyed. Now with no job and no place to stay he is relieved when his older friend Leo says that the silent film star, Pauline Sloane (soon to do her first talkie), needs a chauffeur.

Review: I loved how Jane turned into John in this book, and how the author works in elements of Jane Eyre in unique ways. I also enjoyed the mentions of Hollywood actors/actresses and directors during that time (there is an interesting encounter with Howard Hughes) and the detail of how both silent films and ones with sound were made in those early days. Leo’s long talks with John about how talkies are so inferior to silent movies and how they won’t last long are amusing.

The wonderful mystery of Jane Eyre is maintained. What is Pauline’s real relationship to her agent Robbie Morgan? What is the deal with the French chef who isn’t worried about losing her job because she “knows things”? What are those eerie sounds in Sloane Hall that John hears from his bed in the room over the garage? Is there something in the attic?

Recommended: For lovers of Jane Eyre and readers who love stories of Hollywood as it was.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: SLOANE HALL (A Tale of Old Hollywood)

Movie Review: Boys Over Flowers starring Hye-sun Koo, Min-ho Lee, and Hyun-joong Kim

What You Need to Know: Boys Over Flowers is a Korean TV romantic drama. It runs for two seasons with a total of 25 episodes. The series is based on a Manga series of the same title which I have not read. There’s been other adaptations of the Manga besides this one with differences.

Recommended: If you like/love/drool over Twilight; if you adore foreign films, especially Asian ones, and can read with ease lots of subtitles or know Korean; if you’re a girl lol—:D; if you like love triangles or if you like YA romances… any one of these and you should see this show; more than 3 of these and you’d be a fool not to see it!

Plot: The story takes place at an elite boarding school where only the top 1% of Korea’s wealthy children attend (and even then some of them can’t get into the school.) Geum JanDi saves a bullied male student from committing suicide while running clothes from her father’s dry cleaning business to the school. Journalists and the public voice are having a field day with it until the school’s president decides to offer a scholarship spot to the girl. From there JanDi runs into the F4, a group of popular boys that run the school, and immediately gets on Goo JoonPyo’s bad side. What follows is a wonderfully complex soap opera full of awesome.

The Love Triangle: (Lots of Twilight references ahead…just because it’s a common base for most to jump from…) It’s so hard to choose because they’re both like Edward Cullen more than Jacob Black.

One of the guys – Goo JoonPyo even has his own crazy hot wild hairdo. It’s curly! It’s adorable. I love it. He’s the possessive one and is basically all of Edward Cullen’s darker qualities, but with a tender streak too. Min-ho Lee who plays Goo JoonPyo has a very expressive face and a really hot body. Yum!

The other guy – Yoon JiHoo is all of Edward’s sensitive artistic aspects combined with his aloofness. Hyun-joong Kim who plays JiHoo is also very hot. I want to go to Korea and date these two boys (seriously! Wow!) JiHoo dislikes all the stupid drama at his school and often rushes to Geum JanDi’s rescue.

The girl – Geum JanDi is a very warm character. She likes to eat, stand up to bullies, and like Bella Swan prefers to stand on her own two feet and not accept monetary bribes or help from the guys. JanDi is played by Hye-sun Koo and the girl is adorable with big eyes. I love how she walks a bike back and forth when she’s not pedaling it – cute!

Final Thoughts: This show has it all – boarding school, school wide bullying/hazing, love triangle, side romances, drowning 3 times? 4 times? something like that, 2 physical disabling incidents, amnesia, lots of fainting and passing out immediately into dead sleeps, faked accidents, fake hospital stays, vacations, backstabbing, revenge, kidnapping, innocents getting setup, getting caught in a blizzard, three proposals, an arranged/forced marriage, estranged family getting reunited, and the kitchen sink in there somewhere too!

Rating: ★★★★★ – Don’t walk, run! Get a copy!

As of December 13, 2011 this is on Netflix (streaming).

Buy: Boys Over Flowers (Season 1), Boys Over Flowers (Season 2)

Buy: Season 1:

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Buy: Season 2:

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Buy: Geum JanDi’s Moon and Star Necklace

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Review: Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas

bookreview

This story by Kleypas is an exciting adventure from start to finish. It all starts with a manhunt… or should I say a woman-hunt? Nick Gentry is looking for the wily Charlotte Howard. He has a small portrait of her in his pocket and his brother-in-law’s backing to get him into the Earl of Westcliff’s home where he’s tracked Charlotte. The Earl notices something fishy about the Viscount John Sydney and sets about unveiling the man’s secrets.

Meanwhile, John Sydney aka Nick Gentry, is prowling the premises for Charlotte and comes upon a young lady on top of a stone wall starring out across the grounds. Her foot is caught in her dress and Nick springs into action to save her… only to find the appealing woman in his arms is the very woman he’s been paid to track down.

Against all better judgment, Nick decides he can afford to stay and watch the lovely and lively Lottie. He comes to the startling conclusion that he wants her for himself and Lord Radnor can go hang before he’d ever bring to the obsessed creep a treasure such as her. Just as passion is sparking between Nick and Lottie, Westcliff pounces with the truth of Nick’s identity.

Frightened but determined, Lottie vows she will never go back to Lord Radnor. Westcliff offers to marry her to keep her away from Nick and provide protection, but Lottie turns him down. Instead she offers herself up to be Nick’s mistress which he refuses because he’d also rather have her as his wife…

I’m classifying this novel under virgin hero, not because Nick was a virgin in his relations to Lottie but because we see him lose his virginity to the Prostitute Gemma, well I suppose she was the Madam of the brothel.

This book would be rated higher, but I was a little disturbed by Radnor’s obsession with trying to break Charlotte as if she were a horse. I also didn’t like learning that her parents were okay with her being locked in a room alone with Radnor while he forced her to sit on his lap and answer to him while he touched her inappropriately… and while there was no full blown rape in the story, this qualifies to me as rape and is marked as such.

Luckily for readers Nick is a dominating force and dispels upsetting Radnor’s presence pretty easily. Oh and this is the first time I’ve seen a shower scene in a historical but Kleypas explains in her author notes why she included it based on her research. It’s solid so don’t let the idea of inaccuracy turn you away from reading this book.

Interesting term found within the prologue: buttock-and-file whore which is an old term for a street prostitute who was in connection with a pickpocket or also pickpocketed her customers. So you would pay, pay again involuntary, and perhaps gain a new venereal disease. Cool.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Worth Any Price (Bow Street, Book 3)

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Review: Desert Nights by Kitti Bernetti

by Carla F., guest reviewer

Summary: Sheikh Ashmit bin Sultan al Nashan is sent by his father the King to rescue an English schoolteacher, Russ Edwards, who is being held in the desert by terrorists. When Ashmit finds the chained Englishman in the terrorist camp, he is overcome with lust. This is unacceptable! He is stunned and appalled that he is attracted to a man. His duty has always been to marry the beautiful Ashwarya and have an heir for the throne. Until then, his father has said that he must remain a virgin. Purity “in mind and body is essential to maintain the authenticity of our bloodline.”

Russ cannot believe how beautiful his rescuer is, and he doesn’t understand why he is so cold one moment and definitely not cold at all in the next.

Review: It was fun reading a gay version of the typical Sheikh romance novel. Like those it has the intelligent, handsome, and sometimes arrogant leader/prince of a mythical non-Muslim country falling in love with a foreign commoner. At first I had trouble dealing with the idea that a King would send his heir to the throne out alone to save a foreigner from terrorists, but it fits into this type of story. (Later is it is revealed that the King had a very good reason for wanting his son to do this.)

Ashmit definitely has issues, but it is understandable considering how he was raised to believe in his duty to his father and country. I liked how his plan for dealing with his pending marriage allowed him to fulfill that duty.

Hot scene: There’s a temple in the desert that has some interesting carvings and an alter.

Overall: A quick fun read suited to those who like Sheikh and/or LGBT stories.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Desert Nights, Desert Nights (UK)