Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My First Giveaway!!

I've been thinking about doing this for quite a while, and so here it is! My first giveaway! I'm going to do one a month. Not a lot, I know, but all I can afford right now while I'm still searching for a job. The first book I'll be giving away is Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur. It's one of my favorite books I've read since I started my book review blog.
This copy is not brand new, but it is in near new condition. You can find my review of the book here: Full Moon Rising review

What do you have to do to win? It's pretty simple, really. Look back through my reviews so far and tell me which book I've reviewed so far that you would most like to read and why! Leave a comment by 10 pm on October 7th in order to win my copy of this book. Make sure you leave a way to get in touch with you, either via your blog or via email! Winner will be chosen using Random.org. Good luck!

EDIT: I didn't mention that the 10 pm was EST! So, because of that, I'm going to extend the time to 12 midnight EST. There's still about 90 minutes left to enter! : )

Category Five by T.J. MacGregor

I think this is one of my new favorite authors! I loved this book! There are several others with the same characters, and I'm going to be looking for them the next time I hit the library.

Mira is a psychic bookstore owner. She lives with her 15-year-old daughter Annie, her (also psychic) grandmother Nadine, and her fiance Shep, an FBI agent in the Florida Keys. As a storm that is predicted to rival Andrew's category 5 hurricane heads towards the Keys, Mira is asked by Shep's supervisor to read a crime scene at a local jail where two inmates have been broken out by a man in an armored Hummer.

As Mira's grandmother says, her readings end up entangling her life with the lives of those she reads. Mira, Shep, Nadine, and Annie end up entangled with Tia, Crystal and Billy Joe. The hurricane is coming closer, and preparations for it must be made. At the same time, the FBI and local law enforcement are trying to find these dangerous fugitives before the hurricane hits land.

This book was really complex, with the stories of the different characters woven together. The author did an excellent job of weaving the stories in such a way that you never lost track of what was going on with any of the characters at any given point in time. In my opinion as a writer, that's definitely a difficult thing to do!

It was action-packed and a real page-turner until the last. I was kept anxious about whether the hurricane would hit or not, and whether law enforcement would locate the fugitives or not. I really related to all the characters, and the psychic "powers" were wholly believable. I wasn't happy with what happened between a couple of the characters in the end, so I'm going to have to read the next book to make sure that things turn out the way I think they should!

I would recommend this book to people who are interested in the paranormal, weather, and thrillers!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong

I've read several of Armstrong's paranormal romances, and I had high expectations for this book. It's the story of Nadia, a disgraced police officer turned hitwoman from Canada. I'm generally not okay with books about professional assassins. I did read one recently that was pretty funny and that I enjoyed. Generally, the professional assassin has to do vigilante-type killings in order for me to be willing to read about it. That's Nadia, in a way.

Nadia joins forces with a few other professionals in order to track down a hitman turned serial killer. The professionals don't want themselves linked with a serial killer, so it's all in self-interest. She works with her mentor Jack, the game-playing Evelyn who tempts her with vigilante hits, Felix, and Quinn, who is also an FBI agent.

The five of them leapfrog across the US, keeping their identities secret, changing appearance on a regular basis, and planning traps for the hitman-slash-serial-killer. Along the way, Nadia finds herself irresistably attracted to Quinn, but unable to even think about entering into a relationship because of their shared profession. She takes risks and puts herself in the position of bait in order to catch the killer.

While it sounds pretty exciting, it really wasn't. The only part that had me turning pages was the end. Because of the nature of the assassin profession(I imagine), we didn't learn a lot of personal facts or quirks of the characters other than Nadia. I don't want to just get acquainted with one character--I want to know all of them. It didn't feel like an ensemble, didn't feel cohesive, didn't feel like real people.

I think I would recommend giving this one a miss.

Dancing with Werewolves by Carole Nelson Douglas

This is the first book about Delilah Street, a paranormal investigator. At first, she lives in Kansas and makes her living reporting paranormal news on the local television station. Unfortunately, she runs afoul of the anchorman vampire and his weather witch girlfriend and has her house leveled in a "tornado."

So, Delilah takes herself, her car, and what's left of her belongings to Las Vegas on the trail of an actress on CSI V who is identical to her. Right after she gets to Vegas, she meets Ric, a.k.a. the Cadaver Kid. Ric and Delilah's abilities combine to not only find bones, but to see the circumstances under which the victims died.

Delilah ends up living with the reclusive, strange producer of the current CSI incarnation, tangling with vampires, werewolves and half-werewolves.

I was excited about this book. I've been on a big paranormal romance kick lately. I found myself feeling disappointed at the end. First, there were too many questions and not enough answers. I got lost in the storylines sometimes. There were too many paranormals that were introduced in a rush and not thoroughly explained. There wasn't a lot of choice in the romantic relationship. While I like a certain amount of that sometimes, it didn't feel like it was done right in this book.

There was a lot of backstory that wasn't really explained well. I felt like I was getting into the story in the middle, but I didn't have a chance to ask questions. It seemed a little like the author was flailing around for her story/explanations. Maybe that she didn't have a plan before she started writing.

The story and the concept has a lot of promise, however, and I plan to read the next few books. If they don't get any better, I'll move on to another author/series.


I haven't won anything yet, but I am seriously addicted to entering giveaways at different websites. I think I may have mentioned this before. There are so many people giving away books, as you may have found during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. There are also quite a few mom blogs that review products and have extras to give away. I am really wanting to win a Soda Club set, but no luck so far. One of the great sites I have found that does wonderful giveaways is A Wrestling Addicted Mommy.

One of my friends does a third Monday of the month giveaway as well. She's had fun stuff like awesome Post-it notes, a little wallet-sized pouch, a cell phone charm made out of a bottle cap, and the like. You can find her website at 5 foot 4 (dot) org. She's got a great photography business, so if you live in or near east Texas, check it out. She does awesome work and I make props for her when possible.

I think I will be doing some giveaways here soon as well. I've got a copy of the very first book I reviewed to give away. I've also got a copy of Keri Arthur's first in the Riley Jensen series. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spa Girls Collection by Kristin Billerbeck

If you're a Christian who likes Chick lit, you're in for a treat with these books. I read the first one and was absolutely hooked right away. The first book, She's All That is Lilly's story. Lilly, Poppy, and Morgan met at Stanford and have been friends ever since.

Lilly has an MBA in finance, but works for a harridan of a fashion designer. She does all the designs, but hasn't been promoted since she started working in design. Poppy is a chiropractor and alternative health guru. She avoids additives and preservatives, and practices aromatherapy. Morgan is a diamond heiress who wears her father's diamonds to society functions. The three of them couldn't be more different, but bonded over their differences at a spa on the central coast of California. Every time one of them has a bad day, the three are off for a spa weekend.

Lilly lives in a tiny apartment with her roommate Kim, who works at the same design label. Lilly does all the designs, and Kim is a seamstress. Lilly wants to find a boyfriend, but seems to only stumble across losers. She's dating Robert, but gets dumped. Her upstairs neighbor Nate kisses her, but says that it's a mistake. Lilly decides that she's got to do something other than working at the design label, but doesn't want to return to the world of finance. She decides to start her own label instead. Her former boss supports her, and suddenly, she has to come up with enough designs for a show. Read the book to find out whether Lilly gets her man and comes through the fashion show unscathed.

A Girl's Best Friend is Morgan's story. After her escapades at Lilly's fashion show, Morgan is fodder for the San Fransisco gossip pages. As a diamond heiress, she was already in the public eye, but now the papparazzi are following her around. Morgan has led a privileged life, but reality is about to come crashing down. A man follows her and her spa sisters to their spa where Lilly challenges her to live on the same meager salary that she does. She thinks he's a journalist, only to find out that he is a lawyer. Morgan, a silent partner in her father's diamond business and is being charged for tax evasion along with her father. Morgan has to find a job and learn to live on much less than she's accustomed to while navigating the dating world with her horrible track record and emotional baggage. Read the book to find out whether Morgan ends up in jail!

Cool, Calm & Collected is Poppy's story. Poppy has her own chiropractice practice and alternative medicine practice in the Silicone Valley. She is training for a half triathalon, and loves to run. Her next-door-neighbor in her office building is a plastic surgeon who goes to church with her. She wears her mother's skirts left over from the sixties, and Lilly and Morgan are forever trying to get her to upgrade her wardrobe. Poppy's not really interested in dating, but has to find a date for Morgan's upcoming wedding before Lilly and Morgan set her up on a blind date. She makes a deal with Dr. Jeff the plastic surgeon, but can't stop thinking about her patient Simon. You'll have to read to find out who she finally ends up with because Poppy keeps you guessing until the end.

I really loved these books. I can't wait to read more of the author's books. I didn't even know that such a genre existed! I felt like I could really relate to the characters and their foibles. I felt like I was most like Poppy! They felt like real people that I would have loved to meet and hang out with. I want a group of spa girls of my own. I would say that my only criticism is that I didn't like the way the last book ended. I didn't like Poppy's choice, and there were several storylines that were left open. I'm hoping for another book that ties everything up and where Poppy changes her mind!

Seriously worth the read. I can't say enough good things about these books. Go pick them up today!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hunting the Demon by Jaci Burton

Silly me, I picked up the second book in this series to read first. I didn't realize it until after I'd already started reading. Thankfully, it's not one of those books that is incomprehensible if you haven't read the first book. I enjoy that sort of book, but it's often difficult to find them in order at the library, at BookMooch, or even at the bookstore.

I've actually been quite surprised at the number and popularity of paranormal romances recently. There are books about werewolves, books about vampires, and books about demons, among others. I wonder at the appeal of beings that are generally viewed as being so quintessentially evil. And yet, I still read them.

Dominic Diavolo is the son of a demon and a human woman. He was kidnapped by his father at the age of 8. Nic doesn't remember his life before that, and his father told him that he was in an accident and had amnesia.

In truth, Nic has an older brother, Derek, who has been searching for him in the twenty-some years since he was kidnapped. Derek is a member of the Realm of Light, an organization of demon hunters. Shay is also a member of the Realm of Light, and she feels a connection with Nic. She manipulates it so that she is the one who is used to bait Nic.

Shay has a difficult task getting Nic to believe that his father was a demon, as well as overcoming the betrayal Nic feels over his kidnapping. Once Nic catches sight of his first demon, he becomes a believer and joins in the efforts of the Realm of Light to overcome the Sons of Darkness. In the end, he has to fight to master his inner beast, his demon.

I really enjoyed this book, and picked up the first book at the library once I realized there was another. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series as well. I would recommend this book for those who enjoy paranormal romance.

After Dark by Jayne Castle

This book's spine labeled it as romance. It was, but it had a very strong Fantasy bent as well. I would probably have labeled it fantasy over romance.

I enjoyed this book once I got through the acronyms! The book is set on another world with a whole different set of physics rules. Instead of engines or gas, vehicles move by using psychic power. Most people on the planet have some small amount of psychic talent. People with more psychic talents become either ghost hunters or tanglers. Ghost hunters summon or dissipate the energy of ghosts. Tanglers either set or untangle traps found in the cities left by the people who inhabited the planet before the current inhabitants came through the curtain.

Lydia Smith used to be a para-archaeologist who explored the cities of the past. After a weekend caught in a psi-trap, she loses her job because no one has ever come out of a trap before. She now works at Shrimpton's Museum, which is along the lines of a wax museum. She is trying to start her own consulting business on the side.

She is meeting a new client, Emmett London, when the two of them stumble upon the body of Lydia's shady friend, Chester. Emmett has come to Lydia to get help with finding a curio cabinet that came through the Curtain with his family. Lydia comes to find that Emmett is not telling the entire truth, and the two of them are pulled into a tangle of disappearing teenagers, untrained ghost hunters, and dreamstone that has been worked when it usually crumbled during mining.

My favorite part of the book was Lydia's pet dust bunny. I want to have a dust bunny as a pet! They have six legs/feet and two sets of eyes. They're predators, but they love pretzels.

I would recommend this book to people who like romance, suspense, mystery and fantasy. If you don't like fantasy, move along and find another book.

Missing by Jasmine Cresswell

These days, I go to the library looking for a good romance. I'm hoping that I'll move along into other genres soon because while I like a good romance, I like those other genres. Some people choose their books by their covers, some people choose their books maybe by titles or by blurbs. I choose my books for their spines. Since I'm on the romance trend, I look for books that say romantic suspense on the spine. I actually don't like straight up romances.

Unfortunately, the suspense was missing in the Jasmine Cresswell's Missing. The story was a very, very slow start. I had no idea who the romantic coupling was supposed to be until at least halfway through the book. I had my suspicions, but it took forever for the author to actually let the reader know.

The book was rife with family disfunction. It begins with the death of Ron Raven, who it turns out is a bigamist! He has two families--one in Wyoming, and one in Chicago. While the two families are recovering from the shock of both Ron's death and the discovery of his other family, Ron's daughter Megan embarks upon a journey to find out what happened to her father with Adam Fairfax, the brother of her father's other wife.

Once the suspense finally arrived in the book and the main characters were in danger, the book was great. Overall, however, I'd have to advise giving this book a miss. It simply moved too slowly to really be considered suspenseful.

If you are interested, Cresswell has two follow-up books as well: Suspect and Payback.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Self-Improvement Starts NOW!

In addition to participating in Book Bloggers Appreciation Week, I am also working on the 100 Push Ups training program. You can find the website here. You do an initial push up test to see where you start. I am sadly(but predictably) on Level 1. After you identify your initial level, you work on your level, doing pushups three times a week for 6 weeks total. I just started--I am on week 1. I'm just beginning my 100 Push Up journey. If you'd like to join me in my pursuit, leave a comment, a link to your blog, and blog about it, too! We can all become stronger and healthier together!

I'm also working on the President's Challenge. You can find that website here. This is a way to track your activity online. If you complete 6 weeks worth of daily activities, you are eligible for a Bronze Award. I'm working on the basic Active Lifestyle program. I've been spending entirely too much time sitting on my couch book blogging, writing letters, watching television, and crocheting. Again, if you're participating, leave a message. I'd love to find other people who are working on these programs, too!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Scent of Darkness by Christina Dodd

Nearly a thousand years ago, Konstantine Varinski made a deal with the devil. In exchange, he and his sons gained the ability to transform into animals--wolves, hawks, panthers, and other predators. The family has terrorized the citizens of their country for the thousand years, raping and pillaging. Any offspring who are born, always boys, are delivered to the Varinski compound and left for these fierce, dangerous men to raise.

The current day Konstantine has broken off ties with the family, changed his name to Wilder and moved to America. He has three sons: Jasha, Rurik, and Adrik who has disappeared. He also has the only daughter that has been born into the family in a thousand years: Firebird. His wife, Zorana, has the Sight and has prophesied that she and Konstantine will be forever apart in the afterlife if the Wilder sons do not find the pieces of the Varinski family icon. Time is of the essence, as Konstantine is dying of a rare genetic heart condition.

Jasha is a prosperous vintner in California's Napa Valley. His assistant Ann, who is also in love with him, has followed him to Washington in order to bring him some paperwork to sign. Ann makes it safely to Jasha's house only to witness Jasha's transformation from wolf to human!

Ann runs and is hunted down by Jasha. In her flight, she uncovers a small ceramic tile with a painting of the Madonna. While she is still scared, she gives into Jasha's overwhelming passion. The two return to Jasha's house where Jasha manages to anger Ann with his apparent distrust of her. Ann jumps into his car and begins to drive away. Her flight is halted when she sees Jasha being shot by an arrow and must dodge bullets herself.

Ann and Jasha go on the run to get away from their persuers. It quickly becomes apparent that they are Varinskis and they are determined to hunt down and kill Jasha and the rest of the Wilders.

This is a great paranormal romance. Plenty of steam for those who like that in their books. The prophecy and its history make the change of the Varinskis and Wilders from men into animals quite convincing. The characters are endearing and believable. I liked the pacing of the book. There was plenty of action, without any noticeable slow parts. I was drawn through the book and this was another that I had a hard time putting down. I really enjoyed this book and the next in the series, the only ones I have read so far.

Be sure to check out the next books in this series, Touch of Darkness, Into the Shadow, and Into the Flame.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome to Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Welcome to visitors as well as a welcome back to my "regular" readers. I think I have some. No one has been very chatty in the comments. I am proud to say that I have a writer comment on one of my blog entries! Very exciting for me. Please see the list of book bloggers participating here. Happy reading!

With that said, this is a very new book blog. I've posted a few reviews, but not all that many yet. If you have any suggestions for new books to review, I'd love to hear them. I'm going to start blogging a bit about my real, non-bookworm life.

I'm a special education teacher to pay the bills. I recently moved from California to Kentucky. Unfortunately, I moved too late in the summer to secure a permanent position. I've been keeping an eye out for positions opening. It happens--more students enroll or are identified as having learning disabilities. Teachers crack under the pressure and quit. However, no luck so far. My father teaches in an adjoining county, and said that there is a possible opening. I called the school and they said they would know about the position at the end of September/beginning of October. I don't really want to wait that long for a job, to have money coming in. I still have bills to pay.

I did apply and had an interview last week with a youth home. I'm overqualified for the position, actually. I'll take it if they offer it to me, but I'll quit for a teaching position in a heartbeat. The youth home position asks for nothing more than a high school diploma. I've got a college degree and further work in order to get my teaching certification. Teaching pays more, and I think it's probably got better benefits. My best friend called today and said that they'd called her for a reference. She said that she couldn't think of any weaknesses that I have, which was very sweet. They have to have at least three references, so that's all I'm waiting for. Maybe a background check as well. If you're the praying type, say a little prayer for me, please!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur

This book is the first in the Riley Jenson series. These books have plenty of adult content, if that's what you're looking for.

Riley lives in Australia and works for the Directorate of Other Races. Her boss is a vampire. Riley? Well, she's part werewolf. She's also part vampire. She lives with her twin brother Rhoan. She's a liaison for Guardians--the operatives who hunt down rogue vampires and werewolves. Her brother is a full-blown Guardian, and her boss wants her as a Guardian, too.

Riley, however, is looking for a mate, one that she can promise herself to under the moon. She has two werewolf mates to help with the monthly moon heat that all werewolves have to cope with. Then, she meets Quinn, an ancient vampire. Her brother is abducted, she is betrayed, and Riley is drawn further into Directorate business than she wants to be.

Riley Jenson is a strong female character that you will root for. She is believable, and you feel for her dilemmas. Arthur draws you into the action, and you can't put the book down. It's a real page turner, and you'll be driven to find out what happens to Riley and Rhoan. Definitely a must-read book!