Holiday 2013 Gift Suggestions from


 Holiday 2013 Gift Suggestions from

Holiday Gifts 2013


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Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker


Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

An imaginative story of a woman caught in Thinking Woman's Guidean alternate world—where she will need to learn the skills of magic to survive

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman. During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty. Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

For lovers of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series (The Magicians andThe Magician King) and Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night).

The Thinking Woman’s Guide To Real Magic feels like several books rolled into one. The stories range from banal to over reaching.
The novel tends to meander along its way to the end. Several story lines are left hanging in a most abrupt fashion. Our heroine, Nora, doesn’t seem too preoccupied with getting back to her own time and instead eagerly embraces the hardship and drudgery of her new life at the expense of her independence, family, and modern conveniences. It is difficult to accept this premise when the heroine spends the whole novel complaining about the disparity between the worlds.

Aruendiel, Nora’s protector and ultimately love interest, is a powerful magician saddled with a broken body, taciturn personality and a face that conjures images of Nostradamus. Frankly the romance between Nora and Aruendiel is off putting. The novel would have been so much more interesting if the love story had been left out.

Barker creates some wonderful imagery and unusual characters. Her website compares her book to Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy but, frankly, the comparison is a stretch. Overall the book is underwhelming.

Review: The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman


The Necromancer’s House by

Those Across the River, a “beautifully written… Necromancer's Houseexceedingly clever” (Boston Herald) masterpiece of “genuine terror” (New York Times bestselling author F. Paul Wilson), was hailed by #1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris as “one of the best first novels I’ve ever read.” Now comes Christopher Buehlman’s new novel—one of uncommon horrors hiding behind the walls of the house next door…

“You think you got away with something, don’t you? But your time has run out. We know where you are. And we are coming.”
The man on the screen says this in Russian.
“Who are you?”
The man smiles, but it’s not a pleasant smile.
The image freezes.
The celluloid burns exactly where his mouth is, burns in the nearly flat U of his smile. His eyes burn, too.
The man fades, leaving the burning smiley face smoldering on the screen.
“Oh Christ,” Andrew says.
The television catches fire.

Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang, and a massive library. He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak with the dead through film. His house is a maze of sorcerous booby traps and escape tunnels, as yours might be if you were sitting on a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago. Andrew has long known that magic was a brutal game requiring blood sacrifice and a willingness to confront death, but his many years of peace and comfort have left him soft, more concerned with maintaining false youth than with seeing to his own defense. Now a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him, and frost and death are coming with her.

Deeply influenced by the dramatic styles of Russian literature as well as the fantastical story telling elements found in both Southern Gothic and Latin American literature, The Necromancer’s House is an ode to narcissism & the human condition.

Unconventional and highly stylized, Buehlman takes familiar elements and distorts them to view the world from the point of the absurd. This is a tale of magic and love told through the lens of surrealism – much like the Salvador Dali paintings the author references in the story.

In Buehlman’s world, wizards wage warfare fit for the modern age. Spells that cross the Internet; talking to the dead via video tape; mythical creatures updated to include casual sex & cigarettes; while, the classic, magic as a panacea for aging is still strongly in effect.

I greatly enjoyed this novel. The main story and the various sub stories were original and fantastic. The weakest part of the novel is the ending which seemed contrived in an effort to provide a HEA. I highly recommend The Necromancer’s House.

Review: Swan by Katherine Hole


 Review: Swan by Katherine Hole

From the beginning Madeline’s life was a narrative of Swandisappointment and broken dreams. Plump, plain and past her sell by date, happiness and hope were no longer part of her vocabulary. But one day like a bolt from the blue, destiny delivers a massive dose of compensation in the form of David Powell, her strange and elusive neighbour. From the moment they meet, Madeline is plunged into a world of excitement and intrigue where nothing is what it seems. This classic reversal of fortune tale reminds us that ultimately life is a mystery, perfectly able to demolish and reconfigurate even the most hopeless situations.

Oiy! What a pickle! SWAN is marketed as the next BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY but unfortunately it falls well short of the mark. Madeline, our heroine, is experiencing a mid life crisis when we meet her. Single, stuck in a dead end job and terribly lonely, Madeline is comforted by her obsession with a famous American film star. Determined to make a change, Madeline reaches out to her new neighbor, David, and so begins a relationship of the most demeaning sort. Madeline is encouraged to put up with David’s frequent unannounced disappearances, mysterious lack of funds or work, and overall lack of intimacy. The book strongly stresses the idea that a relationship with any man is better than being single. A plot twist towards the end of the book provides a happily ever after of such ridiculous proportions it was difficult to resist throwing the book against the wall.

The writing is conversational, contemporary and utterly depressing. The characters are cartoonish and self obsessed. The novel’s “funnier” moments are disturbingly off key. Even offered as a free read, I would pass on this one.

Review: The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1) by Meljean Brook


The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1) by

After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde The Iron Dukecontrol, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.

But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.

I put off reading this book for a while. The bare chested model on the cover combined with the word duke inspired images of some regency rake romance set in a steampunk world. But then Meljean Brook won the Romantic Times 2012 Editor’s Choice Book of the Year award for RIVETED, the third novel in the Iron Seas Series. So my curiosity won out and I decided to start the series.

There were moments when I thought THE IRON DUKE would be worthy of the hype but those moments were few. The novel takes place in a traditional steampunk setting with very little to distinguish it from other steampunk worlds. In Brook’s world, The (Mongol) Horde has taken over the the majority of the world by secretly infecting sugar and tea with nano agents that enter the blood stream and allow The Horde to control a person´s body. The Horde uses this technology to keep the populace docile and compliant except when they need the population to increase. During these times The Horde induces a sexual frenzy in all infected individuals forcing them to have sex repeatedly and with anyone.  After years under The Horde’s control England is liberated by Rhys Trahaearn, a privateer, and he is subsequently awarded a title and lands. Subsequently he is give the name The Iron Duke by the adoring throngs of liberated citizens.

Mina Wentworth, a detective in the local police force, is stoic, dedicated and brave. Mina is sent to investigate a murder at The Iron Duke’s estate.  Mina’s physical countenance reflects her mixed blood heritage (her conception the result of a Horde induced frenzy that involved her noble born mother) and instantly provokes mostly negative reactions from the those around her.

The novel has several story lines but I enjoyed the crime solving aspect the most. Like a gruesome treasure hunt, each clue leads you to a more horrific event. But I must confess that I had trouble keeping up with the names of all the characters. So many of the characters were one dimensional. Brook’s style is choppy and curt. I found myself having to re-read sentences several times in order to understand what she was trying to say. This writing style lacked sophistication and depth at times leaving the novel feeling like a dime store serial.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this book and really the reason why it is so disappointing is the author’s reliance on repeated instances of rape as plot devices. Just startling. I truly cannot imagine what Brook’s was thinking when she wrote those scenes into the novel. The heroine protests, verbally says no repeatedly, physically shuts her body down, but, the Duke ignores all these direct commands to force himself upon her because he must “have” her. Repeatedly. He even uses her brother’s kidnapping as a means of forcing her to have sex with him in exchange for rescuing him.

I really can’t recommend this book because ultimately the novel’s plot propagates the idea that rape is Ok if everything else works out in the end.


Review: Angel’s Ink (The Asylum Tales #1) by Jocelynn Drake


Review: Angel’s Ink (The Asylum Tales #1) by Jocelynn Drake

Buyer beware . . . Angel's Ink

Looking for a tattoo—and maybe a little something extra: a burst of good luck, a dollop of true love, or even a hex on an ex? Head to the quiet and mysterious Gage, the best skin artist in town. Using unique potions—a blend of extraordinary ingredients and special inks—to etch the right symbol, he can fulfill any heart’s desire. But in a place like Low Town, where elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires happily walk among humanity, everything has its price.

No one knows that better than Gage. Turning his back on his own kind, he left the magical Ivory Tower where cruel witches and warlocks rule, a decision that cost him the right to practice magic. And if he disobeys, his punishment—execution—will be swift.

Though he’s tried to fly under the radar, Gage can’t hide from powerful warlocks who want him dead—or the secrets of his own past. But with the help of his friends, Trixie, a gorgeous elf who hides her true identity, and a hulking troll named Bronx, Gage might just make it through this enchanted world alive.


Love this new series! Absolutely love it. A brilliant start to a new series.

A firm departure from the dark gritty world of Drake’s DARK DAYS SERIES and its sophisticated & self assured heroine, Mira. THE ASYLUM TALES is like a HARRY POTTER for grown-ups.

Gage is the only apprentice to have ever walked away from the wizarding world. A natural talent with a huge conscience and a heart of gold Gage doesn’t want to be a hero he just wants to live his life, his way. But much like Robert Rodat’s heroes (Benjamin Martin in “The Patriot”, Captain Miller in “Saving Private Ryan”) trouble always comes looking for him. He’s not the usual UF/PNR hero but he’s the kind we should see more often. The hero who is a scrapper. Good looking in a rugged way, honest , decent – not some cartoonish muscle bound Alpha male who is emotionally stunted, world weary or jaded waiting for some young girl to warm his heart. Continue reading

Review: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs


Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson’s life has undergone a seismic Frost Burnedchange. Becoming the mate of Adam Hauptman—the charismatic Alpha of the local werewolf pack—has made her a stepmother to his daughter Jesse, a relationship that brings moments of blissful normalcy to Mercy’s life. But on the edges of humanity, what passes for a minor mishap on an ordinary day can turn into so much more…

After an accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack for that matter. They’ve all been abducted.

Through their mating bond, all Mercy knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

FROST BURNED seemed to get Mercy back on course after the mysticism of RIVER MARKED and the chain of events in the ALPHA & OMEGA series. FROST BURNED picked up where the other stories left off. Fairies have left the human world. Vampires ranks are decimated by inner politics. And, werewolves are dealing with the repercussions of having “come out” to the world.

Although, I love this series and FROST BURNED is well written – I struggled with the main story arc. The whole Columbia Basin pack of werewolves is abducted and tortured by a group of mercenaries in a ploy to make Adam assassinate a popular senator. The mercs & their backers attack on Thanksgiving Day. Not only do they have the names and addresses of everyone in the pack, they have info on Mercy & Julie, Adam’s daughter, too. Continue reading

Mini Review: Winter’s Tale


Mini Review: Winter’s Tale by Emma Holly

Something sexy is afoot at Rackham’s School for  Winter's TaleYoung Ladies. Half faerie, half elf Hans Winter broke the heart of the wrong princess. Cursed to live as a statue at a school for human girls, only true love—and true bravery—can free him.

December Worth never met a rule she didn’t want to break, as the numerous institutions that expelled her can attest. Bravery she can handle. Love she’s less sure about, especially if it involves believing in fairytales.

A kiss seems like the last thing these lonely souls would share, until one night in the cemetery where Hans stands trapped, Fate brings stone and flesh together . . .

Winter’s Tale is a pretty naughty book that reads more like very well written high fantasy elf porn. Like something a young Legolas would have read with a flash light under the covers when his parents thought he was asleep. Winter’s Tale is a naughty Narnia for grown-ups.  A very rich & very precocious girl locked away in all girls boarding school gets super kinky in a graveyard with a statue of a 200 yo enchanted fairy. Caught between being a good girls gone wild story or riding on the crazy train delusional nympho story that would sound weird if you described it to a friend, Winter’s Tale is just out there.

The story includes old rivalries, secret spells, danger, fae lore, and a daring escape. I can’t go into specifics because they are super spoilery.  So if you are in the mood for Mean Girls rock the Fae, check out this short sexy novella.

Winter’s Tale is part of the Move Me series which includes Move Me and The Faerie’s Honeymoon

Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)



Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and Blood & Starlightdared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Blood  & Starlight expands the world of the angels & demons to encompass a new world (earth), new rules, and a new resurrectionist. Violent and oppressive at times, the novel explores Karou’s contradictory nature – an old soul in a young body. A young woman who is naive and adrift without her family and her lover.

Akiva has a significant role in this novel – leading the angels in rebellion while continuing to woo Karou.

Not an easy read – at times lacking in comparison to its predecessor – it serves the purpose of setting the scene for the final book in the series.

ARC Review: A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses by Molly Harper


A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses by Molly Harper

(Romantic Times Book Reviews Paranormal Romance Top Pick June 1913)

 Nola Leary would have been content to stay in witches handbookKilcairy, Ireland, healing villagers at her family’s clinic with a mix of magic and modern medicine. But a series of ill-timed omens and a deathbed promise to her grandmother have sent her on a quest to Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky, to secure her family’s magical potency for the next generation. Her supernatural task? To unearth four artifacts hidden by her grandfather before a rival magical family beats her to it. Complication One: Her grandfather was Mr. Wainwright and the artifacts are lost somewhere in what is now Jane Jameson’s book shop. Complication Two: her new neighbor, Jed Trudeau, who keeps turning up half naked at the strangest times, a distraction Nola doesn’t need. And teaming up with a real-life Adonis is as dangerous as it sounds, especially when he’s got the face of an angel and the abs of a washboard—can Nola complete her mission before falling completely under his spell?

A WITCH’S HANDBOOK OF KISSES AND CURSES is the latest spin-off from Harper’s Nice Girls Series. Set between Ireland and Half Moon Hollow, Kentucky – Harper does a wonderful job of introducing new readers to her Nice Girls characters while keeping the new story moving forward. The story is told from Nora Leary’s perspective adding  a dry Irish wit to the lines.. Smart funny dialog, quirky characters and meandering plot lines combine for a delightful paranormal happy ending.  Not UF in the slightest but still miles apart from the typical schmaltzy PNR tripe, the story has enough mystery elements and villainous double agents to feel unique. A WITCH’S HANDBOOK OF KISSES AND CURSES resembles a witches’s version of The Hatfields and The McCoys.

This novel is a perfect break from jacked-up alpha males, overly violent fight scenes, romantic scenes that rival hard core porn, and heroines who are seemingly bubble heads. A WITCH’S HANDBOOK OF KISSES AND CURSES is  a funny romp through the paranormal country side.