Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Dark Dates by Tracey Sinclair

All Cassandra Bick wants is to be left to get on with doing her job. But when you’re a Sensitive whose business is running a dating agency for vampires, life is never going to be straightforward – especially when there’s a supernatural war brewing in London, a sexy new bloodsucker in town and your mysterious, homicidal and vampire hating ex-lover chooses this moment to reappear in your life…

Witty, sharp and entertaining, Dark Dates is a heady mix of vampires, witches and werewolves – with the occasional angel thrown in – and introduces Cassandra Bick, a likeable heroine destined to join the ranks of fantasy’s feistiest females.

Publication Date: April 2012
Genre: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Source: Thanks so much to the author for providing me with a review copy!

I was so impressed with Dark Dates. I'm a huge fan of books with a fierce heroine that gets tangled up in the paranormal, and this is a great addition to those ranks. It easily stands on its own merit with a unique approach to the idea.

The world that Cassandra Bick lives in is a world tinted with the paranormal, and she's completely used to that.  I loved her personality and wit . . . and her temper.  She's an ordinary woman, which her kind-of-but-not-really boyfriend Cane likes to point out in the most matter of fact way, with a strong backbone, a healthy dose of self respect and independence with just the right amount of womanly petulance. She isn't some jaw-dropping vision of perfection, and that makes her even more relatable.

Her relationship with Cane is immensely interesting.  Over the years he flits in and out of her life, going off to do some secretive paranormal hunting.  Cane's sex appeal oozes off of the pages, but he's not all hearthrob. He's actually quite an ass most of the time. The glimpses of his softer side had me very intrigued about his past, the things he has seen and done.

Dark Dates has a strong character base and compelling storyline. Within this genre I think I'm hard to impress, and I seriously thought this one was great. I am Tracey Sinclair's newest fan and I can't wait to see what the next book holds for Cassandra in this series. 

You can find Dark Dates on Amazon and Goodreads.

You can connect with the Author via her Blog or Twitter.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked.

"An edgy romance that pulls you in and never lets go. I was hooked!"-Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author of the Intertwined series

So wrong for each other...and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Source: Thanks so much to Harlequin Teen for making this title available though Netgalley.

I can't remember the last time I cried actual tears while reading a book. Pushing the Limits kind of crept up on me. It just kept ratcheting up my emotions (in a good way) and hitting all the right nerves. I ACHED for these characters. I felt their pain. I love a book that kind of beats me up along the way. But don't get the wrong idea, this isn't a depressing book. It's very profound and touching and beautiful. I loved it!

Echo is an amazing MC. Omg. Looking back after finishing the book her transformation is breath-taking. Book perfection. She has lived through a traumatic event that she can't remember and it defines her life. She's stuck back in that black hole of not knowing and although she wants to move forward she's basically just living a shadow of a life. Trying to be normal.

Noah is another great character. He's got his own issues that are holding him back and keeping him from being the person he wants to be. Their mutual school counselor throws them together and they pretty much rock each other's worlds. They recognize the broken parts of each other and are drawn together like magnets. What was great to me was that although these were two dysfunctional characters, their relationship was amazingly functional. They made each other better.

The tension just builds and builds in this one and tied me up into so many knots along the way before finally smoothing them out. I love those moments in books where you just keep reading faster and faster to get to the resolution. I have a hard time stopping before that point :) This is such a beautiful and satisfying-to-the-soul kind of read.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blog Tour Review: Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab

Poet Diana M. Raab travels to the heart of Africa with her family to experience the beauty and fascination of another world. During her safari, she observes the distress, the delight, and the dignity of the humans and animals who live there and parallels them with her own quest for health.

Publication Date: March 18, 2012
Genre: Poetry
Source: Thanks so much to Tribute Books and Nicole Langan for letting me be a part of this book tour!
**Listening to Africa blog tour site:

Listening to Africa takes you on a journey through the author's travels into Africa to find emotional healing.  Profound and moving.

I really liked the progression of the book and the honesty in the words.  I'm no poetry expert, and I liked that the writing isn't intimidating or complicated to follow.  Not only is the meaning clear, but the emotions can be felt throughout the book.  I could picture all of the culture shock that the author had to come to terms with, and the way it affected her outlook on life.  And also just the raw beauty of Africa itself.  I could imagine how awe inspiring the nature and wildlife were.

Listening to Africa is accessible to poetry readers of any level.  It cuts to the heart of the author and takes us on this journey with her.

To find out more about Listening to Africa you can find it on Amazon, Goodreads and Atrim House.

About the Author:
Diana M. Raab is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She has a B.S. in Health Administration and Journalism, and an RN degree from Vanier College in Montreal, in addition to an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Spalding University’s Low-Residency Program.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As a child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. A journaling advocate and educator, Diana teaches creative journaling and memoir in workshops around the country. She frequently speaks and writes about the healing powers of writing.

She’s the award-winning author of eight books, and the author of over 500 articles and poems. Her latest release is Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Depression, co-edited with James Brown, which is a compilation of essays by renowned writers discussing how addiction has influenced their literary lives. She is also editor of Writers and Their Notebooks, a collection of essays written by well-known writers who keep journals.

Visit Diana on her Website, Blog, Goodreads, and Twitter

Monday, July 23, 2012

SBB Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.
His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live--not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.
Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.
Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Horror
Source: Thanks so much to Southern Book Bloggers for letting me be a part of this tour!

Girl of Nightmares more than lived up to what I had expected and hoped for from this book.  Somehow I had forgotten in between reading Anna Dressed in Blood and this book that besides being amazingly well-written and's also effing scary :) I'll admit to being a huge chicken-faced wimp, so maybe creepy or unsettling would be better words to use. I'll let you decide that for yourselves.

I was reminded right from the start how genuinely great Cas's voice is in this book. My sister at The Elliott Review was the one that insisted that I read this book because it was awesome. One of the things she loved most was Cas as the first-person narrator.  She said he was her favorite male narrator in a book, ever. And I have to say that I 100% agree. He's such a thinking, serious type of person but it's blended perfectly with his snarky, smart-ass mouth. Add in the fact that he is in love with a dead ex-murderer girl that could rip his face off...and you get come to understand just how complex of a guy he really is. When it comes to Anna though, there are no complex issues for him to work out. He loves her and wants what's best for her, and he'll do whatever it takes for that to happen.

Now the first we see of Anna in this book is seriously messed up and creeptastic. If you are really aiming to make this a scary read make sure you are reading it at night because the parts with her in them are very unsettling. And I loved it :)

The story continues seamlessly from Anna Dressed in Blood.  Some second books have a slow start picking up where they left off, but even if it's been awhile since you've read the first one it will all come back to you in this book.  This one is another page-turner and you'll want to punch your clock when it tells you it's too late and you should go to sleep instead of finishing your book.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review: Burn Mark by Laura Powell

Glory is from a family of witches and lives beyond the law. She is desperate to develop her powers and become a witch herself. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition—the witches’ mortal enemy—and his privileged life is very different to the forbidden world that he lives alongside.

And then on the same day, it hits them both. Glory and Lucas develop the Fae—the mark of the witch. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together, whether they like it or not . . .

Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Witch
Source: Thanks so much to Bloomsbury USA for providing me with a review copy.


I was so excited to read this book after seeing what it was about from the synopsis. I admit to having high expectations for it, and now that I've read it I really have to say that it blew me out of the water. The writing is superb, dual perspective stunningly executed, killer storyline, perfectly built has it all.

Burn Mark is set in Britain and it was the perfect backdrop for this story. Add in a bit of magic, politics, old-school-style-mob-like covens, and illegal magic, yes, please! Ah! World-building done supremely right. The whole system of how the Inquisition worked along with cooperating witches from the WICA organization was so interesting. And I LOVED how the covens were set up as these scarily powerful mob-types. The fact that the girl MC, Glory is the one that grew up and is comfortable in this setting makes her a crazy-cool and street smart kind of girl. Lucas is the one that finds himself reeling when his plans of joining The Inquisition are shattered after he comes into his fae powers. Laura Powell writes a mean male POV. I really loved his character.

If you read my blog at all you know I'm kind of a sucker for romancey-schmancy type stories. This is a great example of a book that builds a relationship within the story, but the story isn't about the love. And guess what? I didn't care that it wasn't only about Lucas and Glory's relationship. Yes, that is a part of it, but the entire plot is so well-rounded that nothing is left out. As I mentioned before Burn Mark is written from the POV of Lucas and Glory. They are from two different worlds and through a surprising turn of events they end up having to work together. I loved how they gradually came to see their similarities and really just the whole evolution of their relationship.

While being a paranormal book at its core, Burn Mark felt equal parts Thriller to me with all the conspiracy and corruption going on. Everything came together to make this a hard to put down book. I SO look forward to any follow-up novels in this series. Fans of the paranormal and magic in particular will want to try this one out!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blog Tour Review: Charlie - A Love Story by Barbara Lampert

Charlie: A Love Story tells of the beautiful love between Charlie, a Golden Retriever, and the author, Barbara Lampert. It takes place in Malibu, California. When Charlie turned eleven years old and started having some health problems, a journal Barbara was keeping about her garden quickly became mostly about Charlie.

Charlie: A Love Story is an intimate look at an incredible connection between a canine and a human. And as a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, Barbara brings that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well.

Charlie: A Love Story is about devotion, joy, loss, and renewal, about never giving up or giving in. But mostly it’s about an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary relationship.

Publication Date: January 16, 2012
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Source: Thanks so much to Nicole Langan of Tribute Books for letting me be a part of this blog tour!


I wasn't expecting to become so emotionally invested in this story. I don't have any pets, but I do have three small kids, and found it easy to relate to alot of the Author's emotions in the book.

One of the things I was most surprised by was how intimate it would be to read through these very personal journal entries. They started out focusing on gardening and doggie Charlie puttering around with her. Since Charlie is getting older he begins facing a multitude of health issues. As the story progresses and Charlie is facing his last days the emotions are so raw and honest.

Truthfully this book was so touching to me. As I said before, I don't have any dogs but I can relate to the intense emotions that the author was talking about in relation to my kids. Forever wouldn't be long enough to spend with them. Charlie: A Love Story reminded me how important it is to cherish the days I have with my loved ones because every single day I get to spend with them is a gift.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure
Source: Thanks to Bloomsbury USA Children's for making this title available on Netgalley.

My first reaction to this book was, 'OMG, an awesome YA Fantasy!'. I seriously loved the fact that Celeana is this badass, cutthroat chick that is so physically and mentally strong she has survived an entire year in a slave-run death camp. That's where you meet her in the story, when Prince Dorian pulls her out of the camp to compete for the chance to be King's Champion...and basically win her freedom from slavery forever. The main thing keeping this one from a higher rating for me was a large chunk of the middle of the novel that I got bogged down in. I was overall entertained and pleased with the book, but a lot of the mid-book stuff felt repetitive.

My first impressions of Celeana's character were all positive. She'd rather kill her rescuers than thank them. Dorian and Chaol, Captain of the Guard, don't trust her at all, but Dorian needs her help. Celeana was put in the slave camp because she was sold out by someone and was caught. Did I forget to mention she was the world's most infamous and astoundingly brutal assassin. Seriously? Awesome! You've got to love a girl that has all these big tough guys sweating that she's going to slit their throats open :) During the novel you get to see her opening up and showing her more sensitive side. I really loved the juxtaposition of those parts of her personality. My only complaint would be that I wished there had been more instances of her showing what made her such a feared assassin. The parts that were in it were amazing, and I'm pretty sure there will be a ton of that in the second book.

I also liked the romance in this book. It wasn't overdone, but added a nice layer to the story. I like (*ahem* LOVE) the strong, silent type so I am totally Team Chaol. There's still something very magnetic about Dorian and his transparency. I'd call this  a love-triangle-that's-not-really-a-triangle-but-still-kind-of-is-a-love-triangle kind of thing. Does that make sense? It's got the potential for one, but is still interesting without full love triangle status :) I'll shut up now...

An entertaining Fantasy read with enough magic to make things interesting without being overly complicated which will appeal to those that aren't automatically drawn to this genre. The characters are all nice and round, just like they should be :) I was giddy over the beginning of the novel, kind of 'meh' about the middle, then back to being excited towards the end.