Thursday, January 31, 2008

Snow Tubing ... A Rock Band ... and A First (non)Date

<--Heavenly Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, CA, NV. 
NOT where I was snow tubing last weekend. 

Last Saturday night, my coleader and I, took eleven 12 and 13 year old girls from our Cadette girl scout troop snow tubing at this beautiful resort roughly two hours away from our town. We've had this event on the calendar since October, so mind you, there was plenty of time to be prepared. It was very clearly established that everyone was to bring their own brown bag dinner to eat on the cold-exhaust fumed-two-hour-ride-on-a-hard-seat school bus. I FORGOT TO PACK A DINNER FOR MYSELF AND MY DAUGHTER. So we shared a baggie of pretzels on the bus. The facilities at the resort were gorgeous. There was a beautiful outdoor heated pool and hot tub--it looked so inviting as it was dimly lit and the steam was rising from the water. Inviting, indeed. As we walk past it with the girls to get from the lodge to the snow tubing hill, two young men come walking by wearing ONLY A TOWEL AROUND THEIR WAIST. I kid you not. Nice wholesome girl scout experience. Shocks and giggles later, we hit the hill and get in some fun snow tubing. Still not having eaten dinner, my daughter and I share a tiny $10 ceasar salad at 9:30 pm in the lodge. We all have a voucher for some hot cocoa before heading home, so everyone gets their 
large cocoa (sugar and caffeine at 10 pm. Oh joy.) So we get to the bus and start settling in when I notice that three of the girls used their cocoa vouchers for coffee. COFFEE! @.@ Oh yeah! And two girls met a boy on the slopes, exchanged AIM names and were IMing from the one girl's cell phone on the entire bus ride home. *sigh* I made sure I was sitting on the seat across the aisle from them so I could eavesdrop, but still. I then let the mom know about it when we got back. I wasn't sure exactly how to handle that.

But you know? That whole night was piece of cake compared to what has unfolded since. I've swiftly moved on to some new preteen drama. On Sunday evening, my daughter got asked by a group of boys in her school to join their rock band. She's first string violin in the school orchestra, and it just so happens they are looking for someone to play the violin for a few songs. Of course, I'm sure it doesn't hurt that she's also sweet, funny, and has a great figure. But what do I know? I'm just her mom. I think the first song up on the rehearsal schedule is "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan.  Anyway... I had to have a serious talk with her. I mean... she said yes without even asking them the name of their band!?Sooo important! AND she didn't find out who's on lead vocals?!! Tsk tsk. Kids these days.

Wait. There's more. Another boy, asked her to hang out with him downtown on Saturday afternoon. Alone. She claims its not a date. Okay fine. But when yet ANOTHER boy asked her to hang out this weekend, she asked the first boy if second boy could come along (they all know each other), and the first boy said, "Ehh... No. Just the two of us this time."

"That's a date," I said.

"Nooo. How can it be a date if we're not 'going out?' " she said.

"If you go out of the house on Saturday to hang out with him, you are 'going out with him.' You don't have to be his 'girlfriend' to 'go out' with him," I said.

"It's not a date," she said.

Umm... Its a date.

So she's been waiting for the last couple of days for our permission to go on this non-date. We've given her some very solid non-answers so far, but have finally decided to let her go. I know the boy and am acquainted enough with his mom to feel that he's not a complete stranger. We figure if they like each other and have been friendly since the summer, they should be able to spend some time together like she would with a girl friend. Especially if its not a date. But it is. Is it? *sigh* We decided that they have to have a plan in place for what they want to do, and they have to stick to it. Any changes in the plan, and she calls me immediately. The plan should be something like: Meet at predetermined location, walk to first place (ex. coffee shop for cocoa), walk to secondary location (ex. comic book store, movie theater lobby for video games, but NO MOVIE), then you walk back to where we pick you up. He leaves his skateboard at home*** and no loitering.  And in the fine print, it says I can have that GPS chip inserted under her skin first thing after school tomorrow! :)

***NOTE:  We have nothing against skateboarders.  We like them. We even own a skateboard. We just feel its not appropriate on a (non)date in a pedestrian area. :)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

REVIEW: Demon Night by Meljean Brook

Series Overview:
In Meljean Brook's Guardian series, demons, guardians, nosferatu, vampires, and perhaps a few other creatures from Hell, coexist with humankind, although for the most part, humans are pretty much unaware of their existence. In an extremely simplified explanation, the nosferatu are the most contemptible creatures of all existence who pretty much roam Earth in full bloodlust. Demons are sent to Earth from Hell to essentially deceive and tempt humans to sin and hopefully even cause their death. Demons are not permitted to actually kill humans... just manipulate them to 'cause' their deaths. Guardians were created for the sole purpose of protecting humans from the demons and nosferatu, and their priority is to preserve human life at all costs. For a more background information, check out Meljean's website, especially her new Guardians Primer and the Doyen Scrolls section. And to truly understand and appreciate the world and characters of this series, read the books! Each installment is a riveting story of danger and excitement that is brought to life by incredibly realistic characters.

Book Review:

Guardian Ethan McCabe, a.k.a. Drifter, has been living next door to his human female charge, Charlie Newcomb, as she has become the possible target of an organized vampire attack. From the onset of the novel, the attraction between Ethan and Charlie is subtle yet unmistakable as they interact from the safety behind the wall separating their apartment balconies. When circumstances bring them face to face, there is no denying the inevitable romance that develops between the Guardian and his charge. While Ethan is guarding Charlie, the newly established Guardian organization, Special Investigations, is trying to determine who or what is behind a series of serious disturbances within vampire communities around the globe. Making things even more complicated for the Guardians, Charlie's scientist sister, Jane, is immersed in research that unknowingly to her, has tremendous significance to vampires, demons and consequently the Guardians. The situation gets even more dire when the ultimate demon from Hell shows up. So as the Guardians attempt to find connections between all of these activities, and as the implications of Jane's research are revealed, the the story becomes more and more engrossing, and of course Ethan and Charlie fall deeper in love.

Demon Night is an intense novel teeming with incredibly real characters, fierce action, and undeniably heart wrenching plot twists. The love story of Charlie and Ethan is a wonderful blend of humor, tenderness, and passion. Charlie is a complicated character, one who has made some serious mistakes in her past that have been tremendously difficult to make amends for. Despite the odds against her, Charlie has survived and although she is vulnerable and somewhat insecure, she makes huge strides in developing her self worth which in turn strengthens her bonds with the people she cares about and gives her the confidence she needs to maintain control of her life. Ethan is a troubled cowboy turned Guardian, a combination that makes for a very sexy, easy going, reliable hero who takes your breath away with his relentless dedication to protecting Charlie and searching for what she truly needs. Of course, the way he talks and carries himself, and the way he kisses doesn't hurt his image much either.

Meljean Brook has a wonderful talent for seamlessly blending the overarching plot of the series with the story arc of the individual novel. She writes scenes that make your pulse race and your eyes widen. And just when you think the situation is stable, and a conflict is resolved, another plot twist has you right back on the edge of your seat. Meljean consistently delivers emotional intensity straight through to the very end of the story, and of course gives her characters the happily ever after they truly deserve. Demon Night is an exceptional novel that should not be missed. It will leave you amazingly satisfied yet wanting more, and fortunately, Meljean has two more installments in the Guardians Series expected before the end of 2008.


One of my favorite sites to visit, The Good, The Bad, The Unread has an Exclusive Sneak Peak of Demon Night posted, where you can read the first four chapters of Demon Night.

Demon Night is the third full length novel in Meljean Brook's Guardian Series. To make the most of this series, check out all of Meljean's stories:

"Falling for Anthony" (Guardians, book 1) in Hot Spell anthology, November 2005
Demon Angel (Guardians, book 2) January 2007
"Paradise" (Guardians, book 3) in Wild Thing anthology, May 2007
Demon Moon (Guardians, book 4), June 2007
Demon Night (Guardians, book 5) February 5, 2008

Coming soon...
"Thicker Than Blood" (Guardians, book 6) in First Blood anthology August 5, 2008
Demon Bound (Guardians, book 7) November 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Anthologies: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

I read primarily paranormal romance and I love reading series romances, because quite honestly, I love when something really, really great lasts a really, really long time ... heh heh. If an author has built a truly fascinating world for her (or his) series and the characters in that world are richly developed, the magic of that author's writing lingers throughout the months between book releases. I'm still enjoying the author's work as I speculate over the overall story arc of the series and anticipate the next installment. And that next series installment might just turn out to be a short in an anthology and I know I won't want to miss a beat.

So herein lies my love-hate relationship with anthologies...

The part I love is that for $7.99 I get to sample the story telling voices of four, or if I'm really lucky--five authors. Most of the time I am buying an anthology because there is a story in it by one of my favorite series authors. But what are the chances that the other stories in the anthology are stand alone titles by those authors? Slim chances. It is more than likely that the authors' sites will state something along the lines that this story can be read alone, but is best read in order. *sigh* Did I mention I'm a stickler for reading a series in chronological order? And of course, I only want to do what's best. So now I am faced with the decision to either let the book sit on my shelf having just read at best 100 pages of it, or buy the backlists of the other authors in the anthology. Which isn't always a bad thing. For my wallet yes, but its also a great way for me to discover some new authors.

Speaking of a that $7.99 anthology sitting on my shelf that is only partially read, I'd like to mention that some anthologies sell for $14. FOURTEEN DOLLARS for four hundred pages of four short stories. Is it me, or is that a bit excessive? I have bought them before. I paid $14 for the WILD THING anthology last July so that I could read Meljean Brook's contribution, "Paradise," book 3 of her Guardians series. I also more recently bought Enchanted Seasons for Nalini Singh's short, "Beat of Temptation". Both anthologies, that I spent a total of $28 on, sit on my shelf all unread except for Meljean's and Nalini's stories, respectively. *sigh* I will probably go back and read the others some day, but I really don't understand why the books had to be listed at $14. :(

I realize that my personal love-hate relationship with anthologies is truly governed by my obsessive need to read an author's COMPLETE series IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER and by the expense it ends up incurring when I then explore the other authors' series. I just can't keep myself from buying them, and I still haven't decided if I love them or hate them. Either way, I seem to be the exact market publishers are targeting, don't you think?

Ummm... having said all of that, here are two anthologies that are on my current wish list:

FIRST BLOOD Featuring stories from Meljean Brook, Susan Sizemore, Erin McCarthy, and Chris Marie Green.
Paranormal Romance.
$7.99 Berkely Sensation
Release date August 08.

An anthology that I have barely any information on, but know that I want right now:

Title TBA Featuring stories by Jeaniene Frost, Melissa Marr, Vicki Pettersson, Kim Harrison, Jocelynn Drake.
Adult Urban Fantasy Anthology
Price TBA Eos line of HarperCollins, Tentative release date May 09.

What a fantastic author line up! Jeaniene Frost's contribution will be a short story from Bones' POV in New Orleans before he meets Cat. Did I mention that I want this book like right now? RIGHT. NOW. :)

So, how do you feel about anthologies? Do you buy them without hesitation even if you are initially only interested in one author's story? Or, if applicable, do you just skip that story in the author's series? Have you ever discovered a new favorite author from reading an anthology? And finally, does the anthology's list price play a role in your decision to buy the book?

REVIEW: Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh

I am very lucky to have been able to borrow an ARC of Nalini Singh's upcoming novel, Mine to Possess, from a friend of mine, and am thrilled to have this fantastic book be the first official book review on my blog. If you haven't read Nalini's Psy-Changeling series yet, I recommend you do. It is one of my most favorite paranormal series. Not only are the love story arcs sensual and romantic, but the overall story arc of the entire series is very thought provoking.

Series Overview:

The Psy-Changeling world is a futuristic one in which the population of Earth is made up of different beings, namely Psys, Changelings, and humans. The Psy are emotionally desensitized, cold and calculated beings with varied psychic talents, who are connected to each other via a psychic network called the PsyNet. The changelings are the complete opposite. Able to shift, or change, to their animal form at will, Changelings are emotional, tactile, instinctual beings who hold strong bonds with and intense loyalty to all members of their Pack. The humans in this futuristic world are not very different from the humans of today, and in book four of the series, some light gets shed on their subtle but crucial role in keeping the peace between the very different Psy and Changeling beings. In Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling world, both the Psy and the Changelings strive to not just survive, but thrive as well. Each story in the series takes the reader on a fantastic journey as these different beings often clash and sometimes come together with love, passion, and understanding--all the essential elements of an intense and satisfying paranormal romance saga.

Book Review: NO SPOILERS

Mine to Possess is the fourth full length novel in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series--the story of Clay, leopard changeling sentinel in the DarkRiver Pack, and his human heroine, Talin. Having lived in the same apartment complex as children, Clay and Talin both lived a difficult childhood and developed an otherwise unlikely friendship as they found solace from their daily traumas with each other. After an extremely traumatic incident involving both Clay and Talin, they were separated and Clay was left thinking Talin dead. Years later, Talin becomes desperate for the help she needs in order to save innocent children whom she works with after some begin to turn up missing or dead. She turns to the one man she knows is strong and deadly enough to save the children and stop the killings before it's too late.

Mine to Possess is an emotionally and sensually intense story as Clay and Talin are brought face to face after years of separation. Working together to save the children from the possible genocidal motives of an undisclosed group, Clay and Tally are also forced to face their past and confront their feelings for each other. As a human, Talin doesn't have a thorough understanding of changeling behaviors and hierarchy, which adds an interesting challenge to their relationship. Clay's alpha behavior is intense, but he's also so very tender and definitely sensual. Nalini has a wonderful talent for characterizing her alpha males, and Clay is possibly the most perfect epitome of a changeling alpha male so far. He is protective, loyal and very sensual. Clay and Talin's journey to their happily ever after was incredibly emotional and satisfying. I'm looking forward to the next installment in Nalini's Psy-Changeling series, Hostage to Pleasure, which is the story of Dorain--yet another DarkRiver sentinel-- due out in September 2008.

Grade: A-

Thursday, January 3, 2008

My New Year's Resolutions

I have never really been able to effectively keep my New Year's Resolutions until about five years ago when I started to make them sexual in nature.  What can I say?  They were fun resolutions... and still haven't broken a single one of them yet! (Go, me!)   This year's resolution follows suit with my own personal tradition,  but I want to make a second one that you can help me with. Interested? Yeah...  I thought you would be.  ;)  

Okay, so here it is:  My second  New Year's Resolution for 2008 is to read more novels by authors who are not represented in 'mainstream' romance.  So if you read any exceptional ebook authors, non 'NY published' authors, or an author whose book(s) are just not promoted as effectively as some otherwise more popular authors, let me know.   I just know I am missing out on some fantastic reads out there and would love to discover some hidden shining star!  .... and because the perfect TBR pile should be kept close to 100 books at all times, don't you think? ;)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My Favorite Books of 2007

This is a list of my favorite books that were released in 2007. It does not include books I read in 2007 that were released in 2006 or earlier.  I say this because I read a lot of "older" books in 2007, as I am fairly new to the romance genre and I had a lot of catching up to do! 

I started reading romance about 15 months ago, and became terribly addicted to paranormal romance, so you'll see that all of my picks come from that genre, save for one contemporary. Unfortunately, I have about 75 books that I bought in 2007 that sit on my TBR shelf unread. I wish I had gotten to them before the year ended, as they will forever be out of the race for my top reads of 2007.  Oh well.  C'est la vie.

Please feel free to agree or disagree with my choices, and say so, too!  I'm curious to know what books were at the top of your 2007 reads.   Maybe there is a spectacular author that I need to check out! :)

1. Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson.
C.L. Wilson has a beautiful story telling voice and an eloquent writing style that pulls you into this magical world. Lord of the Fading Lands  is an amazing mix of a dark, epic adventure and a fairy tale romance.    Not classic HEA in nature, this fantasy  love story is full of magic and suspense.  I'm sure the sequel, Lady of Light and Shadows would have made this list as well, if I had finished reading it in 2007.  Holidays got in the way of this one... :( 

2. Demon Angel by Meljean Brook.
Meljean has an incredible talent for world building and character development, and this novel had probably the most intricate plot of all the books I read in 2007.   The demon-angel-vampire-human world that Meljean created leads seamlessly to a captivating and detailed story arc.  The deeply developed characters and unexpected plot twists keeps you in suspense--and then desperate for more--until the very last page.  Lilith is an extraordinary, unforgettable character, and Hugh is the epitome of a hero.  

3. Demon Moon by Meljean Brook.
Again, Meljean has an incredible talent for world building and character development. Colin and Savitri--Demon Moon's hero and heroine-- are incredibly unique characters.  The obstacles they face on their own and together, in conjunction with a riveting story arc and unimaginable plot twists, delivers an unforgettable love story.  Once again,  I was in heart wrenching suspense until the very last page.   

4. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost.
Another series romance that will have the love story between the hero and heroine an ongoing tale throughout the series.    I loved the interaction between the hero and heroine.  Some moments were witty, some passionate, some tender, and there was always some adventure to be had.  Such a fanastic read and I'm already counting down the days to the sequel, One Foot in the Grave coming out in April 2008.

5. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.
Edward. Bella. Jacob.   These three are my brand of heroine!  This is the series that brought me into the world of paranormal romance, so it will always have a special place on my shelves and in my heart. 

Also recommend Twilight (2005) and New Moon (2006). 
6. Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole.
Unique characters, unusual circumstances, fantastic dialogue, and irresistible attraction give this novel a spot on my list for 2007.  I love this series!  The myriad of secondary characters is awesome, and I hope  Kresley Cole writes a story for all of them! :)  

Also recommend Hunger Like No Other (2006) and No Rest for the Wicked (2006).

7. Midnight Awakening by Lara Adrian.
Midnight Awakening is Lara's third book in her Midnight Breed Series and is the story of Tegan and Elise.  Tegan has been my favorite Breed Warrior since the inception of this series with Kiss of Midnight and my expectations of his character and his story were more than met.   The emotional and sexual tension between Tegan and Elise was beautifully articulated and made for a great romance read. 

Also highly recommend Kiss of Midnight (2007) and Kiss of Crimson (2007).

8. Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh.  
Nalini is yet another author with amazing world building talents! The Psy-Changeling world is sometimes a bit frightening and at other times extremely comforting.  The world is made up of some extremely diverse beings, yet Nalini seamlessly breaks down barriers and brings together the most unlikely combinations of characters with the power of love.  There's no going wrong with a sentiment like that!  

Don't miss Slave to Sensation (2006) and Visions of Heat (2007) as well! 

9. Driven by Eve Kenin
A futuristic, post-apocalyptic love story.  It's unique premise and setting, this novel was a pleasantly fun and satisfying romance.   It is a great start to a potentially great series!  

10. Witch Fire by Anya Bast
Ellora's Cave author goes mainstream with this paranormal romance, and it's an ideal blend of steamy sex, romance, and adventure. Very sexy book... I loved it.

And because I just couldn't stop at 10 .... 

11. Taken by the Night by Kathryn Smith
I love Kathryn Smith's Brotherhood of the Blood Series--a terrific mix of historical and paranormal romance, and Taken by the Night is book 3 in this great series. Another book with a unique setting (19th century brothel); add in an unusual murder mystery, a complicated, strong willed heroine and a sexy vampire hero, and it makes my top list! :)

12. Lover Unbound by JR Ward.
I know there is much controversy regarding the final outcome of this romance novel.  While I cannot ignore the fact that the the focus in this fantastic world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood has shifted,  I also can't forget that I was completely and utterly engrossed in this edgy and sexy book from the moment I read the first page until... well... the end, so it earns a place on my list. Every scene with Z was amazing in this book, and I  absolutely love watching his character continue to develop throughout the series.  Phury was also in top form throughout the book, as was the new trioka of JM, Blay and Qhuinn (although I am finding the side story of "JM is Darius" to be a bit drawn out by now).   I think I could have absolutely LOVED Lover Unbound if the last 20 pages or so were written just a bit differently.  It's just that I can't overlook the sinking feeling that started with regard to the plot around p. 484 or so and remained with me right through the end, even after I finished the last words on p. 502.   I know everything in the BDB world happens for a reason, that there are no coincidences, but the ending of this book left this BDB addict disappointed.  Needless to say, I am still really looking forward to future books in this series, starting with Phury's book, Lover Enshrined due out on June 3, 2008, and, of course, Rehvenge's book due out in hardcover in 2009! 

13. Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas. 
The only contemporary I read in 2007, and I admit I only picked it up because Lisa was on a book tour for Sugar Daddy, and was doing a signing in my local Barnes and Noble.  Needless to say, I'm so glad I flipped the bucks for this book (hardcover--yikes!)! It was a wonderfully rich and emotional coming of age kind of romance. I'm sooo looking forward to the sequel, The Blue Eyed Devil in 2008. Read this short excerpt on Lisa's site. O.M.G. great scene... you should check it out even if you don't intend on reading the book. Seriously.

Obviously, I'm such a sucker for series based on a brotherhood of good guy vampires! .... sucker... vampire... LOL But it's true! 

So? What do you think of my list?   Be honest!  *cough*samantha*cough*dee*cough*! ;)