Wednesday, February 25, 2009

REVIEW: Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione

Published June 24, 2008.
Grand Central Publishing

NOTE: I read Pleasure Unbound in June 2008 when it was first released, yet never got around to writing a review for it. Since it is my favorite paranormal romance for 2008 and since I will be posting a review of Desire Unchained, Book 2 in the Demonica series very soon, I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts on the first book as well.

Pleasure Unbound is the first novel in a dark, paranormal romance series by Larissa Ione called Demonica. The Demonica series takes place in and around an underworld hospital that is hidden from human awareness and was created by demons for demons. In this world, demons live both on Earth beknownst to most humans, or in Sheoul which is the demon realm far beneath the surface of Earth and is very much what humans would consider Hell. Demons can travel to and from Sheoul as well as throughout the world using Harrowgates which are invisible portals that only demons can detect. When a demon or other worldly creature such as werewolves and vampires, are injured by either other demons or human demon slayers, they come to Underworld General Hospital (UGH) for medical attention. UGH lies hidden from humans, and it is also considered a demon safe haven of sorts, as the rules governing the hospital were created to guarantee treatment for all beings and in fact powerful spells prevent patients and employees from acting out in violence while within hospital walls. With one minor exception, that is; the founder of the hospital Eidolon, and his brothers Shade and Wraith, can beat each other up without recriminations.

Eidolon, Shade, and Wraith are incubus demons who share the same Seminus demon father, but different mothers. At approximately 100 years of age, a Seminus demon enters his final stage of maturation called S'genesis. It is only at this stage that a Seminus demon can procreate with females of any species of demon by temporarily taking on the appearance of a male demon of her species. If a Seminus reaches S'genesis and has still not bonded with a permanent mate, the demon becomes mindless, focusing on one thing, and one thing only: Procreating with as many females as possible, never giving a moment's pause for consent. If a post S'genesis Seminus demon loses control like that, the demon is typically--hopefully--hunted by his own brethren and killed.

Eidolon is the eldest of the brothers and is rapidly approaching his S'genesis. Having been brought up to serve demonkind as a Justice Dealer, Eidolon has developed strong control over the sexual needs typical of his kind and is rather particular about the females he mates with. When the sexy, feisty demon slayer Tayla Mancuso arrives in his hospital, however, he can all but resist her. Is it the onset of his S'genesis that weakens his control or is there something special about this specific female that has him wanting a female like he's never wanted before?

Tayla Mancuso is a demon slayer, or Guardian. As a member of a human organization called the Aegis, she has pledged her life to hunt and kill demons, which Aegis do indiscriminately, thinking they are protecting humankind from evil. When demon EMTs from UGH arrive at the scene of a demon attack to retrieve the injured demon, they find Tayla in critical condition decide to bring her to the demon ER as well. Admitting a human--a human demon slayer no less--in demon hospital is unheard of and common opinion is to dispose of her. Eidolon's brothers as well as other members of the staff think that Tayla should at least be tortured for information about the Aegis' involvement in the wave of demon deaths caused by live organ harvesting. However, the laws governing the hospital, written by Eidolon himself, not only demand that she not be killed, but also that she be treated for her injuries, so Eidolon heals her. He also happens to discover something very peculiar about her DNA when he has her under the knife. Something so peculiar that even Tayla is unaware of.

Upon waking from surgery that has essentially saved her life, Tayla is delirious and hits on her physician, thinking she's having the best dream of her life. Eidolon's typical control over his sexual urges slips and he and Tayla have a passionate encounter that rocks both their worlds. Ultimately, though, Tayla comes around and is shocked and abhorred to not only learn she just had sex with a demon, but that she's in a demon hospital and was healed by one no less! Tayla always thought of demons as pure evil, randomly preying on humankind, so to discover that some demons may actually be good sends her for a loop, forcing her to practically question her entire life.

Eidolon ultimately goes against his peers' wishes and decides to release Tayla. In order to get her out of the hospital safely, and to keep the hospital's location secret from her, Eidolon takes it upon himself to escort her to her apartment, using a spell to mask their location until they're far from the hospital. A slight detour on their way to her place, however, begins to shed light on possibilities that Tayla never deemed possible. As circumstances keep Tayla and Eidolon together, and the truths about the blackmarket demon organ ring are revealed, Tayala discovers the lines between good and evil, demon and human are not as distinct as she has once thought. There are in fact shades of gray when it comes to all creatures. The possibility that maybe not all demons are the evil monsters that she's always believed, and the possibility that maybe her 'family' at the Aegis compound could actually be involved in the organ harvesting becomes very real. And maybe, just maybe... some humans are more evil than the demons.

Tayla had a tough upbringing and had been exposed to some of the darkest evils in the world as a young girl. Her past drove her hatred of all demonkind and made her into a lethal demon slayer. Hunting demons was all Tayla knew of life and Eidolon was the perfect wake up call to her biased views of good and evil in the world. Any other demon wouldn't have had the tolerance or patience with Tayla, but Eidolon is driven to protect and heal her in more ways than one.

Of course, the sexual attraction between Eidolon and Tayla becomes undeniable for both of them, and slowly they begin to understand, trust and care for one another. Both Eidolon and Tayla are faced with some serious issues of their own, so their developing relationship seems even more unrealistic and impossible. Yet against all odds, Eidolon and Tayla fight those those challenges and obstacles and heal each other, coming together in a happily ever after they both never thought possible.

Pleasure Unbound is brimming with perfect doses of all the elements of paranormal romance that I've come to love. It's dark, edgy, sexy, emotional, intense and at times very amusing. The story has lots of snappy dialogue and graphic actions scenes that keep the story moving at a fast and entertaining pace. The world is unique and well developed and the characters are neither righteous or sinful, but perfect shades of gray.

The relationships between Eidolon and his two brothers are built on camaraderie and loyalty that runs deeper than even they would dare to admit. They never hesitate to verbally or physically spar with each other, but in the end, they always have the others' backs. The relationships between these three brothers, as well as the dark, complex world of demons and humans are what will keep me coming back for more in the Demonica series. I can't wait to see what the future holds for this diverse and unique cast of characters.

GRADE: A+ Pleasure Unbound is my favorite paranormal romance of 2008.

Desire Unchained is Shade's story
and was released yesterday, February 24, 2009.

Review to come!

Passion Unleashed is Wraith's story
and will be released on March 31, 2009.

You can visit Larissa Ione at her website

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nalini Singh's ANGELS' BLOOD: As good as the hype?

Have you ever been highly anticipating a new release by one of your favorite authors, but when you start hearing some really awesome buzz on the internet from readers who have read it already, that buzz makes you nervous? Nervous because the buzz is so good--like raving, gushing good-- that your expectations on the book just go out of the roof, sky high.

Now you wonder how the book could possibly be as good as the hype.

Well, that's happened to me before, and just very recently with the anticipation of Nalini Singh's upcoming release Angels' Blood, the first in her new Guild Hunters series.

So far, everyone who has read Angels' Blood loves it:

Brie at Musings of a Bibliophile gives Angels' Blood an A-.

Katiebabs at Katiebabs Babbles a B+.

Kmont at Lurv a la Mode gives it a rating of, and I quote, "Five Scoops, absolutely one hundred percent pure excellence." I'm pretty sure there isn't a grade higher than that!

And while the official verdict isn't out yet from Ana and Thea at The Book Smugglers, I did catch on Twitter that Ana is loving it as well.

So you wonder.... is Angels' Blood as good as the hype?

The answer is YES!

I started reading Angels' Blood last night and it is amazing. I am completely absorbed in this book and absolutely love it so far. All the hype is true! Honestly, I'm only on page 133, but so far, it is really fantastic. The characters, the series premise, the conflict, the WORLD. Brilliant. Just brilliant. You're going to love it!

Oh, and by the way, don't mad or jealous that I'm reading an ARC of Angels' Blood. Because honestly? I'm probably going to finish the book in a day or two and it will be over. Then I'll be jealous of you that you've got the brand new, exciting, spine tingling experience ahead of you when the book hits the shelves. It's true.

Angels' Pawn is an advanced peek into the series via a special ebook novella that releases on February 24, 2009.

Angels' Blood is the first book in the Guild Hunters series by Nalini Singh and releases on March 3, 2009.

Visit Nalini Singh's blog here for more information and some great contest opportunities!

You can also learn more about the author and her published works at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

REVIEW: Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

Published August 1, 2006.

Read and reviewed for the TBR Challenge hosted by and the YA Reading Challenge hosted by J.Kaye's Book Blog.

Bound is a Cinderella inspired story of a fourteen year old girl named Xing Xing living in a small village in northern China during seventeenth century Ming Dynasty with her Stepmother and half sister Wei Ping. Upon the death of Xing Xing's beloved father, Xing Xing became bound in servitude to her stepmother and half sister. She is barely treated better than a slave by Stepmother who not only insults and demeans Xing Xing, but also demands that Xing Xing perform all of the daily chores required to care for her and her daughter and their humble home. Xing Xing clings to the values taught to her by her mother and father, and also secretly practices the "three perfections" taught to her by her father--poetry, painting, and calligraphy. She finds solace in these arts, and in a beautiful carp that she befriends, if you will, in the spring from which she retrieves their daily water. Xing Xing treasures the carp more than anything, as she comes to believe the carp is the soul of her mother reincarnated.

Determined to find a suitable husband for Wei Ping, Stepmother acts against her late husband's wishes and begins the painful process of binding Wei Ping's feet in hopes that by making her feet smaller, she would be better fit as a man's wife. The process of binding girls' feet is always painful and dangerous, but is usually started when a girl is very young and still growing. As a young teen, Wei Ping is already full grown and having her feet bound now causes not only extreme pain, but also severe infection. Wei Ping's life threatening infection then becomes the catalyst for a series of dramatic events that could either ruin Xing Xing's future forever or grant her the freedom she's always longed for. The freedom to think and act for herself, unbound from servitude and unbound from the strict social expectations of a woman.

Bound is a stark, realistic retelling of the commonly known Cinderella type fairy tale. The setting of the story in ancient China, along with the historically accurate traditions of ancient Chinese culture help make this story incredibly realistic and offer the reader a stark look into the unfair expectations and treatment of women within the society. While the hardships faced by women during that time seem unjust and demeaning to the modern reader, the author was able to convey normalcy of those hardships during that particular time period for that culture.

In the traditional Western version of Cinderella, the stepmother and stepsisters are wicked, selfish, and ill-intentioned. Yet in Bound, the stepmother's actions are actually understandable and somewhat justified based on the norms of the ancient Chinese culture. This allows the reader to empathize with Stepmother to a certain degree, making the conflicts of the story not entirely black and white, which in turn gives this story more depth and complexity than the typical Cinderella story. No doubt, Stepmother does inevitably act in poor character, but she is driven by the need to literally survive and will stop at nothing to secure Wei Ping's and her own future by finding Wei Ping a husband. It truly is a matter of life or death for her and her daughter, and sadly, there is no obligation to secure Xing Xing's future or even to preserve her life.

Xing Xing is a lovely character. She is lonely and mourns the loss of her mother and father, both of whom she loved dearly and with whom she shared close relationships, yet despite this sorrow, Xing Xing is an optimistic young girl who through constant reflection of all her parents taught her, manages to maintain a love of life and a hope for a better future. Xing Xing is also insightful and clever, and learns when and where she should expose her skills in the arts where it can work to her advantage. Xing Xing is also empathetic and caring, especially towards Wei Ping and she does what she can to care for her and keep her spirits up. She is even gracious to Stepmother--at least until Stepmother betrays her in the worst way. Upon learning of Stepmother's betrayal, Xing Xing reflects on the following philosophy taught to her by her father. It is one of my favorite passages from Bound:

Learning is not the accumulation of knowledge, but rather, one thing only: understanding. To truly learn, you listened first with you ears, then with your heart, then with your qi.

Note: In traditional Chinese culture, every living thing possesses a qi. While its meaning is varied, it is largely thought of as the "flow of energy" that sustains a living thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and found it to be a very unique and powerful rendition of the classic tale. At the end of the story, however, I wished it wasn't a retelling of the classic Cinderella, because I felt the lost slipper and Prince ending to be a bit anticlimactic. Through self reflection and self confidence bestowed upon her from her mother and father, Xing Xing grew from a child to an independent, brave young woman, and I wanted her to acquire her freedom being bound on her own, without the help of a Prince. While I understand that the story is bound by the constraints of the classic tale as well as by the realism of a woman's power in this time period, I felt the ending was rather incongruous with the rest of the story. However, it is still a wonderful, thought provoking story that shouldn't be missed.

Bound is a beautifully and poetically written retelling of the classic, familiar fairy tale-- a coming of age story that is enlightening and hopeful.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Tagged! Top 10 Favorite TV Couples

Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers tagged me last week for this fun blog meme. All you have to do is make a list of your top 10 all time favorite TV couples. Easy, right? Only I don't really watch that much television. Haven't actually watched TV since late November of last year. O_0 Miraculously, I actually managed to pull together a decent list! Check it out:

1. Lucy & Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy.
(October 15, 1951 to May 6, 1957)

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez star in this classic old time comedy sitcom. No explanation really needed. Lucy totally steals the show. Actually... I love the scenes with Lucy and Ethel most of all!

 2. Ralph & Alice Kramden from the Honeymooners.
October 1, 1955 –September 22, 1956.  
I never realized this show had such a short run.

These two are a classic. Talk about old time. When I got my own place for the first time about a year after graduating college, I used to watch reruns of The Honeymooners late at night. Ralph and Alice kept me company. :)

3. Darin & Samantha Stevens from Bewitched.
September 17, 1964 – July 1, 1972.
Another quirky, fun loving couple from a comedic sitcom. Oh, how I wish I could twitch my nose like Samantha and have my house all tidy and clean!!!

4. Batman & Robin from Batman (TV Series)
January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968.

Okay, so Batman and Robin are not exactly a couple per se... but they are the dynamic duo and I spent many an hour watching repeats of this show after school in the 70s.

5. Captain Kirk & well.... any female creature in the galaxy? from Star Trek.
September 8, 1966 - June 3, 1969.

Check it out... there's even a book about Captain Kirk and his ladies! LOL!

To boldly go where no man--or woman--has gone before: The very first interracial kiss to ever air on television was a kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura in 1968. 

6. Captain/Major Nelson & Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie. 
September 18, 1965 – May 26, 1970.

Actually, I mostly liked Jeannie. She had great outfits and I always loved--and envied--her room in her bottle. Very cool digs. 

7. Homer & Marge Simpson from The Simpsons
December 17, 1989 - present.

A very funny show about a very dysfunctional family. But you gotta love Homer and Marge and how they stick together through the best and worst of times!

8. Ray & Debra Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond.
September 13, 1996 to May 16, 2005.

I've never watched a single episode of this show that didn't have me rolling with laughter. Everybody Loves Raymond has been nominated for many awards, including 2 Golden Globe nominations, and won many awards, as well, including 13 Emmys.

9. Dharma & Greg from Dharma & Greg.
September 24, 1997 - April 30, 2002.

I loved this show! Dharma and Greg had this classic opposites attract thing going on and worked it so well. Dharma was such a fantastic character. Loved her!

Dharma & Greg was nominated for several awards, including, but not limited to, 6 Emmy nominations and 7 Golden Globe nominations. In 1999, Jenna Elfman won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Comedy/Musical. The series also won several other lesser known awards.

10. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from the X Files.

September 10, 1993 –May 19, 2002.

The X-Files is probably the only show that I ever religiously watched every week it aired. I think I only started watching the series during its second or third season, but caught up on those episodes at one time when they were aired on the Fx channel or something like that. Mulder and Scully were an undeniably awesome investigative team--one the believer of the paranormal and the other the skeptic, determined to explain everything with science. They had a great chemistry between them that grew slowly over the years as they investigated government X-Files together. Initially merely colleagues, their relationship evolved to friendship and finally platonic love.

The X-Files won 5 Golden Globes, 16 Emmy Awards, and 49 other various awards. The show also boasts 142 award nominations. It's also the longest running science fiction series in the history of US television. Sweet.

Tag! You're it! Let me know if you decide to play so I don't miss your list! 

Award information from
Series run time information from

Friday, February 6, 2009


I made this cake last night for my husband. I made it look like an iPhone by rolling, cutting and shaping colored fondant to make the icons and laying them on a simple chocolate frosted cake that was baked in a 9 x 13 inch pan. I'm so happy with how it turned out!

Happy Birthday to the man I love . . .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

In December I was bestowed the Kreative Blogger Award from two very special bloggers, Barbara from Happily Forever After and Renee from Renee's Book Addiction. Renee awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award for the blog that most conveys the lovely person behind it and Barbara awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award for The Most Heartwarming Blog. I'm truly flattered. Thank you both so very much! :)

Now it's my turn to bestow the Kreativ Blogger Award to others. The following rules are the ones most frequently accompanying this Award through blogging communities.

Here are the rules:
  • Mention the blog that gave it to you.
  • Comment on their blog to let them know you've posted the award.
  • Share six values that are important to you.
  • Share six things you do not support.
  • Give the award to some of your favorite bloggers.

I think it's pretty obvious which values are important, such as honesty, loyalty, kindness, tolerance, open-mindedness, charity, etc... and those which are not such as dishonesty, bigotry, racism, closed mindedness, selfishness, rudeness, etc.  I'm not even sure how listing values relates to creative blogging, so I'm going to take the creative liberty to modify the sharing part. Instead, I'm going to share my favorite plot lines in romance or urban fantasy, sci fi, or fantasy fiction.

My six favorite plot lines (in no particular order):
  • Star crossed lovers. Fighting the odds against them in the name of true love. Gets me every time. *sigh*
  • Everyday-kind-of-girl who doesn't think she's special, but of course, she is. In fact, she ends up being strong, powerful and important for a cause, but always remains humble. Think Mercy Thompson. Love her. Bone Crossed releases today! YES! :) 
  • Running from the enemy together. Romance mixed with intense danger and action sequences. Very exciting! 
  • Enemies to lovers. The hero and heroine on opposite sides of a struggle, yet circumstances drive them to met half way in principle and all the way in love.
  • Captive-captor love stories. Okay this one is really tough for an author to successfully pull off, I think, but when it does work, I really love it. Shana Abe's Smoke Thief is sort of in this category and one of my all time favorite stories. 
To those bloggers whom I am about to award the Kreativ Blogger Award, please feel free to follow the original rules I listed above, follow my plot line variation, or feel free to come up with your own rules. Or just accept the award and be done with it! :) 

I award the Kreativ Blogger Award to the following:

Hey, baby girl! I've just awarded you the Kreativ Blogger Award! :)
This new blog is barely over a month, yet is off to a spectacular start. I met the author of this blog almost two years ago on an author's message boards and we quickly became friends as we discovered we shared almost identical tastes in paranormal romance as well as a mutual passion for young adult fiction. The Ravenous Reader is a voracious and passionate reader who also happens to be a great sharer of our favorite books that she often manages to get a hold of early. Discussing our favorite reads online via blogs, emails, or instant messaging sometimes just isn't enough, so we get on the phone to hash a book out. She's a great reading buddy! 

The Ravenous Reader blog is a visual feast for the eyes. The sidebars are loaded with gorgeous images of the latest or soon to be released YA and paranormal romance books. There are also countdown widgets for upcoming releases, author info, contest links, and custom made graphics, too. The Ravenous Reader posts nearly every day, already has weekly columns going on and a large number of regular followers, too! If you read young adult fiction, or are looking for suggestions for a teen reader in your life, this is the blog to visit. Even if you don't normally read this genre, click over and take a look at this gorgeous, informative blog. I'm sure there will be mention of a book there that will capture your attention. 

Jace from Jace Makes.
I've already mentioned Jace and her blogs in my What kind of blogger are you? post the other day, but now I'm awarding Jace the Kreativ Blogger Award. Jace took her passion for crafting to a whole new level when she started her Jace Makes blog and also opened an Etsy store. Jace blogs about her latest craft projects that typically involve origami, crochet, beads, and simple sewing projects. Plus she takes all the photos of her work herself and they always look so professional. Way to go, Jace and keep up the good work! :) 

Okay, with a blog title like that, you know you're in for some funny posts. At Living in the House of Testosterone, Lori posts all kinds of amusing anecdotes about life in a house with her husband and two teenage boys. Oh, the conversations at their dinner table are very... interesting. You're guaranteed multiple LOLs with every visit to her blog and it's why I've awarded her the Kreativ Blogger Award! :) 

And speaking of laughing out loud....
I started following Wendy's blog months ago for her book reviews and occasional personal posts, usually about her internship in nursing. I always enjoyed her posts, but something's changed about my little Wendy. I don't know if it's stress, her coming of age (she's almost 21!), a new found confidence, or what, but lately... her posts are quite amusing. I'm sorry Wendy that I'm so entertained by your personal life, but well... Congrats! Because I just awarded you the Kreative Blogger Award for it!

Anna from Anna's Book Blog
Anna posts reviews and invaluable other information about romance and urban fantasy fiction, with emphasis on the paranormal. She posts the latest book cover art and author news. I love lists, and Anna is my go to source for lists of upcoming releases, contests, books she has read--which is A LOT! Anna also runs a lot of contests of her own in which she gives away some of her own books. I'm sure to make room for more! Thanks, Anna! You've just been awarded the Kreativ Blogger Award! 

I first met Phyl when she commented on my cross stitch post way back last summer. I was very excited to meet someone else who had a passion for both books and crafts. How cool that we both have extensive TBRs (T0-Be-Read books) and UFOs (UnFinished Object--a craft project) in common.  I visit Phyl's blog regularly now where she blogs about both books and her quilting projects and award her the Kreativ Blogger Award! Stop by her blog and check out Phyl's latest UFO. It's really beautiful. 

Congrats, bloggers!