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Archive for October, 2011

Description From Goodreads:

Mara Sheppard has no love for the Fae, but to free her brother from prison, she’ll do whatever the treacherous Queen Nalia asks. Even kidnap Dashael Rhyder, a womanizing thief.

She should have known the deal would go sour.

It’s almost too easy to bait and trap Dashael. Resisting his potent Fae allure isn’t. Especially since Nalia’s unexpected demand for a missing magical rune means Mara will have to hold strong far longer than she’d planned.

Dashael’s best shot at escaping? Seduce her. If he can survive a few dozen of his closest enemies out for blood and the queen’s scheme to make him her personal stud…he might just make it.

Then his game of seduction trips over a snag named Mara, and he falls. Hard. For a commitment-phobic thief, love might as well be a prison sentence. Yet the idea of losing her makes him miserable.

Mara can’t deny that her enemy has stolen her heart. But their love is about to be tested by a lifetime of secrets. The risk may not be worth it. Especially if a life together means death for one of them.

Warning, contains one or more of the following: Hot, sexy thieves, pain-in-the-butt sprites, handcuffs, intriguing new uses for a silk bed curtain, and scorching, shake-the-ceiling-tiles sex.

LOVER ENSLAVED, by Jodi Redford
Available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Review: ***** 5 Stars
Dashael is fae, and a thief.  A double whammy against him, as far as Mara is concerned.  Not that it matters what she thinks, since she has to kidnap and bring him back to Queen Nalia in order to rescue her brother from the fairy prison.  Thus begins an adventure across two countries, with bounty hunters, long-lost brothers, poisonous toads, and see-thru dresses aplenty.

Characters: ***** 5 Stars
Mara is refreshingly normal.  A human with no special powers, she still manages to use her assets to their best advantage and come out ahead.  She’s quick on her feet and witty, more than up to the task of handling Dashael and his ego.  But Dashael grew on me throughout the story.  More than just a pretty face, he’s a man with a past and a story of his own.  You can’t help but root for the two of them to overcome the obstacles to be together.  The supporting characters are equally entertaining: a sprite named Piper who always says or does the wrong thing at the wrong time and irritates Mara to no end, a rival thief named Jerrick who’s not quite what he seems, a boutique owner who provides the missing pieces to the story and gives Mara some extra support right when she needs it, and several brainless thugs to keep things moving along.

Plot: ***** 5 Stars
While LOVER ENSLAVED follows the standard romance outline to some extent, there are enough plot twists to keep the reader from guessing too much in advance.  The pacing was fantastic, neither too slow nor too fast, and the overall story length was perfect.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
The author did a great job developing the world of the story, but I would have liked a little bit more background on the various races and their roles in the world.  The fae are clearly on top, but they aren’t all royalty, and humans are apparently at the bottom, but what exactly is the role of the sprites, except to irritate Mara?  I liked the level of description, however, as it was enough to provide a distinct vision of the world without bogging down the plot.

Romance: ***** 5 Stars
HOT!  Lust leads to sexual tension leads to love in this fantasy, and it’s perfect.  Dashael can’t resist Mara and does everything he can to seduce her, yet she manages to hold him off until neither can stand it any longer, despite the risks to their lives.

Genre – Romantic Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
This was a perfect romantic fantasy.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more!

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Description:
Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?

After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists and the native Tofa still know very little about each other. Misunderstanding breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers of either species carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.

Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?

TWIN BRED, by Karen A. Wyle
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

I’m pleased to have the author, Karen A. Wyle, join me today for a quick interview!

1. First off, tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? How did you become a writer? What are your interests outside of writing?

I was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved to California at age 8. I then bounced back and forth between the coasts until I met my now-husband and moved with him to the Midwest. I now consider myself a Hoosier. I’m Jewish, the first generation of my family to be born in this country: my parents and their immediate families barely escaped Hitler’s Europe.

I don’t know when I first decided, or realized, that I was a writer. My childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing my first novel at age 10, I was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten me to the goal at age 9. I finished that novel nonetheless, attempted another at age 14, and then shifted to poetry. I made a few attempts at short stories in college, and then retired from creative writing until starting a family in my mid-
30’s inspired me to start writing picture book manuscripts. I produced two startlingly creative children, the elder of whom wrote her own first novel in 2009, at age 18, with the help of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided to try NaNo in 2010, completed a very rough draft of a science fiction novel (Twin-Bred ), and spent the next ten months editing it.

My other interests include politics, history, photography, and whatever my daughters are up to.

2. TWIN-BRED is such an interesting and unique concept…what was your inspiration?

I read an article online about interactions between twins in utero — synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either this article or a comment on the article mentioned the longterm effect of losing a twin in utero. As an avid science fiction reader, I tend to see the sci-fi potential in any event or discovery. I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the
scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin; it would be intriguing if she were a twin survivor, and if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story.

On a deeper level, I have always been fascinated by communication issues and the struggle to understand what is different.

3. Since the Tofa and humans have such trouble communicating, what happened when the humans first landed and how did the first integrated communities develop?

When the humans first landed, they attempted to communicate with the Tofa, and perhaps the Tofa attempted to communicate with them. The humans were left with the impression that they could settle in certain areas. Over time, humans moved close to some Tofa communities because the areas were in some way attractive or had needed resources, and the Tofa allowed it.

I don’t know the history of the more integrated communities, but it stands to reason that the less
xenophobic, more curious Tofa would have been the ones to experiment with living more or less
among humans.

4. The main character, Mara, lost her fraternal twin, Levi, in utero, and yet she’s managed to ‘keep him alive’ in her imagination. The two are such unique characters that it’s hard to believe they’re both really Mara. Is something more metaphysical going on there?

In part, Levi embodies aspects of Mara’s personality that she has not otherwise developed and rarely expresses. That is not necessarily all that’s going on. Mara and Levi shared the prenatal environment until shortly before Mara was born. Twin-Bred assumes that some measure of telepathy is possible, certainly for Tofa and for the occasional human as well. It is an open question whether some aspect of Mara’s and Levi’s prenatal experience allowed her to sense something of what kind of personality Levi would have had, and to use that knowledge in recreating him.

Whatever the origin of his character traits, he has a reality somewhat comparable to a multiple personality, although Mara’s relationship with him is not much like the relationships between a “core” personality and a multiple. Readers may disagree, but I personally do not see Levi as a ghost or anything of that kind.

5. Are more books planned to continue the story of the Twin-Bred? Any other unrelated
works to look forward to?

I plan on using NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2011 to get moving on a sequel to Twin-Bred. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finish and edit it, however, because I have another rough draft, tentatively titled Reflections, waiting for my attention.

I wrote Reflections in August 2011, during “Camp Nano,” a somewhat stripped-down summer version of NaNoWriMo. It is, I guess, “general” fiction.  I have two teasers for Reflections:
–Death is what you make it.
–Will you need courage in Heaven?

In Reflections, the members of a family reunite in the afterlife, confront unfinished business, and resolve the mystery that tore the family apart. I have constructed an afterlife with features particularly suited to this purpose.

I also have a science fiction story about human cloning (tentative title: “The Baby”) in rough draft, and it may be the starting point for a collection of linked stories.

Review: **** 4 Stars: Unique and Thought Provoking Science Fiction
TWIN BRED is the fantastic debut novel by Karen A. Wyle, about the human colony on Tofarn as it struggles to interact with the native Tofa.  The two species can barely communicate, and fundamentally do not understand each other.  But Mara has a solution.

Mara is a scientist who lost her twin brother, Levi, in utero.  She always knew about him, and over the years, kept his memory by imagining him as he would have been.  As a result of this connection, Mara believes that communications between the species can be improved by implanting one human and one Tofa embryo into host mothers of both species, creating ‘twins’ designed to act as liaisons between communities.  It works.

The story follows Mara and the children as they grow and mature, facing challenges that none had anticipated.  Deep-seated prejudice on both sides threatens the project and the twin-bred’s lives.

Characters: *** 3 Stars
There were simply too many points of view in this novel.  Mara and Levi were great characters, both well-developed with distinct voices, and the two primary host mothers and their children are fantastic additions to the story, but at times I got lost in all of the voices and it could be difficult to remember all of the relationships involved.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
I loved the concept of TWIN BRED.  The plot was both imaginative and well-designed.  My only complaint really goes back to the characters, because I would have liked to have had longer sections from the main points of view, and could have done without some of the lesser points of view.  In addition, the beginning background could have been a little better interwoven with the overall story.

Setting: *** 3 Stars
I wanted more description.  The Tofa were described in detail, and certain of the surroundings were beautifully rendered, but overall I felt the setting wasn’t built into the story with enough frequency.  I kept imagining Earth, and would get shocked in a scene when things suddenly didn’t match up to my vision.

Relationships: **** 4 Stars
There wasn’t any romance built into the story, at least not in the traditional sense, so for this review I’m looking at the relationships between characters.  In particular, I thought the depth of emotion and familial love was fantastic between the twins and their families.  Mara and Levi were prominent in this, of course, but so were many of the twin-bred, particularly Judy and La-ren, and Jimmy and Peer-tek.

Genre – Science Fiction: **** 4 Stars
This was a great novel for a debut science fiction.  Karen A. Wyle thought outside the box and developed a fantastic story with fun characters.  I can’t wait to read the sequel!

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Description:
A young mother has vanished without a trace and Sophie D’Angelo has been hired to solve the cold case that left police stumped. Tensions are high between the local cops and the newly ‘out of the coffin’ vampire community, landing Sophie smack in the middle of the toughest mystery she’s ever faced and in the middle of a possible civil war. Her only allies are her loud, overbearing italian family and her ex-fiancee turned-vampire, Caleb, who shares her house, her business, and generally gets on her nerves. If he wasn’t already dead, she’d probably kill him.

As if that wasn’t enough, Sophie has become the fixation of a twisted killer who is leaving a trail of bodies straight to her door.  Can Sophie uncover the truth behind the strange disappearance and unmask her stalker before she, or someone she loves, becomes his next victim?

BORN OF BLOOD, by Sherry Ficklin
Available October 9th

Today I’m pleased to have Sherry Ficklin, author of Born of Blood, join us for an interview!

1. Tell us a little about your background…how long have you been writing? What’s your favorite part of being an author?

I’ve been writing professionally for almost five years now, but it feels like I’ve been doing it all my life. I suppose to clarify my first book went under contract three years ago. That’s when I went from ‘writer’ to ‘author’. So far there have been a lot of cool perks, not the least of which is getting to rub elbows with other amazing authors that I just love. But the absolute best part has been the response from readers. Hearing people tell me that they love my books, it’s surreal and humbling. It’s amazing.

2. Your previous books have been YA fantasy…why did you switch to urban fantasy?

It wasn’t a strategic decision. When I first began trying to publish my YA books, all people wanted was vampire novels. I always knew (because I am such a fan of Paranormal) that I’d do one eventually, but the time wasn’t right for me then. During the publication of the YA series I started tinkering with adult paranormal/horror. Born of Blood was an absolute blast to write. I think because I enjoyed writing it so much, I was really proud of it. But when I started looking for a publisher, no one wanted to touch another urban fantasy (at least a non romance) with a ten foot pole. Then I met the great people at Tell Tale Publishing. It was like, they really got me, got my book. And they loved it. It was the stars aligning. It has been a challenge to sort of make the jump from YA to adult just because I can’t really take my fan base with me. But if ever a book was worth taking that risk, it’s this one.

3. Where did you get your inspiration for Born of Blood?

It evolved very organically. I was working on a writing prompt, “You are in a burning building. Describe the scene”. Before I knew it I had three chapters. It was the first book that I actually would laugh out loud while I wrote, Sophie was that real for me.

4. How many books are planned for the series?

A hundred? I honestly don’t know. I have outlines for two more, but there are so many places I want to go with these amazing characters. Who knows? If people keep reading them, I’ll keep writing them.

5. You live in Colorado…why did you choose the setting of Charleston, South Carolina?

I travel a lot. Sometimes I fall in love with the places I visit. That was what happened in Charleston. Honestly, I could have stayed there forever. Such a rich culture and a unique mix of people. It was breathtaking. When Sophie first popped into my head, there was no doubt that was where she was from.

6. Sophie seems to be a bit of a contradiction: on the one hand, she broke things off with Caleb when he was turned, even though it wasn’t his fault, yet on the other, she seems to be far more accepting of vampires in general than many other people in the story. Where does this contradiction stem from?

Sophie is a very practical girl in some ways. The vampires simply are in her world. So she deals with it. But Caleb is sort of a special case. On one hand she had this sort of picture perfect life all planned out with him, then in the blink of an eye it was taken away. Marriage, kids, everything she wanted was stolen from her. She tries not to blame him for that, but every time she looks at him it’s a reminder of what she lost. I think there’s a part of her that would be willing to forget everything else and be with him anyway, but it’s the reckless part of her and at the end of the day she knows it would never work out. One day she’d grow old and he’d be gone. So she puts up a wall with him, to protect herself. Sometimes we see it chipping away, but then something happens and she is brought back to cold reality. It’s a bit like whiplash of the heart.

7. Can you give us a bit more background on the vampire culture and how they ‘came out’?

There will be a bit more about this in later books so I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that everything the Conclave does is calculated. There was a reason that a specific time and place was chosen, but the underlying rules of vampire culture have existed for centuries.

8. Why do werewolves and vampires instinctively hate each other?

For me it boiled down to base animal instincts. Here we have two extremely powerful alpha preditors, it would only be natural that they would instinctively avoid and distrust each other. Like if you put a tiger in a cage with a wolf. It would be nearly impossible to know how it would end but it would be bloody. It’s that primal survival instinct that drives the rivalry. But it can be overcome, as Rayne has managed to do in Charleston.

9. Why is Rayne so interested in Sophie?

Sophie presents a unique problem for Rayne. On one hand she is potentially a useful ally, but on the other her humanity makes her uncontrollable. I don’t think he’s ever met a woman, a human woman at least, who keeps him so off balance. He likes it. Plus, for all his bluster, I think Rayne really sees humanity for all its beauty and flaws. He likes Sophie because he’s never quite sure what she will say or do next. I think if he were ever able to really figure her out he’d lose interest. Sophie realizes that too.

10. Will Sophie ever completely forgive Caleb?

I think there’s a fine line between forgiving and forgetting. She is working on it, but until she can find a way to either let go of her old life or find a way back to it, she’ll never really be happy with anyone. It’ll just be a matter of Sophie getting out of her own way.

And now for my review of BORN OF BLOOD, by Sherry Ficklin

Review: *** 3 Stars: A Fun, Fast Read
Sophie is the somewhat unwilling owner of Palmetto Private Investigations, having taken over the business after her father’s death.  It’s not that she doesn’t like her job, in fact she seems to thrive in it, but she was forced to give up college to run the business and keep her family afloat.  Her business partner, Caleb, is a vampire who lives in her attic.  He’s also her ex-fiance, who left her standing alone at the alter after he was changed into a vampire the night before their wedding.  Oh, and he now has a girlfriend, a vampire who occasionally stays over.  Can anyone say “awkward”?

As you can imagine, all of this makes life a bit tough for Sophie, who’s left bitter and confused by her feelings for Caleb.  Somehow, she manages to keep her sense of humor as she’s thrust into the middle of a missing person case that points her directly at Rayne (the leader of the the local vampire council, called the Conclave) and the Church of Redeeming Sacrifice (an anti-vampire religious sect).

I’ve read the first two books in Sherry Ficklin’s Gods of Fate trilogy (the third to be released sometime next year), and I loved them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think BORN OF BLOOD lived up to their standard, or its own potential.  While it was fun to read, it somehow felt like this was still an early draft of what could be a great novel.  It just wasn’t quite there yet.  That being said, if she comes out with a second in the series, I’d probably still read it, if only to find out whether Sophie chooses Caleb or Rayne.

Characters: *** 3 Stars
Sophie was a strong lead, but some of her actions and attitudes seemed contradictory.  On the one hand, she seemed tough, keeping her head in the middle of any crisis she faces.  On the other, she’s bitter that she can’t have her ‘dream life’ with Caleb, but she not only let’s him live with her, she let’s him bring his girlfriend around and supports his decision to join the Conclave.

Meanwhile, Caleb irritated me.  He’s supposed to be her business partner and helping her with the case, but he spends more time with his girlfriend than anything else, and Sophie lets him get away with it.  I didn’t understand how she could just let him walk all over her, when she’s strong in so many other areas.

Rayne was also introduced as a potential love interest…at least, he’s interested in Sophie.  I liked Rayne.  He seemed a little awkward, not knowing how to romance a human and clearly still living in another era, but also very domineering, not used to being refused.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have a very large role in the novel, and I would have liked to see much more from him.

Plot: *** 3 Stars
The beginning of the story was great, shoving us right into the action…and a burning building.  But while the concept of the story was solid, the ending was lacking.  It felt like the author was rushed, or didn’t know how to end the story.  In fact the last chapter was all summary ‘telling’, when I personally would have preferred more ‘showing’.  For example (without giving anything away), there’s a really nice twist at the end, but Sophie tells us her reaction in the final summary, leaving us, the readers, emotionally hanging.  I wanted to be there with her, not listening to a narrative.

Setting: **** 4 Stars
I could tell the author had visited Charleston, SC.  Some of the scenes really breathed, bringing me into the story, but others needed a little more punch to tie it all together.  The setting was solid, but I could have used a bit more description overall.

Romance: *** 3 Stars
The romance in BORN OF BLOOD was limited, at best.  There was a lot of emotion, don’t get me wrong, but with Caleb it was all bitter loss, and I never felt like Rayne was any kind of possibility for a romantic interest, even as he declared his intention to “woo” Sophie.  In my opinion, the sexual interest and intensity could have been beefed up between Rayne and Sophie, or Caleb could have done more to try to win her back.  Either way, the romance would have been improved and it would have added another dimension to engage the reader.

Genre – Urban Fantasy: **** 4 Stars
This was a good novel for a debut urban fantasy.  The heroine gets a little beat up, but ultimately wins the day, and there’s plenty of blood throughout.  It’s dark, gritty, and a fun, fast read.

**Note: this review was made at the request of the author.  The only compensation received was a free copy of the novel.

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Description From Goodreads:

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…

ARCHANGEL’S BLADE, by Nalini Singh
Available on Amazon andBarnes & Noble

Review: ***** 5 Stars
After surviving a brutal kidnapping and torture for months at the hands of a group of depraved vampires, Honor finds herself a changed woman.  No longer the confident hunter she was, Honor is forced to leave the safety of the Guild Academy and face a case requiring her unique skills, as well as the man that has drawn her attention, and obsession, for years.  Meanwhile, Dmitri finds himself drawn to Honor, unable to resist her strength of will and courage in the face of her fears.

Together, Honor and Dmitri investigate two cases, the person responsible for the severed head and tattoos, as well as the identities of Honor’s torturers.  As they work, Dmitri slowly rebuilds Honor’s confidence, while Honor protects Dmitri from himself, ensuring that he doesn’t cross the line into darkness after a thousand years as the Archangel’s Blade.

This is the fourth book in the Guild Hunter series, but you can almost get away without reading the others first.  The first three followed the Archangel Raphael and Guild Hunter Elena, introducing most of the side characters in ARCHANGEL’S BLADE.  However, since it stays pretty tightly focused on Dmitri and Honor, the background stories are less necessary.  I’ve read the other three books as well, and would highly recommend going back to read them first, but you could start here without missing too much.

This was a fantastic story, building a beautiful relationship through danger and overcoming deep emotional pain.  I loved every minute of it!

Characters: **** 4 Stars
Dmitri and Honor are perfect together.  Both broken, both in pain, yet able to come together to remind each other of the good in the world and in each other.  I loved them!  However, the side characters and villains are slightly less developed, detracting a bit from the mystery and action of the story.  The side characters appear in previous Guild Hunter novels, so you can learn more about them if you read the series in order, but I would have liked a little more depth from the villains.

Plot: **** 4 Stars
ARCHANGEL’S BLADE had a strong plot with two mysteries for the characters to solve.  It was really well paced, keeping the action high while the characters explored their relationship.  The only thing I would have asked for was a bit more danger toward the end, particularly for Honor.  While she overcomes a ton of emotional baggage, and plays an integral role in the climax, I wanted Dmitri to have to rescue her or save her at least a little, so that he could truly realize what it would cost him to lose her.

Setting: ***** 5 Stars
The author does a great job with the setting of the story, bringing to life each location in detail.

“The gates, tall and ornate and covered with dark green ivy, swung open with stately grace the instant the guard saw the car.  The drive was dappled in sun and shadow from the oak tress that lined it, and the house, when it came into view, spoke of another century – a heavy and ostentatious one.”

“A minute later, she ducked under the police tape to find herself looking at a scene more suited to a slaughterhouse than the chaotic, vivid  center of one of the most well-known cities in the world.  A thousand scents surrounded her – the sweet, sweet taste of sugar from the chocolatier across the street; coffee, bitter and rich, from the place on the corner; tobacco smoke and car exhaust mixed with the sour tang of human sweat – but none of it could overwhelm the ripe, wet smell of rotting flesh.”

Romance: ***** 5 Stars
Dmitri and Honor are perfect together.  Oh, wait, I already said that!  But they really are!  Dmitri is careful with Honor, pushing her to heal, but still respecting the damage that resulted from her torture.  There’s one scene in particular (which I won’t ruin for you) that nearly made my cry, when strong, proud Dmitri finds himself making amends to the woman he can’t live without.  The sex isn’t overdone, instead the author builds a foundation that naturally leads to a physical relationship.

Genre – Urban Fantasy: ***** 5 Stars
ARCHANGEL’S BLADE was the epitome of good urban fantasy and paranormal romance.  Plenty of action and danger, vampires and angels, mystical relationships, and of course an urban setting.  If you love urban fantasy and paranormal romance, you’ll love this book.

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