Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review and Giveaway: A Taste of the Nightlife

A Taste of the Nightlife (Vampire Chef - Book 1) by Sarah Zettel

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 320pp
ISBN-13: 9780451234070
ISBN: 0451234073

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mysteries)

Sarah Zettel on the WEB: website, facebook

Excerpt from A Taste of the Nightlife


Charlotte Caine isn't called "the vampire chef' because she's a member of New York's burgeoning undead community - she just cooks for them.

Together with her brother, Chet - the fanged one in the family - Charlotte runs Nightlife, a new restaurant that's poised to take the top slot in the new world of "haute noir" cuisine. And the arrival of the city's top food critic in their dining room could mean a review that secures their success with the after-dark crowd.

But when a drunk customer causes a scene, casts a spell, and almost buns the building down, a five star review doesn't seem likely. And when that customer turns up dead with fang marks in his neck, Chet falls under suspicion. Aided by a powerful - and handsome - warlock, and pursued by the city's best paranormal detective. Chef Charlotte has to clear her brother's name, get her restaurant reopened, and - oh yeah - stay alive...


Popular fantasy author Sarah Zettel begins her own paranormal cozy series based on a human chef who caters to an after dark crowd. In A Taste of the Nightlife readers will get everything from a great whodunit to a hint of romance and even some political haranguing. Paranormal enthusiasts and cozy readers will have a field day with this book. Werewolves and warlocks and vamps... oh my!

Now that the paranormal crowd has decided to come out into the open, vampires, werewolves and witches are commonly seen interacting with humans. In response to these societal changes all kinds of interesting hot spots are popping up around town, including a new restaurant called Nightlife. Human chef Charlotte Caine and her vampire brother Chet are just getting started in the business, catering to the after dark vampire clientele when they get a visit from renowned food critic Anatole Sevarin. This review could make or break the success of Nightlife. Things go from bad to worse when a warlock has a few too many and casts a spell that nearly destroys the restaurant. Charlotte says goodbye to a good review but hello to murder when she finds Dylan, aka the drunken warlock dead in the foyer. It's up to Charlotte to prove her brother Chet had nothing to do with the crime and she gets a little help from Dylan's brother and the all important food critic.

Sarah Zettel has created a interesting alternative world that includes many legends and folktales come to life. Her world brings the creatures of the night into the light of day so to speak. It is no longer speculation, the paranormal element is out in the open and living among the humans. Which creates any number of interesting situations. It is possible to say that Zettel is trying to cash in on the vampire wave that has hit publishing since Twilight, and that may be true, but I definitely like the way she has chosen to go about it. Creating a restaurant or hot spot that caters to the vampire crowd may not be a completely original idea but Zettel puts her own spin on it and cozy readers and paranormal fans alike will love it.

Zettel's characters are really what sets this one apart from the other vampire wannabe books. She introduces the reader to a human chef who seems to understand the paranormal culture. Probably because her brother is a vampire and she has had to learn to adapt to his sensibilities. Who better to bridge the gap between the human population and the vampire crowd? Charlotte is a very interesting character. She is not your typical chef. She definitely knows how to cook, but she also quick witted, intelligent and very observant. I liked the fact that Zettel doesn't tell the reader about Charlotte, she lets them learn about her through the action of the book.

Being the first book in the series Zettel has a lot of background to put down, because this isn't Kansas anymore. It takes a lot for an author to create an entire culture and try to interest the reader in it and Zettel pulls it off with style in this one, which makes me appreciate her fantasy roots. Fantasy writers often create whole new worlds and I think that served her well here. The political upheaval she describes in the book has a tendency to remind me of out own governmental woes at the moment with the debt limit and self-serving politicians who can't see beyond their own pride and the money coming out of their own pockets. The vampires and the warlocks are having their own power struggle that seems to have spilled over into the streets in this book. It's a very interesting idea and I look forward to where Zettel takes us from here.

The mystery aspect of the book is very well written and I liked the way Zettel subtly unfolded it. The suspects are quirky and interesting and Zettel also employs some humor and comical situations that make the book lighter in nature and more typical of a cozy. I liked the fact that the author played on the chef and foodie idea. With the advent of the Foodnetwork and other food related shows I believe Zettel has hit on a very current theme with a paranormal twist. I had a hard time trying to figure out where she was going to go with the murder investigation next and the introduction of the love triangle between Charlotte, Brendan and Anatole added some spice to the mix. I didn't have this one nailed down to the very end and I'll have to say that Zettel really surprised me. The hallmark of a good mystery writer!

I recommend this one to cozy readers and paranormal enthusiasts. This series has a lot to offer and I think the author has done an excellent job with the first book. A preview of the second book in the series is included and will definitely peak the readers interest. I look forward to reading more from Zettel and finding out where she intends to take the intrepid Charlotte and her friends.

A Taste of the Nightlife is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Sarah Zettel is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. She has written eighteen novels and multiple short stories over the past seventeen years in addition to practicing tai chi, learning to fiddle, marrying a rocket scientist and raising a rapidly growing son. She is very tired right now.


The publisher has been gracious in offering a copy of Sarah's book, A Taste of the Nightlife for giveaway.

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US addresses only (Publisher Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST August 6th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on THIS post.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review: Perfectly Invisible

Perfectly Invisible (Universally Misunderstood - Book 2) by Kristin Billerbeck

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Genre: Christian YA
Pages: Paperback, 267pp
ISBN-13: 9780800719739
ISBN: 0800719735

(Received for an honest review from Revell Books)

Kristin Billerbeck on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Perfectly Invisible


Life after high school is so close and yet so very far away.

It's Daisy Crispin's final semester of high school, and she plans to make it count. Her long-awaited freedom is mere months away, and her big plans for college loom in the future. Everything is under control.

Or is it?

Her boyfriend is treating her like she's invisible, and her best friend is making her sell bad costume jewelry in the school quad - and hanging out with her boyfriend. To top it off, Daisy's major humiliation of the year will be remembered in the yearbook for all eternity. It's enough to maker her wonder if maybe being invisible isn't so bad after all.

Can Daisy get her life back on track? Or is she stuck in this town forever?


Author Kristin Billerbeck brings readers the latest book in her Universally Misunderstood series. Perfectly Invisible, is a Young Adult novel with a Christian perspective and readers will find it inspirational, as well as, entertaining. Tackling issues like poverty, humiliation and teenage love, Perfectly Invisible is a book that young Christian readers will identify with and relate to. Daisy may not be perfect but she realizes just how special she really is in this great coming of age story!

It's Daisy Crispin's Senior year of high school and her dreams of college and a different life are within her grasp. But in typical Daisy fashion, things don't always turn out like she thinks they will. Attending an elite private school has afforded Daisy the opportunity to go to Pepperdine University in Malibu but she has to make it through high school first. Being a poor girl in a rich and affluent school isn't always easy and Daisy's friends aren't helping. Her boyfriend, Jeremy seems to be thinking about just about anything but her and her best friend Claire's charmed life is getting in the way of their friendship. Why does high school have to be so hard?

The continuing story of Daisy Crispin is the crux of Krisitin Billerbeck's second book in the Universally Misunderstood series. Billerbeck gives readers a glimpse into the psyche of the teenage mind in Perfectly Invisible. Kids today are bombarded with so many different things that it's hard to know which issues to tackle. In this book Billerbeck takes on several themes. Including humiliation and mean girls and what a Christian teen should do in dangerous situations. I think Billerbeck has done a nice job of bringing these issues to the forefront and showing teenage readers that they are all facing similar situations in life and that in essence it does get better and life does go on after high school.

Daisy is a poor girl in a rich school and she has often felt the distance between her life and that of her best friend Claire. But she understands the advantages it has afforded her that she wouldn't have been able to have otherwise. As a character I think Daisy is dealing with feeling under appreciated and less worthy than some of the other girls in her school. I think this is a common thing among teenagers and I think a lot of young girls will identify with Daisy's situation and not be quite sure what to do about it. I liked the fact that the author allowed Daisy to have doubts and problems and to show that just because you may be a Christian, life still isn't rainbows and butterfly's. It's hard and Christian teens face some serious decisions in high school that will affect the rest of their lives. Billerbeck was able to convey that to readers in a very real way.

One of the things that I found interesting in this book was the way the author chose to portray the relationship between Daisy and her boyfriend. Billerbeck shows readers a nice balance between being intimate with your boyfriend or girlfriend and not showing any affection at all. She validates the feelings of this teenage couple without making it a choice between going all the way and never touching each other. I think there are a lot of Christian teenagers that struggle with their feelings for each other and the appropriate way to express them and Billerbeck is quick to show them that it's not a sin to share a kiss. Well done!

There were parts of the book that didn't sit as well with me as others did, though. Daisy is very loyal to her friend Claire and I think that is commendable but I also think there comes a time even as Christian teen where you have to ask yourself if a relationship is healthy to continue? In my opinion Billerbeck portrays Claire as a friend who takes a whole lot more than she gives. She treats Daisy with disrespect and I found myself being very offended by her behavior more than once. Both girls are said to be Christians and I think there are definitely Christians who still don't know how to treat other people, but it bothered me a bit. That's not to say that the writing was not very well done and I think that Billerbeck made Claire that way on purpose, it just wasn't something that sat well with me.

There were definitely more pro's than con's with this book and I would still recommend it to my young adult readers, but I would caution that they consider it as one person's story and not as a guide to approaching every situation in their own lives. Each person is different and their situations may be similar but their relationship with God is personal and they have to make decisions based on that. It's a relatively short book at just over 250 pages. It would make a great vacation read or for a day at the lake or the beach. Remember, life doesn't end with high school... it gets better!

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of the Baker Publishing Group.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Kristin Billerbeck is the bestselling, award-winning author of several novels, including What a Girl Wants and Perfectly Dateless. She lives with her family in northern California.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Just One Season in London

Just One Season in London by Leigh Michaels

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: Paperback, 384pp
ISBN-13: 9781402244209
ISBN: 1402244207

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks)

Leigh Michaels on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Just One Season in London



Viscount Ryecroft's lovely sister Sophie is the family's only hope for climbing out of financial ruin - but Rye has to scrape up the funds to take her to London for the Season, so she can capture a wealthy husband and save them all...


Their mother, Lady Miranda, will do anything for the sake of her children - even taking up again with a man she knew and loved long ago...

With so much riding on their one and only Season in London, Rye, Sophie, and Miranda can't help but get hopelessly entangled with all the wrong people...


Author Leigh Michaels is well known in the publishing world for her immensely popular historical romances. Her latest foray into the fascinating world of Regency England, Just One Season in London, is action packed and filled with not one romantic interlude, but three. Michaels' ability to intertwine all three stories into one satisfying and decadent novel is unparalleled. Love and romance versus duty and sacrifice and it all culminates in one fated season in London!

Viscount Ryecroft is in dire straits. His family has suffered grave financial ruin and there is little to be done. His father left them with an estate in disrepair and no money to speak of. He has to think of some way to protect his mother, Lady Miranda and his sister Sophie. There seems to be only one choice. They must join the Ton for a season in London in order to find or capture the right man for Sophie to marry, who can bail them out with their problems. But Rye finds himself willing to sacrifice his own happiness to keep Sophie or his mother from giving up their own. Meanwhile Lady Miranda has a plan of her own to keep her children's hearts from being broken. She intends to offer herself to an old lover as his mistress, all the while each family member is vying for their own solutions. But life has a way of working things out in most unexpected ways.

There are so many things about this book for historical romance fans to fall in love with. Author Leigh Michaels is an expert when it comes to Regency England. She has done such extensive research that her books give off a very authentic and real feel to them. Just One Season in London is no exception to the rule. Michaels describes the nuances and subtle mores of the Ton with grace and elegance, leaving readers feeling as if they've read a very decadent and satisfying book. Like a fine wine or an exquisite chocolate, the romance in this one is to be savored and enjoyed.

One of the things that I find particularly interesting about Michaels' books of late, is the weaving of several stories into one. Readers saw her use this technique in her very popular book, The Mistress' House and will find her employing it yet again in Just One Season in London. Some would probably speculate that having so many heroes and heroines would leave the reader feeling confused and unable to truly connect with the characters. But in my opinion Michaels pulls it off with style and finesse. She spends enough time with each set of characters to pull the reader in and give them something to identify with. With each character there is a hook.

With Sophie the hook is obviously her youth and innocence. The reader is given a character that they can understand and see a bit of themselves in. Let's face it... many romance readers are young women and these woman have had to sacrifice in their own lives and I think they appreciate the fact that Michaels shows Sophie as an intelligent young woman who is loyal to her family and willing to do what it takes to solve their problems. But they are also rooting for her to find her own Prince Charming so to speak. To have her cake and eat it too...

With Lady Miranda the hook is a little less apparent. She is a beautiful woman who has known love in her life and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her children. Many readers will identify with that and understand the links to which she is willing to go. I think they will find themselves asking the question... just how far would I go for my family? What would I be willing to sacrifice in my own life? Michaels does a fantastic job of allowing the reader to question her logic and her story.

The hook for Rye is obviously his loyalty to those he loves. He is the epitome of a Regency hero. Good looking, passionate and not about to let his mother and sister take the fall for something he could prevent. He is honorable and will appeal to that sense of justice that readers have. But, no one character in this book is left feeling distant or flimsy. Michaels gives the reader the right balance of information and pulls it all together by shifting the point of view throughout the book to show the story as one continuing tale. It is smooth and effortless and Michaels proves why she is so highly regarded in historical romance circles. This is certainly not something that is easy to pull off without it seeming jerky and disjointed.

I don't usually mention little things like cover art and character name choices in my reviews but I feel like i must comment on a couple of things with this book. The cover art is absolutely gorgeous! Now I don't usually judge a book by it's cover, but it has to be interesting enough to make me want to turn it over and read the blurb. This cover is rich and deep and full of passion. I think it really reflects the essence of the novel. I also found myself liking the names that the author chose for her characters. She stayed within the realm of what was considered fashionable for Regency England yet she continued the theme of richness with her names. Rye was an especially interesting name and Miranda is one of my all time favorites. Michels just seemed to have a plan with this book and she executed it very well.

Just One Season in London is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! One of my favorites of the year so far!

Leigh Michaels is the author of nearly 100 books, including 80 contemporary novels and more than a dozen non-fiction books. More than 35 million copies of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin. A six time RITA finalist, she has also received two Reviewer's Choice awards from Romantic Times, and was the 2003 recipient of the Johnson Brigham Award. She is the author of On Writing Romance, published in January 2007 by Writers Digest Books. Leigh also teaches romance writing on the Internet at Gotham Writers' Workshop. She lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Reign of Madness

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Hardcover, 448pp
ISBN-13: 9780399157097
ISBN: 0399157093

(Received for an honest review from TLC Tours)

Lynn Cullen on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter


From the author of The Creation of Eve, a novel of royal intrigue and marital betrayal set during the Golden Age of Spain.

One of the most famous figures in Spanish history is Juana of Castile, who would come to be know as Juana the Mad. A fiercely intelligent princess who inherited Queen Isabel's throne, she married a man so beautiful he was called Philippe the Handsome. But what began as a seeming fairy tale ended quite differently. After Queen Juana's husband died, she was branded insane and locked away in a palace, unseen by her people, for the next forty-six years. What happened between her fairy-tale beginning and the locked tower room? Sweeping, page-turning, and wholly entertaining, Reign of Madness is historical fiction at its richly satisfying best.


Historical fiction writer Lynn Cullen attempts to shed some light on a royal mystery. Was Queen Juana of Spain really mad? In her latest book, Reign of Madness, Cullen uses the framework of history to create a compelling story of one young woman's courage in the face of betrayal and insidious political intrigue. Cullen's descriptive prowess and her ability to craft complex and multi-layered characters, sets this one apart from the pack.

Juana of Castile, the daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain never expected to wear the crown, she was far from succession, but history intervened and Juana paid a heavy price. As a young princess she was expected to marry a man hand picked to solidify an alliance with the Hapsburg's. Her new husband Philippe the Handsome made Jauna think that perhaps she could find love with him as well as a political future, but that was not to be. Their relationship quickly began to deteriorate when it became clear that Queen Isabel's throne would fall to Juana. Philippe began to consolidate her power and turn even her own family against her, convincing them and the Spanish people that Juana was insane and quite mad. After Philippe's death Queen Juana is held prisoner in her own home, betrayed by those closest to her and held captive for nearly half a century. But the question still remains... What she truly mad or just a casualty of a political climate set against her?

Lynn Cullen has a knack for instructing the reader as well as entertaining them. In her latest book, Reign of Madness, Cullen brings to the forefront one of histories mysteries, the true state of Queen Juana of Spain's mind. Was she really completely mad and unable to lead her people or was she really an intelligent and caring young woman who ended up on the wrong side of a political battle? Cullen goes a long way toward proving that Juana was indeed quite sane and able to make decisions, raise children and lead a productive life. What happened to her in those intervening years when she was kept from the public eye and unable to even interact with her family? Cullen gives readers a historically accurate setting, with complex characters whose motivations were are anything but benign. Readers will love her sharp wit and clear and concise details.

Juana was only a young girl when she marries Philippe but she still harbors hope that their relationship will be like her mother and fathers, full of love and understanding. And though it started out well, Philippe's interest began to wain and it is obvious that he has other women and well as Juana. Juana appears to be an intelligent young girl but she is under and extreme amount of pressure from everyone around her and it is possible that she could have cracked under that extreme possessiveness. Cullen portrays Juana at the very center of a political struggle between her husband and her father. It is interesting that Cullen leans toward the fact that Juana was not insane but merely kept from her people because the men in her life were greedy for power. I liked the fact that Cullen showed Juana as a proud woman, who would not surrender to her situation even though she knew it would not do any good.

It's one of those stories that if you are a proponent of history you know the outcome, but it doesn't take away from the story itself. Cullen makes this one interesting enough that readers want to continue reading the pages and hoping for something miraculous to happen to change the outcome. That takes an amazing amount of talent to pull off and Cullen does it with style. Her setting is impeccably researched and she is able to describe the political climate and culture of the time as well as she does the hearts of her characters. She transports readers back to a time when Christopher Columbus has just returned from his famous voyage and Spain is poised to become a huge political player in the world. She conveys to the reader the sense of powerlessness Juana felt in the face of men who were in a position to make or break her very existence. I thought Cullen made Juana's story compelling and full of surprises. Readers will love the way Cullen weaves history and fiction and gives them a great tale of love and betrayal.

I recommend this one to all of my historical fiction fans. It's full of action and political intrigue. It answers questions historians have asked for ages about Juana's real state of mind. Cullen uses fiction to bring to life a little known character and give her a story that people can understand and relate to. This is Cullen's second historical novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the near future. It is a rather lengthy read, though definitely worth the time. If you are interested in Spanish history this one will be a good fit for you and if you're not, you might be after you read this one!

Reign of Madness will be available from your favorite bookseller August 5th.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag.

Lynn Cullen
is the author of The Creation of Eve, named among the best fiction books of 2010 by The Atlanta Journal- Constitution and as an April 2010 Indie Next selection. She is also the author of numerous award-winning books for children, including the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt's Daughter, which was a 2007 Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection, and an ALA Best Book of 2008. An avid traveler and historian, Cullen lives in Atlanta.


The publisher has been kind enough to offer one copy of Reign of Madness to one lucky winner from Debbie's book bag!

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US and Canadian addresses only (Publisher Request).
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST Aug. 11th.

1. Please leave a comment on THIS post in appreciation to the author.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review: Dracula in Love

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror/Romance
Pages: Paperback, 384pp
ISBN-13: 9780767931229
ISBN: 076793122X

(Received for an honest review from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours)

Karen Essex on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Blog Tour Schedule from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours

Excerpt from Dracula in Love
Book Trailer:


London, 1890. Mina Murray Harker, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula's object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male "defenders" rush in to rescue her from the vampire's evil clutches. This is the story we have been told.

But now, from Mina's own pen, we discover a tale more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than the Victorians could have ever imagined. From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Mina vividly recounts the intimate details of what really transpired between her and the Count - the joys and terrors of a passionate affair, as well as her rebellion against her own frightening preternatural powers.


Dracula in Love asks readers to see Dracula in a very different light, than that portrayed by Bram Stoker. Author Karen Essex delves into 19th century Victorian England and transforms a minor character from Stokers book into a heroine. Readers will find themselves not only intrigued by Mina Harker, but also enchanted by the sensual relationship she describes with the Count. Essex takes on everything from the vampire myth to the role of women in Victorian society in this book and leaves readers with a picture of Dracula that isn't what they expected. Rich with period detail and dazzling research Dracula in Love is everything readers look for in a paranormal historical novel!

Mina Murray Harker is outraged when she finds out that her relationship with Count Dracula has been inaccurately recorded and decides to tell the story from her own memories and recollections. Dreams and nightmares have kept her confused and unsure of herself for a long time and Mina becomes determined to find out more about the creature she is so drawn to in her dreams. Who is he? And why can't she seem to get him out of her mind? When it becomes apparent that Count Dracula has set his sights on the blissfully innocent Mina, five men come to her defense and try to protect her from his insidious presence. But Mina sees this as only an interference in her life and unnecessary. Even her husband seems to be against her and what she somehow feels she needs to do. As their love affair begins to heat up Mina is shocked not only by her behavior but also by the abilities she begins to embrace. How can true love be wrong? Even if it is with a creature considered so evil, yet so powerful...

I have been a fan of Dracula and vampires since childhood. From Bram Stoker's version up through the current fads and changes made to the vampire myth. I love to see how new trends shape and change the ideas that people have about paranormal characters. Vampires and blood sucking go back a long, long way and the stories have evolved into something less sinister and more appealing than ever before. Karen Essex has taken that one step further with her book, Dracula in Love. Readers who are expecting a fierce and dark Count who will stop at nothing to get what he wants will be somewhat surprised with this book for a lot of reasons.

First off, Dracula is not really the main character though he is essential to the plot. The story really revolves around Mina and how she experienced the relationship between them. In Stoker's version, Mina is a minor character who Dracula basically seduces out of revenge. In Essex's version Mina has a mind of her own, knows exactly what she is doing and resents being treated like a bird in a gilded cage. She feels this unexplained connection to Dracula that can't be denied. And she doesn't want to deny it, she wants to explore it. It brings out a side in her that is far from the sweet and innocent girl she shows to the Victorian world. She is intrigued by how Dracula makes her feel and the power and the passion he commands so easily. Readers will not see him as a dark brooding man, who cannot control his blood lust, but as a man who knows love and desire. Essex gives readers a Dracula that more relatable and essentially more interesting, not an easy feat given the changes in today's ideas of the perfect vampire character.

One of the things that I found most interesting in this novel was the way Essex was able to show the role of women during the Victorian time period. Her meticulous research is evident in every part of this book, but never so clearly as when she was describing how importance purity and piety were to the Victorian woman. Everything rested on her being seen as virtuous and upstanding and Mina was willing to throw all that out the window. She wanted to explore her sexuality and her inner longings which was totally unacceptable during that time. Essex is able to convey to the reader how dangerous this was. Her descriptions of the asylums and places where women were put out of the public eye was absolutely chilling. I've always considered Dracula a Gothic novel or a tale of horror and that isn't missing from Essex's book. It is still harrowing and full of spin tingling moments.

If you have an interest in all things vampire or in Dracula in particular this is not a book you want to miss. Essex essentially changes the way people see Dracula and makes his story more historically based and more sensual than scary. I wanted a different ending even though I knew how it would turn out. Knowing the original story in no way took away from the overall effect of this book. I definitely think it will redefine how readers see the vampire myth and all of it's variations. I recommend this to my historical fiction fans, romance fans and paranormal enthusiasts. I don't see it as a "re-telling" of the original story, so much as a "re-imagining" of a great story. A great book by a very gifted author!

Dracula in Love is NOW available in paperback from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

KAREN ESSEX is the author of four novels, including the international bestseller Leonardo's Swans. Her award-winning essays and articles have appeared in many periodicals, among them L.A. Weekly, Vogue, and Playboy. She lives in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Cover Me

Cover Me (Elite Forces - Book 1) by Catherine Mann

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Military Romantic Suspense
Pages: Paperback, 352pp
ISBN-13: 9781402244957
ISBN: 1402244959

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks)

Catherine Mann on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Cover Me
Book Trailer:



Pararescueman Wade Rocha fast ropes from the back of a helicopter into a blizzard to save a climber stranded on an Aleutian Island, but Sunny Foster insists she can take care of herself just fine...


With the snowstorm kicking into overdrive, Sunny and Wade hunker down in a cave and barely resist the urge to keep each other warm... until they discover the frozen remains of a horrible crime...

Unable to trust the shady local police force, Sunny and Wade investigate, while their irresistible passion for each other gets them more and more dangerously entangled...


Award-winning author, Catherine Mann brings readers a new series based on the Elite Forces, pararescue units, a part of the U,S. Air Force. Readers who are familiar with Mann's writing know that she is known for heart-stopping romantic suspense, and her latest book Cover Me is no exception. With charismatic characters, an in depth, suspenseful plot and a lot of twists and turns, readers will find it hard to put this one down. A great action packed read for all those people out there that find a man in uniform hard to resist!

Sunny Foster is a survivalist guide living in a remote community in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska. When she is mistakenly identified as a stranded climber, Wade "Brick" Rocha is sent to bring her home safely. Wade is a part an elite pararescue group sent out on military and civilian rescue missions. Even after Wade realizes that Sunny is able to take care of herself, he still feels drawn to her. With a snowstorm bearing down on them, Sunny and Wade take refuge in a cave to wait out the storm. When they make a grizzly discovery of dead bodies frozen in the ice, Sunny knows that the police force in the area isn't up to the challenge of figuring out who the killer is and who his next target might be. With the growing attraction between them coming to a head, Wade and Sunny investigate a crime that may end them up in more than just hot water.

This was my first experience with military romantic suspense and I'll have to say Catherine Mann makes it look easy. She has taken one of those old cliches that says 'women can't resist a man in uniform' to new heights. I think a series based on any Elite Force group would be very timely and current in our society right now. Considering the war on terror and so many military families and servicemen overseas and at home, I think this was a brilliant idea. Mann has a knack for writing good military characters. Using her own experiences as a guide she allows the reader a glimpse into what kind of man, a military man is. He is loyal and trustworthy, he believes in God and country and protecting the innocent. I loved her portrayal of Wade and I think readers will too!

Wade Rocha is a character that is what women expect from someone who is in the military. He is stubborn, resourceful, and full of passion for his job and everything else in his life. Wade comes across as a take charge kind of person, but his motives are clear and concise. With Sunny he meets his match. She is headstrong, has almost as much survival training as he has and she not only stands her ground, but she is also passionate about her own causes. I think Mann has created a couple that can stand up to each other, as well as, any other situation that comes their way. But they are a little bit thunderstuck by their reaction to each other. Mann definitely shows the heat and the passion between them in several steamy scenes that readers will adore. The romantic aspect of the book was well written and comes across as natural and unforced.

In the suspenseful part of the book, Mann decides to take on a killer who has tried to let nature dispose of the bodies. Unfortunately, the killer didn't expect to find a survival guide and a pararescue tech stumbling across his burial ground. I thought this part of the book really amped up the action and adventure in the story. When I think of a military hero, I think of secret missions and over the top scenarios and I think Mann really captured that feeling in this book. Cover Me has all the passion a romance reader needs and all of the mystery and suspense that main stream readers and suspense enthusiasts want. It's the total package!

I recommend this one to a wide variety of readers. Those interested in the military and the pararescue units, those who want a steamy romance, even those who are looking for a mystery or suspense that packs a punch. This is a relatively quick read at under 400 pages and fits a lot of action into a short space of time. It's a hard one to put down so don't start reading at midnight, you'll be up all night! A great first book in a new series and I'm sure readers will be on the edge of their collective seats waiting for the next installment.

Cover Me is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! A great military romantic thriller!

Catherine Mann's military romances have sold over 2 million copies and have been on the USA Today and WaldenBooks bestseller lists. She has won the RITA, Bookseller's Best Award, and finaled for other awards including RT Reviewers Choice and the Maggie. Her husband is an Air Force Colonel and they live near Pensacola, Florida.

Check out my sidebar for a chance to win one of two copies of Cover Me!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview and Giveaway: Catherine Mann

Please join me in welcoming Catherine Mann to Debbie's Book Bag today. Catherine is here to talk about her latest release, Cover Me. The publisher has been gracious enough to offer two copies of Catherine's book for giveaway. See details at the end of the post.

DEB: Catherine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
CM: I write military romantic suspense for Sourcebooks and Berkley, and steamy romances for Harlequin Desire. I’m a military wife and mother of four. Before writing, I was a children’s theater school director.

DEB:Tell us a little about your book, Cover Me?
CM: Cover Me launches my “Elite Force” series featuring air force pararescuemen (also known in the past as parajumpers, thus their nick-name PJs.) A select breed, they go through much of the same training as SEALS and are also medic qualified for on-site treatment during high risk rescues (both military and civilian situations. ) These under the radar heroes hold to the credo “That Other’s May Live.”

DEB: What was your inspiration for this book? Have you always been interested in the military?
CM: My husband is an Air Force aviator, so the military has been a large part of my life for over twenty years. Even beyond that, I have always had a great respect for our men and women in uniform. It’s an honor to be able share stories about them.

DEB: What type of research did you do for your book?
CM: My husband is a stellar help with brainstorming and he reads all my military books to fact check them before I send them in. Also, my chiropractor is a former PJ and has been generous in sharing details about his missions.

DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have things that have to be in place to write comfortably?
CM: I set a weekly page count. If I complete those pages by Friday, then I am able to take the weekend off. If I don’t, then I use the weekend for catch up. A writing day can be filled with a number of different activities in addition to working on a manuscript. Other tasks like… plot a synopsis, compile cover art suggestions, brainstorm new titles, read for my critique partner Joanne Rock, revisions, line/copy edits, galleys, promotion, networking online, book signings, blogging. Since I write 4-6 books a year, my days are usually packed.

As for a working environment, I’m a mom of four, so I have to be flexible. In fast I’m writing this interview in my laptop as my teenager drives us to a college visit. Usually, at home, however, I work in a comfy chair with a diet coke nearby, my dogs at my feet and view of the ocean from my office window.

DEB: What was it like when you got the word that your first novel would be published?
CM: Beyond amazing! And rather funny too. We were in the process of moving and hadn’t sold our house yet. We were visiting family during the transition and my cell phone rang. Only two people had the new cell number – our realtor and my agent. When I answered and my agent gave me the news that my book had sold, I started squealing to everyone in the room, “It sold! It sold!” My husband thought our house had sold and kept trying to take the phone away from me. Needless to say, he was quite sheepish when he realized his error. (Happily, our house sold later that week.)

DEB: Do have any advice for new writers?

CM: Read, read, read in the genre you’re targeting. Read recent releases and check out new authors to see what’s catching editors’ eyes.

DEB: When you’re not writing, what kinds of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?
CM: I’m an eclectic reader. Some of my favorite authors… Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Suzanne Brockmann, Lori Foster, Lisa Gardner, Tana French, Sarah Addison Allen, Olivia Gates, Karen Templeton… my list can ramble on and on. Some recent books I’ve read? Water for Elephants and The Peach Keeper.

DEB: What are you working on right now?
CM: I’m finishing up my final draft for “Elite Force” book 3 Under FIre and also starting my next Harlequin Desire. I’m also working on promo for my October Harlequin Desire Billionaire’s Jet Set Babies.

DEB: Tell us one thing that people may not know about you?
CM: I’m an active volunteer for my local Humane Society. I’ve fostered over fifty puppies and special needs dogs over the years. I hope you’ll consider donating a bag of pet food or an hour of your time to help your local shelter. In these tough economic times, shelters are bursting at the seams with animals that have been owner surrendered due to financial circumstances. There’s a saying that goes something like this, "Saving one dog won't change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog."

Sourcebooks is offering two copies of Catherine's book, Cover Me to two lucky winners from Debbie's Book Bag!

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US and Canadian Addresses only (Publisher Request).

~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST August 2nd.

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