Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Demonic

Demonic by Sheri Whitefeather

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Erotic Romance/ Paranormal
Pages: Paperback, 256pp
ISBN-13: 9780425241417

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Heat)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sheri Whitefeather on the WEB: website, blog, facebook

Excerpt from Demonic Warning: This excerpt may not be appropriate for readers under 18 years of age.


A fantasy so shocking, so deliciously dangerous, only one thing could be hotter... the reality.

Writer Jane Brooks enlists her two friends, Emily and Suzanne, to help research an article by combing an underground sex club where patrons masquerade as supernatural beings and engage in the most bizarre games imaginable... and unimaginable. Then three men disguised as demons convince Jane and her friends to become more than spectators. How can they say no to such powerful, demanding, and desirable strangers?

Jane's man is a hypnotist, as evidenced by his uncanny sensual bondage that has her begging for more. Emily has found her dream man, too... a reclusive artist with a thirst for bloodred wine and a touch that drives Emily wild. And Suzanne's seducer is a musician who prefers to expose their wicked sex secrets in the most public of places.

Yet right from the start, the women are made aware of a rumor: one of these demons-in-disguise is the real thing, guarded by his two mortal friends. At first it seems too unbelievable to be true, but as details emerge, danger prevails, and they have no idea how far the fantasy will go, or how dark the next erotic game will be. Or what will happen if one of them falls irrevocably in love with a demon...


Author Sheri Whitefeather takes on the huge task of writing a book based on three main couples as opposed to one, in her latest erotic romance, Demonic. Whitefeather's ability to blend all three romances into one tale was well done. Readers who are like their romances with a hint of the paranormal will enjoy the mystery of whether or not the men in this book possess supernatural qualities or whether they are just superhuman!

Jane Brooks is a writer for L.A. Underground, a magazine that keeps people informed about the more sensual and erotic side of the city. When Jane decides to write an article about a sex club shes heard about called, Aeonian, she enlists the help of two friends to check it out. They've heard stories that the patrons of the club, dress as supernatural beings from vampires to demons and participate in all kinds of kinky and exotic sexual games. The ladies intend to be voyeurs, watchers, while not participating, but that all changes when they meet three friends disguised as demons...

Whitefeather takes a big leap of faith, trying to fit the story of three couples into one book. It's a bit of a stretch even for an erotic romance. The story is fast paced and though each couple gets a certain amount of time, I think the author could have spaced this out more and made a trilogy out of it. There is so much more we could have learned about each couple. That's not to say that I didn't like the book, I did! It had a lot of good points and that's probably my only criticism. I just wanted to know more about these interesting characters. Perhaps she will write another book featuring them in the future.

Each couple had a specific dynamic. With Marcus and Jane it was BDSM. He was obviously a dom and wanted Jane to express her submissive side. I was happy that the author didn't allow Marcus to take this aspect of his relationship with Jane too far. There is just enough to keep it spicy and interesting, while not making the reader uncomfortable. I think some erotic romances take this way to far and I was glad it wasn't the case in this one. I liked Marcus as a character. He was strong and mysterious, but he also had a very soft side which comes out in the way he felt about his family and how he treats Damian and Jake. Jane makes a good sub and it's apparent that this is something that really turns her on. She was intelligent and intriguing and I think readers will like the combination of these two.

Suzanne and Jake have a different MO. Jake is definitely not a voyeur. He enjoys watching, participating in a very public way is what gets his motor running. As a musician he is used to people watching him play his music and enjoying him and he takes that a step further in his sexual appetites. He encourages Jane to explore her inhibitions and become more of an exhibitionist. Jake was very sexy and charming. He was a take charge kind of guy, being the first among the trio to make his move. But as with Marcus, there are other sides to his personality as well. Suzanne is the kind of woman who doesn't realize she's looking for someone to settle down with and when it keeps coming into her mind with Jake she tries to push it aside, but it just won't rest. Can a relationship based on sex ever be more than just a game?

Emily and Damian are again a totally different kind of couple. Emily is very repressed sexually and it's up to Damian to get her to loosen up and explore her sensuality. He is an artist, a kind of renaissance man with an old world kind of air about him. He's very intriguing and passionate. Damian was my favorite of the three men. Emily was kind of hard to get into at first, but when she finally let herself go, she got a lot more interesting. It was almost like she had never experienced those kinds of feelings before. The relationships she had, had with other men were obviously not great and I think she learned a lot about herself that she didn't know before. Whitefeather did an amazing job of describing each set of characters.

The mysterious aspect of the book dealt with the fact that one of the three men who introduced themselves to the women as demons, could possibly be a real demon guarded by his human friends. That's where the paranormal kick comes into play. I liked the overall idea and kept switching my opinion of which one of them it could be often as more is revealed about each one. One of the things I found most interesting was the camaraderie and real friendship that existed between Marcus, Jake and Damian. It was nice to see men, who were loyal and really cared about each other. The ladies have a good friendship too, but there seemed to be a deeper bond between the guys. Whitefeather keeps readers guessing, until she's ready for the big reveal.

The sex in this one isn't overwhelming. It is certainly a big part of the book, but it doesn't overpower the story. Whitefeather does a good job of switching back and forth between the couples and revealing just enough information to keep readers guessing throughout. It's fast paced and easy to keep up with. I thought Whitefeather's descriptions of the club atmosphere as well as the men in their own homes was interesting and I had to wonder at what kind of research she did, to get her details right, LOL! I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to erotic romance readers. It has just enough of a paranormal bent to draw in some supernatural enthusiasts as well. This is however an erotic romance and not appropriate for readers under 18-years of age.

Demonic is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Sheri WhiteFeather is a national bestselling author. She has won numerous awards, including reader's and reviewer's choice honors. She writes a variety of romance novels for Harlequin Books. She also writes erotic romances for Berkley.

Sheri has become known for incorporating Native American elements into her stories. She has two grown children who are tribally enrolled members of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Sheri is of Italian-American descent. Her great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy through Ellis Island, originating from Castel di Sangro and Sicily.

She lives in California and enjoys ethnic dining, shopping in vintage stores and visiting art galleries and museums.

Review: Plain Fear Forsaken

Plain Fear Forsaken by Leanna Ellis

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Horror/Romance
Pages: Paperback, 432pp
ISBN-13: 9781402255403

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Leanna Ellis on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from
Plain Fear Forsaken (Download the first chapter, left side under the book cover)

Book Trailer:



Pain chocked off anymore words. She grabbed the cold stone for support, splayed her hands across in front as a sob wrenched free from her chest.

Although she knows that the Amish way is to move on from grief, on to a new season, Hannah cannot move on from Jacob, who was taken too soon.

Jacob's brother Levi also cannot move on - his love for Hannah burns just as strong as ever. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother, and the event that took Jacob from them...


So when a mysterious stranger comes to their community, he too carries a secret: one that will force Hannah to choose between light and dark, between the one she wants to love and the new yearning she fears to embrace.


In many ways
Plain Fear Forsaken is a departure for author Leanna Ellis, known for her humorous Christian Fiction books. This haunting novel draws from two very unlikely genres, Christian or Inspirational fiction and Paranormal fiction. Mixing both the religious values of the Amish and the bloodlust of the Vampire myth. This is a complex book that explores the nature of choosing one's own fate, and takes the good vs. evil battle to a entirely fresh and different place. Ellis has created a book that will defy labels and bridge the gap between two very different types of readers.

Hannah's world changed when Jacob died. He was the love of her life, even saving her from a near drowning when she was only a young girl. But he's been dead for two years and it's the Amish way to move on from grief. Her heart still grieves for Jacob, but the love of his brother Levi is strong and true. When Akiva, a stranger enters their plain community, Hannah feels drawn to him. She feels as if she knows him somehow, he's tempting and alluring and brings out a side of her she didn't know existed. But, Akiva isn't what he seems. Levi knows that he must protect Hannah from the evil that Akiva represents, even if it means destroying his own brother... But ultimately the choice is Hannah's.

This is definitely a book of contrasts, that will probably run the gambit on reactions. There will be some who will be completely turned off by the idea that a Christian Fiction writer would not only attempt but publish a mainstream book featuring vampires. There will also be those paranormal readers who probably won't give it a second look for the very same reasons. But then you have another group of readers who are very open minded, who embrace not only Christian beliefs, but also enjoy a good paranormal read... I happen to be one of those!

I think that if you leave your preconceptions of what a novel from Leanna Ellis should be like at the door, what you think a novel involving the Amish should be about in the parking lot or on the train, and embrace the idea that these two genres can mix, you'll love it. But if you are all hung up on the idea that this is meant to be a Christian Fiction title or that it's meant to be a completely horror or paranormal read, you will stall out and not like it at all. So I expect there will be lot of completely opposite reactions to this book and that's expected.

Ellis has created an Amish world where there is a stark difference between light and darkness. The Amish are a plain people, with very specific beliefs and I think Ellis was able to share those ideas and religious leanings in a very compelling way. I don't think she is trying to offend or take away from what these people believe, she is just using them to illustrate the extreme differences between good and evil. If vampires are considered evil, the polar opposite of that would a people much like the Amish and I sincerely believe that's what she was trying to do. Contrast the two very different worlds.

I liked the fact that Ellis doesn't take the easy way out with her vampires. They aren't cuddly, they aren't trying to be something they aren't. They are evil. When they attack, they kill. They don't mince words or try to pretend they want to be something different. Akiva is definitely not a vampire like Edward Cullen. He has a viciousness about him that is palpable in this book. The entire book has an atmosphere about it that is both eerie and haunting. From the prose and poems to the scripture references and the cover of the book, there is a shadowy, sensual kind of impression that the reader will feel throughout, that kind of made the hair on my arms stand up. Chilling!

All three main characters are strong and very complex in my opinion. Levi comes across as a very loving and strong man. He loves Hannah and he is willing to do whatever he can to keep her from loosing her soul, even if it means going against someone he once called his brother. Akiva is very centered. He knows what he wants and he intends to use every resource within him to get it, including reminding Hannah of the man he once was and what they shared. Hannah is so conflicted. Her love for Jacob was complete and deep and giving that up is hard to even think about. But with Levi she will be continuing in a faith that she grew up with, that she truly believes and there is the fact that she feels strongly for him as well. It's a great love triangle and readers will not be able to figure out what she will choose until the very end. This isn't a cut and dried story, it's certainly not predictable.

Ellis has definitely stepped out of her comfort zone with this book, it's going to cause a stir and I'm certain all of the buzz won't be good, but this is an excellent novel. Well written, the premise is interesting, the Amish are very good and the vampires are very bad. And somehow it really works! I don't think she meant it to be inspirational fiction and probably didn't mean for it be vampire or paranormal fiction either. It's in a group by itself and I'm looking forward to reading more. There is a bit of language, and some very sensual scenes that I think are necessary to the overall story. This book has a fast pace, it's unpredictable and just a delightful read.

I recommend this one to open minded Christian fiction enthusiasts, those who want to read an Amish fiction selection that is totally different from most of what's out there and to paranormal readers who are just looking for a really good vampire story that's fresh and original. I really enjoyed it and I think you will too!

Plain Fear Forsaken is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! (I've read some really good books the last few weeks!... lots of 5's)

Leanna Ellis is the winner of the National Readers' Choice Award and Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Award. She has written numerous books in the romance genre as well as the inspirational market. With her husband, two children, and wide assortment of pets, she makes her home in Texas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Changing the Game

Changing the Game (Play-By-Play - Book 2) by Jaci Burton

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Erotic Romance (Contemporary)
Pages: Paperback, 320pp
ISBN-13: 9780425242407

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Heat)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Jaci Burton on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Changing the Game WARNING: This excerpt may not be appropriate for readers under the age of 18.



Win at any cost. That's always been the mantra of sports agent Liz Darnell. When she carries things too far and risks losing her number one client - baseball pro Gavin Riley - Liz realizes that she'll have to work extra innings to regain his trust. It might not be too much of a stretch. She's had a thing for this player's moves since she first laid eyes on him, and by the looks of it, he wants her just as bad.

Gavin is more than ready - especially when Liz is offering herself as part of the bargain. As mush of her as Gavin wants. For added thrills, he decides to throw a little curveball Liz's way to see just how far she's willing to go to keep him as a client. But when love unexpectedly enters the playing field, neither Liz nor Gavin is ready for the biggest game changer of them all.


Author Jaci Burton continues her Play-by-Play series with the second book, Changing the Game. Burton who has been writing erotic romance for some time now takes on professional sports and athletes in this latest series. Fans of Burton's work will enjoy this sexy, yet tender love story about two people whose fears threaten to destroy their love for each other. Sports takes a backseat to romance in this steamy end of the summer read!

Liz Darnell has fought her way to the top of the male dominated profession to become a respected sports agent. She works tirelessly and ruthlessly to get her clients the deals she thinks they deserve. Now she is risking loosing her top client a professional baseball player named Gavin Riley, if she doesn't come up with a plan quickly. Liz has had her eye on Gavin for a long time, he hasn't seemed to notice her until now. When she offers him, herself as part of the bargain to keep him, the attraction between them is palpable, but neither of them is prepared when love threatens to upset their plans.

Jaci Burton introduces readers to sports agent Liz Darnell in the first book of the series, The Perfect Play. In that book Liz comes across as a hard-nosed, cold-hearted, and not a character that one could probably turn into the heroine of a romance novel. But Jaci Burton proves us wrong in the second book of the series, Changing the Game. Liz is just as cranky, intelligent and hard to get along with in this book as she was in the first book, and it's up to Burton to either change Liz's character completely or change how the reader views Liz. What makes this character tick? What makes her react the way she does? That's the key, and Burton pulls it off with style, giving authenticity to Liz's feelings and actions. She may not be the girl next door, but she has a heart and it certainly comes into play in this game.

Gavin is a typical athlete. Lean, good looking, naturally talented. Everything comes easy for Gavin. Women, great games, fast cars, he has it all. He is happy with how his life is playing out. He gets to do what he loves and he gets to be surrounded by a wonderful, if meddling family. Burton could have gone several ways with character. Some characters with the same attributes would come across as smug and entitled but not Gavin. He remains true and grounded despite his success and I think Burton did a great job of pitting him against a woman who had, had to fight tooth and nail for everything she had. The relationship between them starts out passionately and soon turns into a genuine and tender love, that neither of them is prepared for.

I liked the way the author was able to convey to the reader the extebt of Liz's feelings for Gavin even from the start. She tries to convince herself that it's just sex... really, really good sex, but that's not it. She has been watching him for a long time and once they begin spending time together and she learns more about him and his family, it's obvious that it was more than that all along. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against them. Liz is no angel and her reputation sometimes comes back to haunt her. Gavin's family and friends are not exactly fans. Burton does a great job of showing the family dynamic and the protective nature between Gavin's family members. They were exceptional supporting characters in the book and added a lot of depth to the story.

This book gets pretty hot and steamy in parts, including a kinky outdoor love session that might have readers turning red from embarrassment. But, I'll have to say that enjoyed the way Burton described the encounters between Gavin and Liz. It doesn't come across as contrived or the main focus of the book. Their passion for each other stems more from who they are, it comes across as real and believable. The tender moments and real love the starts to grow between them feels the same way. It's all a part of really good progression, that readers get to be a part of. Very well written in my humble opinion.

I recommend this one to readers of erotic romance and mainstream romance as well. Sometimes I think erotic romances focus too much on the act and not on the essence of the story, not so with Jaci Burton. I look forward to reading more from her in the future. Definitely one of the best erotic romances I've read this year.

Changing the Game is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Jaci Burton is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling, award winning author of over 50 books. She lives in Oklahoma and spends a fair amount of time on the back of her husband's Harley, where she often gets lost plotting her next story as the warm (and sometimes cold) breeze whips her face. She loves gardening, reality television, is a sucker for romantic comedies, and completely loses track of time when reading a great book. She's a total romantic and longs for the happily ever after in every story, which you'll find in all her books.

Review: In Malice, Quite Close

In Malice, Quite Close by Brandi Lynn Ryder

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: Hardcover, 400pp
ISBN-13: 9780670022793

(Received for an honest review from Viking)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Brandi Lynn Ryder on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from In Malice, Quite Close



When Tristan Mourault - expatriate aesthete and heir to a world-renowned collection of impressionist masterpieces - catches sight of young Karen Miller during a trip to San Francisco, he knows he must have her. Convincing himself that she deserves more than the frayed, middlebrow life she was born into, he sets in motion a campaign of flattery, enchantment, and romance that sweeps Karen off her feet. First, he stages her disappearance. Then, her transformation. Karen, the ordinary fifteen-year-old girl becomes Gisele - Tristan's daughter by day, his lover by night, and the crowning achievement of his lifelong quest for beauty and perfection.

Fifteen years later, Devon, Washington. Framed by glacial lakes and snow-capped mountains. Devon is a picturesque bohemia with a prospering art scene. Tristan and Gisele are the center of this elite, eccentric, and capricious world, and Gisele herself has matured into a sophisticated young woman. The desired object of many admirers, she is now also a devoted mother to her daughter, Nicola, and a distant wife to Luke, the man she married to keep up appearances. But the secrets that hold their life together are as ornate as the town's legendary architecture. When Nicola uncovers a cache of unsigned nude portraits - all of Gisele - Tristan's carefully curated world erupts, and tragedy unfolds.

An exploration into the origins of obsession and the beguiling power of art. In Malice, Quite Close tells the story of perilous greed and manipulation, drawing readers into a byzantine drama that keeps its darkest secrets until the very last page.


Author Brandi Lynn Ryder's debut novel,
In Malice, Quite Close is an eerie tale of obsession and murder. Hauntingly reminiscent of Nabokov's Lolita, Ryder tells the coming-of-age story of a young woman coerced and manipulated into a world of opulence, yet essentially a prisoner in her own life. Ryder's descriptive prowess is exceptional and the level of suspense and tension in this book is riveting. This is a sophisticated novel that will leave each reader with their own interpretation of malice.

Karen Miller is a typical teenage girl from a dysfunctional family when she is spotted by a Frenchman with a penchant for beauty. Tristan Mourault has the money and the experience to change Karen's life, to take her away from her mundane existence. With flattery and seduction Tristan woos Karen. After drugging and kidnapping her, Tristan stages a crime scene that leads investigators and Karen's family to believe she's dead. He then transforms her into Gisele, the object of his obsession, the quintessential piece in his collection of beauty. Fifteen years later in a Devon, Washington art colony, Gisele and Tristan continue to live out his fantasy. She has been his daughter by day and lover by night, but now she has matured and come into her own. She has a beautiful daughter, Nicola and a pseudo-husband, to keep up appearances. But nothing is what it appears and tragedy is only a moment away.

Usually when I read a debut novel I attempt to give the author a little bit of grace. Often first novels are still raw and the readers can see the potential of what's to come, but not the finished product.
In Malice, Quite Close is however, an exception to the rule. Brandi Lynn Ryder has crafted a novel that exceeds the bar for a first time writer. It is descriptive, intense and as the title suggests, it gives off an atmosphere that is both menacing and haunting. Readers will be captivated by the opulent world that Ryder describes and by her talent at characterization.

Each character in this novel has their own vices and agenda's where the main character Gisele is concerned but none more than Tristan. From the very beginning the reader will sense that Karen/Gisele is both beautiful and naive. She is taken in by Tristan's power and his money and is virtually unable to get away from him. Tristan's motivations are made quite clear by the author. He is infatuated with her to the point of obsession. He fantasizes about her constantly. Ryder writes Tristan almost like a tortured soul. He just can't seem to get her out of his mind. I think readers will won't look at him so much as a predator, or even as an evil man, but as someone who was unable to control his base urges. Ryder uses Tristan to allow readers to explore their own less than perfect appetites and how they control them.

Ryder's descriptions of not only her characters but her setting and the world of art are remarkable. When she talks about the artistic community of Devon, the reader is able to see the pristine setting in their minds eye with such clarity that they will be able to lose themselves in it's splendor. When Ryder begins to describe a set of paintings found by Gisele's daughter, she excels in such a way that readers will believe she had to be describing a painting she was looking at, but according to the author that isn't the case. These paintings were only in her mind and that leads the reader to believe that Ms. Ryder has a deep appreciation for art and the human form. This is also apparent in the cover design of the book, which is simply gorgeous.

The mystery aspect of the book, though a bit rambling at times, will have the readers on the edge of their seats. The tension and suspense evoked in this novel is unparalleled. If readers are looking for a real thriller that will keep them guessing through a series of twists and turns that would rival a maze, then this is most definitely the right choice. I don't want to give to much away, but suffice it to say, tragedy is in the making, and the world that Tristan has so carefully built around Gisele will fall in a dramatic way. Gisele's persona will begin to crumble and the secrets of her past will come to light.

I recommend this novel to readers who are looking for a sophisticated mystery. This is a book, that like art, has many interpretations. It will probably take on an entirely different meaning for everyone who reads it, so I can honestly recommend it to many different types of readers. It is haunting, disturbing, suspenseful and a very well written debut. Ryder is an author to watch in the future, if her debut was this good, I'm looking forward to what comes next!

In Malice, Quite Close is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Brandi Lynn Ryder lives in the heart of the Napa Valley.
In Malice, Quite Close, her first novel, was a finalist for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Till Death Do Us Bark

Till Death Do Us Bark (Dog Walker Mystery - Book 5) by Judi McCroy

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 336pp
ISBN-13: 9780451234353

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Judi McCoy on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Till Death Do Us Bark


Professional dog walker Ellie Engleman comes unleashed when she takes a vacation - but it's not long before murder sinks it's teeth into her summer fun...

A Hamptons wedding gives Ellie an excuse to take a beak for the first time in ten years, so she and her best friend pack up their dogs - yorkiepoo Rudy and terrier Twink - and head to the beach for a week.

Since humans and canines have been invited to the festivities, Ellie hopes she doesn't get roped into dealing with the wet-nosed wedding guests. But soon she's chasing her tail over trouble of the two-legged variety. Before the bride can say, "I do," someone is murdered, and Ellie and Rudy must put their noses to the ground to sniff out the killer before the entire ceremony goes to the dogs.


Author Judi McCoy is up to some new tricks in her latest book in The Dog Walker mystery series, Till Death Do US Bark. McCoy's amateur sleuth Ellie is back along with her canine friend Rudy but this time the New York City dog walker is on vacation in the Hamptons. Fans of the series and new readers alike will love the laugh out loud antics of this crime solving team. Add in a murdered doctor, a parrot with a talent for repeating things, and a wedding and you have recipe for a cozy mystery that's hard to put down!

Ellie Engleman hasn't had a vacation in ten years. She has paid her dues in New York's upper east side as a dog walker extraordinaire. When Ellie's friend Vivian finds out her sister Arlene is getting married, it's the perfect excuse for a little R & R on the beach. Ellie and Viv, along with their canine companions, Rudy and Twink head for the sun and sand of the Hamptons never expecting to be sniffing out clues to a murder. When the groom to be is murdered on the eve of the wedding, it's up to Ellie and her friends to figure out whodunit. Ellie's uncanny ability to talk to animals always seem to help her out when she needs it most, and with the suspicion falls Arlene's housekeeper's son, she needs all the help she can get.

Judi McCoy has created a series that will appeal to not only the cozy mystery reading crowd, but also to those dog lovers out there. Since McCoy is obviously a dog lover herself and has in the past donated the proceeds of her work to a prominent no kill shelter, I think readers will appreciate her sentiments and find her work all the more interesting. I know from personal experience that having a canine companion is one of the most rewarding relationships you will ever find yourself in and that comes across and McCoy's writing.

Till Death Do Us Part is the fifth book in McCoy's popular Dog Walker mystery series. This book is slightly different than previous books in the series, in that it has a different setting. Fans of the series, know that Ellie Engleman is the dog walker to the rich and famous of New York City's upper east side, but this time McCoy is switching it up and sending Ellie and her friends to the Hamptons. Same upscale attitude but in a different locale. I think this adds another dimension to the story and brings up a lot of possibilities for future books. I liked the urban setting in this series, but this was a nice change of pace that I think fans will like. Variety is the spice of life!

One of the most interesting aspects of this book and the entire series really, is Ellie's ability to talk to the dogs around her. We aren't talking about interpreting what they might mean or reading signals here, we are talking real conversations about the mysteries they are trying to solve, and what's going on around them. The banter between the animals themselves, in this case, Rudy, Twink and a parrot named Myron is so comical that I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion, but it's the talks that involve Ellie that are the most special. The bond between Ellie and Rudy is a special one and it's evident in how they respond to each other. McCoy is able to portray a very real friendship based on mutual respect and admiration. Hard to do when one of your characters just happens to be a dog.

The mystery aspect of this was interesting and quite believable. The doctor that Arlene intends to marry isn't quite the upstanding member of the community she thought he was. His extracurricular activities include drug dealing and seduction and there seem to be quite a few people who may have wanted him dead, including the housekeepers son. I thought McCoy did a great job of establishing several possible motives and providing some great suspects. The reader will have a hard time pinning this one down before the final reveal. McCoy has a knack for keeping the reader going in circles until just the right moment.

I recommend this one to both cozy and canine lovers! It can be read as a stand alone, but i think the reader misses out on the real connection between Rudy and Ellie if they don't go back and seek out the other books in the series. The mystery was believable and well thought out and the banter amongst the animals lightens the subject matter and adds a lot of comic relief. If you love dogs, this is the series for you and
Till Death Do US Bark is a good place to start!

Till Death Do Us Part is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Judi McCoy live with her husband and three pocket pooches - Buckley, Bell and Sasha - on Virginia's beautiful eastern shore. Retired from her stint as a nationally rated women's gymnastics judge, Judi raises orchids and tends her garden while concocting the next adventure in Ellie and Rudy's books.


The publisher has offered one copy of Judi's book, Till Death Due Us Bark for giveaway to one lucky winner from Debbie's Book Bag!

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US addresses only! (Publisher Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST Sept. 12th

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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: Vampire Instinct

Vampire Instinct (Vampire Queen - Book 7) by Joey W. Hill

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Pages: Paperback, 448pp
ISBN-13: 9780425241264

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Heat)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Joey W. Hill on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

from Vampire Instinct Warning: Readers should be advised that content is inappropriate for readers under 18 years of age.


As a servant to vampire mistress Lady Daniela, Elisa's devotion is unwavering - until Lady D makes it clear that the children entrusted to Elisa's care may be destroyed if they cannot be integrated into the vampire world. Elisa's young charges are vampires of such potent desires as to belie their youth, given to reckless bloodlust that makes their assimilation nearly impossible. But Elisa has one desperate option.

His name is Malachi, a Native American vampire who is a legend for his work with rehabilitating feline predators. With is primal understanding of the rules of survival, his is the fledglings' last hope. But it is Elisa who is feeling the heat of his irresistible animal instincts. Now, as Malachi struggles to control the children's impulses, he opens himself up to those of Elisa - and the passion they share for the night could seal their fates forever.


Erotic paranormal romance author Joey W. Hill continues her Vampire Queen series with a seventh book, Vampire Instinct. Hill combines raw sexuality with deep emotional scars in this novel that will have fans up all night. With a Native American vampire hero, a sweet Irish serving girl as the heroine and a pack of bloodthirsty fledgling vampires, this one is full of surprises and passion. Hills fans have embraced this series and will be thrilled with this latest installment!

Elisa has always been content to serve the vampire queen Lady Daniela until now. When she finds out that the children or fledglings that she has been caring for are on the verge of being destroyed she knows she has to do something. Illegally turned by a ruthless vampire, these fledglings are bloodthirsty and unable to control their desires, even to the point of raping Elisa and killing her lover. But she still believes in them and in the possibility that they can be trained and taught to adapt to the vampire world. Her only hope is Malachi, a Native American vampire with scars of his own. His work with feline predators could be the answer to saving the fledglings. When Elisa and the children travel to Malachi's island in search of hope, they never expected to find love. As the romance between Elisa and Malachi heats up, the danger from the fledglings also escalates. Do any of them stand a chance?

I'll be the first to tell you, that I haven't had a lot of experience with reading erotic romance novels, but I'm catching on quickly! This was my first Joey W. Hill book, which just happened to be the seventh book in the series. I used to hate reviewing books that started me out in the middle of series, but lately I have seen several benefits from it as well.

Vampire Instinct
is the seventh book from the Vampire Queen series. I had no problems catching on to what was going on in the series, but I am definitely looking forward to going back and reading the first six, to catch up on background information and back stories. It is easy to see why Hill is so respected in this genre. This novel was very well written and evoked an enormous amount of emotion. Readers won't find it emotionally exhausting, but right on the edge, just where any good romance will leave you!

Hill has a real knack for creating characters that are appealing on a lot of levels. Elisa comes across as demure and subservient, which may not sit well with some readers, but in context of the book it works well. She is however, very protective of the fledglings in her care and her maternal claws come out, when she realizes that their lives are in danger. Elisa really comes into her own though, when she meets Malachi and can't help but be attracted to him. He is an extremely dominant character, a manly man, if you will. He wants her submission in every way. He is attractive but he can be arrogant and somewhat standoffish. He tends to stay as far from the vampire world as possible and sort of carries a disdain for it in some ways.

I think what's interesting is what happens when these two characters come together. Elisa is having feelings she hasn't experienced in a long time, if ever. She really grows as a character throughout the book as does Malachi. I think Hill's genius is in putting these two very unlikely vampire characters together. They just work! And readers are gonna love it! There is definitely some illusion to mild BDSM in this book, but it is not overwhelming or out of line in my opinion. The sparks certainly fly and the love scenes are hot and spicy, but the tender moments are also very emotional and heartwarming. They each make each other want to be more, better and that's one of the great things about love. When someone shows you that kind of respect and tenderness it just makes you want to be worthy of it, so to speak. Very well done.

The romantic aspects of the book were definitely steamy and emotional, but the plot line for this one was really interesting as well. The fledgling vampire pack adds a lot of depth to the story. These characters are producing all kinds of emotions within the other characters. Lady Daniela doesn't seem to put much faith in the fact that they can be assimilated, and Elisa has so much faith in them that readers may think she is a little delusional about it. Given everything she is gone through with them, the bond they form is amazing and I liked the fact that Hill allowed Malachi to see and understand that bond, since he had complete control over what happened to them. The concept was original and very entertaining to read about.

More than just being a good erotic romance, it just an overall good book. Great characters, interesting plot, steamy sex! It just had all the right elements that make up an exceptional novel. I recommend this one to my erotic romance readers and mainstream romance and paranormal fans. This one packs a punch I'm certain you will like. I caution you to remember that this book is not suitable for young readers. It is an adult book, with adult situations and language. If you are looking for something in the vampire realm that's a little different, give it a try, I think you'll be impressed!

Vampire Instinct is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Joey W. Hill is the author of over twenty-five award-winning titles of paranormal and contemporary erotic romance, most of them of the BDSM genre. She is a two-time nominee for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Erotica. She writes vampires for Berkley Heat, mermaids and angels for Berkley Sensation and contemporaries (as well as a smattering of anything-goes paranormal) for Ellora’s Cave Publishing, so you have your pick of a wide range of heroes!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Harrowing Hats

Harrowing Hats (Renaissance Faire - Book 4) by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 304pp
ISBN-13: 9780425242773

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Joyce and Jim Lavene on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Harrowing Hats


Hail ye, hail ye, and welcome to the Renaissance Village. Here, assistant professor Jesse Morton spends her summers honing her skills and finding the lady, lord, or serf whodunit. When the village chocolatier is murdered, Jesse finds herself in a very sticky situation indeed.


Life in the Renaissance Faire Village is pretty sweet for Jessie Morton - until one of the Three Chocolatiers is found drowned in a vat of chocolate in his shop. When a hat pin is discovered sticking out of the dead man's eye, it seems someone is trying to pin the murder on hatmaker Andre Hariot.

But Andre is just one name on a long list of knaves, knights, and wenches. The dearly departed and double-dipped chocolatier, Cesar Rizzo, made many enemies in the Village due to his reckless romancing. As Andre's apprentice, Jessie feels a special obligation to clear his good name. Although they can't bring Cesar back, bringing swift justice to someone who messes with chocolate would at least be... semisweet.


The writing team of Joyce and Jim Levene bring readers the fourth book in the Renaissance Faire Mystery series, Harrowing Hats. Set in a permanent Renaissance Village in which actors and vendors stay in character almost all year round, this modern day whodunit is more than a little complex. With quirky characters and some real life drama thrown in, this a cozy readers won't want to miss!

When Jessie Morton takes a summer apprenticeship with the Renaissance Faire hat-maker, she doesn't envision murder being in her future. But, when chocolatier Cesar Rizzo is found drowned in a vat of his own chocolate with a hat pin in his eye, it's up to Jessie to figure out whodunit! Andre Hariot is obviously the chief suspect since he is the local hat-maker and has a suspect past. But Jessie is sure he didn't do it. Cesar appears to have had a checkered romantic past and their is more than one person who could have wanted him to dead. Jessie battles relationship woes of her own as she tries to figure who
committed the crime. Death by chocolate, what a way to go!

Joyce and Jim Levene have created a series based on a Renaissance Faire that is basically a world unto itself. Actors and venders live in the village year round and are constantly in character, which leads to some interesting mix-ups and situations. It's almost as if they have forgotten they are acting and have become the characters they portray. I thought the authors did an amazing job of creating their own middle ages world, complete with King, Queen and castle. Their descriptions of life in the middle ages are well written and seem to flow naturally.

Jessie Morton is a great character. An assistant professor of history working as a summer apprentice in several different crafts as she works on her dissertation was an interesting profession for the aspiring amateur sleuth. In the previous books in the series Jessie has tried out other crafts including, glass blowing, sword smithing, and basket weaving. In
Harrowing Hats she apprentice to the hat-maker. Jessie makes an interesting character for a lot of reasons. She is not only intelligent, but she has a great outlook on life except when it comes to commitment. I found her interactions with her boyfriend, the village bailiff, Chase realistic and believable. I think readers will be able to identify with Jessie and with Chase as they solve this crime and try to figure out their relationship.

The mystery aspect of the book is a little more complex than the previous plots in the series and I think readers will love this change. The authors give the reader a kind of two for one in this novel. Not only do they have the modern day murder of Cesar the chocolatier, but they also have the suspicious circumstances of Andre Hariot's late wife to contend with as well. Jessie uncovers the clues in a smooth progression that doesn't leave the reader feeling as if the mystery is stalled out or moving too fast. There are subtle hints as to who the killer may be through out the book, but not quite enough to pin it down before the authors are ready to reveal the answers.

I am always considering the plausibility of the storyline when it comes to cozies. If any of the readers have ever been to a real Renaissance Faire they will understand how realistic the setting is, and all the possibilities it could provide for a real life murder. I liked the idea of the chocolatier ending up in is own vat of chocolate. I thought that was ingenious, but I was a little unsure of what the hat pin had to do with anything. I realize that the authors were using it to cast blame toward Andre, but it did seem a little contrived, but as the story went on I began to see the greater significance of this and found that it did really work with the mystery.

Harrowing Hats is definitely my favorite of the series so far. Though it can be read as a stand alone I think readers should also consider reading the other books in the series for background and to see how much the characters have changed from book one to book four. I recommend this one to cozy fans who love Joyce and Jim Levene, to those readers interested in the middle ages and for those looking for something a little different.

Harrowing Hats is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Joyce and Jim Lavene are a married writing couple who live in North Carolina with their family. They get help from their cat, Quincy, and their big puppy, Rudi, who they rescued in 2010. They have been writing together since 1994 and published since 1999. Last year marked their 52nd book in print. They enjoy writing mysteries but are at home with fantasy, romance and non-fiction. The couple both work for their small, hometown newspaper, The Weekly Post. They are active in Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America.


The publisher is offering one copy of Harrowing Hats by Joyce and Jim Levene for giveaway to one lucky winner from Debbie's book bag!

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower to participate.
~ US addresses only! (Publisher Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST September 10th.

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

Review: Amish Values for Your Family

Amish Values for Your Family: What We Can Learn from the Simple Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Publication Date: August 2011
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Genre: Practical Amish Values
Pages: Paperback, 192pp
ISBN-13: 9780800719968

(Received for an honest review from Revell Books)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository,, IndieBound

Suzanne Woods Fisher on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Amish Values for Your Family Contest! ($200 Value, includes a Kindle) Ends 8/31 so enter today!

Excerpt from Amish Values for Your Family


When it comes to strong families that know how to truly enjoy life together, there is much we can learn from the Amish. Just how do they establish such strong family bonds, such deeply held values, and such wonderful family traditions? In Amish Values for Your Family, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher shares the secrets of Amish family life. In this inspiring and practical book, you will meet real Amish families that are a lot like yours. Through their stories you'll discover how to

  • slow down
  • safeguard family time
  • raise children who stand strong in their faith
  • prioritize what's truly important
Amish values like community, forgiveness, simple living, obedience, and more can be your family legacy - without selling your car or changing your wardrobe.


Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher brings readers a book centered on good, solid, family values, from an Amish perspective. Amish Values for Your Family takes the principles and ideas of the Amish faith and translates them into the everyday life of the reader. What can we learn from the simpler pace of life, deep family connections and solid faith of the Amish people? Through proverbs, real life stories and practical applications, readers will be able to see how the values of the Amish can benefit their own lives, without having the electricity turned off or trading in the family Sedan for a horse and buggy!

Suzanne Woods Fisher is well known for her Amish fiction novels, but in this book she takes the practical knowledge she has learned from the Amish and shows readers how they can apply it to their own lives to build stronger families. In today's society the family unit has taken a real beating, with high divorce rates, deteriorating social standards and and overall lack of faith. Through all this the Amish have stayed grounded and strong in their beliefs, attitudes and actions. Though many people do not understand why the Amish people are so different, they do respect their values and faith. The author does an amazing job of showing readers how they can institute Amish principles like, community, forgiveness, and obedience into their lives without actually "going Amish."

Italic Amish Values for Your Family is divided into four sections: Children Are Loved but Not Adored, Great Expectations, Daily Bread, and Letting Go. Each section then has several chapter headings that discuss specific values. Woods Fisher delves into many practical areas of the daily Amish life, that readers can glean tidbits of wisdom and ideas to cultivate in their own lives. I really enjoyed the overall format of the book. Each chapter begins with an Amish proverb, many of which I now have hanging throughout my house. Then the author has a story straight from a real Amish family that illustrates a particular value and follows it up with practical applications that readers can use to instill these values in their own lives.

One idea that comes through in every single story and every quote is that the Amish life is based on faith and a strong belief in God. The Amish way of life is not a lifestyle choice, it's all faith based. The way they view the world is a lot more cut and dried than the average person. It's either pleasing to God or it's not. When the Amish marry, they are not making vows to each other, they are making vows to God. I think that Christians from every walk of life, should take a page out of the Amish book and apply some of their reasoning in daily life.

One of the values that most impressed me in this book and one that I try to emulate in my own life with my children is the idea that children should not think that life revolves around them. They are an integral part of life and one that brings great joy and love to a family, but if they are made to feel entitled and given everything without earning it, they have no concept of personal responsibility nor are they equipped to deal with the real world. I'm not sure how we have gotten away from the idea that children should have chores and be taught to take care of themselves, but it is obvious that the Amish still practice these ideas in their daily life and I hope to as well. One of my favorite Amish proverbs in the book illustrates this: "A family that works together, grows together." I want my children to learn how to get along in this world in a respective, responsible, faithful way.

This is such a great book of wisdom that I think readers who are interested in the Amish will find informative and full of great ideas. These are values that families need to possess no matter what religion they aspire to or believe in. I recommend this one to all of my Christian readers and even those who are not. You don't have to wear funny clothes or never turn on a light switch to implement these wonderful concepts into your daily life.

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

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

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of
Amish Peace and Amish Proverbs, as well as the Lancaster County Secrets novels. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is the host of a radio show called Amish Wisdom. She lives in California.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Peter Rock Star From Galilee

Peter Rock Star From Galilee: A Guided Bible Study for Teens by Sherree G. Funk

Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: WinePress Publishing WA
Genre: Biblical Study Aids
Pages: Paperback 136pp
ISBN-13: 9781414119830

(Received for an honest review from Pump Up Your Book Promotions)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository,, IndieBound

Sherree G. Funk on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Book Trailer:

Peter the Rock Star from Galilee from WinePress Publishing on Vimeo.


"Peter's impulsiveness and failures make him an easy character for both young men and women to relate to. As your students dive into this Bible study. I have no doubt that they will be challenged and transformed by the lessons Sherree has assembled here."

Jayson Samuels
Co-founder and Family Pastor
Northbridge Community Church, Cranberry, PA

Let music accompany your Bible study, Peter: Rock Star from Galilee will guide you through the ups and downs of Peter's life story with a playlist of songs and hymns paralleling each chapter.

Search song lyrics for truths relating to each stage of Peter's faith journey and find ways to apply them to your won life. Listen to Josh Wilson's "Before the Morning" and imagine how Peter felt after denying Jesus. Consider the role of prayer in Peter's prison release while listening to Amy Grant's "Angels."

This eight-week study includes:

  • Interactive questions for personal study and "Chew on This" questions for small group discussion.
  • Photograph's, maps, and informative sidebars for historical and geographical context.
  • Hands-on mission activities and discipleship challenges to encourage teens' growing faith.
Peter was larger than life, like a rock star, yet his struggles were just like ours. If God can grow a reluctant Peter into a solid rock of faith, he can surely form you into a perfectly shaped living stone as well.


Sherree G. Funk has written several character based Bible study programs for teens. Her latest study called,
Peter Rock Star From Galilee, focuses on the life of one of the Bible's most interesting people. Peter is often considered one of Christ's closest disciples and in this study teens will learn that Peter wasn't perfect. He struggled with the same kinds of issues that teens struggle with on a daily basis.

This Bible study has an eight-week format with five lessons per week. Making it easy for homeschoolers to use in their everyday curriculum as well as youth groups that want to draw out the study into a longer time frame. Funk uses an easy, interactive format, that allows leaders to use, photographs, maps, Biblical references, group discussion and music to interest students and provide opportunities for growth.

One of the most interesting aspects of this study is the incorporation of music. At the beginning of each week, Funk provides a playlist that students and leaders can easily download from ITunes or other music providers to their ipods or computers. These songs are generally Contemporary Christian songs or hymns that pertain to the lesson of the week.

This is the first study that I have seen that uses music to enhance learning. I have worked with teens in a church setting for many years and music is always something that appeals to teens helps them to incorporate Biblical principles into their daily lives. I always say, "Put good stuff in, you'll get good stuff out!" That includes what you listen to, what you read, what you talk about and I think Funk is using the same idea with this study. Music is a powerful medium and it speaks to people on a fundamental level and I love the fact that the author uses it in this study.

I have never really been a proponent of using workbooks when it comes to Bible study, but I can definitely see the advantages of it with this study. There is very little written activities and they generally focus on the aspects of the study that deal with the Bible itself and Bible passages. The author is basically using the written activity to impress on students the important points of each lesson and for this particular study I think it works. It's not too long, not too intense or too difficult. It just reiterates the important ideas students should focus on.

I really liked the "Chew on This" section of each lesson. These are questions that will give students something to think about during the week or the day before they come back to learn more about Peter. They are the kinds of questions that creep into the minds of teens who are new to Christianity or to teens who struggle with certain aspects of their lives. I thought they were very thought-provoking and teens would find them interesting.

Jam sessions are used for one of my favorite parts of working with teens. Getting them talking. Dialogue between leaders and students is so important that this crucial time in a teens life. They need to know there is someone who cares what they think and wants to help them sort out how they are feeling. Discussion among teens can get rowdy, but it is generally very fulfilling for everyone and I think Funk uses it to her advantage in this study.

There is also a section called, "Christian Reality Challenge" that I enjoyed as well. It gives the students something to do. Sometimes students learn more easily from doing something than hearing it drummed into their heads. These activities provide hands on learning and I think that is very important. How to apply these principles in the lives of students is key to giving them the tools they need to survive and thrive in today's world.

Since I have two teens of my own, I let them take a look at the music, the format and all aspects of the study and they both gave it a thumbs up! It is a study they said they would like to participate in and were very excited about. I think that speaks volumes about how wonderful this study is. Funk has done a great job of providing a study on the life of Peter that is interesting and thought-provoking. I recommend it to homeschoolers, youth leaders and parents who want a study that will grab the interest of their teens and provide good solid Christian principles.

Peter Rock Star From Galilee is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Well grounded in Biblical Christianity, Sheree G. Funk is passionate about sharing her love and knowledge of God's word with the next generation. She has earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees and hold a Certificate in Christian Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. Sheree leads small groups of teens at Ingomer UMC. Her other teen Bible studies are available on her website. (See link above)