Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: The Storm that is Sterling

The Storm that is Sterling (Zodius - Book 2) by Lisa Renee Jones

Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Pages: Paperback, 339pp
ISBN-13: 978-1402251597
ISBN: 1402251599

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Lisa Renee Jones on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: The Legend of Michael (2011), The Storm that is Sterling (2011), The Danger that is Damion (Coming in 2012)

Excerpt from The Storm that is Sterling



Sterling Jeter has remarkable powers as the result of a secret experiment to create a breed of super soldiers. Now he has to use everything he's got to help beautiful, brilliant Rebecca Burns, the only astrobiologist alive who can save humanity from a super-enhanced, deadly street drug.

Sterling and Rebecca's teenage romance was interrupted, and now they're virtually strangers. But the heat and attraction are still there, and even entrapment by an evil enemy can't stop them from picking up their mutual passion right where they left off...


The Storm that is Sterling is the second book in the Zodius series written by Lisa Renee Jones. This is a series that combines romance, the paranormal and suspense into one delectable package. Jones weaves a tale that incorporates all the things reader enjoy about each of these genre's into a novel that is full of heart stopping action, sizzling romance and some really interesting supernatural abilities!

In the Zodius series readers will find two brothers with two totally different views of the world. One wants to to save it, the other wants to rule it. Adam and Caleb Rain are the leaders of two groups of super-enhanced soldiers that were given Alien DNA to make them faster, stronger and more resistant to just about anything. Adam is the leader of the Zodius, a man bent on taking over the world at any cost, while Caleb leads a group called the Renegades who have vowed to protect humanity. 

Jones captivated readers with the first book in this series, The Legend of Michael and continues to hold their interest in her latest book, The Storm that is Sterling. Having created a world that is vastly different from what readers are used to, Jones uses her smooth style and descriptive powers to draw the reader in from the first page. Her characters are well fleshed out, with strong personalities and more passion than some could handle. She is able to make the reader believe in the possibilities. 

Sterling is an alpha male on steroids in a sense. He was already sexy, already strong and determined but the Alien DNA he received has made him a force of nature. He epitomizes the idea of the perfect storm. He is fearless, yet he shows his vulnerability when he re-encounters Becca after 14 years. I liked the fact that Jones shows that Sterling may be hard and commanding, but he has a softer side as well. I thought he made the perfect hero for this book. As he and Becca try to not only save the world from Adam's latest attempt to subjugate it with a powerful street drug called ICE, but also to save her life readers will see the loyal and strong man that Sterling really is.

Becca was a great heroine. She's a fighter and she isn't about to quit. Though she has cancer she isn't down for the count and when she is captured and given the fatal drug ICE by the Zodius she has all the more reason to try to find a cure. Becca is smart, an astrobiologist, she's beautiful and she has a score to settle with Sterling. I always love a good second chance story and this one really fit the bill. Becca and Sterling knew each other in high school and the passion that builds between them is all the more sensual because of their past together. Jones creates a perfect couple with these two. A man who will stop at nothing to protect her and a woman won't give up on him or herself.

This is a great Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, that offers the reader a glimpse of just what might have gone on in places like Area 51. The Storm that is Sterling can be read as a stand alone, but make sure you use the glossary in the front to brush up on some of the terms used in the book. Jones' world isn't typical and some readers may need the backstory from the first book to understand what's going on. I recommend them both as this is a great series. There is something for romance readers, paranormal enthusiasts and action junkies. A great combination of genres that will appeal to many kinds of readers!

The Storm that is Sterling is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Award-winning author, Lisa Renee Jones, has published more than fifteen novels in several languages, spanning multiple genres of romance - contemporary, romantic suspense, dark paranormal, and erotic fiction. In each book the hero is dark, dangerous, and sexy. She debuted for Nocturne and Blaze on the Bookscan bestseller list.

Interview and Giveaway: Lisa Renee Jones

Please join me in welcoming Lisa Renee Jones to Debbie's Book Bag today. Lisa is here to talk about the latest release in her Zodius series, The Storm that is Sterling. The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two copies of Lisa's book, see details at the end of the post.

DEB: Lisa, tell us a little bit about yourself? 
LRJ: I write full time and I moved to Colorado for my fiancée to go to medical school. He’s supported my writing goals and now I get to watch him achieve his dream as well. I owned a large staffing agency with offices across Texas and Tennessee and it’s a different world working from home and a much happier one. I think those years of 80 hour work weeks make me appreciate what I do all the more but also allow me to write a lot of books because I just don’t know how to rest.

DEB: Tell us about your book, The Storm That is Sterling, and the Zodius series?
LRJ: Sterling is book 2 in the Zodius Series which is about a group of Super Soldiers created at Area 51 without their permission. They were told they were getting immunizations against an enemy pathogen.

Sterling is very Mel Gibson like from Lethal Weapon – a death wish after losing everyone he loves, but still so willing to do anything to save others. He has Dean from Supernatural’s witty personality and says crazy stuff at the craziest times. 

DEB: What inspired to you write about about the paranormal? Is it something you've always been interested in?
LRJ: Many years ago an editor at Berkley told my agent I reminded her of a certain well known author and I needed to write paranormal. I had already been playing with the Underground Guardians idea that the Zodius series is a spinoff of. And ironically I really didn’t get too into paranormal until right before then and it was like this new discovery that I loved and still do. I gobbled up all the books and television I’d missed. I was late getting into Buffy and Angel and wondered why I’d let such great stuff miss me.  

DEB: What is your normal writing day like? Do you have to have specific things in place to write comfortably?
LRJ: I get up and shower and then usually bypass my office for a chair in my bedroom with my kitkat sitting by me. We have a routine. She climbs into a spot beside me when I sit down with my coffee. On really cold days we move to a chair by the fireplace downstairs. I write 7 days a week when I have deadlines and that has been all the time lately. I just find I struggle to start writing again if I stop. When I write everyday I find I really feel the creative juices. 

DEB: Do you have advice for new writers?
LRJ: Never give up. I’ve certainly had my struggles. I was not one of those sell overnight stories. Epub, then like 5 NY anthologies and never a single title. Then category – 15 books. Then single title. I just made my first German single title sale and that felt like another baby step. No is part of being a writer. It means you are taking steps to hear yes. So keep taking them!

DEB: What was your reaction when you found out your first book would be published?
LRJ: At every step I was thrilled. Epub, then the first NY novella, then I sold to Blaze and Nocturne within a week and that was a real high! And of course Michael was just thrilling. 

DEB: When you are not writing, what do you like to read? Do you have a favorite genre or author?
LRJ: I love a good historical because I don’t write them. I can just escape. But I love all genres. I adore Urban Fantasy and devoured the Fever series by Moning but also her romances. I love a good Karen Robards RS and every once in the while I have to re-read yet again Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. 

DEB: What books coming out in the latter part of 2011 are you looking forward to? Yours and other authors?
LRJ: I won’t get to read much this year and I hate it. I do listen on audible at the gym which helps but I have so many deadlines I worry I will get sucked into a  book and be thinking about it not the one I am writing. 

I have two indies out – Hot Vampire Touch out this week and December the 13th is Wicked Werewolf Night. I am excited about those books and I hope that the indie readers finding me will find Michael and Sterling and try them too. That is my goal. Try my indie and hopefully you will be convinced to try Sterling! And of course, its not 2011 but Danger that is Damion is book 3 and I LOVE Damion. I hope readers will too!

DEB: What are you currently working on?
LRJ: Finishing touches for Wicked Werewolf and then a proposal for  a Blaze trilogy and finally I have the 3rd book in a Blaze trilogy and a Spice Brief all due before Feb 28th! I’m busy but I love it. This Blaze trilogy is America’s Next Top Dancer and the 3rd book is a couple I fell in love with when writing the partial for my editor. I cannot wait to dig in and finish it.

DEB: Tell us one thing that readers may not know about you?
LRJ: My maiden name was Pickel lol! Maybe that should be my pen name. I promise you no one ever forgot it in school. I still remember my 7th grade teacher on day 1 – and yes I know his name – Mr. Bostick. He went down role and started laughing and then ask if THE PICKEL would please stand up. Thank you Mr. Bostick for damaging me for life!


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two copies of The Storm that is Sterling by Lisa Renee Jones.

~ You must be a Google Friend Connect follower or an E-mail Subscriber to participate! (I will eventually be going to e-mail subscriber's only with the changes Google plans to implement in the near future... So sign up to receive Debbie's Book Bag by e-mail soon!)
~ US and Canadian addresses only (Publisher Request)
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST December 14th.

1. Please leave a comment in appreciation to the author on THIS post. (NOTE: please try to make your comments meaningful instead of "Thanks for the giveaway or I follow by GFC", the authors I feature take time out of their busy schedules to do these interviews and guest posts... Give them a little time and thought back!)
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Fate's Edge

Fate's Edge (Edge - Book 3) by Ilona Andrews

Publication Date: November 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
Pages: Paperback, 372pp
ISBN-13: 9780441020867
ISBN: 0441020860

(Received for an honest review from Ace Books)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Ilona Andrews on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Fate's Edge


The Edge lies between worlds, on the border between the Broken, where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is a fairy tale - and the Weird, where blueblood aristocrats rule, changelings roam, and the strength of your magic can change your destiny...

Born into a family of con men, Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge for an unmagical existence in the Broken. Audrey is determined to stay on the straight and narrow, but when her brother gets into hot water, she takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack-of-all-trades.

Kaldar Mar is a gambler, a lawyer, a thief, and a spy with some unusual talents that guarantee him lucrative work. His latest assignment has him tracking down a stolen item, and Kaldar doesn't expect much of a challenge - until Audrey turns up to give him a run for his money.

But when the missing object falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job and survive, he's going to need Audreys help...


Fate's Edge is the third book in the Edge urban fantasy series, written by husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews. This book combines the dark elements of Urban Fantasy and the more passionate aspects of Paranormal Romance and the combination is explosive! With spine tingling action and impressive world building skills Ilona Andrews has created a series that will appeal to readers on many different levels and from many reading background. There's something for just about everyone in this book!

Though this the third book in the series, Andrews gives just enough background and back story for Fate's Edge to stand on it's own. It may sound a little confusing, but it's anything but. Andrews descriptions of all three planes of existence are so thorough and believable that readers will feel they are right there with the characters as they face insurmountable odds. Readers won't be able to resist the temptation of going back and picking up the first two books in the series, when the find out how good this one is.

The Edge is a plane of existence that exists between, The Broken, which is the world as we know it and The Weird, an alternative reality full of war and magic. Andrews is able to make these worlds come alive with descriptive prowess and a smooth style. Andrews has crafted a world that seems very elemental. That it could not exist without out world, nor ours without it. I thought the authors did a remarkable job of using secondary characters to provide humor and move the plot along with the main couple, Audrey and Kaldar provided the conflict and adventure, and just enough romance.

Audrey is a character that readers will fall in love with. She comes from a family that is less than stellar. A family of grifters, thieves and in the case of her wayward brother, junkies. Audrey has decided she wants more out of life and opts for a life in the Broken where she isn't branded a criminal. Unfortunately, her brother Alex gets himself into quite the mess feeding his addictions and Audrey is compelled by her father to do one more heist in the hopes that this will be the last. Andrews portrays Audrey as slick and smooth, able to get into just about anywhere and take anything that's loose. But that's not who she wants to be. This will be her last job, if she makes it in and out of the Weird strong hold alive.

Kaldar is the perfect hero. Smooth, handsome, charming and sexy. But he has one thing on his mind, revenge. Warring factions within the Weird vie for dominance and one faction, the Hand nearly destroyed Kaldar's family. Now working for the opposing faction, the Mirror, Kaldar has the ability to bring about the chaos the Hand so justly deserves. He's hot on the trail of the relic that Audrey and Alex have stolen, unbeknownst to them that just about everyone wants what they have. Andrews really ramps up the heat between Kaldar and Audrey and that makes the adventure of the heist and it's aftermath all the more intense. These two characters are perfect for each other, two sides to the same coin so to speak. Resourceful, determined and driven. What a combination!

I recommend this one to a wide range of readers. Urban Fantasy fans will love it and Paranormal Romance fans will fall in love with the lead couple. Mainstream romance fans may even find enough passion to sate them as well. I loved the overall theme of the caper and what happens after. Secondary characters provide a lot of humor and show where the series could go from here. This is my first Ilona Andrews novel, but it certainly won't be my last.

Fate's Edge is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. “Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Oregon with their two children, three dogs and a cat. They have co-authored two series, the bestselling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.

Review: The Virtuoso

The Virtuoso (Duke's Obsession - Book 3) by Grace Burrowes

Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: Paperback, 397pp
ISBN-13: 978-1402245701
ISBN: 140224570X

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Grace Burrowes on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: The Heir (2010), The Soldier (2011), The Virtuoso (2011)

Excerpt from The Virtuoso



Lord Valentine Windham is devastated when an injury makes it impossible for him to play the piano. Val's music was his greatest expression and also his salvation from the pressures of society - and of his imperious father. Grief, loss, and loneliness threaten to overwhelm him, until he meets a beautiful young widow whose troubles are even deeper than his own...

Immerse yourself in the earthy, passionate Regency world of Grace Burrowes where love and sensuality come vibrantly to life in a timelessly graceful era...


Grace Burrowes once again captivates readers with the third book in the Duke's Obsession series, The Virtuoso. Fans of Burrowes have been eagerly awaiting the tale of Lord Valentine Windham. In previous books, The Heir and The Soldier, Val has been a secondary character that possessed wit, humor and the ability to sooth the soul with his music. Now readers will see him as a stripped down hero, with his heart literally broken from the loss of being able to play piano. Burrowes is able to bring to tortured hearts together in this book and allow the reader to see the healing power of love.

The Virtuoso is a novel that will leave readers feeling tender, emotional and somewhat vulnerable, because of it's open and heart felt sentiment. Valentine is essentially completely devastated when an injury causes him to lose the ability to play piano, something that has been his obsession and his salvation from the scrutiny of society and the pressures of being the son of a Duke. Burrowes has already established Valentine's character in the previous books in the series, but she explores more deeply the kind of man Val is in this book. He has often hid his loneliness and feelings that he didn't fit in with his music and now that is gone and loss of it is profound. I think Val is character that readers will sympathize with and feel greatly for.

When Valentine wins a dilapidated manor house from a young upstart of a Lord, he uses it to fill the void he feels in his heart for his music. He is just as passionate about fixing up the place as he is about everything else in his life. When he meets a young widow living on the estate, he transfers just as much emotion to that relationship as he does everything else. Ellen and Val have met before and shared a stolen kiss, but that is nothing to emotion they share as they help each other begin to heal. Val's healing is both physical and emotional and Ellen is a tortured soul as well. Burrowes is able to bring together two characters that compliment each other so well. 

Ellen is poverty stricken and facing blackmail from the son of her former husband. She is somewhat wishy-washy about the strong feelings Val evokes in her but she is still very present in the relationship and eventually begins to trust in the love that she and Val share. I have to admit that I loved Valentine a lot more than I did Ellen as a character. She was just a bit to evasive for me. I understand that she provided the needed conflict to the story with her secrets and inability to trust, but it seemed like she held out a little too long for my tastes. Here is a man who is obviously in love with her, willing to share his life with her, give her the desires of her heart, yet she hesitates, a little hard to believe. But one has to take into consideration that she thought she would lose him if she came clean. So I can let that part go, even though it was tedious to read.

The overall story was romantic and sweet and full of humor and healing. I loved the premise of the story and Valentine was a spectacular hero. I love it when the good guy ends up with the girl! Good guys don't always finish last in romances and that part of the reason I love them. This is a great installment in the series and I know that fans of Burrowes will look forward to the authors latest challenge, the Windham women. I also look forward to glimpses of each of the Windham brothers in these books as well. This is a truly captivating historical romance. Burrowes transports readers back in time and fills them with love and longing with The Virtuoso. She is definitely becoming a favorite author of mine, you don't want to miss!

The Virtuoso is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Grace Burrowes is the author of The Heir, which was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, and The Soldier, which was named a Publishers Weekly Best Spring Romance of 2011. She is hard at work on stories for the five Windham sisters, the first of which, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish, is already on shelves. Grace is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in rural Maryland.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish

Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish (Duke's Daughters - Book 1) by Grace Burrowes

Publication Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: Paperback, 404pp
ISBN-13: 978-1402261541
ISBN: 1402261543

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Casablanca)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Grace Burrowes on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish



Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and a complete disaster.


With his estate in ruins, Vim Carpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his spirits - but when Sophie's brothers whisk her away, Vim's most painful holiday memories are reawakened.

It seems Sophie's been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true...


Ever since I had the opportunity to review, The Heir by Grace Burrowes, I have been enchanted by the Windham family. I had no idea until I got, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish for review that Burrowes intended to tell the stories of the Windham women, as well as, the men. I have read and reviewed a lot of historical fiction and historical romance over the years and rarely does an author come along that really gasps the essence of the Regency period the way Grace Burrowes does. Her characters truly embody the time period and classic elegance that surrounded it. Her settings and descriptions are spot on and leave the reader feeling as if they've been transported to another time and place and Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish is no exception.

Regency London at Christmastime! As many of you know I love Christmas. Everything from the decorating, carol singing, cooking and opening! This is a time of year for hope and peace and I think Grace Burrowes conveys that holiday spirit in Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish. She gives readers a novel that will pull at their heart strings and renew their faith in miracles. One of the many reasons I believe readers enjoy a good romance, is because they want to believe in true love and finding that one person that completes them and this story is certainly in that vane.

When Lady Sophie Windham decides to take a break from her family for a few days before Christmas she has no idea what the season will bring with it. A abandoned baby, a horrific snow storm, and the man of her dreams. Burrowes portrays Sophie as a woman of means, she has never worked hard for anything and lives a life of privilege. But that does not make Sophie high minded, nor does she give off an air of entitlement. She has a kind heart, and often works with charities for people and animals. I think Burrowes did a wonderful job of making Sophie the kind of character readers need this time of year. A woman with a heart of gold, who faces conflict and heartbreak, but still gets her happy-ever-after.

Vim was just the perfect compliment to Sophie. He was strong and commanding, yet he had a tortured heart. It's obvious to the reader even from the beginning that this man has been hurt in his life and finding love will be no simple task. Burrowes gives readers a man who is on the verge of losing everything, but finds something he never knew he was missing. I loved the fact that Vim had an affinity for children. Regardless of the fact that a Lord probably wouldn't normally know much about changing diapers, he helps Sophie with the child her maid abandons her with in such a way it is easy to see that he is a very caring and loving man. The perfect man for a woman like Sophie. He was also very sexy and not afraid of his body or his longings. I like a hero who in command of his emotions, passionate and expressive and Vim certainly was that.

This is such a wonderful romance for the season. I tend to read a lot of holiday themed books around this time of year and I can honestly say this one is definitely my favorite of the year. I could go so far as to say it's my favorite Christmas read to date, and that's a huge compliment to the author. I really enjoyed this one. My only criticism is that I felt Val's story should have come out before Sophie's. Though there is barely a month between the two releases, it seemed only logical that Valentine's story be told first. But that certainly didn't take away from the wonderment and true Christmas spirit of Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish. If you haven't another holiday themed book this year, this has to be the one! 

Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Grace Burrowes is the author of The Heir, which was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010, and The Soldier which is named a Publishers Weekly Best Spring Romance of 2011. She is hard at work on stories for the five Windham sisters, the first of which, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish, is already on shelves. Grace is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in rural Maryland.

Guest Post and Giveaway: Grace Burrowes

Please join me in welcoming Grace Burrowes to Debbie's Book Bag today! Grace has a guest post in honor of the Christmas season. Grace's Christmas themed book, Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish is available now and the publisher is sponsoring a giveaway. See details at the of the post.

One of the sweetest memories I own comes from the holiday season. I was a single mom raising my daughter in rural Maryland. Our house is a Civil War vintage log cabin with additions (indoor cooking came before indoor plumbing) and I still heat it mostly with wood.

Beloved Offspring was not quite school age, a busy, vulnerable time in life when the heart should still be innocent and the imagination Herculean. We’d had a tiring day, it was cold out, and our upstairs was by no means as warm as the downstairs. Story time happened downstairs are a result, and this particular night we decided to repair to the bentwood rocker in the living room for this most important aspect of the bedtime ritual.

Before we picked out a story, we both got into our jammies and slippers. The floor in my house is tongue-and-groove yellow pine over a dirt basement—slippers or thick socks are mandatory in colder weather.

Another non-negotiable aspect of the routine was that we would be joined by Favorite (short for Favorite Blankie) a ragged old receiving blanket whose blanket binding had been restitched all around more than once. We assembled—my daughter, me, Favorite, a story book, and maybe an ambitious house cat—in the rocking chair.

I forget the story, I forget which cats we had underfoot at the time, I forget what day of the week it was, but I do remember finishing the story—Goodnight Moon was a perennial favorite, as was as an odd little book called The Very Best Home for Me. Maybe we read The Runaway Bunny or How Soccer Saved Easter. All four fell into the “Mom doesn’t dare skip a single word” category.

I read with my daughter curled up on my lap swaddled in her Favorite Blankie, the same as I’d read to her on many other occasions. When I finished the story, she didn’t hop down—the words had performed their magic—but instead stayed drowsing on my lap.

“I like it when we read in the rocking chair,” she announced.

“Why is that?”

“Because when we’re in the rocking chair, I feel safe and warm and happy.”

THAT is what I wish for my loved ones, my readers, and my characters this Christmas and every day, that they feel safe and warm and happy. Financial woes come and go, health can get dodgy, worldly standing is undependable, but that feeling of being securely loved and lovable, that is beyond price and it makes every other challenge in this life bearable.

So for Christmas, I wish you a place where you can be safe and warm and happy—at least between the pages of a good book, but also with your friends and family. They are the best Favorite Blankie, the best storytellers, the best happily ever after I could wish anybody.

Happy Holidays!


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for two copies of Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes.

~ 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 December 12th.

1. Please leave a comment for Grace or a special Christmas memory in the comments.
2. Please fill out the FORM.


Review: Under Attack

Under Attack (Underworld Detection Agency - Book 2) by Hannah Jayne

Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Pages: Paperback, 342pp
ISBN-13: 978-0758258939
ISBN: 0758258933

(Received for an honest review from Kensington)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Hannah Jayne (Hannah J. Schwartz) on the WEB: website, facebook

Books in the series: Under Wraps (2011), Under Attack (2011), Under Suspicion (Coming in 2012)

Excerpt from Under Attack


She's one of the Underworld Detection Agency's best. But her job is really starting to bite...

Sophie Lawson is a human immune to magic, which comes in handy for helping paranormal beings transition into everyday life. But fallen angel Alex Grace and his search for the Vessel of Souls is one curse she never saw coming. Suddenly an unexplainable string of killings and destruction has even San Francisco's demons fearing for their immortal lives. And Sophie isn't about to trust Alex's all-to-vulnerable charm or his secret agenda. Now their hunt is revealing dangerous secrets about Sophie's past, and a malevolent power hellishly close to turning one irreverent human into the ultimate supernatural weapon...


The second book in the Underworld Detection Agency series, Under Attack once again gives a lighter edge to Urban Fantasy. Hannah Jayne has created world populated by supernatural creatures including fallen angels, demons and vampires, but Sophie the heroine of Under Attack is a human immune to magic, rare and full of surprises. Jayne is able to keep this book from becoming mire down with witty dialogue and wacky, ingenious characters. Jayne's take on the paranormal is refreshing and original!

When I requested Under Attack for review I think I was somewhat disillusioned by the cover art. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, but I don't think it truly reflects the story. Sophie isn't an agent with the Underworld Detection Agency, she is more of a customer service rep for San Francisco's demon population. But the discrepancy with the cover did not take away from the amazing book, that Jayne has here. The premise of the book is unique and intriguing and I think readers will find themselves not paying attention to the little things, when the overall story is sooo good!

I am a huge fan of Urban Fantasy but as many readers can attest, Urban Fantasy tends to be dark and somewhat foreboding. It is not a happy-go-lucky sort of sub-genre, but Jayne proves with this series, and in particularly with this book that humor certainly has a place in this type of writing. There were some really heavy moments that were lightened by zingers and one liners that had me giggling or smiling a lot during this read. I think a writer can go too far in either direction, too serious or too light, but Jayne strikes just the right balance in Under Attack to appeal to the readers.

Jayne's characters are a little off the hook. They have their wacky moments but if you think about it, isn't that the kind of friends that you care about the most, the ones who don't take you so seriously? I think that was what Jayne was going for with this eclectic mix of characters. Sophie is a great character. She has a lot of charisma and what I could call hutzbah. She has sass or what some might call "balls" LOL! I liked her a lot, though she does a fair amount of crying in this one. Her job is on the line, her on again off again boyfriend who happens to be a fallen angel has returned, see finds out a bunch of family secrets and she has a dark angel after her, I guess she a reason to be somewhat stressed. I loved her best friend who happens be to be a vampire and even her uptight new boss has his moments. 

This is a series I can definitely recommend. As I have been reading more paranormal romance and Urban Fantasy, the differences between the two sub-genre's has become very apparent. I like both a lot and I this is such a good example of what Urban Fantasy can be. I think readers who want to start reading Urban Fantasy could start with a series like this one. At this point it only has two books and readers can easily catch up before the new installment hits the shelves in 2012. It can possibly break readers in a little bit and introduce them to the sub-genre without overwhelming them. If you like your supernaturals with a sense of humor this a good series for you! I loved this book and can't wait for the next one!

Under Attack is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Hannah Jayne lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to the Underworld Detection Agency series, Jayne writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, and grocery lists that she never remembers to bring to the grocery store.

When she's not battling the demons of the Underworld, Jayne shares a house with two neurotic, feet-attacking cats, and like her character Sophie Lawson, has a Kryptonite-like weakness for donuts.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review and Giveaway: To Catch a Leaf

To Catch a Leaf (Flower Shop Mystery - Book 12) by Kate Collins

Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: Paperback, 321pp
ISBN-13: 978-0451235237
ISBN: 0451235231

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Kate Collins on the WEB: website, facebook, twitter

Books in the series: Mum's the Word (2004), Slay it with Flowers (2005), Dearly Depotted (2005), Snipped in the Bud (2006), Acts of Violets (2007), A Rose from the Dead (2007), Shoots to Kill (2008), Evil in Carnations (2009), Sleeping with Anemone (2010), Dirty Rotten Tendrils (2010), Night of the Living Dandelion (2011), To Catch a Leaf (2011)

Excerpt from To Catch a Leaf



Flower shop owner Abby Knight is aglow with happiness now that she's officially engaged to her longtime beau, Marco Salvare. Nothing will dampen her joy - not a new dent on her beloved Corvette, nor her future mother-in-law's micromanaging of her wedding.

Then wealthy dowager Constance Newport is killed, and Abby's assistant, Grace Bingham, is left a hefty sum of money, making her the prime suspect. But while questioning Constance's relatives and staff, Abby and Marco find that everyone has a shady past and wants a piece of the fortune. The plot thickens when they stumble upon mysterious stolen art and a missing cat - all part of an elaborate heist. Before Abby can throw her bouquet, she'll have to throw a killer and a thief in jail...


The 12th book in the Flower Shop Mystery series by Kate Collins, To Catch a Leaf, takes readers back to New Chapel, Indiana and to Abby Knight's flower shop, Bloomers. Fans of the series will be delighted with this latest addition to the series, as old characters return and new ones enter. Abby is finally ready to take the plunge and marry her hunky boyfriend, Marco, if she can come to terms with his mother on the wedding preparations, but first she has to clear her best friend of murder!

Abby's friend and employee Grace finds herself in hot water in To Catch a Leaf. When she finds her wealthy friend Constance at the bottom of the stairs, a house full of suspects that are also the victim's children and missing cat, it's up to Abby and Marco to figure out whodunit! Kate Collins once again brings readers a interesting plot with lots of twists and turns. There are so many logical suspects in this one, it will be hard for the reader to figure it out. The hallmark of a good mystery writer! 

Collins does an excellent job of providing a motive for everyone living in Constance Newport's house and I think readers will love the way that Collins fits it all together. Abby has so much on her plate in this book, what with planning her wedding, running the flower shop and investigating a murder. Grace is the most logical suspect and the police are sure she did it considering the wealthy woman left everything to Grace, as the guardian of "Charity" her cat. But the cat turns up missing! And everyone seems to have a reason t have wanted Constance dead. I loved the way Collins built up the suspense of the mystery, while still giving a lot to time to Abby, her wedding and her family. Collins balanced both aspects of the book very well.

This is a series that new readers could get into very easily. Readers don't have to go back and read the entire series to be satisfied that they understand what's going on. Collin's gives just the right amount of back story without divulging the plots of previous books. I think new readers to the genre would find this series a good starting place as well. This cozy is light, humorous, and full of great characters that readers will fall in love with. It's clean and doesn't give off the heavy feeling that some main stream mysteries and thrillers carry.

Abby is a great heroine. She is spunky, very insightful and though she has had cold feet where Marco is concerned in the past, their romance has finally taken off and her wedding will probably be a great highlight in a future installment in the series. I think readers identify with the characters in this series and this book in particular, because they seem like everyday people you might meet in your own hometown. They are realistically drawn and some of them are down right funny. Marco adds a lot of sex appeal and heat to the series and he is a very good investigator. I like Abby and Marco as a team, they work well together an are good at uncovering clues and figuring out exactly how they fit together. Constance Newport's family is a real trip in this book. I found them so fun to read about, and I was constantly changing my  mind as to which one of them committed the crime. Collin's had me right where she wanted me, glued to the pages!

I recommend this one to cozy fans and readers who might want to broaden their horizons and break into a new sub-genre. The Flower Shop mystery series is full of fun and some really great whodunit's. I think To Catch a Leaf is probably my favorite in the series to date. It seemed like everything came together in such a great way with this one. I can't wait to read the next one!

To Catch a Leaf is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Kate Collins grew up in a suburb of Hammond, Indiana, one block from the family home of author Jean Shepherd, who luminous stories inspired Kate at an early age. After a stint as an elementary school teacher, Kate wrote children's short stories and historical romance novels before turning to her true passion, mystery. The author of the popular Flower Shop Mystery series, she lives in northwest Indiana and Key West, Florida.


The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of To Catch a Leaf by Kate Collins.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: The Doomsday Vault

The Doomsday Vault (Clockwork Empire - Book 1) by Steven Harper

Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Steampunk
Pages: Paperback, 391pp
ISBN-13: 978-0451464293
ISBN: 045146429X

(Received for an honest review from Roc)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Steven Harper on the WEB (Steven Piziks): website, blog, facebook, twitter

Excerpt from The Doomsday Vault (Use the Look Inside Feature)


The honorable Alice B. Michaels is in a life-or-death struggle for survival - socially speaking, that is. At age twenty-one, her unladylike interest in automations, and the unfortunate deaths of most of her family from the clockwork plague, have sealed her fate as a less than desirable marriage prospect.  But a series of strange occurrences is about to lead Alice in a direction quite beyond the pale.

High above the earth on the American airship USS Juniper, Gavin Ennock lives for the wind and the sky and his fiddle. After privateers attack the Juniper, he is stranded on the dank, dirty, merciless streets of London. When Alice's estranged aunt leaves her a peculiar inheritance, she encounters Gavin under most unusual - even shocking - circumstances.

Then Alice's inheritance attracts the attention of the Third Ward, a clandestine organization that seizes the inventions of mad geniuses the plague leaves behind - all for the good of the Empire. But even the Third Ward has secrets. And when Alice and Gavin discover them, a choice must be made between the world and the Empire, no matter the risk to all they hold dear.


The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper is the first in a new Steampunk series about the Clockwork Empire. As a reader and reviewer I have not had too much experience with the Steampunk sub-genre.  The books I have read including Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and the books from "The Parasol Protectorate" series by Gail Carriger were exceptional, so my opinion may be slightly skewed. My best advice is to take my review with a grain of salt and if is sounds interesting to you, try it for yourself.

Harper has created an Elizabethan England is vastly different from what readers might expect. I think Harper succeeds in some aspects of the book while falling short in others. His world building skills were amazing. I loved the whole idea behind the series. The clockwork plague was both interesting and insightful. As many of you know I am not the biggest zombie fan, but Harper's take on zombies was somewhat different than the norm. Those who have suffered from the clockwork plague eventually turn into mindless zombies, but they are not the crux of the story. I also liked the idea that while this was a deadly disease it also gave some the abilities of a genius for a short period of time allowing them to make some amazing discoveries and inventions. It was certainly a refreshing premise, that something so evil could still provide some good to the world. The Third Ward added an interesting dimension to the book, and had me wondering about their motivations. I expect there to be a lot more than meets the eye with them in future installments in the series.

I generally give the first book in a series a certain amount of grace, considering the fact that the author has a lot to accomplish in the first book. He or she must set up the entire series, while still providing a good solid plot that will keep readers coming back for more. I think Harper spent a great deal of time building up the background, explaining the situation and prepping the reader for what's to come, but he fell short a bit in characterizations and relationship building. I think readers will really appreciate how Harper was able to incorporate automations, airships and all of the things that make a good steampunk novel, but he didn't give readers the complex and three-dimensional characters they crave. 

Alice is somewhat interesting. Her situation is one readers will be familiar with in a sense, especially historical fiction readers. She has fallen from grace in society circles and is trying to figure out a way to get back in the good graces of the powers that be. Add in the fact that she has an uncanny knack for automation and a has lost some members of her family to the clockwork plague and readers can easily see her plight. Alice could have been a character that soared in this book, but she wasn't. She seemed to fall a bit flat when compared to the rest of the book. She was very undecided in most instances and just didn't seem to grab my interest. Again I think this was mostly due to the huge amount of set up necessary with this book. There is definitely room from improvement with her character and I hope in subsequent book in the series Harper will delve more into who Alice is and what makes her tick.

I was somewhat more encouraged by Gavin's character. Once he and Alice meet and their stories start to converge, the overall story improved quite a bit. This is certainly not a romance novel, but there is romance involved. Gavin is the take charge sort of man and I liked the whole idea of him being a airship captain. Unfortunately, Harper relied a little too heavily on coincidences when it came to things like the reasons for pirates to attack Gavin's ship and details like why Alice inherited a certain object that was key to the plot. Gavin could have been a very striking character, but again Harper falls a little short by spending more time describing why Gavin and Alice need to work together, than describing who Gavin was and where he may fit into Alice's life. Harper does establish that he isn't a peer and has little money and would certainly not be an appropriate match for Alice, but that's about as far as he goes. But there is definitely a spark of what could be. 

I think this series has a lot of potential, though this first book could have been better. Readers want to know and love the characters they are reading about and I think The Doomsday Vault leaves a lot of room for improvement in this area. As I said before I give this one a little grace because Harper had a whole lot to accomplish in this first book. The sneak peek at the next book in the series featured at the end, was interesting and I will definitely read it. There was enough here in The Doomsday Vault to make me want to explore further. As I said before Steampunk is not a genre I am extremely familiar with and I have been somewhat jaded by exceptional Steampunk reads, so I may be a little off base, read it and see what you think, I'd love to hear your opinions!

The Doomsday Vault is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

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

Steven Harper Piziks was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but he moved around a lot. Currently he lives with his wife and three sons near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

His novels include In the Company of Mind and Corporate Mentality, both science fiction published by Baen Books. Writing as Steven Harper for Roc Books, he has produced The Silent Empire series. He's also written movie novelizations and books based on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and The Ghost Whisperer.

Mr. Piziks currently teaches English in southeast Michigan. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, dabbles in oral storytelling, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him.