December 29, 2010

Want it Wednesday [8]

Want it Wednesday is an idea inspired by Rex Robot Reviews in which I post three books from my ever expanding wish list. Feel free to comment on the titles or suggest some of your own! I'm always open to new suggestions about great books to read.

Awaken Me Darkly (Alien Huntress #1)
by Gena Showalter

In a time and place not too far away, Mia Snow is an alien huntress for the New Chicago Police Department, and she's the perfect girl for the job. Tough and sexy, she's earned each of her scars battling the elusive enemy among us. Now, investigating a series of killings, she is shaken to the core when a burst of violence leaves her partner Dallas fighting for his life. A tall, erotic stranger holds the power to heal the injured agent -- and to bind Mia in an electrifying and dangerous seduction. He is Kyrin en Arr, of the deadly Arcadian species -- an alien, a murder suspect -- who has Mia walking a knife's edge, risking her badge and even her life. . . and edging closer to a shocking revelation that will shatter everything she's ever believed.


The Griffin's Flight (The Fallen Moon Trilogy #2)
by K.J. Taylor

Arren Cardockson is dead... but something won-t let him rest. Hated and hunted, Arren-s only ally is Skandar, the monstrous man-eating dark griffin. Together they must reach the cold North, where they may be able to hide from Erian, vengeful son of the murdered Lord Rannagon. Then Arren meets the ferocious and mysterious Skade, and he begins to believe that she might know the way to lift his curse and make his dead heart beat again. And all the while, the dark Night God is watching.


Uprising (The Vampire Federation #1)
by Sean McCabe

A gruesome ritual murder has stained the Oxfordshire countryside. It's just the first incident in a chain of events awakening Detective Inspector Joel Solomon to his worst nightmare-and a dreadful omen of things to come. Because Joel has a secret: he believes in vampires.

Alex Bishop is an agent of the Vampire Intelligence Agency. She's tasked with enforcing the laws of the global Vampire Federation, and hunting rogue members of her race. A tough job made tougher when the Federation comes under attack by traditionalist vampires. They have a stake in old-school terror-and in an uprising as violent as it is widespread.

Now it's plunging Alex and Joel into a deadly war between the living and the unloving-and against a horrifying tradition given new life by the blood of the innocent.

December 28, 2010

Review: Naked Frame by Robert Burton Robinson

Naked Frame
Author: Robert Burton Robinson
Series: Rebeca Ranghorn Mystery Series, Book 1
ISBN: 0011137134
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

*Novel provided by the author via LibraryThing.

For more information please visit Robert Burton Robinson's website.

Rebecca Ranghorn is wanted for murder. The dead man in her office has a bullet in his head. Her bullet. But she’s not the killer. At least she doesn’t think so. Rebecca is a private investigator working mostly cheating husband cases. She knows how to kick butt, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. In NAKED FRAME, her client is a mother wanting proof that her teenage daughter is having sex with a sleazy Dallas businessman, Big Bill Smotherburn. Once Rebecca shoots the video, the mother begins to threaten him.

Big Bill drops by Rebecca’s office unannounced, after hours, and tries to buy the video. But within minutes, Rebecca has passed out, warm pistol in hand, and Big Bill is sprawled out on the floor with half his face blown off. Rebecca had been pointing the gun at Big Bill, unsure of his intentions. But she’s sure she wouldn’t have pulled the trigger. She believes somebody framed her. She knows it’s only a matter of time before police discover the body, and come looking for her. It’s an odd time to reconnect with her best friend, Gabby, from high school. But he wants to help Rebecca.

The two of them will unravel the mystery. Or die trying.


Naked Frame by Robert B. Robinson is the debut in his new Rebecca Ranghorn Mystery Series. With an intriguing who done it, lots of seedy characters with motive and a great crime solving duo, this was a fun quick read at just over 100 pages.

Making this novel fly by so quickly was the adorable pair of main characters comprised of no-nonsense PI Rebecca Ranghorn and her cohort Gabby G'Blee. The banter between the two is engaging and instantly endearing. Their easy going relationship adds levity  to the novel that making it feel much more like a cozy mystery then a suspense thriller. Gabby's flamboyant nature perfectly offsets Rebecca's tough hard-as-nails demeanor as they try desperately to uncover who set her up to take the fall for Big Bill Smotherburn's murder. Like the main characters the suspects in the case are all wonderfully written. While we aren't privy to much back story in the novel, the attitudes and personalities still come through perfectly adding a colorful and dangerous cast to the story.

The settings are also quite unique. Take for instance Cafe Nue which is owned by Big Bill. The atmosphere is erotic with the female waitstaff roaming around in only a skimpy thong and has a bar complete with a winding waterfall resembling a urinal in a men's bathroom. This setting is well used through out the novel offering up several clues as to 'who done it' and becomes a motive in and of itself. Likewise, the various other locales are well set without going into great detail. Again with being such a short novel, there isn't a lot of time to set atmospheres and yet Robinson worked well within the confined parameters of his novel. Each was concise yet construed the proper atmospheres that seemed to mirror the characters, thus adding a faint glimspe at their 'natural habitat'.

The mystery itself is interesting with a never ending stream of suspects, all capable of murder and with ample motives. There are plenty of twists and side stories that keep you guessing and leaving you with the assumption you know how the story will end. Notice, I said assumption. In truth, the ending is rather complicated with various threads coming together to converge on the truth. The pace maintained throughout the sleuthing is fast, the side stories adding in to suspense and intrigue of the novel that keeps the reader interested.

The only bit I thought could have been worked on was the emotion within the novel. The characters are a bit aloof through it all. The excitement reads a bit like the moments when they are simply going over what facts they know for certain and throwing around theories. There's little since of immediacy even in moments that merit it. This is something that I would like to see get worked on a bit more, but while it separates the reader from the emotional appeal of the characters, it doesn't make the story any less mysterious and engrossing. If it was longer, well, then we might of hit a few snags.

Overall, this was a fun read that I got through in a single sitting. Unlike normal cozy mysteries, there is a bit more adult subject matter in this novel, so younger readers should beware. That said, if you like a good mystery and are in the market for a quick read, this is definitely a good choice.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Some adult themes.

December 27, 2010

Review: The Dark Griffin by K.J. Taylor

The Dark Griffin
Author: K.J. Taylor
Publisher: ACE
Series: The Fallen Moon, Book 1
ISBN: 0441019781
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Novel provided by the author via GoodReads.

For more information please visit K.J. Taylor's website.

Being chosen as a griffin's companion has allowed Arren Cardockson to gain a place of status within the land of Cymria. But Arren can never escape the prejudice that comes with his Northerner slave origins. For chained within the Arena where rogue griffins battle to entertain the crowds, there lies another soul crying out to be freed-a kindred spirit that will allow Arren to fulfill his destiny and release the darkness in his heart.


The Dark Griffin is the first novel in The Fallen Moon Trilogy by K.J. Taylor focusing on the life of Arren and a black griffin. Fantastical and filled with emotion, this novel was a great start to what has the promise to be a thrilling series.

The world building within the novel was first rate. Honestly, I normally don't like fantasy simply because the settings and creatures are too hard to relate too. Authors tend to take liberties with creating world-specific languages that the reader has to learn, not something that I overly enjoy. When I read I like to be able to relate to the writing without having to think what some unpronounceable word is suppose to mean. Taylor's writing of a fantastical world that reveres Griffins is not such a novel. Instead, this is very relatable and easy to read. The language is straight forward yet the atmosphere of the world is well maintained. In truth, I really loved the settings of the novel. Taylor was able to capture something that was reminiscent of medieval times, but the language gave it a feeling of being more modern. But, more over it was the atmosphere created within these settings that truly set this novel apart. The novel is on that is ruled by emotions and those emotions play such a large part in dictating the settings. For instance, at the beginning of the novel there is a warmth surrounding Arren and his small, meager home. While not well furnished or very posh, there is a light there that is comfortable and cozy. When we return to his home later after his trials at Rivermeet, his home is no longer so pleasant. Instead, the dwelling is cold and dark covered in dirt and cobwebs. Light can no longer penetrate the darkness that lurks within to warm it. It is empty, no longer a home but a refuge from the outside world.

The characterization within the novel is also quite enjoyable. We begin the novel following a griffin and her chicks focusing on their struggle for survival and a mother's devotion to her offspring. Soon, the mother is killed by humans and the single surviving chick is left alone to try and survive on his own. We then follow the chick, or rather the black griffin, who is wonderfully personified. I loved reading his passages immensely! While he doesn't know many words which often makes communication with the few humans and griffins that he comes into contact with difficult, his thoughts and actions make him endearing to the reader. Arren is likewise relatable, but with him there is so much pain, torment and utter despair. Both are characters that the reader can sympathize with and you get drawn into. Also, both are given a rich back story which allows us to see them before the 'fall'. This insight only makes them more human as the novel progresses.

This is definitely not a light story. The subject matter is dark, violent and often brutal focusing on slavery, social class, and about the loss of self-identity. The mirroring of these plots between black griffin's story line and Arren's is wonderfully done, tying the two together in an unlikely bond. There was a lot in this novel that often had me grinding my teeth, the foremost being Arren's supposed friends. While they accept Arren and try to be loyal to him, their ease at believing him to be dangerous and insane is aggravating. True, after the death of his griffin Eluna he is in pain and enraged by the betrayal of an official he considered to be a friend, but no one believes his story about how was charged to go to Rivermeet. Ultimately, he is left more and more isolated as time goes on, ostracized, abused and mocked until finally his dignity is stripped away as well by the slave collar that is forced upon him. Likewise the dark griffin is subjected to this same demoralizing treatment until the situation finally comes to a head.

The only thing that I didn't like about the story was the pacing. It was more 'slow and steady' until finally picking up at the end, the weighty issues proving to slow the story. However, while these dark matters may have left the tale a bit slow to wade through, it definitely set the scene for later books. The action in fact does pick up towards the end when Arren and Skandar finally accept themselves and their positions in the world. It leaves such an opening for the next novel and I look forward to seeing what these two exiles go on to do. The promise of them together is just too great to ignore!

In the end, I found this novel to be wonderfully written and while bleak, I enjoyed reading it. There is a lot of potential for the following novels and I looked forward to seeing Arren and Skandar's bond be further explored. Definitely a good read for anyone who enjoys fantastical worlds and mythological creatures!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Some graphic violence

December 26, 2010

January 2011 Book Releases

January 1, 2011

  • Jesse Petersen, Flip This Zombie (Living with the Dead #2)
  • Rachel Vincent, My Soul To Steal (My Soul to Steal #4)

January 3, 2011
  • Hilari Bell, Trickster's Girl (Raven Duet #1)
  • Trent Jamieson, Managing Death  (Death Works #2)
  • Carolyn Jewel, My Immortal Assassin (My Immortal #3)
  • Nicole Peeler, Tempest's Legacy (Jane True #3)
  • Jesse Petersen, Flip This Zombie (Living with the Dead #2)
  • Maria Mancusi, Night School (Blood Coven #5)
  • Daniel Walls, The Vyne: Mystery of the Hidden Ember

January 4, 2011

  • Madelyn Alt, Home for a Spell (Bewitching Mystery #7)
  • Aex Archer, Restless Soul  (Rogue Angel #28) 
  • Carol Berg, The Soul Mirror (Collegia Majica #2)
  • Jenna Black, Shadowspell (Faeriewalker #2)
  • Herbi Brennan, The Faeman Quest (The Faerie Wars)
  • Orson Scott Card, The Lost Gate (Mither Mages #1)
  • P.C + Kristin Cast, Awakened (House of Night #8)
  • Stephanie Dray, Lily of the Nile (Cleopatra Selene #1)
  • Anna Evans, Demon Marked (Demon Bound #2)
  • Simon R. Green, A Hard Day's Knight (Nightside #11)
  • Jess Hains, Taken By Others (H & W Investigations #2)
  • Cynthia Hand, Unearthly
  • Barb Hendee, Through Stone and Sea (Noble Dead #8)
  • Barb Hendee, Of Truth and Beasts (Noble Dead #9) 
  • Emma Holly, Angel at Dawn (Fitz Clare Chornicles #10)
  • Faith Hunter, Mercy Blade (Jane Yellowrock #3)
  • Syrie James, Nocturne
  • Jean Johnson, Finding Destiny (Sons of Destiny)
  • Allie Mackay, Must Love Kilts
  • Chloe Neill, Hexbound (Dark Elite #2)
  • Diana Rowland, Secrets of the Demon (Kara Gillian #3)
  • LJ Smith, Bloodlust (Vampire Diaries: Stefan's Diaries #2)
  • Vicki Lewis Thomspon, A Werewolf in Manhattan (Wild About You #1)
  • Lynn Viehl, Frostfire (Kyndred #3)
  • Eileen Wilks, Blood Challenge (World of the Lupi #7)
January 5, 2011

  • Mike Carey, The Naming of the Beasts (Felix Castor #5) 
  • Darren Shan, Hell's Horizon (The City #2) 
January 11. 2011

  • Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, All Just Glass (Den of Shadows #5)
January 18, 2011

  • Paula Brackston, The Witch's Daughter 
  • Karen Marie Moning, Shadowfever (Fever Series #5)
January 25, 2011

  • Anthology, Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories
  •  Kristina Douglas, Raziel (Fallen Series #1)
  •  J.F. Lewis, Crossed (Void City #3)
  • Tracey O'Hara, Death's Sweet Embrace (Dark Brethren #2)  
  • John Levitt, Play Dead (Dog Days #4)
  • Allison Pang, A Brush of Darkness
  • Cherie Priest, Bloodshot (Chesire Red Reports #1)
  • Nalini Singh, Archangel's Consort (Guild Hunter Series #3)

January 26, 2011

  • Sue Ann Jaffarian, Murder in Vein (Vampire Mystery #1)

January 27, 2011

  • John Courtenay Grimwood, The Fallen Blade (Vampire Assassin Trilogy #1)
**If I missed any titles please Contact Me and let me know and I will update this post. Remember, all release dates are tentative and subject to change.

December 23, 2010

Review: Bonded By Blood by Laurie London

Bonded By Blood
Author: Laurie London
Publisher: HQN Books
Series: Sweet Blood, Book 1
ISBN: 9780373775446
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Pre-Order Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

*Novel generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

For more information please visit Laurie London's website.

Guardian enforcers who safeguard humanity and Darkbloods, rogues who kill like their ancient ancestors. Now Guardian team leader Dominic Serrano will be forced to choose between the vengeance he craves and the woman he can’t live without…

Movie location scout Mackenzie Foster-Shaw has always known that she’s cursed to die young. No one can protect her from the evil that has stalked her family for generations— vampires who crave her rare blood type. Until one afternoon in a wooded cemetery, she encounters an impossibly sexy stranger, a man she must trust with her life.

For Dominic, a man haunted by loss, Mackenzie satisfies a primal hunger that torments him—and the bond they share goes beyond heat, beyond love. She alone can supply the strength he needs to claim his revenge. But in doing so, he could destroy her…


Bonded by Blood is the debut novel in Laurie London's Sweetblood series. A new twist on the old vampire lore, this novel is wonderfully written with great attention to detail and masterfully developed.

In fact, it was the world development that struck me most about this novel. The lore is perfectly explained and the settings are meticulously described making them seem to spring to life from the pages. I loved the little details that painted the scenes so vividly and that fact that this really mirrored the artistic temperament of the main character, Mackenzie. Likewise the atmospheres are lushly built around the various settings within the novel. For instance, Mackenzie's art studio is very comfortable and homey. Her calming influence a wonderful setting for a classroom and her brash nature contained to the artistic implements within, much like in her own life. Dom's loft is also warm, but it has a very strong male feeling about it. The organization and luxuriant furnishings perfectly reflecting the character. But, not all the atmospheres are so inviting. The dilapidated prison that serves as the base for Pavlos, otherwise known as the Overlord, is suitably creepy conveying the feeling of a scene from a horror movie. It is flawlessly captured to reflect the monstrous intentions of the vile creature and their despicable plots.

The characters are equally well developed. The highly detailed thought processes of the characters are both engaging and enlightening. I loved being able to see so easily into the psyches of the characters, to be able to ascertain their inner struggles and feelings in a way that I know my own mind. Mackenzie is a wonderfully complex protagonist, her fearless natures balanced by her acceptance of that idea she has no foreseeable future. Her artistic sensibilities add a wonderful emotional quality to her, while maintaining a somewhat stoic outer facade. The progression of her character is great to watch, how her cautious emotional nature gets stripped away layer by layer until her true desires finally surface. Dom is likewise composed. His rigid emotionless quality crumbling in Mackenzie's presence. Yet, while she is unaware of the changes within her, Dom is painfully aware of the growing bond between them no matter how much he tries to rationalize his responses to her and her blood. While the secondary characters are just that, secondary, we come to enjoy them even in the brief moments when they appear. They add to the relationship between Dom and Mackenzie, helping to guide the two to the only obvious conclusion: that they are meant to be together.

The romantic appeal of this novel was wonderful too. The suspense and drama of their relationship always kicked up something to put their happiness off. The blood bond, while self explanatory, is still a mystery throughout much of the novel in as much as we never truly know exactly what effects it will have on the two. For instance, Dom's seemingly unusual ability to share energies with a human and the fact that her blood seems to give him exaggerated strength, where as it has no such effect in others. The tender protectiveness between the two is engrossing as well. While Dom tries fervently to protect her even from himself, her fearless belief that he couldn't hurt her is endearing. While Dom is usually much more intuitive about their relationship and their feelings, it is Mackenzie who feels the soul deep attachment between them. This adds a nice balance to the relationship.

The writing style is easy for the reader to connect to, instantly drawing you into the characters lives. The point of view shifts throughout are a wonderfully deep look into the varying characters. I enjoyed this aspect immensely due to the scope of the insight which most authors tend to gloss over. The pace was steady though not overly quick, the development of the world hindering it a bit. But, the payoff of the masterfully detailed world was worth it. Despite the often slow pace of the novel, the action scenes are still marvelously written and add propulsion to the storyline. However, while the pace may not be as quick as I have become use to, I have to say that I was never bored or put off. Instead, the writing had a hypnotic quality that I loved and in truth when the novel ended I was a little saddened.

Overall, this was an interesting and original vampire romance that has me eagerly anticipating the next installment. With some wonderful characters and vividly described setting, this is one world any fan of the paranormal romance genre should not miss!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Some sexual content

December 21, 2010

Winner! - Stone Kissed Giveaway


You will be notified via email shortly and I will forward your email imformation to Keri!

Thank you to Keri for taking the time stop by and offer us some insight into her debut novel Stone Kissed and to those who participated. If you didn't manage to snage a copy of her novel, it will be available Dec. 27, 2010 for purchase.

December 20, 2010

Review: Mojo by Kris Sedersten

Author: Kris Sedersten
ISBN: 1439273375
Purchase Information:

*Novel provided by the author for an honest review.

For more information please visit Kris Sedersten's website.

When Scottie Brown, a New Orleans college student, is aggressively haunted by nightmares and daytime apparitions, he begins a search for answers; unwittingly putting himself and those closest to him in a confrontation with evil.

To defeat the energy that torments him, he recruits a team of paranormal investigators, friends from high school, and a psychic medium. Together, they pursue the ghosts of Scottie’s ancestors in a haunted plantation deep in the Louisiana countryside. They uncover dark family secrets and the spiritual energy of a malevolent patriarch who projects an unholy prophecy that has deadly consequences for all mankind.

The power of an elusive mojo amulet becomes central to fighting Scottie’s demons as the journey through the haunted mansion, filled with twists and turns, takes on a life of its own against time.

Mojo is a fast paced paranormal thriller. Edgy and fun, this book will show the reader how having faith in a power greater than ourselves will lift us through even the most unforeseeable obstacles in life.


Spooky, suspenseful and highly entertaining, Mojo by Kris Sedersten was a fast paced ghost story that kept me reading late into the night and left me wanting more. Tautly written and highly developed this novel had me enthralled from the first word to the last.

The world Sedersten created is perfectly suited to Louisiana, the swampy settings paired with out of the way locales allowed for a down home yet creepy feeling to saturate the story. Where better then to imagine voodoo, ghosts and demonic rites coming together? The settings are perfectly described setting the ghostly ambiance and the clever writing makes even the most mundane of objects suspect. From the Christine like haunting of a vehicle to a dilapidated southern plantation there is never a lack of the supernatural to keep one on their toes!

The characters are all interesting, highly developed and each add to the story with their 'special' skills. Yet, it is the friendship that binds them that is most intriguing, each putting their lives on the line for a friend in need. Scottie's earnest emotions add a lot to tale. From his obvious desperation at the unbelievable situation he finds himself in to the relief that his friends not only help him without question but actually believe him is touching. His unknown heritage to the evil Benet family is highly developed and the way that its introduced into the plot makes it extremely relevant to the story and to the characters involved. Instead of simply dumping the information as fact, Sedersten incorporates it adding to the suspense and mystery of the novel progressing the atmosphere and characterization. However, the character that most stole my heart was Mojo. While we don't see this gentle monster for more then a few minutes, his kindness and utter innocence despite his parentage and plight tug at the reader's heart strings. I loved the emotional appeal that was used to connect this obviously awkward character to the readers and I think it helped to contrast against the darker themes of the novel. But, it's not only the corporeal characters that were well captured. The haunting, disfigured apparition that stalks Scottie adds mystery to the tale as we come to get to know who the shadowed figure is and his ties to the Benet family. Likewise, the patriarch Jean Benet is well captured despite not being more then a shadow for much of the story. His dark apparition is at once menacing and filled with hate and anger the permeates the tone of the novel and adds that dash of evil malevolence that stains his soul.

The story is fast paced and well written. I loved the subtle details that the author was able to capture and the style of the writing. While filled with information, nothing ever seems frivolous. Instead it all is relevant and needed, the tidbits dropping at intervals to keep the pace of the plot and the suspense coming. There is a nice descriptive quality to the writing that points to wonderful story telling paired with nice development of the plot and the history that is based upon. While most ghost hunting tales have some lag, this novel never really experiences that. Instead the reader is catapulted from one mystery and horror to the next. There is also a nice sense of closure to the novel as well, all the loose ends referenced and brought back to light, most notably Scottie's haunted truck. Most authors would have let the matter drop and revisited it later in another novel, but Sedersten reminds the reader that we have received little information about this and it only adds to the promise of more to come. Not to mention the wonderful cliff hanger that is only to be expected when such evil takes form in the mortal realm.

In the end, my only complaints about the novel was the dialogue. It seemed at odds with the youthful twenty somethings often coming off as a little stiff and formal. While this isn't a large issue, it still had me stopping at varying points throughout trying to connect the speech to the characters that I had envisioned. It tends to throw off the flow, but not devastatingly so. Also, there is a little repetition between thoughts and speech that got a little tiresome, but again, this is a small issue that didn't happen too often and didn't detract from the over all story telling.

Overall, this was definitely a unique and enjoyable read! I can really envision this as one of those wonderful original telefilms on the SyFy channel, which made this all the more wonderful for me to read (I love those movies!). Nicely written with a wonderfully quick suspenseful plot, I recommend this to anyone who loves a good ghost story. Definitely a new author I will be keeping an eye on.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

December 16, 2010

Review: Grim Reaper: End of Days by Steve Alten

Grim Reaper: End of Days
Author: Steve Alten
Publisher: Variance Publishing
ISBN: 193514216X
Purchase Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

*Novel provided by the author for an honest review.

For more information please visit Steve Alten's website.

Patrick "Shep" Shepherd was a promising major league rookie baseball pitcher when September 11th, 2001, hit. Shaken by the attacks, Shep left behind his soul mate and newborn daughter to enlist in the Armed Forces. Eleven years and four deployments later, Shep finds himself in Manhattan's VA hospital. His left arm is gone, his wife and daughter are gone, and he is haunted by the nightmares of war.

December 21st.: While world leaders meet at the U.N., Mary Klipot, a bio-hazard level-4 scientist working at the CIA labs in Fort Detrick, enters the Big Apple with Scythe, a swift-acting version of the Black Death designed to wipe out America's enemies abroad. Believing she is carrying out God's wishes, Mary infects herself, then unleashes Scythe upon Manhattan. The threat of a worldwide pandemic forces officials to seal off the island . . . the president among those trapped. Determined to rescue his wife and child, Shep follows his guide, Virgil Shechinah, through the plague-infected neighborhoods of Manhattan, revisiting the "Nine Circles of Hell" as portrayed in Dante's Inferno. And the Grim Reaper, loosed upon the land by a humanity who has once again tipped the scales in favor of evil over good, is stalking Patrick Shepherd.


I am at a loss of words on how to even begin this review other then by saying that this novel was scary as Hell! Grim Reaper: End of Days by Steve Alten is the debut novel in a new series that perfectly mixes fact and fiction until all the lines are blurred making it impossible to decipher the actual truth. This novel is a chillingly plausible tale about the end of days that will leave you hiding under your bed!

The facts Alten selected to use within this novel were terribly compelling. They help to substantiate and create the setting of this book giving it a present day immediacy that fits nicely with the current political turmoil. Not to mention that the political corruption sets an unnerving tone in conjunction with the man made virus Scythe, even before this deadly plague is released upon the world. There is a never ending sense of suspense, fear and unease that permeates the novel making this a dark dense read with strong religious themes.

There is a huge cast of characters within the novel that we follow, most notable Patrick Shepard. His journey through the various levels of Hell, using the modern day setting of Manhattan, gives a current and relevant face lift to the widely known Dante's Inferno. Shepard's, or rather Shep's, past is a blur and yet we are compelled by him and his journey to enlightenment, both spiritually and emotionally. While we know little about his history, the past unfolds before us in hallucinogenic glimpses that slowly unfurl the truth behind his past and present and why he chose to become a soldier and how he was injured. The cast of characters around him lead him through his journey and often times serve as tests of faith and endurance. Virgil, his main guide through this journey, is a psychiatrist who is helping aid Shep in learning the truth about himself as well as helping to enlighten the various cast about the religious implications of the current plague and it's relevance to biblical tales, for instance the tale of 'Noah and the Ark'. All the characters, while we don't get to know a lot about them, are highly developed and perfectly suited to aid in the various stages within the novel. You come to care about them and to despise the more corrupt among them. Truly this is a wonderful novel that shows humanity at both its best and worst making us consider who we really are as individuals and as a whole.

Steve Alten's masterful writing uses emotional appeal wonderfully throughout the novel, both as an aid and a hindrance. The range of emotions evoked is wide, varying greatly from disgust and unease to hope in mankind. The themes of religion help in reminding us that we are not simply good or evil, that we as people are capable of both. That the choices we make define who and what we are and aid in reinforcing the ideology that one man can indeed make a difference. Also, the graphic nature in which he describe the plague, otherwise known as Scythe, humanizes the disease giving it a disturbing face both through the descriptions of it's symptoms and of the history of the plague and its effects on society. This gives a face to the evil that man creates and the rippling effect that it has on humanity. As with one good deed, one misdeed is sometimes all it takes to create more evil in the world.

In the end I found this novel to be thought evoking and horrific, definitely not for the light hearted. It is dark and makes the reader look long and hard at the world around them. With political and religious overtones, this novel is terrifyingly plausible.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars

Advisory: Graphic imagery

December 15, 2010

Want it Wednesday [7]

Want it Wednesday is an idea inspired by Rex Robot Reviews in which I post three books from my ever expanding wish list. Feel free to comment on the titles or suggest some of your own! I'm always open to new suggestions about great books to read.

Wicked Harvest (The Onic Empire #1)
by Anitra LynnMcLeod

Welcome to the world of the Harvester - a warrior bound to take virginity, but never pleasure - and the servant who exists to prepare him for his role. For them, sex equals duty. Until the rules fall aside...and pleasure takes over...For Chur, a year's preparation comes down to the single day on which he encounters a succession of exquisitely adorned young virgins. One thrust from Chur frees the women to find their perfect mates...yet he is forbidden to enjoy his work. But Chur's third Harvest changes everything, for the final virgin is none other than his paratanist, a loyal servant who reveals herself to be a startlingly sensuous woman. Enovese has desired her master since she first laid hands upon him, but her scheme to free them both is complicated by Chur's prideful resistance. Until the Harvester declares Enovese his bondmate, they must maintain a dangerous charade of master and slave. But Chur is determined that Enovese pay for her deception - with delicious, teasing torture all the more pleasurable for being taboo...

Confessions of a Demon (Allay #1)
by Susan Wright

After accidentally stealing the life force of a dying demon, Allay became the only human-demon hybrid in existence. Demons feed on human emotions, so Allay decided the safest way to satisfy this need-and still retain some semblance of her humanity-was to open a bar. Here she can drink from, and ease, her patrons' pain, which has helped her to stay under the demon radar...until now.

When Allay is attacked and nearly killed by another demon, a human comes to her rescue. Theo Ram is tall, handsome, and mortal-and Allay feels a connection to him she didn't think she'd ever know. But that bond is tested when the demon community in New York begins to rise up, and two opposing clans fight for power. Now Allay is caught in the middle, and she must decide where her loyalties lie.

Etched in Bone (Makers Song #4)
by Adrian Pheonix

But that vow brings consequences that Dante Baptiste--True Bloode vampire, Fallen Maker, and rock musician--never imagined even as it brings him face to face with those hunting him and his lover, former FBI agent, Heather Wallace; the covert Shadow Branch, the vampire Cercle de Druide, and rogue assassins. And now that the Fallen have finally discovered their long-awaited Maker, they have no intention of letting him walk away.

As Dante fights to claim his life as his own, while dealing with the awakened and shattered memories of his brutal past, an unexpected enemy arises from within Heather's family; an enemy who nearly destroys Dante by stealing the one person who keeps him balanced--Heather.

All worlds--mortal, nightkind, and Fallen--hang in the balance as Dante searches for Heather. And his success or failure will determine whether he becomes the Never-Ending Road or the Great Destroyer.

December 14, 2010

[CLOSED] Interview + Giveaway with Keri Stevens

About the Author

Keri was raised in southern Missouri and has lived in Germany, Arizona, North Carolina and Kentucky. Along the way she acquired degrees in writing and German, a romance hero of her very own, three sons, two miracle cats and a mutt who licks her when she speaks German.

Her husband gave her a Jade Lee novel--her very first romance. A few years and a couple thousand novels later, Keri took up her laptop and began writing her own love stories.

By day, she's a mild-mannered yoga and Oriental dance instructor. By night she creates mayhem and magic in small-town paranormal romance novels like her award-winning debut, Stone Kissed.


About the Novel

When Delia Forrest talks to statues, they talk back. She is, after all, the last of the Steward witches.

After an arsonist torches her ancestral home with her estranged father still inside, Delia is forced to sell the estate to pay his medical bills. Her childhood crush, Grant Wolverton, makes a handsome offer for Steward House, vowing to return it to its former glory. Delia agrees, as long as he’ll allow her to oversee the restoration.

Working so closely with Grant, Delia finds it difficult to hide her unique talent—especially when their growing passion fuels her abilities.

But someone else lusts after both her man and the raw power contained in the Steward land. Soon, Delia finds herself fighting not just for Grant’s love, but for both their lives…

Read my review of Stone Kissed HERE.

Welcome to Black Lagoon Reviews, Keri!

BLR: To start, could you tell us a little bit about this book in your own words?

KS: Stone Kissed is a small-town paranormal romance. When an arsonist torches Delia Forrest’s ancestral home with her estranged father still inside, she returns to Stewardsville, VA to help him—and the house—heal. But the man she’s always longed for, Grant Wolverton, has other plans for the estate. Delia tries to work with him and conceal her feeling and her ability to talk with statues. Both her desire and her power, however, begin to spiral out of control. And then, there’s her cousin, Cecily….

BLR: Creating a world were statues come to life is pretty unique, what inspired you to write about this?

KS: When I was in New York City in 2007, I noticed glorious carvings on the buildings of Manhattan and statues tucked into tiny gardens in front of the brownstones. I wondered what they’d seen over the centuries, what they’d say if they got a chance.

BLR: If you could sum this novel up in 3 words, what would they be?

KS: Love IS magic.

BLR: Out of all the lively statuary in the novel, do you have a favorite and why?

KS: Brogan, the Green Man, is my favorite. He’s so gruff and paternal.

BLR: The Steward witches have a very rich history that you only touched upon in ‘Stone Kissed’, is it possible that you will revisit the world you created in this novel?

KS: Yes. Stewardsville both spawns and draws all sorts of people and creatures in my imagination. When I’m drafting, I very much see it as “going to Stewardsville for the day.”

BLR: What kind of readers do you think this novel will appeal to?

KS: I hope that both fans of fantasy romance, light paranormals and contemporary romances will find Stone Kissed appealing.

BLR: This is your first novel; do you have any advice to aspiring writers?

KS: If you have two choices and one is scarier than the other, do the scary thing. So many writers don’t finish, don’t submit, don’t pitch, don’t send requested manuscripts because they are scared. If you can work through (or in spite of the fear) you are light-years closer to publication.

BLR: What was it like trying to get ‘Stone Kissed’ published? Was it a difficult to get it out there for publishers?

KS: When I finally screwed up the courage to query and pitch, agents and editors were invariably kind to me—and invariably honest. My book doesn’t fit easily into established trends, so Carina Press came along at the perfect time. Carina prides itself on crossing and pushing boundaries.

BLR: Do you have a current or upcoming project that you are working on that you would like to tell us about?

KS: I’m still writing Stewardsville books. Several of the secondary characters in Stone Kissed have stories that want telling, and they just won’t leave me alone!

BLR: What kind of writing process or rituals do you have when writing?

KS: I have to have quiet while drafting—no music, no background noise whatsoever. Drafting is very much like meditation for me, and I’m a binge-drafter. The first version of Stone Kissed, in fact, was a NaNoWriMo project in 2008. Almost none of those words remain in the final version of the book.

Editing is a whole different animal. I want pop music with a light, driving beat, a little bit of wine and I don’t mind if you have the television on.

BLR: I read that you enjoy romance novels, are there any other genres or authors that are must reads for you?

KS: I’m actually a fairly new romance reader! I didn’t start reading them regularly until my husband gave me a Jade Lee novel in 2005 as a joke. I fell in love with her books and the genre as a whole.

But I grew up on fantasy and science fiction: Stephen Donaldson. Anne McCaffrey. Neal Stephenson. Diana Gabaldon (whom I still do not think of as a romance author since her books are so broad and cross so many genre lines). I think it helps any genre writer to read outside her comfort zone just to feed the imagination something new.

BLR: I read in your author bio that you teach Oriental dance, how did you get started doing this and could you tell us a little more about this style of dance?

KS: Americans call it “Belly dancing,” but after fifteen years of serious study and practice, I’ve come to understand the racism and misogyny behind that term, so I don’t use it often. Although cabaret-style dance (usually performed in the sequined bra and belt, diaphanous skirts and veils, and gorgeous beaded fringe) is a blast and the foundation of what I teach, these dances are based in the folk dances of the Middle East. I’ve learned choreographies and movement families from Egypt to Turkey to Lebanon to Algeria and the Balkans over the years—each with different rhythms, traditional steps, and widely varying costumes.

BLR: It seems like most of the characters in your novel had some sort of special power, if you could have any sort of special ‘talent’ what would it be?

KS: I like conflict safely confined to the page before me. Public bickering, arguing and fighting drives me nuts, so I joke about wishing I were Psychic Marijuana with the ability to mellow out any room of cranky people.

Thank you so much Keri for taking the time to share this with us today!
What to find more about Keri Stevens? You can follow her at the following locations:


But, before we go, Keri was generous enough to donate a PDF eBook copy of her debut novel Stone Kissed for one lucky commenter! This contest is open to everyone so to enter simply reply with a valid email address where you can be reached if you win the prize! The winner will be chosen using Good luck!
Contest ends December 21, 2010

December 13, 2010

Mail Call

In my mailbox this week...

Won via a Giveaway @ The Qwillery

Won via a Giveaway @ The Suburban Vampire

Won via Giveaway @ All Things Urban Fantasy

For Review