Friday, June 29, 2007

The Strength of the Pack by Jorrie Spencer

TITLE: The Strength of the Pack
AUTHOR: Jorrie Spencer
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 64k)
GENRE: Paranormal romance
COST: $5.50

Werewolf Seth Kolski leads a solitary life, haunted by his sister’s disappearance. A chance encounter with his teenaged crush, the recently divorced Jamie Buchner, leads to more complications than he anticipated – her reciprocating feelings, a five-year-old boy in desperate search of a father figure, and a future he can’t allow himself to believe in. When the past rears its ugly head, it threatens to tear apart everything he loves. Including Jamie and her fragile family.

I almost didn’t buy this book. The cover kind of creeped me out a little bit, and since werewolves aren’t necessarily my favorite paranormal, I was prepared to skip the blurb. But I did, and then I read the excerpt anyway and liked it enough to give this one a go. I am so glad I did. This is one of the most compulsively readable books I’ve had in quite awhile. The first few chapters were the usual stop and go I get with books, but by the time I was halfway through, I didn’t want to walk away from it.

Seth is sexy, complex, and haunted, painted with a deft brush throughout the story. It was completely understandable why Jamie fell for him, even with his half-hearted attempts to keep her at arm’s length. I found myself caught up in his personal drama, anxious for Jamie to get through to him, eager to see him get some happiness. I credit Seth for my inability to put the story down. He was wonderful.

Where Seth’s characterization excelled, Jamie was a bit of a letdown. Her behavior was erratic, and while I suspect the author would argue her physical state as the reason for that, it was too much for me to buy. Her indecision didn’t bother me – in fact, it was to be expected – but emotional flipflops multiple times within a single scene got to be a little much. I still liked her, just not as much as Seth. It would have been nice to know why she wasn’t working, though.

While maybe not the freshest plot around, Ms. Spencer’s even pacing and commitment to her hero more than compensate. She could have done more in regards to building the history and world of Seth’s werewolves, but what she does have is engaging and doesn’t leave a reader asking too many questions. Maybe it was my adoration of Seth that made me want more. I only wish the upcoming book in this series was more of Seth. I’ll buy it anyway, though. Ms. Spencer has a new reader in me.


9/10 – Compulsively readable. Mostly great pacing and professionally presented.


9/10 – Heartbreaking and three-dimensional. Loved Seth.


7/10 – Likeable, but uneven

Entertainment value

9/10 – Couldn’t put it down, though it took me a little bit to get into it.

World building

7/10 – When it came to Seth’s world, very believable, though I would have preferred more detail/explanation to better enrich it.



Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Shadow Vision by Samantha Storm

TITLE: Shadow Vision
AUTHOR: Samantha Storm
PUBLISHER: New Concepts Publishing
LENGTH: Long novella (roughly 36k)
GENRE: Paranormal romance
COST: $3.99

Friday Maxwell is a Demon Killer, or rather, a Demon Killer in training. When she is ambushed on the way home, her savior turns out to be a mysterious Van Spencer, with an attitude as thick as molasses and a grandmother who reads Tarot cards. Her life quickly becomes entangled with his, and they join forces, albeit reluctantly, to save a group of children from the same demons that destroyed Friday’s DK group.

While the blurb for this long novella sounded like most of the other urban fantasies out there right now, the excerpt that was posted on the site was too entertaining not to try. The entire story is written in 1st person, a common feature in this type of kickass heroine story, and while sometimes it’s obvious the author doesn’t really have a handle on it, Ms. Storm does surprisingly well. Her heroine Friday is funny and astute, without being obnoxious about it. She gets her way through action scenes with aplomb and takes the reader along for the ride.

Where the story is let down is in its editing. There are numerous errors that should have been caught prior to publication, including one that’s unintentionally hilarious when, at the climax of a sex scene, Friday reflects, I felt another organism building inside me. I don’t want to think she’s all of a sudden Ripley, and an alien is going to rip out of her chest.

This story is an urban fantasy first, and a romance second, which is likely why the characterization of Van, Friday’s unwilling partner, doesn’t get the same attention Friday’s does. As an action figure, he’s intriguing to watch. His taciturn behavior on the down time, however, makes it very difficult to form a solid opinion about him.

While an enjoyable afternoon read, what this story really needed to be a truly great book was to be about twice its length in order to give Van more time to develop and the plot to smooth out and make more sense. The ending makes it clear the author intends this to be a series, so I hope she doesn’t shortchange her stories in the future. It’s okay to write longer stories when the plot and characters merit it. Let’s hope the author realizes she’s got a heroine who’s worth it.


7/10 – An entertaining author’s voice gets spoiled by unfortunate editing.


6/10 – Great as an action figure, but when it comes to personality, a little lacking.


9/10 – Kickass, sassy, and likeable with a sense of humor.

Entertainment value

7/10 – An entertaining heroine kept me involved, but editing issues and jumps in plot that came out of nowhere pulled me enough out of the story not to have this higher.

World building

7/10 – 1st person stories are hard with detail, though this succeeds on a small level. Where this lacks is the history/explanation of all the paranormal elements, leaving a reader to scratch her head more than once.



Monday, June 25, 2007

Three by Lisa Andel, T.A. Chase, & Bonnie Dee

TITLE: Three
AUTHOR: Lisa Andel, T.A. Chase, Bonnie Dee
PUBLISHER: Liquid Silver Books
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 74k)
GENRE: Menage erotic romance
COST: $5.95

A trio of threesome novellas, from m/m/f, to m/m/m, to m/f/f. These three authors offer alternatives to traditional romantic relationships. Does love have to come in pairs?

“Tia’s Leash” by Lisa Andel is the first offering. I’m going to hope they decided to put these in order by author’s last name, because if this story is meant to convince me to continue reading, I would have stopped after the first chapter. It’s wham-bam-good-bye coherency and characterization in this one. The author might have a nice voice given the chance, but in this story about a female werewolf who is the object of obsession for her pack and every other male who encounters her, there’s no chance to experience it. Males in this story are practically interchangeable; 90% of them don’t have any personality at all. Don’t look for emotional involvement in this one. There’s no build-up, there’s virtually no plot, and the heroine spends too much time being a receptacle for every male body part around to have much of a personality. Pass.

“Two for One” by T.A. Chase isn’t quite as cringeworthy. Dr. Jack Samson is the new veterinarian in the town of Sumerset. The first night he goes out, he meets a local couple, Brady Vanderly and fire chief, Simon Wittman. Surprise, surprise, they’re looking for a potential third to make them feel “complete.” Well, Brady is. Simon is kind of going along for the ride in the beginning. Though this story is more readable than the first, and the characters a little more developed, my constant amazement that they are always having sex, in every way and every place, gets old very fast. There’s an attempt later on in the story to add some conflict, but really? This is about three boys having fun with their body parts. And that’s pretty much it.

“Awakening” by Bonnie Dee is the only story to even attempt a little bit of character complexity. Shy Melissa has had a thing for a British guy in her office, Michael, only to come home and find out that her best friend and more sexually adept roommate Rachel has picked up Michael as her latest conquest. When she learns that Melissa likes him, she suggests a weekend for the three of them, and thus commences…a weekend of threesome sex. Ms. Dee’s prose is definitely the most sophisticated of the three, and the more details she provides makes it much easier to get immersed in the characters she creates. I can’t say that I necessarily like any of them very much – Rachel’s pushiness grates after awhile, Melissa’s refusal to stand up for what she really wants is the same – but at least they’re real and not merely a means to get off. The pat ending didn’t work for me, either, in the context of the characters she created, but at least she tried. I’m still not sure the other authors did.


6/10 – There’s little technically wrong with the stories, though the simplistic styles of the first two makes for monotonous reading after awhile.


4/10 – Only 2 of the 3 menages even work a little bit for me, and one of them barely works at all.


6/10 – Half of these points go to Bonnie Dee’s story. And 2.5 of the other points goes to the gay threesome. It’s hard to give much more than half a point to a story with interchangeable body parts.

Entertainment value

4/10 – I had to fight so hard to even finish the first story. And the other two were very put-downable.

World building

5/10 – Only the middle story had any believable world to me. Dee’s story was all about the characters and Andel’s was too wham bam to qualify for anything.



Friday, June 22, 2007

Ebony by T.C. LoTempio

TITLE: Ebony
AUTHOR: T.C. LoTempio
PUBLISHER: Whiskey Creek Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 82k)
GENRE: Thriller Horror
COST: $5.99

Few people escape the town of Ebony, and the few that do always come back. Such is the case for reporter Jess McCall. She never thinks she’ll return until a mysterious envelope from her estranged sister forces her hand. Worried that something has happened, Jess returns to Ebony, only to be faced with story after story about why Amanda’s not around. None of them satisfy her. It takes teaming up with fellow reporter Frankie Marshall for some of the pieces to come together, but the truth of Amanda’s – and other’s – disappearances is almost too horrific to face.The undead. Voudou. An insane mastermind. How are they ever going to survive?

The book starts out taut and intense, with an opening scene that sucks you in. Unfortunately, the momentum set by the beginning starts to falter a third of the way into the story, so that by halfway through, it’s derailed enough to fail to deliver on its early promise. This is about the time the author hits the pitfalls of necessary exposition, and too many scenes are spent researching and explaining voudou for the average reader. It’s given in long, clunky scenes that had me glazing over just like Frankie the first time he heard it. By the time I hit the third of such scenes, I was skimming. It was either that, or stop reading altogether.

A good editor should have helped this promising author correct those, but unfortunately, I suspect the editor on this book wasn’t as strong as she needed. There are several incorrect word usages throughout the book, as well as several continuity errors that pulled me out of a scene (Frankie referring to Amanda once when he clearly met Jess, for instance). Maybe she got sucked into the story enough to miss them. That’s a shame for Ms. LoTempio, though, because those kinds of errors keep Ebony from being a truly creepy read.

Where the book shines is in creating memorable characters, both with the citizens of Ebony and the town itself. Anybody who ever grew up in a small town knows a girl like Tally Whitehall, or has encountered the wall of silence that greets Jess on her return. As a heroine, Jess works just fine, though sometimes I wondered how she ever survived some of her reporting assignments if she acted out on the field like she did in Ebony. Her chemistry with Frankie is compelling, but I was a little disappointed when his history wasn’t used to better advantage in the story. He was, for me, the strongest and most believable protagonist of the bunch. I would have preferred to see more of him and less of a couple others.

I love a good horror story, but ultimately, this book falls a little short. With tighter plotting, this could have been one of those stay-up-until-midnight-finishing stories. As it is, it was a mildly enjoyable distraction for a couple of days.


7/10 – Easy prose is hindered by some sloppy editing and clunky blocks of exposition that kill momentum.


7/10 – Spunky enough to counter the really stupid moves she occasionally makes.


6/10 – There’s a lot of deus ex machina in how things get resolved, and while the story has potential for being truly creepy, other elements cripple it.

Entertainment value

6/10 – Enjoyable, but not nearly as scary as it could have been

World building

8/10 – To the author’s credit, Ebony came to life for me.



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Taking the Job by Cheyenne McCray

TITLE: Taking the Job
AUTHOR: Cheyenne McCray
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 19k)
GENRE: BDSM erotic romance
COST: $4.45

The heavens have opened on Elsie Meyers as she rushes to her job interview. Without the time to at least check her make-up, she goes into her meeting with John Bennett soaking wet, only to have a surprise come tumbling out of her briefcase at the wrong moment. All it takes is sight of the flogger Elsie has to unleash the attraction John feels for her.

She’s in search of a new Dom. He’s looking for a new sub. This is one job interview that gets them both what they want.

You know, it’s very hard to sit and pay attention to a story when it seems to want to do everything it can to make me hate it. There’s the heroine who takes a flogger with her on a job interview – and I’m sorry, but the excuse that she forgot to take it out of her briefcase is so far beyond lame that it’s not even funny. How she can call herself a professional is beyond me. There’s the repetition of words I hate that yank me out of the sex scenes. There’s the utter lack of anything resembling a plot, which wouldn’t be so bad if I actually liked the hero and heroine. There’s the obligatory happy ending, that’s so tacked on, it might as well not even be there.

I like BDSM stories. I do. Though this doesn’t claim to represent the lifestyle but only elements, it still fails on so many levels that I wish I hadn’t succumbed to the urge to buy it. It’s okay to claim to show only elements as long as the hero and heroine are likable. But I just can’t stand behind a woman who takes a flogger to a job interview. She claims to be a professional. A software design engineer. What professional woman in this day and age takes a flogger to a job interview if they want to be taken seriously? Elsie uses the excuse that she keeps forgetting to take it out after retrieving it from her previous Dom’s house, but come on. This is her briefcase. She doesn’t open that sucker once when she’s home? I don’t buy it.

Most of the time, the sex is hot, but Ms. McCray has a tendency to overuse certain words that make me cringe. I realize they’re romance staples. That doesn’t mean I have to like them. Someone out there does, however. Ms. McCray isn’t a bestselling author for nothing. Maybe because she indulges pure fantasy about having three gorgeous men, ready and more than willing to satisfy your every desire.

If you’re looking for erotic fiction without thought to originality or a believable heroine, feel free to check this one out. It’s short, and the sex is hot as long as you can tolerate the liberal use of the word, “core.” There are worse ways to spend a few spare minutes.


4/10 – Too many words that make me cringe, and not enough commas to punctuate it correctly and make it easier to read.


6/10 – Hot as hell for a Dom, but other than that, not much personality.


2/10 – Frankly, anyone dumb enough to take a flogger to an interview deserves to be flogged. And not in the good way.

Entertainment value

4/10 – The sex was hot when I wasn’t getting distracted by all the words I hate, but the rushed ending totally crushed any believability it might have had.

World building

5/10 – There was a world here? Other than the party, I didn’t see it.



Monday, June 18, 2007

La Mirage by Jennifer Colgan

TITLE: La Mirage
AUTHOR: Jennifer Colgan
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Short Story (roughly 14k)
GENRE: Paranormal Erotic Romance
COST: $2.50

Journalist Savanna Blaine and her photographer Ben Lantano are on their way to an assignment, when Ben’s aging pick-up breaks down in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada. When roadside assistance says they’ll take three hours to arrive, Ben talks Savanna into walking the mile to the next gas station. That’s not what they find. What they find is an oasis of a hotel that is too good to be true, one that seduces them into letting down their guards for a night and indulge the attraction both feels for the other.

I picked up La Mirage because it’s part of the Midsummer Night’s Steam series that Samhain is doing this summer. Other shorts that I’ve bought so far proved entertaining, so I thought I’d give this one a go. This one represents the series well. It’s frothy, and for a short, relatively thorough. The hero and heroine already know each other when the story starts, so it’s a lot easier to invest in their relationship because the author doesn’t have to try and convince me that one can grow.

That’s not to say it was a perfect read for me. The major sex scene is portioned into distinct segments, flipflopping between the hero’s and the heroine’s perspectives. I, for one, don’t like emotional/intense scenes that do this. Just when you start to get into a scene, it breaks, and you find yourself in a new head and you have to start all over again. For an erotic romance, that’s usually the kiss of death for me. Thankfully, the author’s style and clean prose keeps me into her scene enough so that I kept reading without getting too annoyed.

Calling this a paranormal erotic romance is probably generous. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the story’s open ending is another weak point. If Ms. Colgan was attempting a Twilight Zone feel to it, I’m not sure she succeeded. The gotcha just wasn’t strong enough, nor the characters’ reactions.

The strongest part of the book by far was the detail in establishing setting. I could picture the La Mirage, I could feel the heat coming off the Nevada highway. A lot of erotic writers gloss over those details in favor of getting straight to the sex, but Ms. Colgan doesn’t cheat any portion of the story by taking shortcuts with description.

A pleasant enough distraction for some spare time on a Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure I’ll remember the characters a week from now, but I know for sure I’ll remember the hot Nevada sun.


8/10 – Mostly easy to read, though the occasional run-on sentence disrupts the flow. Easy enough to keep reading, but also easy enough to put down again.


7/10 – I liked him enough, though the story length shortchanges the reader from getting to know him too well


7/10 – Again, I generally liked her, though I’ll admit I got stuck on the blue bra underneath a white top as just insanely stupid.

Entertainment value

7/10 – A pleasant enough diversion

World building

9/10 – By far the best part of the book. Lots of gorgeous detail making it easy to visualize.



Saturday, June 16, 2007


I read. A lot. It's my addiction of choice. It started when I was four and hasn't changed in thirty years. The advent of e-publishing has just made it easier to support my habit, because now I can buy stories from the comfort of home. Taking kids took to the book store or the library isn't nearly as fun as it sounds.

I'm not picky about the types of books I read, but I am picky about the quality. I can be sold on just about anything if the story is told well enough. What I hope to do with this blog is to talk about the e-books I read, primarily romance and erotic romance. Bear with me; I'm new at this. All I know is that I have opinions about the books I read, and sometimes, they don't match the reviews that I find online.

My goal is to publish three reviews a week, usually newer releases because I have a habit of buying when stuff comes out. Occasionally, I'll discover an author I adore and go back and buy her older books, so you might see those, too. I won't bother reviewing print books. The way I see it, e-authors need all the support they can get.