Monday, July 21, 2014

SUNNY - REVIEW BLITZ: "Dark Secrets" by Madeline Pryce

Welcome to the Release Blitz for Dark Secrets, book two in the Dark series by Madeline Price.  Since reading Dark Cravings, I have been anxiously waiting for this book! 

The worst moment of Micah’s life was when Ella nearly died in his arms. Her miraculous recovery should have been the start of their future. Unfortunately, a new demonic heritage, the Shadow Agency’s corruption and Julian, the vampire who turned Ella, are testing their relationship. Despite hotter-than-ever sex and a variety of new places and positions to explore, Micah begins to wonder if a relationship based on lust can survive for more than a few scorching-hot months.

Ella has forgiven, but not forgotten, the fact that Micah once plunged a dagger through her heart. Everything with Micah is passion, excitement and an uncontrollable desire to explore his body in a variety of very satisfying ways. But as buried secrets, ongoing lies and murderous deceptions pile up, Ella is reminded that she and Micah’s relationship was based on a curse. In order to forge a future together, Ella and Micah will have to face down their personal demons—and prove that love and trust are more than just words.

I had a little anxiety before I started this book.  I really, really, enjoyed Dark Cravings and I wondered which direction the author would take this story.   Book two in a series is a little tricky, especially if it is a sequel to a romance.  After all, the hero and heroine are already together.  The conflict introduced to separate our pair has to be such that either or both sides are redeemable. We already love them together, what will happen to them to separate their love? I am happy to say that Madeline Pryce delivers and then some. 

Ella is struggling with her new role as a vampire queen.  Her primal nature is to conquer and control with no regard to blood and death.  But her humanity keeps her darker side balanced. But for how long?  What kind of leader will Ella be and will there be room for Micah? Micah is seeking the truth behind a newly revealed family secret. It haunts him and impacts his self-esteem. This journey casts uncertainty to Micah and Ella’s relationship.

The writing is crisp. The tone is both serious and humorous; the pace is quick and intense; the love scenes are erotic.  I thought the hospital scene in the original book was hot, but this has one of the most intense shower scenes I can remember reading. It is fiercely passionate and emotional.

I enjoyed the direction the author took this story.  She drew me in, took me to a fantastic and satisfying place and then, BAM!  She knocked me for a loop. It is a highly entertaining read and I found myself smiling (when I wasn’t gasping in surprise) throughout the entire book.
An ultimately satisfying sequel, Dark Secrets is a perfect companion in this potent PNR series.  I would not recommend it as a stand alone, but it is essential as a sequel.

Series Reading Order
Dark Cravings (#1 Ella/Micah – 85k)
Dark Innocence (#1.5 Hannah – 45k)
Dark Secrets (#2 Ella/Micah – 85k)
Dark Vengeance (#2.5 Castro – 45k) – release date coming soon!
Dark Promises (#3 Ella/Micah) – Spring 2015

Madeline Pryce wrote her first novel when she was ten, penned with neon-pink ink in a loose-leaf binder. Captivated by romantic literature, yet intrigued by the paranormal, she continues to develop her own voice, writing the kinds of stories that inspired her as a teen.

Author Links

Thursday, July 17, 2014

SUNNY - BOOK REVIEW: Twisted Miracles by A.J. Larrieu

Cass Weatherfield’s powers come with a deadly price.

Cass knows it was her telekinetic gift that killed a college classmate five years back, even if no one else believes her. She’s lived in hiding from her fellow shadowminds ever since, plagued by guilt and suppressing her abilities with sedatives. Until the night her past walks back into her life in the form of sexy Shane Tanner, the ex-boyfriend who trained her…and the one she left without saying goodbye.

When Shane tells her that his twin sister, Mina—Cass’s childhood friend—is missing, Cass vows to help, which means returning to New Orleans to use her dangerous skills in the search. But finding Mina only leads to darker questions. As Cass and Shane race to learn who is targeting shadowminds, they find themselves drawn to each other, body and soul. Just as their powerful intimacy reignites, events take a terrifying turn, and Cass realizes that to save the people she loves, she must embrace the powers that ruined her life

Urban Fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read.  I enjoy complex, well-written world-building - mostly because it requires a kind of imagination that I just don't have.  I want strong, interesting supporting characters. I want suspense and I want at least a dash of romance (okay, usually more than a dash).  I'm pleased to say that Twisted Miracles gives me all of that and then some.

A.J. Larrieu brings us into the world of the shadowminds where there are healers, guardians, and enforcer all gifted with supernatural powers. And like in all parts of society, there is good and evil in their kind. 

Cass Weatherfield is a telekinetic.  She can move objects in her sleep, she can transport and most unusually of all, she can pull energy from life around her to enhance her powers.  Without having any of this knowledge as a child, she grew up alienated from the world, moved from foster home to foster home until she meets Shane, another shadowmind and future boyfriend.  From Shane and his Uncle Lionel, Cass learns more about this hidden world, but it doesn’t help when she is involved in a tragic accident.  An incident that makes her run from her adoptive family. It is only the disappearance of Shane’s sister (and Cass’s best friend) Mina that brings her back to New Orleans and involves her in a deeper mystery with a serial killer.

I'm biased toward stories that are based in the South.  Having now visited New Orleans, I can imagine the places about which the author writes.  But more than that, stories in the South seem more sultry - the warm winds, the humidity, the exotic scents. Characters seem to have extra flavor as well.  The author offers up a good crew of side characters that enhance the story:  Lionel, another shadowmind and father figure to the kids; Bruce, a normal human with the superpower of optimism; Mina, bereft of her powers, must now learn to cope; and Jackson, another shadowmind living in San Francisco, who helps Cass discover and start to harness her special strengths. 

I also took note of a subtle, but not often included, element in this story.  Shane and Cass are an inter-racial couple.  The focus of this book is not about their inter-racial relationship or about race and racism, but it acknowledges that Shane is of mixed race and the author chooses to make that relevant.  A.J. Larrieu chooses to acknowledge their diverse experience.  I believe that in order to normalize diversity, we must acknowledge varying experiences, not ignore them.  So, when Cass's foster mother, Kate, meets Shane for the first time, Cass can hear the subtext of what she is saying: 

"It hadn't taken her long to forbid me from seeing him.  'Think of your children, Cass,' she said.  'Would you want them to got through life like that?' Like that was Kate-code for black."  

This is done with a subtle hand, but to me a significant inclusion and one I truly appreciated.

My one small critique is that I would have like to learn more about Shane.  We know he’s protective, brave and passionate, but his story starts with Cass.  I’d like to learn more about his story and his point of view.  Maybe an novella from his perspective?

IN A NUTSHELL:  If you are interested in checking out a fresh voice in the Urban Fantasy genre, or if you just want a darn good story, don’t miss out on this book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SUNNY - RELEASE DAY INTERVIEW, REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: "Into the Shadows" by Carolyn Crane

Welcome to a Release Day Event for Carolyn Crane’s latest addition to The Associates series, Into the Shadows  I am a huge fan of Carolyn’s work and especially this particular series.  Join us for a special interview with the author (fan-girl *squeal*), a book review, and a giveaway. 

Welcome, Carolyn to Love Affair with an E-Reader. I am so pleased that you dropped by to talk about your latest book, Into the Shadows

Hi, Sunny! Thank you so much for having me out to your lovely blog!

To start with, for those readers who are new to the series, tell us about The Associates.  How is this series different from your other books? 

The Associates are a group of undercover agents who are hot, brilliant, and lethal, and they each have a kind of specialty, like linguistics or with this book, a philosophical approach to fighting. The Associates solve mysteries, stop horrible crimes, and prevent dangerous world events. They don’t belong to any government, though they sometimes help different governments. So, they’re slightly vigilante-ish.

Where did you get the idea to incorporate Bruce Lee's philosophy?  Are you a fan of Bruce Lee?

Actually, my husband, who studied and taught martial arts much of his life, is into Bruce Lee, so I absorbed a ton of information about—and respect for—Bruce Lee over the years. Bruce Lee is such an icon, and he was so physically beyond anybody else in martial arts, and he had this whole system of thought around what he did - I felt like it could be interesting for a hero to embrace Bruce Lee. Also, Bruce Lee’s outlook can be applied to fighting, but so much more, and that makes it rich for a book. (As I worked on the book it occurred to me his thinking could be applied to writing, like, getting yourself out of the way, being totally responsive, etc.)

Your characters always have a special skills/mindset - math wiz, linguistic genius, emotional detacher/Bruce Lee philosopher - how do you find these characteristics?  How do you go about doing your research? 

After I finished the book about the linguist secret agent (Off the Edge) I thought, WHAT have I gotten myself into? What if I run out of things like that for the agents to be into? But I haven’t yet. Each requires different research. On the first book, I only read books and I didn’t find a live expert to talk to, and I think the incorporation of logistics in that one was thinner than with books 2&3. Now my method is clear – I read books on the topic and find somebody who has expertise and interview them. Obviously it was easy with the Bruce Lee thing.

Who, if any, was your inspiration for Thorne? 

Thorne just evolved inside the book. The thing that really helped me see him was when I started defining the relationship between him and Nadia and trying different things, and when I got it right, he came into focus. 

You given us some enticing tidbits about The Associates, Dax and Zelda. Will they get their own story someday or will you be revealing a little more of their story in each book? 

Zelda is the subject of the next book! She’s a forensic botanist who takes the place of her long-lost twin—a prostitute who was won in a card game by a dangerous drug cartel. 

Dax’s book is coming, too. It’s sort of dangerous, because I don’t have the idea for his book, and every time I write something about him, I lock in some details about him that I may chafe against later. But I really like Dax.

Here's our rapid fire 3-2-1 List:

What are the Top Three ways you like to spend a lazy afternoon?
1. Reading at the beach
2. Running
3. Or a crafty project, like drawing.

What are your Top Two favorite books from your childhood? 
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 
2. Every Nancy Drew.

What one person, past or present, would you choose to share a meal with? 
1. Yikes!! I would have to say rocker Patti Smith. I think she is so smart and cool, and I actually think about her a lot. 

Thank you, Carolyn for joining us and letting us share in your "Opening Day"!

Into the Shadows is book 3 in The Associates series.

He’s working undercover for the good guys. That doesn’t mean he’s one of them.

Thorne McKelvey knows exactly how Nadia sees him—as a brute and a killer just kinky enough to play her sexy games. And that’s how it has to stay. Leaving her was the hardest thing he ever did, but his undercover mission could blow up at any second. No way will he drag Nadia down with him.

Maybe it was foolish to fall in love with her late father’s deadliest henchman, but Nadia Volkov’s not sorry; without Thorne she wouldn’t have their beautiful little boy. There’s nothing she won’t do to protect Benny, which means she must hide his identity—especially from his father.

Now Thorne has burst back into her home, searching for clues to a gangland mystery…and stirring a hunger Nadia hasn’t felt in two years. But Benny’s identity isn’t the only secret she’s keeping, and things are turning deadly. Can Thorne and Nadia trust each other long enough to stay alive and have a chance at happiness?

Thorne is an “unofficial” operative of the Associates, a clandestine organization fighting crime so deep undercover that the members don’t even know who is on their side.  Thorne is recruited by the Associates to infiltrate the Hangman gang and work his way to becoming its leader. He is in deep in more ways than one.  During his tenure under the former boss, Victor, Thorne falls in love with Victor’s daughter, Nadia. Unfortunately, due to a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, Thorne and Nadia break up.  Only years later are they reunited both in love and in purpose, but she now has her own set of secrets as she searches for a treasure that heretofore she didn’t know existed. 

This is a story about being redeemed, giving and accepting love, knowing and believing that you are worthy of it, all wrapped up in an intense romantic suspense thriller.  They say that the farthest distance that a person can travel is from the heart to the head.  Our hero Thorne is so blinded by his past that he fails to see what is real and vital before him.  He cannot see his own heart, much less believe that he is good. He thinks he is a thug; he believes he is unworthy.  The only time he feels worthy is when he is with Nadia.  Their relationship is tricky.  There is a different kind of dynamic in the relationship, not your normal romantic trope. Their romance is edgy, relentless and devouring: There are so many layers to our fucked up layer cake, I don’t know how to untangle it.

In the past, they played this dark game where she calls him derogatory names and belittles him and he loves it.  He loves it because he feels like she is naming his truth – that he is a thug and lowlife.  She does it as a game; he uses it as a means to be real and connect with her:  He never could resist her distain because it was real and raw. And it got him hot. However in truth, if he were truly that evil man, he wouldn’t feel any need to connect. 

We discover that Thorne is a philosophical man, living the words of Bruce Lee both in life and in battle. He is a Zen warrior. He believes that his superpower to win fights is his ability to detach from everything and everyone: Best way to fight was to releasing all needs, need to stay undercover, releasing the desire to live.  His mantra is, I’m free to win because I’m free to die.

However, despite his denial, he is a deeply feeling man.  Nadia helps him find his real truth. His awkwardness is endearing and when he tries to learn to relate to her, it is so sweet: like going to movies alone to figure out how men were suppose to act with women they loved. What shit they would say and do.  Because what the fuck did he know about couples?  He’d even read one of the Hunter S. Thompson books she so loved.

Nadia is a woman completely comfortable in her own skin.  Growing up the daughter of a head of a criminal organization, she knows how to use humor, both soft and hard, to make people feel at ease.  However, that is not who she is.  Thorne breaks through the façade to see the real Nadia. 

There are a lot of great things about this book – the characters, the plot, the intimate scenes, the heart-stopping suspense, but to me, the very best part of this book is the writing.  Carolyn Crane has such a unique voice; there are no other writers like her. She invites readers to follow her distinctively quirky thinking – complex, but not confusing. I love how she finds and uses funny and uncommon details like the forensic botanist. Who knew? The line about the “preventive pee” before a big mission is so right on (This is a lesson I learned when I went on my first ride-along. Go the bathroom before and whenever you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to go again). And the comment about the hotel soap…it completely gutted me. She is a master storyteller. 

IN A NUTSHELL: I can always tell the level of engagement I have with a story just by the number of highlights I have in my book.  This one is a sea of yellow. This is one of my best reads of the year. Period.

BUY THE  BOOK:  ARe | Amazon | B&N 

Carolyn and I are each giving away a book.  She is offering either Into the Shadows or any book from her back list, all in e-format. I am offering Into the Shadows in a Kindle (.mobi) format. 

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