Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

Title: The Diabolic
Classification: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (November 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1481472674
ISBN-13: 978-1481472678
Author's Website: http://sjkincaid.com/
Notes: I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) at BEA (Book Expo America).

Diabolic - relating to or characteristic of the Devil.

'We looked like people, to be sure. We had the DNA of people, but we were something else: creatures fashioned to be utterly ruthless and totally loyal to a single individual. We would gladly kill for that person, and only for them. That’s why the elite imperial families eagerly snatched us up to serve as lifelong bodyguards for themselves and their children, and to be the bane of their enemies.'
'But lately, it seemed, Diabolics were doing their jobs far too well.  In recent weeks, the Imperial Senate had begun debating the “Diabolic Menace.” Senators discussed Diabolics gone rogue, killing enemies of their masters over small slights, even murdering family members of the child they were assigned to protect to advance that child’s interests. They were proving more of a threat to some families than an asset.' So the Emperor banned Diabolics retroactively. 

My name is Nemesis and the human I am bonded to is Sidonia 'Donia' Impyrean. 'As the sole heir of a Galactic Senator, Donia would be expected to take her father’s seat after he retired. That meant she had to cultivate political instinct now and learn to speak to others among the Grandiloquy, the Empire’s ruling class. Her social skills would fashion the future alliances of her family and ensure their continued influence.' 

This is my story.

This was a very emotionally charged roller coaster of a ride book.While its premise is similar to that of other books, it was so well written and the story so compelling that I found myself being swept away in the current  of the  book. The situation Donia and Nemesis were put in was terribly unjust, but given what people knew of Diabolics equally understandable. In the case of Donia and Nemesis, Nemesis was not the only one who bonded. Donia thought of Nemesis as her best friend or perhaps even a sister. She and her family could not fathom killing Nemesis so they devised a plan to outwit the Emperor. Treasonous? Maybe, but the family already had issues with his rule and killing Nemesis would jeopardize the safety of Donia. So when the Emperor extends an invitation to Donia they see the ruse for what it is and decided to send Nemesis in her place. Nemesis, a creature whose only task is to protect it's human, will now have to interact with others and pretend to be Donia.

I loved seeing Nemesis grow as a person. Her struggle to harness her predatory nature in order to protect her human was fun to watch. Her realization that she was more than what the Emperor and scientists imagined her to be was also fun to see. As she gained confidence in herself and started trusting her own decisions, we finally got to see the real Nemesis and not the one society had molded her to be. It was like she went through her own personal metamorphosis and it was spectacular.

Originally this book was only going to be a standalone. I am so glad the author and publisher decided to expand it into a series. While Nemesis went towards the light, I could see one of her fellow Diabolics opting for the dark after the way they've been treated. Just imagine what damage a genetically altered super powerful individual could do,  It could make for some interesting stories. Plus, we've already seen some of these Diabolics be used by their owners for furthering their own power and status. What would happen if a mistreated  Diabolic realized they had a choice? This book was a game changer and I look forward to finding out where S. J. Kincaid's imagination will take us and this world next.

I couldn't help but give this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved it. While I wish there had been a little more world building and character development, the author thought this would be a one book deal and was trying to pack everything she could into one novel and you have to take that into consideration. I highly recommend this one and look forward to the next installment.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Daring to Fall (Hidden Falls #2) by T.J. Kline

Title: Daring to Fall (Hidden Falls)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hidden Falls (Book 2)
Format: Paperback; 336 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse (February 21, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062651838
ISBN-13: 978-0062651839
Author's Website: http://tinaklinesmith.com/
Notes:  I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Emma Jordan recently inherited the animal sanctuary her father started many years ago. The dream was for them to run the place together, but while she was away learning more skills of the trade he unexpectedly passed. Now attempting to pick up the pieces and get the sanctuary back on track, it becomes clear someone is trying to sabotage her plans.

Ben McQuaid is a local firefighter who gets called to rescue a kitten stuck in a tree. When he arrives at the scene and gets a closer look, he quickly realizes it's no domestic animal--it's a young bobcat. Thinking the cat escaped from the animal sanctuary, he decides to drop it off on his way into the fire station. When he sees Emma, she captures his attention. There's just something about the fiery red head that he can't stop thinking about.
If I had to sum up this novel in three words they would be: steamy, sexy, and hot, hot, hot. Okay if you add them up it would be five, but I only used three words (the and doesn't count). lol This was a sweet romance with so much heat and attraction going on that it was a good thing one of the main characters was a firefighter. Plus, I enjoyed the mystery of who was sabotaging the sanctuary and why. I felt the book had a lovely combination of things going on without letting things get overly busy.

Ben and Emma have a lot more in common then one would imagine. Both have demanding and dangerous jobs, both have had relationships that suffered because of their chosen professions,both have had their hearts broken, and both have decided to go on a relationship hiatus. Can you guess how that ends? I love how these two are drawn to each other from the start and try to resist what they clearly can't--each other. Granted, they really didn't try all that hard which is what made the story so much fun. As things start going awry at the sanctuary, these two become closer and closer as circumstances require they trust one another.

Overall I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. The story was easy to fall into and kept me in its grasp from start to finish. It was full of steamy goodness, romance,  and suspense. I loved that this one took place at an animal sanctuary as it seemed so refreshingly different from the other novels out there. We have a Big Cat Rescue in Tampa and the sanctuary reminded me of it. I'm not sure I'd combine birds and cats in one sanctuary, but it sounded like a fun place to visit. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed.

Order of the Hidden Falls series:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Escape Clause (Virgil Flowers #9) by John Sandford

Title: Escape Clause (A Virgil Flowers Novel)
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Crime Fiction/Thriller
Series: A Virgil Flowers Novel (Book 9)
Format: Hardcover; 400 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; 1St Edition edition (October 18, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0399168915
ISBN-13: 978-0399168918
Author's Website: http://www.johnsandford.org/
Notes: I borrowed this one from the library.

“Somebody stole the Amur tigers from the zoo last night,” Duncan said. “Apparently shot them with a tranquilizer gun and hauled them out of there. Since it’s a state zoo, it’s our problem.”

“What? Tigers?” 

“Yeah. Somebody stole the tigers . . . two Amur tigers. Pride of the zoo. Listen, man, you’ve got to get up here,” Duncan said. “There’s gonna be a media shitstorm starting tonight on the evening news.” (...) “We’ve got to find them, and we have to be quick about it. I know that puts pressure on you, but we can only think of three reasons for somebody to steal them.” 

“Which are?” Duncan had pulled a plastic chair into the office from the outer room, and Virgil took it and sat down. 

“One, it’s an anti-zoo nut,” McCall said. “Those people are mostly talk, as unpleasant as they can be. Two, it could be somebody who deals in live exotic animals—there’s a lot of that down in Texas and owning tigers is more common than you’d think. There might be five thousand privately owned tigers in the U.S. And three, and this is the worst possibility, it’s somebody who wants to sell the tiger . . . parts . . . to be used in traditional Asian medicine. Almost all the parts are used in one form or another. That would involve killing the tigers, of course.”

With little to go on and more false leads than true Detective Virgil Flowers has his work cut out for him.
This is the ninth novel in the Virgil Flowers series. From what I can gather, this is a spin-off series to Sandford's Prey series. If you haven't read the previous books in the series, don't worry. While I might have missed out on some of the nuances of the relationships between characters, I didn't feel lost. In other words, the book didn't piggy back on any other of the books.

An escape clause is a clause in a contract that specifies the conditions under which one party can be freed from an obligation. While no contract exists between the criminals in this novel, the main thief has found another way to escape his obligation for sharing the small fortune he'll make off of selling the parts of the two stolen tigers and that's to kill his associates. From the beginning we know who stole the tigers and why and we anxiously await for Virgil to zero in on the thieves. As the bodies start piling up, Virgil gets closer and closer to putting the pieces of the puzzle together as he starts following the trail of breadcrumbs that lead to the murderer/thief. I'm not usually a fan of books which give the points of view both the villain and the hero, but this book was a little bit like watching a face paced chess match. Both opponents jockeying for position while strategizing their next move based on what the other did. I rather enjoyed it.

Meanwhile a secondary story revolving around Frankie's younger sister, Sparkle, strikes a little closer to home. In a case of mistaken identity Frankie is attacked when thugs decided to make their displeasure at Sparkle poking her nose where it's not wanted. Sparkle is doing research into the mistreatment of migrant workers and it appears someone is not happy.

Overall I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. It was a fast paced novel with a lot going on to keep the reader's interest. There was plenty of murder, mischief, and mayhem to go around with a little bit of skinny dipping on the side.  A highly entertaining read with well rounded cast of characters.

Order of the Virgil Flowers series:

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Trespasser (Dublin Murder Squad #6) by Tana French

Title: The Trespasser: A Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Crime Fiction/Murder Mystery/Thriller
Series: Dublin Murder Squad
Format: Hardcover; 464 pages
Publisher: Viking; First Printing edition (October 4, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0670026336
ISBN-13: 978-0670026333
Author's Website: http://www.tanafrench.com/
Notes: I bought this one.

“The vic,” I say, tapping the photo of Aislinn with my marker. “Aislinn Murray, twenty-six, lived alone in Stoneybatter, worked as a receptionist at a firm selling bathroom supplies to businesses. No criminal record, no calls to us. Assaulted yesterday evening in her home: Cooper’s preliminary exam says she took a punch to the face and hit her head on the fireplace surround. Texts on her phone narrow down the time to between 7:13 and 8:09.” I move to Rory’s photo. “This guy here, Rory Fallon, he’s been seeing her for a couple of months. He was due at her house for dinner at eight o’clock.”At first it looked to be a classic case of boy beats girl. Aislinn Murray was getting ready for a date when something went terribly wrong. As detective Antoinette Conway and her partner, Stephen Moran, begin interviewing friends, neighbors, and the primary suspect, however, a different story slowly begins to emerge. With the media breathing down their neck for justice and pressure from their superiors to get the job done, Antoinette and Steve will have to chose between taking the easy way out or getting to the bottom of what really happened.

 If you want to kill someone, have enough respect for my time to make it someone, anyone, other than the most gobsmackingly obvious person in the world. 

Detective Antoinette Conway just got her wish.
This is the sixth book of the Dublin Murder Squad series. If you haven't read the previous books, that's just fine. Each book of the series is self contained, and you're lucky if you catch even a glimpse of one of the other main characters in the series.

I've read all of Ms. French's books, and this is the first one that didn't draw me in from the first chapter. Antoinette is a rather abrasive character. She's a women trying to make it in a predominantly male profession and she's struggling to find her place within it. She's convinced she's on her last legs with the murder squad, and that this case was given to her to drive the final nail into her proverbial coffin and her partner, Steve, will be collateral damage. All the pranks that have been played on her since she arrived in the Murder Squad have put a chip on her shoulder, and she's constantly on the defensive.

What I found quite interesting, as the story developed, was how similar Aislinn, the murder victim, was to Antoinette. I found quite a few parallels between the two, and I almost felt the two were mirror images of each other—both relative and opposite at the same time, and therein, in my humble opinion, lies the brilliance of the book. Both had grown up without their fathers during the critical years of their lives. Both had people keeping information about their fathers from them. Both had a hard time growing up. Both were underestimated because they were women. I think it’s safe to say both had tempers. Interestingly, however, they took two very different paths. Aislinn used her gender to her advantage while Antoinette had it used against her. One chose vengeance while the other chose to avenge others. By comparing the two, I could see how Antoinette’s life could have taken a very different path. I felt the way the book played out was the author's way of trying to make us see how thin the line there is between right and wrong and how easy it is to cross.

Favorite quotes:
- 'You can knock down a genuine belief, if you load up with enough facts that contradict it; but a belief that’s built on nothing except who the person wants to be, nothing can crumble that.'

- 'I was doing exactly the same thing as Aislinn: getting lost so deep inside the story in my head, I couldn’t see past its walls to the outside world. I feel those walls shift and start to waver, with a rumble that shakes my bones from the inside out. I feel my face naked to the ice-flavored air that pours through the cracks and keeps coming. A great shiver is building in my back.'

- 'Every murderer says that to us, sooner or later. You weren’t there. You don’t understand. There’s a small dry chip of silence while no one points that out.'

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. I loved the different nuances between Aislinn and Antoinette's personalities. While I guessed who dunnit early on, I enjoyed the twist that I didn't see coming. I wish the book would have explored how Antoinette dealt with the information she'd uncovered about what was behind the squad's attitude towards her. It felt like a subject that should have been broached. Additionally, I would have liked Antoinette's side of the story of what actually went down. She only hinted at it when she stated the person used enough truth to make their lie believable. I kept wondering what truly happened?

The order of the Dublin Murder Squad:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Wedding for Christmas (Twilight, Texas #7) by Lori Wilde

Title: A Wedding for Christmas: A Twilight, Texas Novel
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Twilight, Texas
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (October 25, 2016)
ISBN-10: 006231145X
ISBN-13: 978-0062311450
Author's Website: http://loriwilde.com/
Notes:  I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating. Please note that as I read and ARC and quotes are subject to change, they will need to be checked and verified against the final version.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Gabi Preston and Katie Cheek decided they needed to shake things up in their lives, and, inspired by the movie 'The Holiday', decided to swap houses for the three weeks prior to Christmas. Katie lives in Twilight, Texas while Gabi lives in Malibu. To say the two lead different lives would be an understatement. Looking for adventure on her first night out, Katie decides to use the invitation Gabi bestowed upon her to attend a charity ball in Los Angeles. As she weaves through the crowd, she is insulted, attacked by some runaway wasabi, and tackled by the last person she expected to see--Ryder Southerland. In high school she'd made a fool of herself when she made a pass at him. He'd been her brother's best friend and the experience apparently freaked Ryder out so much that the next day he moved out of her family's home, where he'd been staying, and joined the army. Can you say awkward?

Much different from the knobby kneed, frizzy haired teenager of her youth she quickly realizes the effect she has on him now is much different than before. One thing quickly leads to another and the two find themselves sharing one incredibly hot and steamy night entangled between the sheets. Determined not to let her emotions get the best of her, Katie sneaks out before he wakes, telling herself it could only be a one night stand because Ryder didn't do relationships.

Nearly a year later, Katie thinks she's free and clear. Then her brother and Gabi announce their getting married, and guess who's coming to the rehearsal dinner and, of course, the wedding? Can you say awkward part deux?

This is the seventh book of the Twilight, Texas series. If you haven't read the rest of the series, that's okay, but I do recommend you read I'll Be Home for Christmas first. The two stories are kind of intertwined, and you'll kick yourself if you don't. I'll Be Home for Christmas holds Gabi's side of the house swapping story and the majority of it takes place before this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Katie's antics had me intermittently laughing and shaking my head. She doesn't seem to know what to do about Ryder, but she definitely knows what she wants to do with him. *smirk* He kind of makes her feel like the awkward, insecure teenager she used to be, but luckily, that's not the way he sees her now.

Ryder hasn't had an easy time. His father kicked him out of the house and that's when Katie's family took him in. Now, years later, he works as a bodyguard for the rich and famous in LA which is a far cry from the little town of Twilight, Texas. With Ryder looking more handsome than ever, Katie decides to indulge herself, and have a one night stand, no strings attached with Ryder believing that's all he'd ever want. One year later, however, when her brother asks Ryder to be his best man at his wedding, she finds out she wasn't the only one affected by their one night of passionate bliss. I loved watching these two come to the conclusion that everyone around them seemed to sense--that they belong together.

This one started out hot and strong, but slowed down fairly quickly as the two figured out what kind of relationship they ultimately wanted, and worked through some personal issues. It slowly regained it's heat and momentum and ended with a lovely grand gesture by Ryder that made me smile. A very cute and sweet romance that earned 4 roses out of 5. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, it earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. Definitely one you'll not want to miss.

Order of the Twilight, Texas series:

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Early Review of Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Title: Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts)
Classification: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Dark Gifts (Book 1)
Format: Hardcover; 368 pages
Publisher: Del Rey (February 14, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0425284158
ISBN-13: 978-0425284155
Author's Website: http://www.vicjames.co.uk/
Notes: I received and eARC loan from the publisher for review purposes.

'Do your slavedays too old, you'll never get through them. 
Do your slavedays too young, you'll never get over them.'

The country of Britain is ruled by Equals, and while their name implies fairness and impartiality, their rule is anything but. Equals hold all the power both figuratively and literally. With the power (aka Skill) to do unnatural things, they use it to their full advantage. Those born outside the Skilled families are not deemed full citizens until they've completed 10 years of service during which they are not considered people, and are sometimes treated worse than the animals. The general population, however, knows very little about Equals or what happens in the slavetowns. You see, the worst of what happens in the slavetowns stays in the slave towns. Equals make sure of it.

Abigail 'Abi' Hadley is a clever young girl who believes she has found a way to keep her family together in jobs very similar to those they'd hold in the 'free' world. She thought the deal she had struck was iron clad, but soon finds out when dealing with Equals their word, whether written or spoken, can be broken at a whim. Not only that, she may have unwittingly just landed her family in the middle of what could be the beginning of a revolution...
This was a fun story set in a universe very similar to yet very different from ours. Equals control part, but not all of the world. In Britain, which was founded by Cadmus Parva-Jardine, Equals rule with an iron fist, and all with the Skill are considered the country's Aristocrats.

The Equals reminded me a little of the Graced in Graceling, but so far that seems to be the only similarity between the two stories. Set in what appears to be a more modern time, Abi thinks she's found an easier way for the family to serve out their slavedays. She found that there is a department within the Labor Allocation Bureau called Estates Services where the Equals go for their house-slaves. She arranges to have the family work for the founding family, the Jardines. When they arrive to start their service, however, they find all but the youngest son will be spending their time at Kyneston. While the majority of the family will get an inside view of Equals and their politics, Luke will get an up close and personal view of the horrors that take place in slavetowns. He ends up at the worst of the lot, Millmoor. Something that, according to the rules, should never have happened.

I found the book engaging with characters that were easily sympathized with. The predicament of the Hadleys was awful, and I'm eager to find out what happens next. This one ends in a cliffhanger and I'm very curious to know where the author will take this family and world. I enjoyed seeing the two sides of Britain with its political posturing and poor treatment of its people. While we get a good glimpse into the workings of Britain, I'm sure there's much of it we haven't yet seen.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. The book had a steady pace with nuggets of information nicely strewn throughout. I'm intrigued by the world building, and look forward to getting even deeper into the world. This series is very promising, and I definitely want to read the next book. The novel is a little dark, and I imagine as we explore this world more intimately, it will get even more so. Definitely worth your time. I can't wait for the next installment. On the Lisarenee Romance rating scale, this one scored a SMILE rating--a lady always tries to be polite so a smile should suffice (ie no heat whatsoever).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Early Review of Falling for the Highlander (Highlanders, #4) by Lynsay Sands

Title: Falling for the Highlander
Classification: Adult Fiction
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: Paperback; 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (January 31, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0062273612
ISBN-13: 978-0062273611
Author's Website: http://www.lynsaysands.net/
Notes: I received an eARC loan from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I am also an Avon Addict which means I love the books that Avon publishes enough to volunteer to read as many ARCs and books as they can send my way. So you'll be seeing a lot of books reviewed by me from this publisher. Please note, however, that if I don't like a book, it will be truthfully reflected by a low rating.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

To say Murine Carmichael is not in an ideal position would be an understatement. Most of her family is gone and she is now in the care of her one surviving brother, and he has just made an indecent proposal to a horse breeder. In exchange for one of the man's prize horses, he's offering to look the other way while the man spends a few pleasurable nights with her. No marriage required. If the horse trader had not been a gentleman, she may very well have lost her virtue, but thankfully he was. Now, desperate to get away, she'll attempt to escape to her friends. Hopefully they can help her.

Dougall Buchanan comes from a long line of honorable men. After seeing what Murine's brother tried to do, and then finding her trying to make a desperate escape, he and his brothers can't help but assist her to safety. With a long journey ahead, the most ideal situation would be for her to marry. While both of his brothers acknowledge they wouldn't be opposed to being shackled to the beautiful young lass, there's something about Murine that makes that idea unsettling...
This was the fourth book of the Falling for the Highlander series and while you can read this one as standalone, be forewarned, these reads are highly addictive and you may find yourself reading them all. It's like those potato chips, you can't stop with just one. lol

Dougall is a formidable figure who's just a big teddy bear at heart. He's strong, protective, honorable, loyal, and sexy as all get-out. He's also trying his darnedest to resist the feelings he's starting to have for Murine, and that is what makes this story so fun. He doesn't feel he's ready to settle down, but there's just something about Murine that makes him think maybe...

Murine is strong, determined, and in need of all the help she can get. In the precarious position of being dependent on her no good brother, she has few resources of her own to get her safely to one of her friends. As details are slowly revealed as to what led to her being in her brother's care, something about her predicament doesn't sit right with Dougall. As time goes by, he becomes convinced there's more to the situation than meets the eye, and he'll do what he can to get to the bottom of it.

Overall, I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 roses. It was a delightfully fun and sexy read with a healthy dose of mystery added into the mix. Dougall was all you'd hope for in a Highland Warrior and then some. This one left me with a cat who swallowed the canary type grin and an appetite for more. Thankfully, this is not the last in the series so there's more to come. *Does a little happy dance* On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one earned a STEAM rating--too hot for a fan, but you still have a handle on things. You should use extreme caution when reading a book with this rating in public. People may inquire as to why you looked flustered and flushed. Definitely one you'll not want to miss.

Order of the Highlanders series:
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