Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One: A Novel
Classification: Young Adult Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Paberback, 384 pages
Publisher: Broadway (June 5, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0307887448
ISBN-13: 978-0307887443
Author's Website:

"Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest."

James Halliday, the creator and designer of the world's most successful and largest interactive multi player virtual reality video game, the OASIS, died leaving no heirs and a massive fortune to be won. At the time of the contest's announcement, the world was in a state of ruin. An ongoing energy crisis paired with catastrophic climate change triggered widespread famine, poverty, and disease. Wars had been fought, won, and lost. People without much left to do had retreated sometimes wholeheartedly into the OASIS virtual video world feeling virtuality was a might better than the reality they faced in their every day-to-day lives. The contest was announced via a "meticulously constructed short film titled Anorak's Invitation." The video message which lasted just over 5 minutes "was crammed with obscure '80s pop culture references."

"My entire estate, including a controlling share of stock in my company, Gregarious Simulation Systems, is to be placed in escrow until such time as a single condition I have set forth in my will is met. The first individual to meet that condition will inherit my entire fortune, currently valued in excess of two hundred and forty billion dollars."

That condition was inspired by Halliday's favorite video game when he was a child, Adventure, created for the Atari 2600 which incidentally was the first videogame system he ever owned. Warren Robinette, the game's creator, was given no credit for creating the game which was a common occurrence at the time. So Warren hid his name within the game itself. He created a key and if you found it you could use it to gain access to a secret room which held Warren's name. It became known as the first videogame Easter egg. The game was shipped without the manufacture's knowledge of the hidden Easter egg. In fact, Atari "didn't find out about the Easter egg's existence until a few months later, when kids all over the world began to discover it." Halliday had been one of those kids, and it had been one of the coolest video experiences of his life. So he decided to share the experience...

"Before I died, I created my own Easter egg, and hid it somewhere inside my most popular video game--the OASIS. The first person to find my Easter egg will inherit my entire fortune."

After Five long years of searching, the Copper key, the first of three, was finally discovered by Wade Watts and this is his story of what happened.


So I confess I really wasn't the happiest of campers when this book won our Goodreads online book club's Anything Goes category for Book of the Month. It didn't truly sound like something that would interest or entertain me. But I'm happy to say this was one of my favorite books that I read in 2012. It was creative, fun, made me laugh, made me think, had me reminiscing and utterly loving the story as it unfolded.

In some respects, this book reminded me a touch of a more grown up version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There are quite a few parallels between the two. Instead of a chocolate factory, a video game empire is up for grabs which will make the recipient rich. Both have challenges and obstacles to overcome in order to win the coveted prize. Both have a boy living in poverty who is the main focus of the book who proves himself to be exceptional among his peers. Plus, both stories have children, in this case teens, being the main contenders competing for the prize. Additionally, both have a huge corporation trying to find a way to gain access to the company. Now, I haven't found anything to suggest that the author, Ernest Cline, decided to create his own version of an old classic although he did mention in a video interview Halliday was an eccentric Willy Wonkaesque type character. However, if Ernest did attempt to rewrite an old classic, this is a brilliant example of how it's done. The similarities are subtle and the bulk of the story is unique, creative, and inventive.

Wade is a character I couldn't help but like. He's has a good heart and is a sweet guy. He is an orphan who was taken in by his aunt so she could confiscate his food vouchers. Luckily, Wade was a smart and crafty child who managed to make some money by repairing video game systems and assembling new ones from parts. Had it not been for his talent, he surely would have starved. He dropped out of his real school to join the virtual school which taught the sames things as a real world school but has one great advantage for a kid like Wade--there are no bullies. At least not the kind that can threaten someone who hasn't quite found where he fits in. Wade was able to join the school because of a scholarship he earned via his good grades. When the contest was announced, Wade decided early on to make it his mission to find the hidden egg. Even though he's smart, he wouldn't be able to afford to go to college and without a college education his future job prospects are pretty grim and his money making opportunities are greatly limited.

Another aspect I liked about the book was how it was set up like a video game. It's divided up into levels mimicking the contest which itself is a game. Each chapter is designated by a four digit number which reminded me of the numbers displayed on a game for points. For example, chapter one is headed by 0001, while chapter 36 is denoted at the chapter head as 0036.  So while I read, I felt like I was accumulating points as I read which seemed to draw me even more into the book. As I always say, it's the little things in books that can mean a lot, and attention to detail that can tip a book over in favor from a good book to a great read. This book has a lot of that.

Ernest Cline's world building in this book is phenomenal. I love his explanation for the mess the world was in. It has the trappings of a dystopian novel as well as a work of science fiction. I loved his depiction of the stacks in his "real" world. Stacks is the term designated for the trailers and mobile homes which are literally stacked on top of each other to provide more room for people to live. If you look at my favorite cover for the book you can see the artists' renditions of them:

I also loved Cline's depiction of the OASIS' virtual world which tickled my inner child and made me wish that there truly was such a game in existence that I could explore and play within...
"In the OASIS, you could become whomever and whatever you wanted to be, without ever revealing your true identity, because your anonymity was guaranteed.

Users could also alter the content of their virtual worlds inside the OASIS, or create entirely new ones. A person's online presence was no longer limited to what website or a social-networking profile. In the OASIS, you could create your own private planet, build a virtual mansion on it, furnish and decorate it however you liked , and invite a few thousand friends over for a party. And those fiends could be in a dozen different time zones, spread all over the globe."

The book also has an underlying message. At the beginning of the book Wade states, "Luckily, I had access to the OASIS, which was like having an escape hatch into a better reality. The Oasis kept me sane. It was my playground and my preschool, a magical place where anything was possible."  Later he says, "We're gunters. We live here, in the OASIS. For us, this is the only reality that has any meaning." The majority of people who accessed the OASIS used it as a crutch to escape from reality, and at times it was rather disturbing just how addicted and immersed in the game some of the players become. Toward the end, one of the main characters concludes, "As terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real."

Why is the book titled Ready Player One? Well I believe because of this:

Identity verification successful. 
Welcome to the Oasis, Parzival!
Login Completed: 07:53:21 OST-2.10.2045

As the text faded away, it was replaced by a short message, just three words long. This message had been embedded in the log-in sequence by James Halliday himself, when he'd first programmed the Oasis, as an homage to the simulation's direct ancestors, the coin-operated video games of his youth. These three words were always the last thing an OASIS user saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one:
Ready Player One

Overall, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. I loved all the references to the '80s pop culture which included references to videogames such as Galaga, Pacman and Joust. It included references to '80s Movies such as War Games, Monty Python's Holy Grail and Heathers. It also included music references to songs like  Dead Man's Party, Rebel Yell,  We Can Dance If We Want To and Blue Monday. Additionally, I loved the secondary characters such as Wade's love interest Art3mis and his best friend Aech. I also loved all the challenges and obstacles Wade had to overcome. Ernest Cline has a wickedly awesome imagination. So if you haven't read the book I HIGHLY encourage you to pick it up and read it. Just be prepared for a fun ride. There is plenty of drama, twists and turns to keep you on your toes. If you're interested in checking out my Goodreads group's discussion of Ready Player One, Click Here.

Notes to keep you in the know:
One of my co-moderator, Mary, found the following: According to Wikipedia, "Ten months after the first edition release, Cline revealed on his blog that Ready Player One itself contained an elaborately hidden Easter egg. This clue would form the first part of a series of staged video gaming tests, similar to the plot of the novel. Cline also revealed that the competition's grand prize would be a DeLorean. The game Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale by Austin based developer Portalarium was featured in one part of the contest."

"The contest's final stage was announced on August 1, and was to set a world record on one of several classic arcade or Atari 2600 games. This was completed on August 9 by Craig Queen, who set a new world record in Joust. He was awarded his DeLorean on the TV show X-play." To see the full post, Click Here.

Additionally, check out this video I found of G4TV which includes an interview with Ernest and which displays the winner of the DeLorean. To see the full G4TV post Click Here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Early Review of Blood Winter (Horngate Witches, #4) by Diana Pharaoh Francis

  • Title: Blood Winter (Horngate Witches)
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback; 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (December 26, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1451613865
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451613865
Author's website:
Notes: I read the eARC of the book and quotes will need to be checked against the finished version.
"The Lord of Heaven and Earth bids us not suffer a witch to live," the man declared in a singsong cadence. "We must not suffer evil in our midst, or we will become evil; we will defile our Lord's name by our very existence. We must do His work, no matter the cost. He sacrificed His only son for us; we must be willing to sacrifice no less for Him!"

Someone claiming to be the right hand of God is threatening Horngate and the surrounding communities. They've managed to bypass Horngate's wards and have made their intentions clear. What the "preacher" doesn't say is the bible also warns to beware of false prophets, which the man wearing sandals and a long beige cotton robe belted with a rope clearly is. In fact, the "prophet" himself is a witch for otherwise he and his followers would never have been able to breach the wards which protect Horngate from outsiders.

Additionally, Divine creatures, some of which were thought to be extinct, are popping up all over the surrounding areas. If all that is going on can be attributed to the witch claiming to be a prophet of God, then he is a powerful witch indeed. It may take all or more power than Giselle and her coven possess to overcome this enemy. With the previous attack still fresh in her memory, Max vows, "No one--no one--was going to get away with attacking her home again. She didn't care what she had to do to protect it and the people within. This was her home, her family. She'd kill anyone who threatened them." 

This is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series. Because there is so much to the Horngate series' world, I highly recommend you read the previous books to the series. While some may be able to pick up enough without reading the previous stories, I feel you'd cheat yourself out of the whole experience the series has to offer by doing so. I was first introduced to this series a year ago by the publisher, and when they told me they had copies of Blood Winter available for review, I immediately put in a request for one. Ms. Francis never fails to entertain me with this series.

While the name implies the books focus on witches, Max, a Prime Shadowblade, is the primary focus of the series. Shadowblades are individuals who were once human but have been magically altered by a witch to never age, be physically stronger and faster, and to have the ability to heal from just about any injury. In trade, they are unable to disobey the witch who created them, are no longer able to have children, and cannot venture out into sunlight. Additionally, they originally needed to leave their friends and loved ones along with their old lives behind. A witch is supposed to get permission from the individual they turn and, while technically Giselle did ask, she'd gotten Max drunk and the question was posed more as a hypothetical one than a true question. For thirty years after her transition, Max had hated Giselle, her one time best friend, for what she'd done and what she'd taken from her. When the Guardians, however, unleashed the flood of magic back into the world,  Giselle allowed Max to save her family and bring them back to Horngate to keep them safe. Since then, she no longer hates, but neither does she like Giselle, and she's come to terms with what she is, a Shadowblade.

In Blood Winter, a so called religious sect called Earth's Last Stand is displaying cult like behavior and being lead by a witch claiming to be a "prophet" of the Lord. The group is bringing murder, mayhem and corruption to Missoula and threatening Horngate. The man in charge, Benjamin Sterling, seems to have no problem killing and torturing witches and humans alike under the guise of the Lord's will. While sometimes bringing a religious angle into a series can be a  poor move on the part of an author, I felt it fit in nicely with what is going on in the world Ms. Francis has created. With a magical apocalypse taking place, it seems almost natural for a magical entity to attempt to gain power using religion to mask their evil doings. Desperate times tend to blur the lines between what some people will consider acceptable behavior, especially when survival becomes their utmost goal. People will follow whoever can offer them the best chance at survival, which can force them to follow the wrong person or people. To defeat this enemy, Max will have to use both her might and brains to rescue herself and others and not everyone will come out of this one alive.

Besides trying to save Horngate and the surrounding areas, Max's personal life is in disarray. Alexander senses Max is holding back emotionally from their relationship and wants her to break down the barriers between them. Considering her last relationship, which incidentally was thirty years ago, left a lot to be desired, she's not sure how. She's guarded her emotions for so long, she seems to know no other way.

Why is the book called Blood Winter? Well, I believe it's because the book takes place in winter and there are so many lives lost that the author chose to name it Blood Winter. A winter so bloody with death, no other name would do.

Overall, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. Plenty of monsters, drama, action, close calls, and seemingly impossible situations. There is a major twist in this one which I didn't see coming and enjoyed watching unfold. I highly recommend the book and the series. I love Ms. Francis' imagination and always look forward to seeing what she'll have up her sleeve for her next book. If your looking for a roller coaster read with characters you can relate and bond with, you may wish to give this series a try. This series definitely ranks among my favorites. I'm forgoing the romance rating because while there is a touch romance going on, I don't feel justified in calling it or rating it as a romance. Romance is not the central focus of the series and, for the majority of the story, the two seemed to be trying to define and solidify their relationship. So while there was a little bookie nookie at the beginning, I felt it was just used as a means of providing us a view into the dynamics of Max's and Alexander's relationship.

Order of Series:

Early Review of A Love Untamed (Feral Warriors, #7) by Pamela Palmer

  • Title: A Love Untamed: A Feral Warriors Novel
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (December 26, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0062107518
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062107510
The author's website:
Notes: I read the eArc of this book, so I will need to check quotes against the final copy.

He didn't think he had the capacity to love someone...

     "I've no heart to give you, Jill," he said quietly, regretfully.
     "So you've told me many a time, but you're wrong Kieran. You've a big heart in that finely hewn chest. You just haven't met the right female, yet."

Kieran didn't think he had the capacity to ever love someone. His sister had died and he had suffered so much agony and pain that he couldn't image what it'd be like to lose a wife, a mate. So he'd made up his mind never to seek to have one.

She thought she was would never be able to trust another man...

     "Melisande is a good person, but she has a violent and justified hatred of Therians. While she's obligated to honor my alliance with the Ferals, she's unpredictable. She won't try to kill you. But that's about all I can guarantee. And if you hurt her, even that's off the table."

Betrayed  by a past lover in a way that would break many in the same position, she had learned to hate all Therians and mistrust men. While her scars might not be visible, the wounds are still raw and run deep, but Melisande is a survivor.

Fate, however, had other plans...

     The petite blonde flung her empty hand toward him as if it were not empty at all, as if she meant to toss a fireball in his face.
     Instead, exquisite sexual pleasure rushed though his body on a blast so strong, so pure, that that he nearly came right there in the middle of the hallway. On a groan, he arched his back, his eyes dropping closed as the pleasure roared through him, wave after wave of pure ecstasy.

For there is only one individual whom an Ilinas such as Melisande can't hurt, and that's their potential mate.

When Kara, the Therians' Radiant is kidnapped, the Ferals and Ilinas' unite to find her...

     "Tell me how many warriors you need, Paenther, and they'll be at your disposal."
     "Half a dozen, preferably in mist form so they won't be seen by passing humans. Is that possible?"
     Ariana nodded. "Yes, if they're careful."

...the two are paired together and will learn to rely and depend on one another. 

Sometimes fate just can't be denied.

This is the seventh book in the Feral Warriors series. While you don't necessarily need to read the previous books in the series, I recommend that you at least read the first and sixth book. There is a lot going on within the Feral Warrior world and there are a lot of relationships, events and history you may not wish to miss, so you may wish to read them all. 

"At one time, all Therians had been shape-shifters, able to shift into their animals at will. But those days ended five millennium ago when, for a brief period of time, the Mage and Therians banded together, mortgaging the bulk of their power to defeat the Daemons. who were terrorizing the Earth." Magic and power, however, have their price and the power they'd pledged had never returned. Since then, only one Therian of each animal line has retained the original abilities held by all. That individual has always been the strongest and finest of his or her line. The chosen are known as Feral Warriors and they've banned together over the years to ensure the safety of their race and the world against the return of the Daemons. When one warrior dies another is marked and becomes the next Feral of his or her line.

Recently, however, everything changed because of an evil Mage using dark magic cast a spell designed to force the animal spirits to choose the most evil and morally corrupt among each line. In some instances, the animal spirits were powerful enough to overcome the spell. In other instances, however, they were  not. Now the question is which of the latest bunch of newly marked Ferals are good and which are evil? Can any truly be trusted? Additionally, Kara, the warriors' Radiant, the female who pulls the energy from the earth which renews, aids and empowers the Therian race, has been kidnapped. Without her, the race will weaken and none of the newly marked Ferals will be able to make the full transition to their newly acquired animal forms. The Ferals believe the Mage who bespelled them is the one who captured their Radiant in order to use her powers.

Kieran, now Fox, is among the newly chosen. Luckily, because of his connection with the Ferals there is no question that he is the person who should have been selected. He's well liked and has taught many Therians how to fight and defend themselves. Since his sister's death he hasn't allowed any one to get close to him. He has a big heart, a great capacity to love, but anything more than a one night stand she shies away from.

Melisande is a Ilina. The race had gone into hiding thousands of years ago after the majority of their people were killed. Melisande had an indirect role in what happened to her people and the loss, betrayal and abuse she endured has left her emotionally scared. She's strong, but has sworn off all males and has come to hate all Therians as the man who betrayed her was a shape-shifter. Some call her a bitch and perhaps at times she is, but she has her reasons. Fox, if he wishes to explore the powerful attraction between the two, will have his work cut out for him. He'll have to get through the barriers she's erected and help her confront her fears.

I enjoyed how Melisande slowly (or at least it seemed slowly) learns to trust Fox. She is put in a position where her life is in danger and Fox is the one who keeps her safe. Normally Melisande would be a kick butt heroine, but due to the deadly affect some of the Mage's wards have on the Ilinas she needs protection only a Therian can provide. As the two begin to rely on each other, their attraction grows more intense. While Fox isn't the soul reason she begins to let go of her fears of a relationship and intimacy, he definitely plays a huge role. I loved the way he handled her and took a cautious approach with her. He made sure she was comfortable with everything every step of the way.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. Not a lot of conclusion due to ongoing and continuing story lines, but plenty of action, drama, suspense and, of course, romance. While I enjoyed the ending to this tale, I look forward to seeing how all those loose ends will eventually come together and be resolved. It's those ongoing story lines that make the series so addictive. If you like paranormal romance, this is a series you may want to take a look at. On the Lisarenee Romance Rating Scale, this one gets 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 series

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Scottish Witch (The Chattan Curse, #2) by Cathy Maxwell

  • Title: The Scottish Witch: The Chattan Curse
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Format: Paperback, 384 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (October 30, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0062070231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062070234
Author's Website:

Over 200 years ago, a curse was cast upon the male members of the Chattan family. For Charles Chattan had made promises that he didn't keep. He had betrayed and disgraced the daughter of a powerful witch which incited the young woman to take her own life. He thought that by leaving Scotland he'd escape the reach of Fanella's fury and wrath. But he was wrong. DEAD wrong.

"Watchers of the threshold, Watchers of the gate, open hell and seal Chattan's fate.
When a Chattan male falls in love, strike his heart with fire from Above.
Crush his heart. Destroy his line;
Only then will justice me mine."

Now, some 200 years later, Harry Chattan has found his way to Glenfinnan, Scotland looking for a way to break the curse. His brother, Lord Lyon, has fallen in love and as the curse stated he is slowly losing his lease on life. Harry's mission is to find a witch who can counter the spell and break the curse. He'll pay handsomely for anyone who can assist him in any way.

Portia MacLean knew it was wrong to take advantage of someone, but her family was in dire straits. They were about to lose the roof over their heads because the couldn't afford to pay the rent, and when she heard about the man in search of a witch offering a reward, well, she found she couldn't resist. She left a message at the front step of the house he was staying at that read,'Meet me at the Great Oak, tomorrow, midnight.' and she signed it Fanella, after a name she found is a book which contained the spells of a witch. Unbeknownst to Portia, that would be the beginning of Harry's end.

This was the second book in The Chattan Curse series and while you'll probably want to read the first book by the time you finish this one, you don't necessarily have to read the first one first. You'll get enough background information to know what is going on and won't feel lost.

Harry loves his brother and is determined to do everything in his power to save him. He'd even go as far as sacrificing his own life in order to save that of his brother's. He doesn't have a lot to go on, but knows the witch who originally bestowed the curse upon his family was named Fanella and lived in Scotland hundreds of years ago. He's chased rumors and clues which have led him to Glenfinnan and he has high hopes of finding a witch who can help him put an end to the curse. When he meets Portia at the Great Oak, she is disguised in an outfit she's deemed worthy of a witch, and he feels in his gut that he's found the right person to help him. When she doesn't show the next night as they'd planned, he realizes he's been had and begins to search for her.

Portia is the more mousy looking of the two MacLean sisters. She's loyal and normally trustworthy. If it hadn't been for her family's precarious position she would have never ever have tried to deceive Harry. It's just the three of them--her, her mother and sister and there aren't that many ways for the trio to earn money. She hopes Harry will never discover her true identity, but of course if he didn't, then the book would be no fun.

This was a delightfully fun read. The couple appears to be magically drawn to each other and I loved them both. Neither wished to fall in love, but mysterious forces seemed to be at work to ensure they did. Overall I gave this one 4 1/2 out of 5 Roses. I definitely will be reading more of this series. I love the author's style of writing. It magically seems to ensnare me right into the book.

Order of The Chattan Curse series:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Avon Addict Blog Hop / Giveaway (Int) - Who's your favorite author?

One of the questions I was asked when I became an Avon Addict was who is your favorite Avon author? At first I thought, "Piece of cake, hands down Julia Quinn." She is one of my top 5 all time favorite historical authors. Then I realized Avon also represents Jeaniene Frost and therein began my dilemma. Jeaniene Frost is in my top 5 all time favorite paranormal romance authors. Gah! What's an addict to do? I usually categorize my romance authors by what type of romance they write and never even considered who would be at the top of the list if they were all combined. They are all so different.


Jeanine Frost  ~ Versus ~ Julia Quinn

So let's start out with the authors themselves. Jeaniene was gracious enough to do a Q&A with my Goodreads so I adore her for that. She could answer any question you could put forth to any book or character in her series with no problem. You view the Q&A CLICK HERE. Julia, on the other hand, loves to dispel the myth that smart women don't read (or write) romance. In 2001 she did so in grand style, competing on the the game show The Weakest Link and walking away with the $79,000 jackpot. Yes, she earned a special place in my heart for that. But truly while I can like an author for who they are and what they do, the real questions when picking my favorite lies within their books. So it's truly not Frost versus Quinn in this fight for my favorite. Nope, what it really boils down to Bones versus Bridgertons. Now there's a fight. Wouldn't that be the ultimate showdown? Bones against 8 Bridgertons. Well, if it was a fight of might, I think Bones would win.

But I'm not talking that kind of fighting. lol 

Bones ~ Versus ~ The Bridgertons
(The ultimate book showdown)

You see the Bridgertons appeal to my good girl side. They're upstanding members of society. The Bridgerton men are handsome, intelligent and while definitely not saints, they come from a solid family background and are good men deep down where it counts. It's no wonder everyone's momma would love to make a match between their daughters and them.

Bones, on the other hand, most definitely appeals to my bad girl side (Shhhhhh......don't tell anyone I've got one. It will be our little secret. lol). He's devilishly good looking, sexy as all get out with a wicked sense of humor. *sigh* The kind of guy a girl's momma most definitely wouldn't approve of.


So I decided to tackle this problem logically. I decided to look at some of my favorite quotes to refresh my memory about why I love these two series. So without further ado let's let the books 'speak' for themselves.

First up, some of my favorite quotes from the Bridgertons series:

     “I am asking you to marry me because I love you,” he said, “because I cannot imagine living my life without you. I want to see your face in the morning, and then at night, and a hundred times in between. I want to grow old with you, I want to laugh with you, and I want to sigh to my friends about how managing you are, all the while secretly knowing I am the luckiest man in town.”
     “What?” she demanded.
     He shrugged. “A man’s got to keep up appearances. I’ll be universally detested if everyone realizes how perfect you are.”
― Julia Quinn, It's in His Kiss; Page 264

     “Listen to me," his voice even and intense,"and listen well, because I'm only going to say this once. I desire you. I burn for you. I can't sleep at night for wanting you. Even when I didn't like you, I lusted for you. It's the most maddening, beguiling, damnable thing, but there it is. And if I'm to hear one more word of nonsense from your lips, I'm going to have to tie you to the bed bloody bed and have my way with you a hundred different ways, until you finally get it through your silly skull that you are the most beautiful and desirable woman in England, and if anyone else doesn't see that they're bloody fools.”
― Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me; Page 274

     “He murmured her name, tenderly taking her face in his hands. “I love you,” he said, his voice low and fervent. “I love you with everything I am, everything I’ve been, and everything I hope to be.”
     “I love you with my past, and I love you for my future.” He bent forward and kissed her, once, softly, on the lips. “I love you for the children we’ll have and for the years we’ll have together. I love you for every one of my smiles, and even more, for every one of your smiles.”
     Penelope sagged against the back of a nearby chair.
     "I love you," he repeated. "You know that, don't you?"

 ― Julia Quinn, Romancing Mister Bridgerton; Page 338

      “As his hands moved to his trousers, he saw that she was pulling the bed sheets over her. "Don't," he said, barely recognizing his own voice. 
     Her eyes met his, and he said, "I'll be your blanket.” (Simon)
― Julia Quinn, The Duke and I; Page 260

     He shook his head in wonder. "You are magnificent."
     "I keep telling everyone that," she said with a nonchalant shrug, "but you seem to be the only one to believe me.”
― Julia Quinn, To Sir Phillip, With Love; (end of Chapter 14 - no pages on kindle verison/Location 3675)

    But when Anthony kissed her, she felt as if she were losing her mind. And when he kissed her twice, she wasn't even sure if she wanted it back!
― Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me; Page 250

     “Men are sheep. Where one goes, the rest will soon follow."
Lady Whistledown's Society Papers 30 April 1813
― Julia Quinn, The Duke and I; page 121

Next, some of my favorite quotes from the Night Huntress series:

     “Kitten, you need to make a decision. Either we stay here and behave or we leave now and I promise you”—his voice dipped lower and the words fell against my lips—“if we leave, I won’t behave.”
― Jeaniene Frost, Halfway to the Grave; Page 117

     “I love your hands," he sighed. "You think I look like an angel? Well, Kitten, your hands are my heaven and your eyes are my home."
― Jeaniene Frost,  This Side of the Grave; Page 201

     “You once told me you could stand many things.” My voice was raspy from all the emotions battering against those well-honed inner defenses. “So can I. I can stand whatever Apollyon dishes out, can take the bigotry from others over what I am, the freaky ghost juju from Marie, all the craziness my mother can throw at me, and even the pain of my uncle dying. But the one thing that I would never, ever recover from would be losing you. You made me promise before to go on if that happened, but Bones”—here my words broke and tears spilled down my cheeks—“I wouldn’t want to.”
     He’d been near the side of the bed when I started talking, but was in my arms before the first tear fell. Very softly, his lips brushed over those wet streaks, coming back pink from the drops still shimmering on them.
      “No matter what happens, you will never lose me,” he whispered. “I am forever yours, Kitten, in this life or the next.”
― Jeaniene Frost,  This Side of the Grave; pages 244 - 245 

     "Ask me if I sparkle and I’ll kill you where you stand.” (Bones)
― Jeaniene Frost,  This Side of the Grave; page 82

     There were words for what he meant to me, but if I studied every language ever spoken for the next thousand years, I still wouldn't find enough of them to describe it.
― Jeaniene Frost,  One Grave at a Time; page 263

It was a close call, but what ultimately decided this one was Chapter 32 of One Foot in the GraveHaven't read it? Well, you definitely should. It is a love scene like no other. *giggle* They even created a shirt for it:
Can be purchased at:

Therefore, the Winner (for me) ended up being
Bones and Jeaniene Frost. Check out some of these gorgeous pictures from the stepbacks of the Night Huntress series:

So Avon has some great authors and my favorites won't necessarily be your favorites. So leave a comment and let me know who is your favorite Avon author and/or character?

The Giveaway
One book of your choice from Avon (the publishers) with a value of up to $8.00 (US Dollars) from AMAZON (if in the US) or The Book Depository

Rules of Eligibility:
- Only residents of the Countries included in the following list created by The Book Depository who are 18 years old or older are eligible:
- Please leave either your email address or a link to your Goodreads profile so I may get in contact with you to get your mailing address. No P.O. Boxes, please.
- Become a follower of my blog, if you aren't already.
- If for any reason The Book Depository prohibits the sale of the requested book to US residents (had this happen once) or the book is unavailable, another book must be selected.
Winner will be randomly chosen. Giveaway ends December 26th, midnight eastern time. Winners will be posted on my blog and notified by email or message posted to them via Goodreads. Winners will have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be selected. Good Luck!

For a list of Avon Authors, check out this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Early Review of Scent of Magic (Healer #2) by Maria V. Snyder

  • Title: Scent of Magic
  • Classification: Young Adult
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback, 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA; Original edition (December 18, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0778314189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0778314189
Author's Website:

Nearly six years ago two-thirds of the Fifteen Realms' population succumbed to a plague. The Kingdoms were ravaged. Tohon saw the devastation as the perfect opportunity to swoop in and pick up the pieces to form one united kingdom. On the surface, it would was a good plan, but Tohon was not the ruler who would make things better. So a fight for the Fifteen Realms ensued. Tohon with his army of undead soldiers has the upper hand as many don't believe anyone could create such abominations let alone that they could actually exist. But believers they soon shall be as he and his army slowly and surely seize control over more and more territory.

After Avry's death and resurrection experience, she and Kerrick decided to take a little time for themselves, but now they've decided to split up. He is heading to Ivdel to meet up with Prince Ryne and gather reinforcements. Then he'll get the children, Danny and Zilla, out of harms way. Meanwhile, Avry with the help of 'Mom' from the Lamp Post Inn, dons a disguise so she can infiltrate Estrid's camp. As everyone believes she is dead, she hopes no one will figure out it's her. She'll use the skills she's acquired from Kerrick to try to teach the soldiers what they need to know in order to have a fighting chance at surviving and defeating the undead. It will also give her the perfect means to speak with her sister, Noelle, so she can once again attempt to make amends. Additionally, she still needs to figure out how the peace lily saved her life and how that information can be used.

This is the sequel to Touch of Power and it begins a week after Touch of Power ends. If you haven't read the first in the series, I highly recommend that you do or you may have a hard time getting into this one. So much went on within the first book that I don't think there would be a way to capture it all within a few paragraphs. Some characters, like Tohon and Kerrick, have background stories with a shared history that explain some of their behavior in this book.

In Scent of Magic, Avry infiltrates Estrid's holy army undercover. She could have announced who she was and have been welcomed with open arms, but she doesn't want a lot of people knowing she's alive.   She has even made Kerrick promise not to tell Belen, Quain or Loren. If Toron finds out she is alive he'll come after her and that is not something she wants. Disguised and using her mother's first name she manages to finagle herself a letter of introduction which allows her to enter Estrid's army at a higher rank. While Avry had promised Estrid she'd help heal her wounded,  she feels she'd be better off teaching them how to defend themselves against Tohon's army. Especially since they're under the assumption that the rumors of an undead army are false and being spread to illicit fear among the troops. Some things truly do need to be seen in order to be believed. Slowly, she'll attempt to work her way into the trust of Estrid's lieutenants and help them prepare for the upcoming battle.

Kerrick has trials and obstacles of his own to overcome, as well. While people may believe Avry to be dead, he still has a target on his back. He fears being ambushed by Tohon's men. Additionally, there is always the possibility of meeting up with an unknown enemy. Mercs and gangs still roam about and desperate times make some people even more dangerous.

Why is the book called Scent of Magic? Well, I have three possibilities. First, there is a Magic Sniffer in this book. If you recall from Touch of Power a magic sniffer can smell the magic on a person and determine what kind of magic a person has. In this book, someone realizes Avry is a healer because of her scent. A second possibility is that since Avry was saved by a Peace Lily her scent has changed. So I'm curious if perhaps in the future we'll find out she might have some new abilities or if it truly is an insignificant side effect. One thing is for sure, in books little things mean a lot. The final possibility is that there seems to be something magical in regards to the Lilies and they also give off a distinct odors depending on if they are a Peace or Death Lily. So I'm curious if that perhaps contributed to the title's name, but I'm not a hundred percent sure about any of the possibilities.

Overall, I gave this one 4 out of 5 roses. Plenty of action, drama, betrayal, and twists in this one. Some things I saw coming, while others took me by surprise. I wish there had been more together time between Kerrick and Avry, but I liked the fact they didn't become codependent upon one another. I loved how Avry managed to use her cunning and wits to get out of some tricky spots. I also liked how we got to know Danny a little bit better. If you liked Touch of Power, you'll definitely want to read this one, but beware there is a cliffhanger at the end.

Book Trailer:

Order of the series:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Meet Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso, co-authors of The Ether Chronicles

Nico Rosso   &   Zoe Archer
Follow them on Twitter: @Nico_Rosso & @Zoe_Archer
Like them on Facebook:
Visit their blogs:

Zoe Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there's nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master's degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed BLADES OF THE ROSE series and the paranormal historical romance series, THE HELLRAISERS. She and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, trade off writing the books in the steampunk romance series THE ETHER CHRONICLES. June 2013 will see the launch of her new gritty Victorian romance series, NEMESIS, UNLIMITED for St. Martin's Press. Zoe and Nico live in Los Angeles.

Nico Rosso was a writer in search of a genre until his wife, Zoe Archer, brought romance into his life in more ways than one. Through her he learned that the romance genre was filled with vast opportunities for storytelling. He created the sci-fi romance Limit War series, sweeping readers off Earth and into an interstellar conflict. Closer to home, he set off the apocalypse with The Last Night. And, starting with The Ether Chronicles, he gets to write more closely than ever with his wife. They created the steampunk world together and trade off, telling romance tales that span the globe.

The Ether Chronicles

Skies of fire by Zoe Archer

Man made of metal and flesh
Captain Christopher Redmond has just one weakness: the alluring spy who loved and left him years before…when he was still just a man. Now he's superhuman—a Man O' War, made as part of the British Navy's weapons program—and his responsibility is to protect the skies of Europe. If only he could forget Louisa Shaw.

A most inconvenient desire
Louisa, a British Naval Intelligence agent, has never left a job undone. But when her assignment is compromised, the one man who can help her complete her mission is also the only man ever to tempt her body and heart. As burning skies loom and passion ignites, Louisa and Christopher must slip behind enemy lines if they are to deliver a devastating strike against their foe . . . and still get out alive.

Night of Fire by Nico Rosso

Night of fire, night of passion
US Army Upland Ranger Tom Knox always knew going home wouldn’t be easy. Three years ago, he skipped town, leaving behind the only woman who ever mattered; now that he’s seen the front lines of war, he’s ready to do what he must to win her back.

Rosa Campos is long past wasting tears on Tom Knox, and now that she’s sheriff of Thornville, she has more than enough to do. Especially when a five-story rock-eating mining machine barrels toward the town she’s sworn to protect.

Tom’s the last person Rosa expects to see riding to her aid on his ether-borne mechanical horse. She may not be ready to forgive, but Rosa can’t deny that having him at her side brings back blissful memories . . . even as it reignites a flame more dangerous than the enemy threatening to destroy them both.

Skies of steel by Zoe Archer

In the world of The Ether Chronicles, the Mechanical War rages on, and appearances are almost always deceiving . . .

The Prim Professor
Daphne Carlisle may be a scholar, but she's far more comfortable out in the field than lost in a stack of books. Still, when her parents are kidnapped by a notorious warlord, she knows she'll need more than quick thinking if she is to reach them in time. Daphne's only hope for getting across enemy territory is an airship powered and navigated by Mikhail Denisov, a rogue Man O' War who is as seductive as he is untrustworthy.

The Jaded Mercenary
Mikhail will do anything for the right price, and he's certain he has this mission—and Daphne—figured out: a simple job and a beautiful but sheltered Englishwoman. But as they traverse the skies above the Mediterranean and Arabia, Mikhail learns the fight ahead is anything but simple, and his lovely passenger is not entirely what she seems. The only thing Mikhail is certain of is their shared desire—both unexpected and dangerous.

Nights of Steel by Nico Rosso

Return to The Ether Chronicles, where the skies above the American West are about to get wilder than ever…

Bounty hunter Anna Blue always finds her fugitive. But her latest mission is filled with mystery: a high price for an eccentric inventor. And her biggest rival, Jack Hawkins—a startlingly handsome, entirely unsettling man whose abilities match her own—is hunting the same bounty. Neither will back down.

When a rogue Man O' War flies his airship into the California skies, guns blazing, Anna and Jack are forced to team up or die. But it isn't the danger that has them ready to flare like gunpowder. They've circled each other for years as competitors only. Fighters and outsiders, they never thought they'd find a kindred soul. As hot passion and raw need draw them together, can they survive this mission long enough to track the most elusive fugitives… their hearts?

The Interview

Lisarenee: Firstly, thank you Zoe and Nico for taking the time out of your busy schedules to answer my questions.

I love the steampunk genre but every time I think I've got the definition nailed down, someone creates a story that seems to push the boundaries of the definition. In some ways I feel the definition is in the mind of the beholder or, perhaps more accurately, the writer so I'm curious to know how you, Nico and Zoe, define it.

Zoe: The short version is Victorian science fiction, or, how the Victorians would have envisioned the future, which would be influenced by their own technology and what they think science is capable of. Also, you can take technology that we have now—like the internet, or, say, video chatting—and interpret it through the lens of Victorian science and aesthetics.

Nico: What makes steampunk so cool is that the definition of the genre is open to interpretation. There is no one source that all others draw from, allowing different authors to forge their own take on a widely unique world.

Lisarenee: Nico, I haven't heard of too many male romance authors so I have to wonder, did you find it hard to get your stories published? Did you experience any difficulties being taken seriously?

Nico: I don’t think my road to publication would look different than a lot of other romance authors, regardless of gender. So far, the people I’ve met in and around the genre have been very supportive. No one has ever told me to my face that they have a problem with a man writing romance. If there is any kind of barrier, it would be behind the scenes where I haven’t seen it.

Lisarenee: Many steampunk novels tend to deal with altered versions of our own world. You can see glimpses of the real past intertwined within the new version, but I always wonder exactly what alternate time period a steampunk novel takes place in. After reading the first book, Skies of Fire, I thought perhaps the 1400's because of a reference about the Battle of Rouen, but after reading the westerns I'm thinking perhaps 1800's? Although when dealing with steampunk you could potentially have a historical battle happen in a different time frame, what time period does this series take place in?

Zoe: In one Ether Chronicles book I referenced a battle at Rouen, but a different one, since I figured that there could be multiple battles set in the same location separated by a few hundred years. We figured that the Ether Chronicles is set in an alternate 1880s, but didn’t want to get into specifics about the year to keep the reader’s imagination as open as possible.

Lisarenee:  Nico, on your website ( ) you stated, "I'm also working on two steampunk Westerns for Avon Impulse. These are part of the Ether Chronicles, a world created by me and my wife, Zoe Archer. She'll be writing the European side of the steampunk tales while I'm handling the West. It's very exciting working on these projects with Zoe, just imagine us leaping about the apartment, enacting scenes on battling airships." The last part made me smile. How much fun do the two of you have writing this series? If the opportunity presents itself in the future would you do it again? Also, how did the joint project come about? Who had the initial idea that you'd alternate stories between you?

Nico: We have a lot of fun creating the stories for the Ether Chronicles. Because the world is so vast and the technology can really move the characters around, there are a lot of possibilities to play with. Often our coffee shop conversations are about airships and ether pistols. Then, when we’re home and writing, the plastic weapons come out so we can choreograph the fight scenes.

Initially Zoë was working in the Ether Chronicles alone, but we saw the world we created was large enough to sustain stories across the globe. I’ve always been a fan of Westerns and thought the steampunk tech would be a great fit with that iconography. Luckily, Avon Impulse agreed. The idea of alternating stories came naturally, considering how they were only loosely tied together. Also, it opened the schedule a little bit, so we wouldn’t be buried by constant deadlines and could take time rounding out the individual worlds of the tales.

Zoe: Plus we both know how the world functions in the Ether Chronicles, so neither of us is ever lost if the other proposes a particular storyline or piece of technology.

Lisarenee: Do you know how many books total will in the series there will be (and please don't tell me that Nights of Steel is the last book)?

Zoe: Currently, we have plans for five books, so there will be one more after Nights of Steel, which I’m in the process of writing...right now!

Lisarenee: Some of the names you pick cleverly sound like names of things that exist in our world. For example, tetrol sounds a little like petrol and telumium sounds a bit like tellurium. Did you do this on purpose because it make it easier for readers to remember what they were?

Nico: As fantastic as the technology we come up with is, we try to keep it grounded in some reality. By using familiar sounding names or building off of machines and equipment that were actually available in the late 19th Century, we hope to keep the reader attached to the world as if it really could’ve been. And it definitely helps minimize confusion for the reader, considering all the inventions we’re filling the stories with.

Zoe: Also, the Latin word “telum” means “spear,” or “missile,” so I used that as the basis for the metal’s name.

Lisarenee: Whose idea was the Man O' War? I love the concept. If I had to make a guess, I'd say Zoe had a bigger hand in its creation because her novels seem to center more around them.

Zoe: The original idea was actually Nico’s. He conceived of a group of men whose fighting skill and martial strength generated magical power, and then as we discussed the idea, it seemed like a perfect idea to put within the steampunk world.

Nico: Once we decided to put the Man O’ Wars into the steampunk world, it was a collaboration in the laboratory - I’d present tech ideas and Zoë would figure out how to implement it, then we’d engineer everything to work together. Because the Man O’ Wars fit more into the European model of (aerial) navy warfare, they didn’t seem quite right for the Wild West world I was creating for my stories, so it made sense for Zoë to write most of their tales.

Lisarenee: Can you expand a little on the transition process of becoming a Man O' War? I believe you said there is an operation involved with grafting, so I'm guessing telumium isn't like a liquid sort of metal that can permeate its way into someone or fuse itself to a person's skin? Additionally, it sounds like the telumium needs a pathway to a person's heart to create the symbiotic relationship between the person and their ship? If a ship is destroyed, would it be safe to assume the captain could potentially take over someone else's with no ill affects? Well, at least not to him?

Zoe: The process was perfected by Dr. Allegra Rossini, and she’s keeping the actual procedure close to her vest, so we can’t say too much about the specifics of how an ordinary man becomes a Man O’ War. But, yes, it involves grafting telumium onto the skin of the potential Man O’ War, and using filaments to connect to the subject’s heart, which is the source of their aurora vires—the energy every person generates, except some have stronger aurora vires than others. You have to have a aurora vires rating of Gimmel or higher to be considered a candidate for becoming a Man O’ War. The process is extremely traumatic to the body and mind. Plus you need that strength to feed the batteries of an airship. As long as a Man O’ War has access to the batteries that feed off his power, he’s fine, but he can’t be away from any battery for too long, or else his energy builds up too much and it triggers a berserker rage.

Lisarenee: What current projects are the two of you working on? Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Zoe: Currently, I’m working on the next Ether Chronicles book. After that, I’ll be writing the third book in my Nemesis, Unlimited series, which debuts next Spring. It’s gritty Victorian historical romance, kind of like Leverage or Burn Notice in Victorian England.

Nico: I have a couple of projects on the desk, but they’re both in the secret stages. I can say that they’re both dark and sexy fun. Already completed and coming out soon will be a short superhero romance titled Ironheart.

Lisarenee: Thanks so much for answering my questions. It was fun chatting with you. I look forward to reading more of your books.

Zoe: Thanks for having us!

Nico: Great questions! Thanks so much!


Nights of Steel (The Ether Chronicles, #4) by Nico Rosso

  • Title: Nights of Steel: The Ether Chronicles
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Steampunk/Romance
  • Format: Paperback, 272 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Impulse (December 4, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0062201115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062201119
  • Author's Website:
  • Notes: I bought this one.
Anna Blue and Jack Hawkins are two of the best bounty hunters in the Western US. They'd argue which one of them is better, and so would many others. There is a mutual respect and rivalry between the two and many times they have gone after the same bounty. Now they're competing once again for the chance to bring in a bounty and the stakes are high. The payout is set at $1,000 for bringing their man in alive. While everything appears on the surface to be legitimate, the person they're seeking is not like those they usually bring in...

     "Dr. Song break any laws?"
     The Sheriff shook her head.
     Tom scratched at the stubble on his jaw. "Nothing I heard. Last I knew he was working on a two-man Sky Charger for the Upland Rangers, everything on the up-and-up."
     "That inventor's one of our greatest assets in the war against the Hapsburgs." The sheriff drummed her fingers on the desk, "Doesn't add up."

Anna and Jack soon find they're not the only ones looking for Dr. Song and will need to do something neither has ever done before--rely on someone else, namely each other, to come out of this one in one piece.

This is the fourth book in The Ether Chronicles. It can be read out of order, but there are some characters from previous books who make minor appearances. Tom and Rosa from Night of Fire make an appearance in the book and inform Anna and Jack of the bounty on Dr. Song. Additionally, I'm not a hundred percent certain because he was unnamed in the book, but Charron, the rogue Man O' War in this book, may be the same one from Skies of Steel. As I mentioned, the appearances are brief and truly won't detract from the story if you know nothing about them.

Anna is tough, strong, self assured, smart and skilled. From the very first sentence she says, "The only good place for a man is on the other end of my gun." She hasn't had the best experience with men, and she's been on her own since she left the orphanage. She fell into bounty hunting by accident trying to help a friend and later found it to be a good fit. She doesn't easily trust and I found it interesting that she was the one who found it difficult to see the relationship for what it was. I kept chuckling as she kept insisting she would not be sharing HER $1,000 pay off with him.

Jack is somewhat of a loner but still has family. He became a bounty hunter when an opportunity presented itself and he took it. He found the money good enough to stick with it and the rest, as they say is history. He is said to fill up a "campsite with his presence" and, standing well over 6 feet tall,  "challenge the nearby mountains for dominance of the skyline." Legend has it Jack wasn't born, he "simply appeared in the Western territories, two guns strapped to his thighs and a half-metal hand." He's instantly attracted to the beautiful bounty hunter, and slowly tries to ease himself into her good graces as they start to depend on each other while tracking Song. Unlike most men of the time, a strong, smart woman doesn't intimidate him.

While attempting to find the good doctor, the two encounter a rogue Man O' War who also seems to be after their bounty only they're pretty sure it's not the bounty he's after. They haven't a clue what he's truly after, but as Song is both a scientist and inventor, they're guessing it has to be something he was working on that the Man O' War wants. One thing is for sure, he's gunning at the competition and he's playing for keeps. Anna and Jack will need to cover each other's backs to have any shot against the rogue and come out of this one alive.

Overall this one gets 4 out of 5 roses. It had a nice mix of action, mystery, and romance combined with a lot of fun and nifty gadgets. I love the world Nico and Zoe created together. On the Lisarenee romance rating scale, this one gets a STEAM--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 Ether Chronicles Series:
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