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Blog Tour: 42. Surrender the Dark by L.A. Banks...

March 31, 2011
Today, I'm participating in the blog tour for L.A. Banks' Surrender the Dark... Banks is a new-to-me author, and I was thrilled by the opportunity to check out her writing!

l.a. banks
About L.A. Banks:
L.A. Banks is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty-five novels and twelve novellas in a wide range of genres, including her popular Vampire Huntress and Crimson Moon series. In 2008, she received Essence magazine's Storyteller of the Year Award. She lives in Philadelphia. Visit her online at

Title: Surrender the Dark (new series!)
Author: L.A. Banks
ISBN-13: 9781451607789
Paperback: 373 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Simon & Schuster

surrender the darkAbout the book:
Celeste Jackson’s life has been a series of tragic occurrences. Haunted, the thirty-three-year-old woman has bounced from therapists to group homes, to drug halfway houses. Plagued by nightmares and hallucinations and misdiagnosed as schizophrenic, she is found by the angel Azrael—her protector. But as Azrael helps her to unlock her powers, and they work to amass an army of those with powers like Celeste’s in order to fight the forces of darkness, Celeste has as much to teach Azrael as he has to teach her. She’s been down the path of temptation and addiction. Now she must help Azrael overcome the one temptation that could make him an eternal prisoner—his addiction to her.

drey's thoughts:
Surrender the Dark packs a lot of stuff into its 373 pages. The world is a battleground between the forces of good and evil, and the Mayan calendar was right--12/21/2012 is the end of the world as we know it, because that is when the forces of Light and Dark descend upon our world to fight it out once and for all. In preparation, angels are being sent into our world to protect the Remnants--those who have human and angel in their bloodlines.

Celeste is one of the Remnants. When we first meet her, she is strung out on dope and fear, along with a history of mental instability behind her. Then she meets her guardian angel Azriel, and pretty much goes through a miraculous transformation. I honestly don't know how she managed to hang onto what's left of her sanity. And Azriel. Well. Tall, dark, and handsome indeed. And completely confused as to how to function in earthly society.

Their adjustment to each other, getting Azriel put together, and meeting Celeste's aunt takes the first 140 or so pages. The remainder of the book covers their journey to find the rest of the good team, introducing the rest of the cast of characters, and fighting the bad guys. I so wanted to put "evil forces of the Destructicon" there! *grin* But that's beside the point. Surrender the Dark is an interesting new series I'll be adding to my to-check-out list.

drey's rating: 3/5 Good

Challenge: New Author

Have you read Surrender the Dark? What did you think?

Sorry this is late, hopefully it didn't get missed... BUT thanks to the publisher, I have two copies of Surrender the Dark for you, if you live in the US (no PO Boxes, please)!! *grin*

To enter, comment with your email address and share what L.A. Banks book(s) you've read & whether you liked 'em! Do it before 6pm CST April 13th! Good luck!

Skipping a Beat winner!

March 30, 2011
Can you believe it's the end of March already? Where did the time fly to? BUT, since it is the 30th, I have a winner to announce for the giveaway of our Featured Author Sarah Pekkanen's Skipping a Beat!

According to Randomizer, that lucky duck is...


Congratulations, Ruthie! Please email me your mailing information before the end of day Saturday.

Review: 41. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest...

March 29, 2011
I wanted to read more steampunk this year, and I'm ashamed to say I've only gotten to Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan so far... Sad, too, as I'm liking this genre--what I've read of it, anyway!

Title: Boneshaker (Clockwork Century #1)
Author: Cherie Priest
ISBN-13: 9780765318411
Publisher: Tor, 2009
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Purchased

drey's thoughts:
Set during the Civil War, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker is an alternate-history steampunk tale with wit, adventure, and zombies. Yup, zombies. They call 'em rotters, but you can't miss the shambling, moaning, tear-your-flesh-off, used-to-be-people, zombies...

Briar Wilkes was widowed sixteen years ago, when the world as they knew it went to heck in a hand-basket. She's shunned by her neighbors and coworkers, as they think that her husband caused the calamity that brought about the gas. The gas that turns those it touches into rotters. So Briar keeps to herself, and away from everybody. Until her son Ezekiel decides to prove that his father was innocent, and runs into the walled-off, gas-filled portion of the city...

I like Briar. She's stubborn and persuasive, and the fact that she's a mother out to save her son contributes nicely to the story. She doesn't always make the best decisions, but she's motivated by her son's safety, and worries about what he'll find. Along the way, she learns that you can't always be beholden to those who hold you responsible for actions that weren't yours.

Zeke's story is a little lighter than Briar's, and focuses more on the adventure. There are rotters! And more rotters! And a crazy inventor who could be his father! But is he? Or is he not?

You'll be stuck with this book until you find out if Briar and Zeke survive their excursion into the city, and whether the elusive and crazy Dr. Minnericht is Zeke's father...

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent! Boneshaker has an engrossing fast-paced plotline, intriguing characters, and believable world-building. You won't go wrong with this as an introduction to the steampunk genre. I'm off to get the next Clockwork Century novel, Dreadnought.

Challenge: New Author, Steampunk

Review: 40. Taste Me by Tamara Hogan...

March 28, 2011
Tamara Hogan is a new-to-me author, and her new paranormal romance offering Taste Me is a combustible mix of rock stars, sirens, and sex demons.

taste me
Title: Taste Me (Underbelly Chronicles #1)
Author: Tamara Hogan
ISBN-13: 9781402246012
ARC: 370 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
Scarlett Fontaine was hooked on Lukas Sebastiani. Too bad he didn't feel the same way. But she's spent the past year touring with her band (she's not running away, nuh uh) so maybe she's weaned herself off of all that now... Or maybe she'll just stay far away from him. She'll find out soon enough--returning home for the last gig of the tour will provide a respite from the grueling schedule that's taken a toll on her health.

But murder has followed Scarlett home, and takes a loved one from her. And she has no choice but to accept that Lukas is going to be sticking by her for a while. Not because of love, oh no--he's her bodyguard. What's a girl to do in this situation? Well, let's start by making him squirm at that very last show on the tour schedule. She is a siren after all...

Taste Me was a good read throughout, but I didn't love it because I didn't love Scarlett. She seemed a little bit too immature to me--and I know that sounds off, but hey, she's a rock star, she's gorgeous, and she's spent all this time moping about a boy. And that boy. What a tortured soul. What a martyr. He loves the girl but he's afraid that his brand of making whoopee is too rough for her. Um, dude. Get over it already! (For the record, there was nothing kinky going on...)

The story played out nicely, the cast of characters had enough (characters) to make my head spin at times (thank goodness there's a lil' cheat sheet to keep me straight on who's who and who's what), the premise behind how the others got to our world is refreshing, and the murder subplot left me with questions--but as this is a romance novel and not a mystery novel, I'll not grumble about that.

drey's rating: 3/5 Good

Have you read Taste Me? What did you think?

Winners: The Chaos!

March 26, 2011
I finally got around to picking winners for Rachel Ward's The Chaos... Sorry for the delay!! According to Randomizer, the lucky ducks are...



Congratulations, you guys! Emails have gone out, please reply with your mailing information. And thank you so much for stopping in!

Review: 39. It Happened One Bite by Lydia Dare...

March 25, 2011
I was first introduced to Lydia Dare's brand of paranormal romance last year, and couldn't wait to check out It Happened One Bite!

it happened one bite
Title: It Happened One Bite
Author: Lydia Dare
ISBN-13: 9781402245077
ARC: 390 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
Lydia Dare's It Happened One Bite is a love story infused with humor and warm fuzzies, and it just happens that the hero is of the blood-sucking variety and the heroine can throw fireballs...

Blaire Lindsay is feisty with a capital F, rules the roost with an iron hand, and cusses like a sailor. Not exactly the epitome of a lady, at least the lady her brother would like her to be. And on top of that, she's one of a five-woman coven, some of whom have starred in Lydia Dare's series featuring the Westfield brothers...

Blaire and her brothers have just moved to an inherited castle when they find a visitor in the basement--one who's been there for twenty years.

James Maitland is confused--and doesn't understand why he's been imprisoned, or who did it. Then he finds out his rescuer may be related to his captor, which brings up the all-important question: does she know why he was thrown into that dark basement? And he's disbelieving when she says "no," but still can't help falling in love with her. Throw in some baddies from his past, and now you have a bit of tension playing out in this lil' drama...

Can James and Blaire make it? How will a coven of witches take to having a vampire in their midst, even as they've gotten used to werewolves? And what will Lydia Dare have in store for us next?

And don't think I'll tell--you're going to have to read it yourself to find out! *wink*

drey's rating: 3/5 Good: Light heart-warming paranormal romance infused with humor and wit.

Have you read It Happened One Bite? What did you think?

Review: 38. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde...

March 24, 2011
I've never read Jasper Fforde, but I'm thinking that may change, based on the satire and sarcasm in One of Our Thursdays is Missing... I love me some good satire!

one of our thursdaysTitle: One of Our Thursdays is Missing
Author: Jasper Fforde
ISBN-13: 9780670022526
ARC: 359 pages
Publisher: Viking Penguin, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Penguin Group

drey's thoughts:
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up, and I'll admit I was a bit lost in the first few chapters... And then it all started to click. And when I say "all", I mean "ALL" because there's a LOT of stuff here!

Character: One of the things that'll confuse you if you've never read this series before is, there are multiple Thursdays. The character, not the day of the week. Thursday Next is one of the more famous literary characters inhabiting BookWorld (when she's not in RealWorld, that is). They live in a world demarcated by literary genre, and act out their scenes when a reader picks up their book and starts reading. Thursday's series was so popular that she has versions--namely written Thursday (who only exists in BookWorld), and the latest stand-in, Scarlett. Written Thursday is the one featured most prominently in One of Our Thursdays is Missing--when the original Thursday goes missing, Written is the only one who seems to care enough to attempt to find out what happened. Assisted by a robot-butler named Sprockett, Thursday tries to be wily about looking for the real Thursday, especially when she figures out that there are characters who are very interested in not having the real Thursday found. Rounding out the cast of characters are a talking penguin, a Mrs. Malaprop, and a romantic interest (not from her book).

Pace & Plot: One of Our Thursdays is Missing has a very basic plot at its heart--the search for the missing Thursday. But the journey you go on is anything but basic, and is a pretty quick action read--even if there were a few slow (and irrelevant?) spots on the way to the finish line.

drey's rating: 3/5 Good: Perfect for those who love satire and wit coupled with a rollicking adventure in between the covers!

Have you read Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series? What did you think?

March's FEATURED AUTHOR: Art vs. Craft...

March 23, 2011
Can you believe it's the end of March already? I can't. Where did it really go?? Anyway. This being a Wednesday in March, our Featured Author Sarah Pekkanen stops in to talk about writing... & whether it's an art or a craft. Read on!

Is writing an art or a craft?

I’m an author, but I’m not the slightest bit artistic. I don’t paint, dance, sing, or sculpt. My husband chooses the colors for the walls in our house, because if it were up to me, I’d pick Benjamin Moore’s Most Boring Beige. Don’t get me wrong; I love experiencing someone else’s art. I can appreciate Monet’s flowers and Picasso’s quirky lines and Georgia O’Keefe’s erotic flowers. And I love listening to music, anything from opera to Coldplay. I just can’t create it myself.

I don’t consider my writing art, either--it’s pure craft. Writing to me is messy, exhilarating, frustrating, joyful and depressing. The emotions all pile up on each other as I sit down at my keyboard, fighting for dominance like those swirling ping-pong balls at a televised lottery drawing. I never know which one is going to surface first.

It’s the steady, methodical side of my mind that takes control when I’m feeling frenzied and overwhelmed.

“Just write 1,000 words today,” it instructs me. A thousand words is four pages. It seems like a reasonable goal. But I’m not ready yet. First I re-read yesterday’s pages, backspacing over an ill-considered adverb and realizing a character needs one more telling detail to make him come alive. Then I try to drown out the voices in my head--they can be really mean, like a pack of middle-school girls--that tell me my prose is criminally bad, and that what I’m writing will never be published.

“Push on,” my methodical mind whispers reassuringly. “You can always fix it later.”

I get up to make a cup of tea, and think about folding a load of laundry. Sorting socks has never been so appealing. And I really need to exercise more--shouldn’t I go for a jog, then try to write?

But Craft won’t let me get away with procrastinating. It coaxes me back to the keyboard with its simple directive: Four pages. A thousand words. They don’t have to be beautiful. They really don’t even need to make sense. I just need to pin them down on paper, because if I give in to the excuses, my book will remain unwritten.

If I were an artist, I might depend on a muse. But what would I do if she started sleeping in--or worse, developed mononucleosis? What if her fairy dust suddenly lost its sparkle?

I used to think I'd write a book when I had more time. I imagined myself breezing into the perfect little coffee shop, where, after sipping a steaming espresso, I'd poise my fingers above my laptop's keyboard and watch as a flawless novel unfurled. I wouldn't write the whole thing in a single day, of course--it would probably take a few weeks. But as long as the conditions were just so, creative inspiration would emerge, almost like a separate entity, and I'd sit back and watch it go to work.

Huh. I've since learned writing, at least for me, doesn't work that way. I have to write when I'm exhausted. I have to write when I'm grumpy, when I'm bored with writing, and when I'm convinced I'm the worst writer in the entire world. I can't make writing too... precious, for lack of a better word (and I'm a writer; I really should have a better word), or I'll never get it done. It's the equivalent of a runner faithfully getting out there on freezing cold days, on rainy days when every passing car splatters a puddle's worth of water on her, and on days when her shin splints cry out for mercy. Sure, there will be days when she feels like she's flying; when the sun is gentle and so is the breeze, and she could run forever. Those golden days exist in writing, too, but I know I'll never stumble upon them unless I've done the gritty, painful training.

Craft is no-nonsense; it gets up at 7 a.m., yawning and stretching, then has a solid breakfast of scrambled eggs and black coffee before heading off to battle traffic and curse at the guy who makes a left-hand turn and forces everyone to miss the light. Craft isn’t fussy. No mean middle-school girl would try to mess with Craft’s mind. Craft shows up, gets the job done, then heads home to have a well-deserved Budweiser in front of the television.

Ooh...television. Maybe I should see what’s on before I write?

(Sounds of a struggle as Craft wrestles the remote control out of my hand).

Fine. Craft wins again. Now I’m off to tackle those 1,000 words of my next novel.

Sounds like you're on the right track, Sarah! At least in terms of what works for you getting your stories out. *grin* I cannot wait to see what craft comes up with next. Thank you so much for visiting us this month--I've enjoyed having you over, and hope you'll pop in again to say "hi" every so often! 

And just in case you missed it, check out Sarah's article in the Washington Post about the gender divide in children's books--and the resulting concern that boys are reading less...

Review & Giveaway: 37. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick...

March 22, 2011
I loved Elizabeth Chadwick's The Scarlet Lion and For the King's Favor, so when offered the chance to read To Defy a King, I jumped! *grin*

to defy a king
Title: To Defy a King
Author: Elizabeth Chadwick
ISBN-13: 9781402250897
ARC: 498 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
Mahelt Marshal is the third child and oldest daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, William Marshal. Betrothed to Hugh Bigod, heir to the Earl of Norfolk at the age of eleven, and married at fourteen, she has to learn to navigate the waters of not just another powerful family, but the political clime of the times as well. Especially when it seems as though the King has it in for the Marshals.

Character: Mahelt is beautifully written, from gangly girl to loving wife, gracious hostess and protective mother. Elizabeth Chadwick describes her emotions and actions so well you feel as if you know Mahelt. And Hugh is almost-perfect, if that ever existed... *grin* An honorable man who seems unable to do wrong, until he heads off to London with the family treasures against Mahelt's advice. And finds out that he really doesn't want to be on the wrong side of her graces.

I really really don't like King John, and I feel awful for those caught up in the web of his machinations. And while you don't have to read any of the prior books, I will say that The Scarlet Lion provides insight into William Marshal and what he and his family had to endure to keep his vow of loyalty to the King (even John), and For The King's Favor describes the path trod by Roger Bigod towards regaining and rebuilding his earldom. And the Roger and Ida in this book made me sad to see where their personal lives eventually ended up...

Pace & Plot: The plot probably isn't a surprise to any fan of medieval history, but the tale is paced well and told in a clear and realistic voice.

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent! This vivid and engrossing tale of a noble daughter's life will draw you in, so set aside a few hours for the reading!

Have you read To Defy a King? What did you think? And if you haven't, here's your chance to win a copy!

Thanks to Sourcebooks, I have one copy of Elizabeth Chadwick's To Defy a King for you, if you live in the US. To enter, comment below with your email address and tell us if you've read any of Elizabeth's books, and if so which one(s)? Do it before 6pm CST April 4th. Good luck!

Elizabeth Chadwick on the joys of researching!

March 21, 2011
Wow. Just wow. My absolute favoritest historical fiction author, Elizabeth Chadwick, is visiting us today with a guest post on the research she conducts for her novels... Welcome, Elizabeth! Y'all, come & see what she has to say!

Research is fun!

Whatever an author writes, be it historical or contemporary, he or she still has to do the research, but historical novelists intent on giving readers a real taste of their period have to put in the legwork, or perhaps I should say in my case, the wimple work!

Researching a historical novel is for me an inter-disciplinary process of several strands.

I don’t read Latin or Old French very well. I can get by, but I tend to mostly read primary source works in translation. I enjoy reading these because it gives me an idea of how people thought at the time, and there are always fascinating little snippets to be picked up on. The other day I came across the detail in a 12th century treatise on gem polishing, that the medievals thought rock crystal was actually fossilized ice.

I also read many secondary sources but these are more variable. Some of the more scholarly tomes can be a bit mind-numbing even while they are filled with facts I need to know. The difficulty is staying awake long enough to read them! However, to balance that, there are always books that are written in an interesting, accessible way, or contain juicy details. I was very interested to read that in the 14th century, women were advised to wear fox tails under their tight dresses in order to cover their bottoms and preserve their modesty! It was great too, the other day to find out a list of pet dog names from the Middle Ages. Jack was popular even back then, and Teri (short for terrier I guess), and Damask – perhaps for a particularly silky coated dog. As much as the politics, I love these sort of details because for me they bring the people to life. I believe it is essential for authors of historical fiction to read around their subject as much as they can. It needn’t all go in the novel, but the more research one does, the better the characters are going to perform in their environment.

Framlingham Castle walls
I visit locations whenever I can. Usually I sneak a break at the same time for the rest of the family, so we enjoy a holiday and I get to relax and research at the same time. A lot of the story in To Defy A King takes place at Framlingham Castle. It’s now a ruin, but the external castle walls still stand with their thirteen guard towers. The outline of the small hall where Mahelt lived when she first arrived there can still be seen together with its existing Norman chimneys. Parts of the newer hall where the family lived and entertained guests are now a museum and visitor centre. Framlingham’s wall walk is one of the most intact in Britain. When researching To Defy A King, I also went to Chepstow, which Mahelt would have known as a little girl and which still has the same castle doors that her father commissioned shortly before she was born. And I went to Settrington, a beautiful village in East Yorkshire where Mahelt’s marriage family--the Bigods--had a manor, and where in the novel, Mahelt and her husband Hugh consummate their marriage.

Framlingham Castle's Norman chimneys

Many places mentioned in my novels have either disappeared completely, or are in ruins, but I believe that the echoes of their existence can still be picked up, which brings me onto another aspect of my research, the Akashic Records. This is a belief that the past can be accessed by someone with the ability to tune in to the vibrational patterns of people, places and things, whether living or no longer with us. It’s not for everyone, and I always respect people’s choice whether to believe it or not, but it works for me. I find researching my characrters via the skills of Akashic consultant Alison King enormously interesting. For anyone wanting to read some excerpts, they are available on an especially set up blog here: But here, as an example, is a short description of Mahelt’s husband Hugh before their wedding and about the things he particularly liked to do. My questions and comments to Alison are in bold.

What sort of things does Hugh like to do in his leisure time before his marriage to Mahelt?
Alison: I’m hearing singing already even though I’m not there yet. I can feel the air in the lungs and hear the singing and hear all the background noises of eating and drinking. There’s the smoke of the fire, sheepskins on the floor, warm orange flames, and more songs. When they run out of songs they send out for more songs – ‘Who can remember another one, who can remember another one?’ So this goes on for hours and hours until they go to bed late in the night. It’s very dark. Some people are very tired and some are still humming. The beds are warm because they’re all near the fire and they all go to bed like cubs--all relaxed and curled up. There’s still that lovely atmosphere of togetherness in the room.

So anything else?
I can smell grass. The sky is so bright it’s dazzling his eyes. Big clouds but the sky is bright. It’s lovely. He’s standing somewhere on a hillside overlooking a lot of land. The feel of the air coming towards him all unimpeded and just this massive sky. There’s a feeling of being part of it and all the edges blur, the land and the sky, his vision, the warmth of the sun, the warmth of him, the smell of the grass in the air. Everything is blurred and he’s part of the whole. The feeling is quite a high. It’s a spiritual experience for him. He likes to do that (come out on his own) and get that feeling, to get everything else out of his system, all the bad things and the small things out of his system. To clarify and cleanse. (so me time out of the house basically). Yes.

Elizabeth Chadwick chopping leeks
Another strand of research I thoroughly enjoy doing is historical re-enactment with living history society Regia Anglorum. The society aims to accurately portray the peoples of the United Kingdom as they were between the mid 10th and late 12th centuries. Re-enactment is a vital part of my research because it helps me to bring the written words in text books into 3D and becomes a ‘show’ not ‘tell’ experience. I get an idea of what it must have felt like to wear the clothes and walk in the shoes. I get to cook food in cauldrons and in clay cooking pots, to spin and to weave (I’m not very good at those but I know the technique in theory!), to try out the swords and weapons and to talk to other enthusiasts who all have their own areas of detailed expertise. Not only that, but we get to do these things at some great castles and beautiful country sites, and we’re in demand for film work on a regular basis. It’s also fantastic to make like minded friends. I am now the proud owner of all sorts of medieval replica artefacts including a sword, shield and helmet, and some interesting examples of medieval pottery and glassware. Who wouldn’t enjoy such research!

Thank you for stopping by today, Elizabeth. I am loving the pictures you included with this guest post, they're just totally cool!! *grin* 

My thoughts on To Defy a King will post tomorrow. I'd have included it here, but then this post would be loooooooooong! (hint: it's good!)

About Elizabeth Chadwick:
Elizabeth Chadwick lives in Nottingham with her husband and two sons. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval reenactment society with the emphasis on accurately recreating the past. She also tutors in the skill of writing historical and romantic fiction. Her first novel, The Wild Hunt won a Betty Trask award. She was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Award in 1998 for The Champion, in 2001 for Lords of the White Castle, in 2002 for The Winter Mantle, and in 2003 for The Falcons of Montabard. Her sixteenth novel, The Scarlet Lion was nominated by Richard Lee, the founder of the Historical Novel Society, as one of the top ten historical novels of the last decade.

Find Elizabeth online at her website, on facebook, and on twitter.

Jill Mansell's Millie's Fling NOOKbook is FREE!!

March 19, 2011
Ok, y'all know I love Jill Mansell's books... AND I found out that Millie's Fling is the free Friday NOOKbook this week. I just downloaded my copy--go & get yours, too! :)

millies fling

Review: 36. River Marked by Patricia Briggs...

March 18, 2011
I love love LOVE Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, and couldn't wait to read River Marked... Alas, I did have to wait, but I did (finally) get my hands on a copy and inhaled it. I'm so going to read it again, when I find some extra time...

river marked
Title: River Marked (Mercy Thompson #6)
Author: Patricia Briggs
ISBN-13: 9780441019731
Hardover: 336 pages
Publisher: Penguin Group, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Purchased

drey's thoughts:
This newest installment in Patricia Briggs' popular Mercy Thompson series focuses on Mercy & Adam's relationship, and on Mercy's background. Who was her father, really? All she's ever known was what her mother told her. But then she meets a shaman who challenges her assumptions of her heritage. And drops a doozy of a revelation on her. Or does he?

Character: Mercy and Adam have gotten to the next part of their character growth--that of being a couple. Being able to trust that there's someone who has her back is something that Mercy has to work at, since she's used to being solitary more often than not. And I like the Mercy that emerges in River Marked. She's carefree, she laughs and giggles, you can almost feel her happiness radiating off the pages. I mean, seriously, she giggles! *grin*

I've always been an Adam fan, so 'nuff said. He's still yummy, and he's still taking care of my gal Mercy. Stefan needs a bit of a knock-down to get his head straight after the chaos from Bone Crossed (so of course Mercy provides it), and Jesse, Kyle, and Warren make an appearance. But otherwise, that's it for those we've grown to know and love--there's a new group of characters introduced here, and the one who stands out most is Coyote (because really, who else could it be, when Coyote's around??). I really enjoyed the Native American folklore that is infused into River Marked, I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.

Pace & Plot: This being a Mercy story, you know there's a whole lot of danger liberally sprinkled throughout. Why start making it easy for Mercy now? And indeed, the baddie here is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad. Somehow, though, the baddie didn't get me all spooked and watching over my shoulder, like some of the previous villains have. Maybe because it just seemed so impossible to defeat? I don't know. All I can say is, in between laughing at Mercy giggling, smirking at Stefan's humor resurfacing, getting caught up in the Coyote-storyline and the baddie's appearances, you'll be glued to the pages until you get to the back cover. And then you'll be mad that you read it so fast and now have to wait for the next one. *sigh*

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent!!

Have you read River Marked? What did you think?

March's FEATURED AUTHOR: What Sarah reads!

March 16, 2011
Can you believe how fast this week is flying by? I can't, but I'm not going to complain (too much), because it's Wednesday, and that means March's Featured Author is visiting. And today, Sarah shares with us what she likes to read...

I'm never without a book. I have them in every single room of my house (except the kitchen, because I don't spend any time in there) and in my car. My iPhone has a kindle app, and I've downloaded dozens of novels. On my nightstand, and stacked on the end table next to my favorite spot on our squashy green couch, are a dozen bound galleys of books that haven't been released yet. Just looking at them fills me with joy. Am I addicted to reading? Absolutely; I'll happily admit it.

So... what do I like to read? It all depends on what I'm writing.

My genre is commercial women's fiction - think Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin - and even though I devour those books when I'm not writing my own, I have to be careful about not reading too many when I'm in the middle of constructing a book. I worry that those authors' strong, distinctive voices might get lodged in my head and crowd out my own voice. If I'm doing revisions, or just starting the writing process, it's not a problem, but when I'm in the no-man's-land of the middle of the book, it might be. I don't want to take that chance. So, I treat myself to women's fiction novels during nine or ten months out of the year, and during the other two or three, I gobble up different genres.

My favorites are thrillers. I adore books with quick, seamless plots, because they teach me about plotting techniques I can try out in my own books. Harlan Coben writes a terrific series that's filled with tension and humor, and I've loved every word he has written. Karin Slaughter is another intelligent, gifted writer whose novels are so riveting I swear she has her publisher use Superglue on the pages - you can't put them down.

I think the best book I read in the last year was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. She also wrote the blockbuster novel Seabiscuit. And here's something funny - she and I graduated from the same high school class. We weren't friends in high school because our paths didn't cross, but she is now one of my closest friends. I'd urge you all to read her books!

The genre I haven't yet plunged into? I don't read many biographies. But that is going to change, because lately I'm feeling their allure.

Thanks so much for having me here today, and please find me on facebook or visit my website at so we can continue chatting about books!

I'd love it.

I don't read many biographies either. And when I do, I pick them up mostly for the really-long-dead, like John Adams, or Thomas Jefferson. *grin* But thank you, Sarah, for bringing up new-to-me authors... Out of all the ones listed, I've only read Jennifer Weiner (& you, of course). Guess it's time for a bookstore run...

What about y'all? Do you share a must-read author (or two) with Sarah?

New winner for Shadowfever!

March 14, 2011
I never heard from Wolf Bear, so I picked a new winner to receive Shadowfever... According to Randomizer, it is:


Email's gone out, please reply with your mailing information before end of day Wednesday! Thanks for stopping in!

Review: 35. The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch...

Richard Doetsch is a new-to-me author, and I'll be looking for more of his work after reading The Thieves of Darkness...

thieves of darkness
Title: The Thieves of Darkness
Author: Richard Doetsch
ISBN-13: 9781416598978
Paperback: 564 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Simon & Schuster

drey's thoughts:
What do you do when you find out that your best friend is in prison? If you're Michael St. Pierre, you pack your bags and stage a rescue. And when you find out your girlfriend of one month is in the next cell? Why, you rescue her too, of course. And once everyone's safely away from the resulting manhunt, you try to figure out why. Along with wondering who, exactly, you've been dating. Not exactly easy to do when you're running from all manners of bad guys who're right on your heels...

Character: Michael is a bad-guy-gone-good, a complex person who's surprisingly easy to like in this offering from Richard Doetsch. He's had  experiences, I guess you could say, but he's trying to stay on the straight and narrow now, with deviations from that path only for a good cause. And that's "good cause" according to his conscience! KC seemed a bit more superficial to me, she's the perfect girlfriend with a past, who's attempting to deal with the boyfriend and sister finding out her truth, while trying to save her sister from kidnappers. The chemistry between KC and Michael is there, but I would quite call it palpable. Rounding out the group are Father Simon Bellatori, the man-of-the-cloth BFF who needed rescuing, and Paul Busch, Michael's former parole officer turned accomplice-in-complicated-rescues.

Pace & Plot: The Thieves of Darkness reads so fast and furious, I could see the action scenes in my head, complete with car chases and things blowing up spectacularly. There are no gaping holes in the plot, and no confusing, over-complicated storylines. And no beating you over the head repeatedly with "see, this is how this relates to that", just in case you missed it or couldn't figure it out (which was one of my peeves with Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons... This doesn't mean there aren't surprises, so don't go thinking this is boring.

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent: A must-read for fans of the mystery/thriller with a historical background.

Have you read The Thieves of Darkness? What did you think?

B&N's March eBook spotlight: Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely!!

March 12, 2011
B&N's March spotlight is on Melissa Marr's first Wicked Lovely book!

At $0.99, this is an awesome way to get introduced to the Wicked Lovely series, if you haven't already checked it out!


March 10, 2011
I'm late again!! So very very sorry, y'all... BUT. I have winners for two giveaways to announce!

The first is for Karen Marie Moning's Shadowfever! The lucky duck selected by Randomizer is comment #9, Wolf Bear!

The next set of winners to announce is for Adrian Phoenix's Etched in Bone!! This book goes to...



Emails have all gone out, please reply with your mailing information before the end of day Sunday, or I'll have to pick new winners... Congratulations, y'all! Happy reading!

March's FEATURED AUTHOR: Meet Sarah Pekkanen!

March 9, 2011
Ok, I finally got my act together, and can finally introduce the lovely Sarah Pekkanen to you... Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Sarah!

drey: Hello and welcome to drey’s library, Sarah, and congratulations on your newest little joy!

I REALLY appreciate your taking the time to visit this month, so shall we get started? Tell us a little about yourself...

Sarah: I'm the mother of three young sons and a former journalist. I left my job as a features writer for The Baltimore Sun newspaper after my first child was born. I free-lanced a bit, but stopped writing altogether after I had another baby. But I missed writing so much that one night I brought a glass of wine to my computer and began to type--I didn't really plan it, but I felt as though I would burst if I didn't do it! I put together a book, and it caught the attention of a literary agent (oh, that makes it sound too easy. I promise it wasn't that easy. But it was so worth it!)

drey: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Sarah: One of my most prized possessions is a letter I wrote at the age of 10 on Raggedy Ann stationary to a New York publisher, demanding to know when my book--titled "Miscellaneous Tales and Poems"--would be published. I think I've always wanted to be a writer, even before I could articulate the thought!

drey: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Sarah: Everywhere - in things people say, in things I observe, in things I read. Writers take lots of experiences and emotions and filter them through a kaleidoscope before sprinkling them onto the page. There may not be a strong resemblance to the original experience, but the shards are there.

drey: What do you do to recharge your batteries?

Sarah: Read, watch Reality TV (the shame!) and take long walks with my rescue lab, Bella.

drey: Tell us about Skipping a Beat.

Sarah: Skipping a Beat is the story of Julia Dunhill, a 30-something party planner who is married to an incredibly wealthy man. One day her husband Michael stands up at the head of the table in his company's boardroom and collapses. Four minutes and eight seconds later, he is revived--but he's a different man. Julia has three weeks to decide if she should stay with her husband, now a stranger, or leave him.

drey: Smackdown: Your favorite authors face off in the ring. Who are they, who wins, and why?

Sarah: Jennifer Weiner would take on Truman Capote, and kick his ass with her humor. She wouldn't have to land a single punch; she'd slay him with her wit.

drey: What’s up next for you?

Sarah: I'm finishing up my third book, which is the story of three very different women who end up being roommates in New York City. It doesn't have the same characters as either of my first two novels, Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me, but there is one similar thread: It's a book about women who get chances to step into completely new lives.

drey: And, last but not least, the quickie 5:
  1. Favorite author? Jennifer Weiner!
  2. Best thing to curl up with on a cold winter night? My kids, dog and husband--all in one bed cuddling!
  3. Salad or dessert? Oh, come on. Dessert. Seriously, does anyone say salad?
  4. Jazz or alternative rock? Jazz.
  5. Chocolate: Solo or paired (& if paired, with what)? Solo. Why mess with perfection?

drey: Thank you so much for visiting us this month, Sarah! I hope you enjoy your stay. :)

Sarah: I loved it. Thanks for having me!

Everyone, find Sarah online at her website,, facebook, and twitter.

I have a copy of Sarah's Skipping a Beat for you, if you live in the US. To enter, comment with your email address and tell us if you watch Reality TV, and if so, which show(s)? I'm not a huge fan, except when it comes to The Amazing Race. I'm still trying to figure out how I can take the time off to be a participant! *grin*

Good luck, y'all! Enter before 6pm CST March 29th!

Review & Giveaway: 34. The Chaos by Rachel Ward...

March 7, 2011
Last year, I was lucky enough to review Rachel Ward's Numbers, and this year I'm lucky (again!) to get my hands on her follow-up novel, The Chaos! Thank you, Big Honcho Media!

the chaos
About the book:
Title: The Chaos (Numbers #2)
Author: Rachel Ward
ISBN-13: 9780545242691
Hardcover: 339 pages
Publisher: Scholastic, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Big Honcho Media
When he was a little boy, Adam learned about the numbers. The first ones he saw were Jem’s. That was how he knew she was going to die. Adam has more than inherited his mother's curse: When he looks in someone's eyes, he not only sees the date of their death...he feels the searing, shocking pain of it. Since Jem died, Adam has lived by the sea with his great-grandmother, Val. But when rising tides flood the coast, they return to London. The city is an alien, exciting, frightening place. Most disturbing of all, Adam can't help but clock how many people's numbers are in January 2027; how many are on New Year's Day. What chaos awaits the world? Can he and Sarah stop a catastrophe? Or are they, too, counted among the "twenty-sevens"?

drey's thoughts:
Rachel Ward's follow-up to The Numbers is just as captivating as its predecessor. The world that Adam and Sarah live in is stark and a bit depressing, honestly. There's poverty, food shortages, brown-outs, and flooding. As it is, the story starts out with Adam and his grandmother having to leave his mother's house as the floodwaters are swirling...

So they move to London, where Adam starts seeing the same number everywhere--January 1st, 2027. People in the streets, his classmates, whole groups of people show the same number. It gets overwhelming for Adam, who tries to capture the images that flit through his brain whenever he sees someone's number.

As if that's not bad enough, he has to deal with a new school where he immediately runs afoul of the local bullies, and is stymied by the Sarah's reaction to meeting him.

Character: Adam is a likable character, even when he's belligerent and rude, because you get why he reacts the way he does. Sometimes I forget that he's only a teenager, because his reactions are more mature than I'd peg him for. Then again, when you've had to deal with a secret as big as his for as long as he's had to, I guess you grow up quick.

I thought Sarah was surprisingly antagonistic, but then you finally get the picture of where she's coming from. All I can say is, Rachel Ward sure puts her characters through a heck of a lot of emotional wringing...

Pace & Plot: The Chaos starts off a bit slowly in the action department, but that's because it spent time building up the characters. I never got bored, and there weren't any slow spots. However, I do think it took quite a bit before they got around to figuring out what to do about Jan. 1, 2027.

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent

Find Rachel online at her website,

Have you read The Chaos? What did you think?

Thanks to Big Honcho Media, I have a copy of The Chaos for two of you... Yup, TWO. To enter, comment below and tell me why you want this book. Don't forget to include your email address. Do it before 6pm CST March 20th!

Winners: Rowena Cory Daniells' trilogies!

March 6, 2011
Alright. The last giveaway from our lovely February Featured Author, Rowena Cory Daniells, is over, and here's who Randomizer picked to receive their very own set of the Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin, or the Last T'en Trilogy:


... and ...


Congratulations, y'all! Email's out, please reply with your mailing information. And thank you for stopping by!

Winner: Skipping a Beat!

Thanks to all who entered my giveaway of Sarah Pekkanen's Skipping a Beat! According to Randomizer, the lucky duck getting a copy in the mail is...


Congratulations! Email's on its way, please reply with your mailing information.

33. Review: Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell...

March 3, 2011
I have Jill Mansell firmly entrenched on my list of authors I have to read, and couldn't wait to crack open the pages of Staying at Daisy's!

staying at daisy's
Title: Staying at Daisy's
Author: Jill Mansell
ISBN-13: 9781402243844
ARC: 501 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011 (reprint)
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
I love Jill Mansell's characters--they are absolutely lovable. And Daisy is no exception. Single by decision since she found about that her husband was cheating on her when he died in a car accident, she has a difficult time flipping between wanting to hang with Dev Tyzack and staying as far away as she can get. After all, he's famous (former rugby star) and totally hot. Can't be good, right? So when her old college flame shows up, she falls into a relationship with him instead, because he's not quite as dangerous to her heart...

In addition to this lovely triangle, there's Daisy's father, who's a flamboyant widower, her BFF Tara, who's the good-time girl, Tara's mom, and a surprising pair who turn Daisy's life upside-down. Or, more upside-down. And as we go with Daisy on her journey to self-discovery, she comes to accept that the past is past, and she can decide how to move forward--and whether her heart moves with her or not.

Jill's writing creates characters you care about, and her humor shines through in the characters' quirkiness and personalities. Entertaining through and through.

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent! Jill should be at the top of any chick-lit fans' list!

Have you read Staying at Daisy's? What did you think?

March's FEATURED AUTHOR: Sarah Pekkanen's books!!

March 2, 2011
This one's all on me. It's been absolutely crazy lately--I was on vacation in Mexico, came back, and started a new job a week later. It's actually my first week this week! Anyway, I missed sending Sarah the Q&A for today's post (with enough time for communicating), so today I'll be posting her bibliography. Next Wednesday we'll have our Q&A. Hope you guys are ok with this! And Sarah, I'm sorry!!! :(

Anyway, without further ado, here are Sarah's books!

skipping a beat
What would you do if your husband wanted to rewrite the rules of your relationship?

Julia Dunhill, a thirty-something party planner, seems to have it all: Married to her high school sweetheart and living in a gorgeous home in Washington D.C., she imagines her future unfolding very much as it has for the past few years, since she and her husband Michael successfully launched their companies. There will be dinner parties to attend, operas to dress up for, and weddings and benefits to organize for her growing list of clients. There will be shopping sprees with her best friend, Isabelle, and inevitably those last five pounds to shed. In her darker moments, she worries that her marriage has dissolved from a true partnership into a fa├žade, but she convinces herself it’s due to the intensity of their careers and fast-paced lifestyle.

So as she arranges the molten chocolate cupcakes for the annual Opera benefit, how can she know that her carefully-constructed world is about to fall apart? That her husband will stand up from the head of the table in his company’s boardroom, open his mouth to speak, and crash to the carpeted floor… all in the amount of time it will take her to walk across a ballroom floor just a few miles away. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts Michael’s heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man, with an altered perspective on the rarified life they’ve been living and a determination to regain the true intimacy they once shared. Now it is up to Julia to decide — is it worth upending her comfortable world to try to find her way back to the husband she once adored, or should she walk away from this new Michael, who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his change of heart?

Read an excerpt of Skipping a Beat! Read my review! Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository

the opposite of me
Reminiscent of Jennifer Weiner’s In Her Shoes and Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed, this funny, poignant debut novel explores the desire to have it all, the relationships that define us, and the complicated, irreplaceable bonds of sisterhood. People magazine gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars and Redbook magazine calls it “smart, soulful” and chose it as a March must read!

Twenty-nine year old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her devastatingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named Creative Vice President of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of 80 plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully-constructed life implodes.

Humiliated and desperate, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her prince charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin, while she furtively tries to put her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository

And last but not least, a short story published in ebook format:

all is bright
Thirty-year-old Elise Andrews couldn’t bring herself to marry Griffin, her childhood friend-turned-sweetheart, so she let him walk away. Eight months after their break-up, she arrives in her hometown of Chicago on Christmas Eve and hears a voice from the past calling her name in the grocery store. It’s Griffin’s mother Janice, who invites Elise over for a neighborhood gathering of eggnog and carols.

Walking into Janice’s house sends Elise tumbling headlong into memories of her relationship with Griffin — and with Janice, who exudes the kind of warmth Elise ached for after her own mom passed away when she was six. But Griffin has moved on, and suddenly Elise doubts her decision to give him up, and lose her chance at being folded into his wonderful family. Confused and reeling, she goes in search of an answer to a universal question: How do we say good-bye to people we’ve loved without losing everything they’ve meant to us?

Heartwarming and witty, All is Bright is a charming story about coming home for the holidays — and finding gifts in the most unexpected of places

Purchase at Amazon

Have you read any of Sarah's books? What did you think?

Review: 32. How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper...

March 1, 2011
I liked the sense of humor that Molly Harper included in her Jane Jameson series, so when I heard she had a new book out, I just had to pick it up...

how to flirt with a naked werewolf
Title: How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf (Naked Werewolf #1)
Author: Molly Harper
ISBN-13: 9781439195864
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Simon & Schuster

drey's thoughts:
Molly Harper's latest offering doesn't disappoint. There's humor, wit, and sarcasm aplenty in this one, so if that's your thing, pick it up!

Character: Mo Wenstein is a hippy-raised southern gal running away from her interfering mother. Where does she head to? Why, Alaska, of course! Mo is funny and warm, yet sarcastic and sassy. She'd have to be, to have survived childhood with her given name! I liked her, and I liked how she's torn between trying to like the nice guy, and actually liking the grumpy one (against her better judgement!)... Cooper is the grumpy guy, and while I never quite got exactly why he's so grumpy. Yea, there's a backstory & stuff, but still... Be Alpha and be done with that! Sheesh!

Pace & Plot: This is a quick read, and you're done before you know it. The story flows well (except for grumpy dude--see above), and Mo's believable, as are the other characters in the book. Never mind that you'll see who the bad guy is from a mile away. You'll love this if you like chick-lit + werewolves + sassy humor.

drey's rating: 4/5 Excellent: Quirky and entertaining read that'll have you cracking up in places.

Have you read How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf? What did you think?
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