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Authors! Want a review?
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cover Reveal And Author Spotlight: Unexpecting by Cynthia St. Aubin, out December 19th.

In honor of the beautiful cover reveal for the final chapter of The Case Files of Dr. Mathilda Schmidt, Paranormal Psychologist: Unexpecting, I've featured Cynthia St. Aubin as my first author spotlight post.  (The orange links in the post are direct to the referenced material but, the blue are advertisements not placed by me.)

Unexpecting by Cynthia St. Aubin:
coming December 19th!

Cynthia St. Aubin has had one hell of a year as a debut author.

In less than twelve short months, she's completed seven novellas in The Case Files of Dr. Mathilda Schmidt, Paranormal Psychologist.  The first three of the series are available in a paperback collection called Dysfunctional.  Each of the six chapters are also available separately, in a rainbow of paperbacks with fresh, original covers.  The last of which is due (pun intended) on December 19th.

In October, she and three other writers released a tightly written collaboration called Which Witch is Which?  "Anthology" is not a term that applies to this book. Hours upon hours must have been spent with her fellow writers to create such a seamless flow from one author's portion of the book to the next.

Cynthia St. Aubin
Since February, St. Aubin has garnered a very loyal following on Facebook. Her author page is rolling up to the 3000 likes mark.  And her street team, Cyn's Minions is an impressive ten percent of those "likers", at almost 300 members.

Three must be her lucky number. Recently, a popular blog held a reader's choice competition.  Cynthia St. Aubin's books outran one author by 300% of the votes, and came in second only to J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood® series. Even that defeat was a win...she had fully half the amount of votes that Ward did. Toe to toe with the accepted (and beloved) Queen of the Paranormal Romance Kingdom, and St. Aubin came away with more than a respectable number of votes.

Cynthia is a very reader-friendly author. Her on-line accessibility is welcoming -  exuding warmth and graciousness to her Minions and fans.  Her gratitude for their purchases and participation in events is sincere, and sparkles with true delight at readers' responses.

Cynthia has a sharp, and smart sense of humor that is couched in silliness.  She often posts about things occurring around the books, and sometimes, about her life. The overlying humor makes just about anyone giggle with the picture she paints.  Once you've stopped laughing, take a deeper look at what's written.  The verbiage, analogies, and structure of her posts reveal comedy genius at work.

At such a pace, her books should have had some lag. However, neither the writing quality, nor the plot lines suffer from any inconsistencies.  St. Aubin is deft with character arcs, mood changes, and the ability to give just enough information away to raise more questions.  All of this would be enough to solidify her name as a "must-read" in the genre, but St. Aubin gilds the lily with vivid analogies, and highlighter worthy prose.

Unexpecting is the last chapter of this wild ride.  Already, Cynthia St. Aubin's fans are lamenting the loss of Dr. Mathilda Schmidt and her adventures.  On social media sites, St. Aubin has hinted at a new writing project for 2015.

If you haven't read her books, truly, you're missing out on a ground-floor opportunity to witness the growth of an author that has enough talent and savvy to take her career to best-seller status.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review: The Allotter: The Threads of Destiny by Kimberlie L Faye

Click here to buy The Allotter: The Threads of Destiny by Kimberlie L. Faye

Evie has built her life around disturbing dreams and the ability to see the length of the lives of the people around her.  Recently, it's become so overwhelming that she's afraid for her mental stability.

Her fragile world is shaken when two men cross her path in bizarre and confusing events.  She doesn't know who to trust, not even her own mind.

There's a truth about herself she's been denying.  The denial runs so deep that she needs others to help her find the answers, but Evie only receives more questions.

Gods and immortals seem to bar her path at every turn.  Will she finally realize her destiny? Or will she be lost forever to the power that is awakening within her?

“You answer my questions with questions? What the hell kind of game are you playing with me?” her voice shook with anger and frustration. 
“It is not a game I play with you. I am trying to ascertain how much information your mind can safely handle right now. That is all I’m doing.” He lifted his hands in the air in a show of surrender then took her hands into his.

Evie is a very believable character. Her ability to know how long a person will live and how they will die weighs heavily on her. This ability has shaped her life, from her career, to her living situation. Although the character growth is slow, it's consistent with the denial and fear she feels. Rather than having her identity and whatever immortal powers she might have suddenly blossom in a moment of truth, her resistance lends credence to the character.

The peripheral characters are sharp and well-formed. There is an air of mystery to most of them, as Evie is discovering who and what they are, just as she is discovering herself. Evie's instincts struggle with the lack of memory quite well. Her reaction to her mother's moment of truth foreshadows an intriguing mystery.

Weaving fantasy and mythology has been done before, but this is a refreshingly original take on the "mortal that doesn't know she's more" trope. The story does end on a cliffhanger, but it's not a brutal cut to credits. Instead, it's one of those endings that lingers in the reader's mind. It makes one wonder what's next, and how long will Evie continue to fight her true nature?

If Faye doesn't drag out the wait too long for Evie to accept the truth, and as long as the story continues to titillate with just enough information, this promises to be a very strong start to Faye's writing career.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review: Caught By A Cowboy by Felice Fox

Click here to buy Caught By a Cowboy by Felice Fox

Lita and Luke are on the hunt. In an anonymous bar they seek a man worthy of Lita. But if they find what they are looking for, will it tear them apart?
He gave her a crooked smile, and bumped her shoulder with his. “I told you before, but I'll tell you again. Being with someone else is about loving me.”

Caught By A Cowboy is a short story in the Cameron Ranch Series by Felice Fox. It's a quick read at around 10K words, but what it lacks in size is compensated for with a lot of heat and a beautifully sculpted mood.

Due to the length, the characters can only be fleshed out so much. Fox does this very well. The reader gets a feel for Lita's sense of adventure and her devotion to Luke very quickly. Luke's quiet but passionate love for Lita, and his easy nature come across with consistency. “Billy” is not quite as dimensional, but in this instance, it works. As a third party, he's there to build the tension between Lita and Luke, not gain the spotlight.

The plot is quick, even as the mood changes. The couple's trepidation and excitement are believable. The reader easily relates to the dilemma of the menage a trois. The situation is a double-edged sword for Luke and Lita. Fox is excellent at creating an understanding of what this couple will need in order to make the relationship work, and mixing in the tension of the fear of what following through might do to undermine their love.

The sex scenes don't stray into anything too kinky, but that doesn't matter because they are strongly written and definitely a turn-on. The word choices fit the mood and situation without getting awkwardly euphemistic or unnecessarily over-the-top vulgar. Instead, they mix together the emotions of the moment with the lust. The sex isn't just gratuitous porn in shiny wrapping; it's vital to the characters' development. This is something that is often missed by erotica authors, and I'm happy to say Fox did a solid job with it.

As a first time reader of Felice Fox, I am impressed. This is an author that knows the difference between smut and erotica. I definitely plan to add more of her works to my reading list.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: Dysfunctional by Cynthia St. Aubin

Click Here to buy Dysfunctional by Cynthia St. Aubin

Dr. Matilda Schmidt, Ph.D Psy.D - is a pretty, analytical, mentally moderate virgin. Her orderly days get a sudden hitch in their giddy-up when the sexy demi-god Crixus repeatedly brings her supernaturals in need of mental healing.

Our good lady-doctor seems to be having a run of supernaturally odd days:
1) Kidnapped by a sexy bounty hunter to be called on the carpet by a Vegas mob boss for a gambling debt an impostor racked up while dealing with Cupid's depression and lack of work ethic makes for a crazy road trip.
2) Fighting off angry tubers with a penchant for crotch shots while looking for a stash of gold and harboring a confused leprechaun can ruin anyone's good time.
3) Trying to help a suicidal Easter Bunny while being blackmailed by a ferret-like photographer AND avoid being the victim of the jealous rage of two goddesses can really ruin a bake sale.

Every time the pendulum of life starts to swing toward "normal", it whips back at Matilda bearing more crazy, and higher stakes.

"Where are we going?" I asked.
"One of your favorite places." Only a tourniquet could stop the false brightness bleeding from his voice.
"Whole Foods?" Hope floated my voice to a pitch too eager to respect.

The first installments in The Case Files of Dr. Matilda Schmidt, Paranormal Psychologist series are a very quick read. What they lack in length is more than made up for in fun. Cynthia St. Aubin's writing instantly charms with vivid clarity and color. The range of humor flows naturally. It streams along the spectrum from dark to silly, harmonizing with each situation.

Matilda reacting to her orderly world being upended in a fantastical way is quite amusing. She pinballs from analytical curiosity to irritation and fear to lustful abandon. She's very quixotic, but not in a way that makes her unbelievable. As a character, she's surprisingly rich, and she stays within the boundaries St. Aubin has given her.

Crixus is a demi-god of whom I've never heard. He's got the arrogance and impatience of an immortal but it's implied he has a kind core. The irreverent tossing of Cupid into Matilda's professional care is out of concern for the love god. He's got some intriguing teleportation skills, and flirts unrepentantly with our heroine. Crixus may have deeper feelings for Matilda, but he hides them well with incorrigible innuendo and the repeated seduction of her assistant.

Liam/Luigi Whatshisname is another character that St. Aubin writes very well. He's an alpha-male, a little broken, but he stoically does what he has to do. He doesn't really pull any punches with Matilda's capture. There's not an instant, gooey-eyed intimacy that prevents him from harming her. He doesn't truly hurt her, but is somewhat blase about keeping her unconscious and in less than comfortable physical conditions during much of their journey. He pops up repeatedly, always finding himself mired in the supernatural debacle of the day. Liam and Crixus have a macho rivalry that is quite amusing, especially since Liam does not seem bothered at all that Crixus could squash him like an ant.

The patients both supernatural and human that grace Dr. Schmidt's couch are all very colorful and quite funny. What would seem to be a boring job suddenly becomes a minefield of neurosis. It's a good thing Matilda is a fast thinker and very good at her job. She uses her training to neutralize her would-be enemies rather than brute force. Her quick thinking is both sharp and nimble - Dr. Matilda Schmidt is a mental health ninja.

The stories move at a brisk pace, but don't lose too much due to the lack of length. The "rules" of the paranormal are joyfully bent - no lengthy exposition, fresh ideas of what the para characters can and cannot do, etc. While they could each easily be stretched out into full-length novels, part of the charm is that they're all a quick read. The reader gets a good introduction to the characters, a roller-coaster of a plot, and a silly but well-devised resolution - just before being efficiently teased with the next chapter of Dr. Schmidt's adventures.

There's not really many problems here. Liam's character seems to gravitate toward Matilda's quite quickly, despite Cupid's assertion that the attraction should be only physical. There is one missing "hour" - the contents of which were teased by our heroine's musings. These memories were interrupted and not really brought to a conclusion. However, I could not tell if this was a plot hole, or if the author meant to tease and distract...time will tell as the chapters unfold.

On a side-note: I have a very major pet-peeve about typos and editing errors. It's a compulsion and something that will yank me right out of a story. This book was beautifully edited and formatted.

This series became a fast and heavy addiction. I've read it three times already, and I am looking forward to seeing what new characters and shenanigans will ensue.

Review: Balustrade by Mark Henry

Click here to buy Balustrade by Mark Henry

James and Hilary's marriage is dying a slow death. Quiet resentment and irritation have eaten its way into her love and it's begun to rot. Her agreement to attend a couple's retreat to reconnect is a dutiful, perfunctory stepping-stone toward what she believes is inevitably the end. 

But far from being an emotionally touchy-feely program with primal scream therapy and talking sticks,the Balustrade resort has a sexual agenda with a barely veiled sinister feel.

"Believe me, Hilary, you'll want to be completely alert for this. And afterward, you'll never live outside this level of clarity. It becomes part of you."

Mark Henry has quite few books under his belt. Among the most recent, the book Parts & Wreck comes to mind. I bring this up, because that story had an intimate scene or two in it. I remember that the scenes had good structure but they were a bit formulaic except for a glaringly odd euphemism or two. I remember mentioning in the review that with practice he'd be able to write a pretty good sex scene.

It turns out, he can. My guess is, he had to "clean up" the scenes in Parts & Wreck, and that kind of stifling can really disguise an author's ability. These scenes are integral to the plot of Balustrade, and its characters' development. I can honestly say, I'm eating my words. The scenes are delightfully deviant. With the exception of one line that made me cringe (not from disgust, more from word choice,) they were exactly what one would expect from a polished erotica writer.

Balustrade is beautifully paced. The tension and mystery are artfully intertwined in an almost lyrically written story. Henry creates a quietly sinister mood that underlies everything the characters experience beginning as they approach Balustrade. It's not in your face, but like a shadow late in the evening, it creeps toward you; steadily growing larger and darker.

The characters are perfectly imperfect. Hilary's irritability, petulance, and growing alarm over James' whole-hearted "drinking of the kool-aid" parallel the thoughts of the reader. The light shed on what seem to be her sexual inhibitions and James' role in them was a surprise.

The climax was well-conceived, and it fell in line with the mood; Hilary's actions wrought the truth about Balustrade. It had the same satisfaction one gets from sex on a hot, humid night. You feel a bit dirty and tired, but very satisfied.

Review: The Story of You and Me by Pamela Dumond

Sophie is a Minnesota girl with a mission. Her grandmother has advanced MS, and her time is running out. Sophie, too has been diagnosed with MS. A trip to LA for the summer to take a genetics course at UCLA - and to seek out every kind of available treatment, from mystic to medical seems to be her best hope.

Alejandro is a self-appointed designated driver. Just hours after Sophie's arrival in LA, Alejandro is driving her to the ER. After a few failed attempts at using public transportation - and because Sophie secretly wants to spend more time with Alejandro - she offers to hire him as her driver.

He hopes to convince her to stay, but they both have painful secrets. Sophie knows she needs to do everything she can to help her grandmother, and she's afraid that sharing her secret with Alejandro will drive him away. But how long can she keep it a secret when her symptoms start to show?

"Now's the time to tell me what you really want. Because if you don't want anything from me? Now's also the time I need to move on."

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Story of You and Me is a young adult romance with heavy subject matter. While there is a gently wry humor to it, it's not laugh-out-loud funny. As it's written in first person from Sophie's point of view, the mood has a hesitant self-consciousness that reflects her age of 19.

Sophie's character follows several YA tropes; she's pretty but doesn't know it, reluctant to believe she's "worthy" of the young man showing her attention, and self-conscious about her body. She's a serious, studious, organized person. What keeps her from being a completely angst-y character is her occasional flashes of temper, her wit, and the lengths she's willing to go to find a possible treatment for her and her grandmother.

Alejandro follows tropes much more closely. He's the good-looking boy with a moneyed family, trying to right a wrong from his past. He thinks she's beautiful, and he saves her from herself and others more than once, in true hero form.

The secondary characters have range, and except for a few of the other drivers, are easily discernible from each other. A couple of them have a bit more depth, like her grandmother, and her neighbor, Cole.

There is a constant weight to the story that Sophie's illness brings. It's not a light-hearted romance. Her illness will likely mean disability and maybe, an early death. There are moments of excitement, when Sophie's quest to investigate a treatment leads to her being in danger. These scenes are not heart-poundingly intense, but they do carry the weight of the situation and the reader does feel concern for her character. This is especially true in light of how her illness might be affected.

The quality of writing is very good. The plot flow is steady, there isn't much drudge or filler. The common thread of secrets flows between Alejandro and Sophie quite well. Where the trust grows, so does their knowledge of each other. There is a love scene, and it fits the mood of the story very well. It's not crude or explicit, but rather has the rose-colored haze of the memory of making love for the first time while in love. The character development also maintains a steady arc from beginning to end. The climax is partially predictable due to foreshadowing by the author, but that is balanced by the point of the story. That predictability is offset by its end result. It's the crisis that will either ruin the relationship or strengthen it.

Personally, this is not a book I'd normally pick up and read, as the mood of a book tends to linger in my psyche and affect my daily behavior. However, it did remind me of my first love, the obstacles we had, and the depths of the loss I felt when it didn't work out. After a few relationships, I began to realize that risking that pain could mean feeling more love. Like the first time a woman has a child, there's no description or warning of the pain that will ever prepare you for it. And like just about any mother will tell you, every minute of that pain is worth it.

**FIRST POST** Why? Because I can!

Photo Courtesy of Patti Reimer

I  have a reputation.  I'm a little easy. When an author wants to give it to me, I'm almost always willing to take it. Because they know.  


That doesn't mean all my reviews are 5-stars.
It means I treat every book, regardless of length, girth, (*snerk*)  style or genre the same.  

To that end, I've decided to collect my reviews and keep them in one place.  (Hint: this blog) I'll still post future reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, etc to the nth degree...because that's what's good for the writers. Happy writers means more books. More books means more time I can waste vicariously living the lives of characters I obsess over anyway. Having a blog just makes it appear more...productive.

In between reviews, I'll add other thought nuggets and news about authors.

Most of the reviews will focus on the genres of romance, eg. Para-Rom, Erotica, Contemporary, Historical, and all the niches in between.  I generally do not read YA (I live with a teenager. I don't need to read any more angst, thanks!) unless the author really wows me with the description and I can get past the first chapter. I do read just about anything, and you'll occasionally see reviews for other stuff pop up. I promise to do my best to label the genres clearly.

My reviews usually follow a form:
1) My own synopsis (without spoilers - because I'm wicked, but not mean)
2) A short quote
3) The review
4) Whether or not I recommend it, or to whom I'd recommend it.

If I'm presented with an ARC, I state clearly in the review that the book was given freely for an honest review.
Gentle and fair criticism, and honest praise is what you'll get.

NOTE: You are always welcome to quote my reviews as long as the verbiage is not taken out of context.  If you really really love me for the goddess I am, you'll include my name. (I'm an author, too! <3)

If you'd like to request a review, please use the contact form on the top right of the page.