Book Review: Touch of Smoke

cover-review-touch of smokeTitle: Touch of Smoke

Author: Karissa Laurel

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy

Rating: 4 Stars (4.5)

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Description/Synopsis:

Three years ago, Rikki Albemarle watched her best friend die at the hands of a supernatural evil. Certain she was slated to be the next victim, Rikki fled her small Smoky Mountain hometown, vowing to never come back. Plagued by nightmares and knowing she’s the only one who believes Mina’s death was no accident, Rikki returns with hopes of finding answers and holding the killer accountable.

Rikki is convinced the key to unlocking the secret of Mina’s death lies with Owen Amir, the alluring young army vet who once claimed her heart. But the deeper Rikki digs into Owen’s past, the more she’s torn between the urgings of her heart and her memories of him on the night Mina died.

After falling further into the rabbit hole, Rikki lands at the feet of an ancient and powerful evil determined to finish what it started years before. To survive, she’ll have to make a decision: believe Owen is the monster she always feared he might be or trust him enough to stay and fight for a second chance at love.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Touch of Smoke by Karissa Laurel was a uniquely fantastic tale of a small town romance overshadowed by the danger and allure of old magic. The story was fast-paced, well written, and easy to sink into. I thoroughly enjoyed the small cast of characters – Especially Rikki.

My only complaint is that the narrative had a tendency to be a bit overly dramatic, especially in the beginning, and I really wish that the author had spent more time delving into the darker and more mysterious aspects of the plot.

That aside, it was an intriguing paranormal twist on the usual small-town contemporary romance, and I really enjoyed it. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romance who is looking to delve into the paranormal genre – this was a nice blend of the two.

Authors & Reviewers: Free books in exchange for Feedback

This is my “I’m too lazy to post a real article today” article (’cause I haven’t finished reading any books in a few days). In case any of you authors or reviewers out there in blog-land have somehow missed these, I thought I’d share some links today…

The following are links to various websites where authors/publishers can post e-books in exchange for honest reviews from hundreds of different reviewers.  Reviewers-you can snag some free books in exchange for a little of your time and review (who doesn’t love free books? especially when all you need to do is share your opinion on them!) So be sure to check these out! 

Reviews are great for marketing books, and a helpful way to get feedback from a wide array of people. It’d be silly not to use these opportunities to your advantage.

That’s all for today folks. *salutes* I need to get back to organizing that horrendous e-library of mine. 3,000 down, 5,500 to go! I may be a bit addicted to reading. *pinches fingers together* just a bit.

Book Review: The Immortal Rules [Blood of Eden 1]

ImageTitle: The Immortal Rules [Blood of Eden 1]

Author: Julie Kagawa

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Dystopian, Vampires, Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness…

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what, and who, is worth dying for… again.

Enter Julie Kagawa’s dark and twisted world as an unforgettable journey begins.

WARNING – SPOILERS WILL ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – DETAILED REVIEW BELow

I ADORE this book. I know, I know, everyone wants to whine about how vampire books are overdone, but I really don’t care. I love vampires – and this isn’t a vampire tale like any other. The vampires in The Immortal Rules are ruthless, savage, sometimes even rabid, beasts. There’s no seductive, sparkly vampires here. In fact, the closest we come to a “nice” vampire is the main character, and even she’ll admit that you should never trust a vampire.

I really liked Allie … and well… all the characters. They each had distinct personalities, and depth to their characters. I even liked the villains.. and usually I don’t. I think my favorite part of this book though, was Allie’s struggle with humanity. She came from a background where even the humans were barely human, and had to decide to become the one thing she hated more than anything – a vampire. Even up until the very end though, she struggled to maintain her humanity, not just in the “I’m going to show compassion” way we normally see… no, Allie took the more complicated route.. She still didn’t trust people or vampires, but she did her best, struggling with her nature, and the nature of those around her in order to protect what little humanity she could still find in the world. I came away from this story with a great respect for this tragic individual who was willing to sacrifice everything in order to save just a handful of humans even though she knew in the end she’d have to leave them. Allie may be one of my favorite book heroine’s. She was naive at times, and often made bad decisions, but she wasn’t a whiny, helpless heroine. She sucked it up when it mattered and did her best to atone for the mistakes she made. The girl had guts.

I also really appreciated Zeke. It would have been so easy for him to become a character much like Stick –  a helpless, naive human that depended on others. Instead, despite his horrific situation in the group (I hate you Jeb – in a loving way.), he tried his best to see the good in the world and help every person he could – even when it turned out the people he trusted betrayed him. Despite his deep-seated hatred of vampires, he struggled to hold on to that hope, and eventually was able to see Allie for what she was : Just a girl that made a hard choice and struggled to be what everyone said she couldn’t be… a vampire that retained some semblance of humanity.

I thought the ending was perfect. I think it would have been too nicely wrapped up if Allie had stayed with Zeke and the group, instead she went back out into the fray, intent on continuing her journey and paying back the kindness shown to her. It was tragic to watch her walk out of the gates of Eden and turn her back on the group that had become in a way, family to her, but I was cheering her on as she did it.

I feel incredibly blessed to have been given a chance to read the sequel on NetGalley directly after this one, and I can’t wait to get started!

Book Review: His Reluctant Rancher

ImageTitle: His Reluctant Rancher

Author: Roxanne Snopek

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: The last place city girl Desiree Burke expected to find herself was living at and working on a ranch, much less butting heads with the ranch’s sexy cowboy owner, Zach Gamble. But that’s exactly where she ends up after an incident at work leads her to her best friend Rory’s doorstep. Desiree is a gifted physical therapist, and Rory knows exactly where her brand of tough love is needed the most.

Zach’s been through hell and back. A devastating car crash left his brother gone, his father paralyzed, and him with mental scars a mile wide. His survivor guilt alone makes him sure he doesn’t deserve to find love. But as Des works her way into his ranch, his family, and his life, suddenly the last person who belonged there is the only one he believes belongs…with him.

WARNING – SPOILERS WILL ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – DETAILED REVIEW BELOW

I picked up this novel on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and let me tell you; I had no idea what I was in for. I’m a big fan of what I call “Sure-Read”s.. That is, formulaic, well-written romance. Why? Because I know what I’m going to get when I go into it. I don’t care if the plot is cliche because that sense of romance I get from the book is familiar and cozy. So understand that when I picked up this book, I thought I was going to get a familiar, cozy, but predictable read out of it.

I was wrong.

This book was very well written. At first, I didn’t particularly like the main female lead, Desi. Like some of the characters in the book, I felt her fake-Latina persona was phony and not endearing. That may be because I live in a heavily Latin-influenced area. (I live in El Paso on the border of texas/new mexico/mexico). However, as the story wore on and that fake-side of her personality started to melt away, I learned to like her more and more. It added a depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting. As the other characters in the story grew close to Desi, so did I. It was a unique experience, and though I’m not sure it was planned, I really enjoyed the outcome.

This story was full of characters with unique personalities and complicated emotions. I really enjoyed Joe, Desi, Zach, and Rory just to name a few. They were funny, witty, endearing.. I could go on and on. And though at first the plot seemed to be like every other sure-read I’ve come across in the past, it quickly turned into a very unique and personal tale of these character’s lives that were basically torn apart by tragedy… and how they worked to overcome it. There were a lot of endearing, heart-warming moments, but I’d like to share one of my favorites:

“Maybe this will change your mind.” Rory took a small cardboard box from next to the door.

“Zach just dropped it off.”

Her heart started to thump wildly. She untucked the top flaps. A little gray head popped out. Attached to his neck was a loose bit of twine, with a note attached.

You forgot your cat.

I mean seriously, how can you read that and not go “awwwwwww”? He gave her a freaking kitten. Okay maybe it doesn’t have the same impact when it’s not in context, but it certainly had me smiling.

There was a definite feeling of attraction and passion between the main couple, Desi and Zach. I’ll admit sometimes I wanted to shake my fist at them because they both seemed so clueless, and a lot of times they made obvious bad decisions, but I have to say, the end to this book was absolutely PERFECT.

I don’t cry when I read books. I’ve read so many romances that I’m completely immune to their effect for the most part. I teared up with this one. Even just thinking about it makes my throat grow tight. I cannot put into words how epic and endearing this love story was. If you’re going to pick up a romance anytime in the near future, pick up this one. You won’t regret it.

NetGalley, Tom Barry, & The Sniffles

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Hello captive audience! Just wanted to give a quick update. I haven’t had a new review in the last two days, and I thought I’d explain: I’ve been sick. Nothing serious, but reading’s been making me a bit motion sick, so I haven’t read as much in the past two days. No worries, I’ll be getting back to it shortly!

To share some news, though I didn’t win the giveaway on Goodreads for When The Siren Calls by Tom Barry, Tom was kind enough to e-mail me and offer me a free copy of his book anyway! Thanks Tom! So it’s been moved to the top of my reading list, and hopefully I”ll have a review for you guys in the next couple of days.

He also clued me into this great site: NetGalley. Basically, if you’re a “professional reader” aka someone who spends their time reading books and giving reviews (I guess that’s me!) – or recommending them to other people, then you can sign up on this FREE site and put in offers to read new and not-yet-released books, and publishers and authors will gift you e-book copies so they can get your feedback. Very cool. Be sure to check it out if you’re a blogger that does a lot of book reviews!

Lastly, since I need some articles to cover my absence in the reading scene until this cold blows over, if anyone has a giveaway, website, blog, or other book-related thing they’d like me to advertise, drop me a comment. I’d be happy to spread the word around a little while I sit around and sniffle.