Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Simple Gift by Karyn Witmer

I chose this book for the now defunct Monthly Key Word Challenge 2013. The key word is gift.

I really liked this book.  It's Avery and Mike's story: their marriage, their children and loss.  They have lost the magic in their marriage when their only daughter leaves home to seek success in a rock band.  Fiona leaves her junior year in college behind.  This destroys Avery and Mike. When Fiona returns 18 months later, the story is about a family trying to rebuild itself.

From Random House:
Avery and Mike thought they had the perfect American family until their daughter ran away. Now Fiona’s back in town...and nothing will ever be the same again.Avery Montgomery’s life changed forever in the checkout line at the Food-4-Less when she discovered her long-lost daughter, Fiona, working at the next register. Though Avery yearns to reestablish contact, Fiona has secrets and failures she can’t bring herself to share with her mother–and especially with her father.

Finally forced to choose between her marriage to Mike and a future that includes their beloved only child, Avery struggles to heal the rift that is tearing her family apart. To do that, she must risk everything she cares about, confront the sorrows of the past, and rediscover the love that once bound her family together. Avery must reach out to her husband and her daughter to forge a bright new future–and she must do it through a simple gift conceived in love.

Chapter 1

Avery Montgomery's life changed in the checkout line at the Food-4-Less, right between the Bounty paper towels and the Heifitz hamburger dills.

"You got coupons, Avery, honey?" the checker asked.

Avery flashed the woman a smile and dug into the side pocket of her purse. She'd gone to high school with Loretta McGee; Loretta Polk she'd been then. They were awarded their diplomas at Larkin High two students apart–Parrish, Pettigrew, Pignoli, Polk. Loretta had been so pregnant that afternoon not even her graduation gown had been able to camouflage her condition, and she'd been married to Sam McGee before most of the senior class had recovered from their graduation-party hangovers.

Avery handed Loretta a fistful of coupons and glanced past the woman's care-weathered features to the people lined up at the next checkout. A burly man in a red plaid shirt jammed change into the pocket of his jeans and grabbed up the twelve-pack of Budweiser like he wanted to get home to his TV for the second-half kickoff.

As he turned toward the door, Avery caught sight of the checker at the next register. She was new to the Food-4-Less, sharp-featured and bony in the way kids consider provocative these days. With her bird's nest of raspberry-purple hair and the silver studs inching up the curve of her ear like a metallic centipede, she wasn't the type of girl Gill Matheson usually hired.

Then, as the new checker turned to greet her next customer, her gaze caught–and held–Avery's own.

In that instant, a shock of recognition thundered through Avery. The air in her lungs went vaporous and thin. Cold doused her. A maelstrom howled in Avery's head, as years of cherished memories swirled past her eyes.

Instinctively she reached back, seeking her husband's hand. Mike was there, just like always, clasping her fingers in his own, pressing his thorny thumb into the hollow of her palm. Holding her together.

"It's–it's her!" Avery whispered.

Mike squeezed in confirmation.

It was their daughter Fiona–Fee who'd run off eighteen months before to tour with Jared Hightower's rock band.

Deep inside, the fragile vessel where Avery had stored up every dram of her anguish and fear for her daughter abruptly burst. Thick, sweet relief spilled through her chest and belly.

Fiona was here. Fiona was safe. Fiona was home.

Then, Fee shifted her gaze to her next customer. Without the intensity of that contact, Avery wavered, then felt her husband steady her.

Every morning since her daughter ran away, Avery had risen from sleep with a hot, nameless dread squirming in her chest. For an instant she couldn't remember why that was, then she'd see Fee's photograph on her nightstand, and it gave that dread a name. It gave it substance and form and urgency. It stirred up grief that lay like a burden on her heart, a weight she carried around with her no matter what she did or where she went.

Avery had spent every day since Fiona left, listening for the phone to ring, waiting for one of her daughter's infrequent e-mails to arrive. Every night she'd scurry back to the house where she and Mike and Fee had lived together, open the door hoping–then stand staggered by the emptiness. Not once in all those months had Avery closed her eyes at night without wondering where Fiona was and if she was well and safe.

It's going to be all right now, Avery told herself. Now that Fee was back in Larkin, Avery would find a way to make it right.

She drew herself up tall and fought to find her balance. She needed to go to her daughter, clasp her hands around those bony shoulders, and smooth that haystack hair. She needed to kiss her daughter's cheek and seek the child she'd lost in the body of this stranger.

Avery stepped forward, meaning to greet Fee, to hold her safe in her arms, but Mike tightened his grip on her hand. "You don't mean to confront her here, do you?" he asked in an undertone. "Not with half the town watching to see what happens."

Before Avery could think, he turned to Loretta. "I'll be back to get the groceries later."

Loretta glanced first at Avery, then at Fee. "I'll have someone put them in the cooler out back."

Read more here.

Pages: 418

Friday, August 30, 2013

The White Princess by Philipa Gregory

If you have been watching The White Queen, this is the story of her oldest daughter Elizabeth. Once again I enjoyed reading Philippa Gregory's work. I got caught up in the lives of these people.  I understand why Henry VIII was so paranoid! Now I need to reread The Constant Princess which features Katherine of Aragon.
This is from the beginning of the first chapter Elizabeth of York received a letter from her mother, the White Queen. "I understand at once her orders to look happy, to forget that the man I love is dead and tumbled into an unmarked grave", I read this and then thought of the discovery of his body found under a parking lot in Leicester in 2012. It really was an unmarked grave!

For more information about Elizabeth of York, click here. 

From goodreads:
The White Princess opens as the news of the battle of Bosworth is brought to Princess Elizabeth of York, who will learn not only which rival royal house has triumphed, Tudor or York, but also which suitor she must marry: Richard III her lover, or Henry Tudor her enemy.

A princess from birth, Elizabeth fell in love with Richard III, though her mother made an arranged betrothal for her with the pretender to the throne: Henry Tudor. When Henry defeats Richard against all odds, Elizabeth has to marry the man who murdered her lover in battle, and create a new royal family with him and his ambitious mother: Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen. But, while the new monarchy can win, it cannot, it seems, hold power in an England which remembers the House of York with love.

The new king’s greatest fear is that somewhere, outside England, a prince from the House of York is waiting to invade and re-claim the throne for the house of York. Fearing that none of his new allies can be trusted, Henry turns to his wife to advise him, all the time knowing that her loyalties must be divided. When the young man who would be king finally leads his army and invades England, it is for Elizabeth to decide whether she recognizes him as her brother and a claimant to the throne, or denies him in favor of the husband she is coming to love…
Excerpt from the author's site:
This is the story of Elizabeth of York who is forced to marry Henry VII as part of the peace settlement to bring about the end of the Cousins' War. To her horror she finds her throne is threatened by a young man who is claiming to be her brother Richard, missing from the Tower of London. Half of England sides with the young man against the usurping Tudor, what should Elizabeth do? I think this is probably one of the most complex historical novels I have ever written - the merging of the personal and the political is very intense, and the blending of the historical research and the imagined psychologies has been a great joy. The book opens in 1485 Henry Tudor is king, snatching the crown from Richard III in a surprise victory at the Battle of Bosworth. Raised in exile in Brittany and having taken the throne with a French and Scottish force, Henry had neither the easy popularity nor the longstanding political allegiances of the House of York. As a result, he has had to face repeated rebellions and threats to his throne. In an attempt to unify the warring Houses of Lancaster and York, Henry married the York Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.

Read more at:
Source: Philippa Gregory
I wish I could stop dreaming. I wish to God I could stop dreaming. I am so tired; all I want to do is sleep. I want to sleep all the day, from dawn until twilight that every evening comes a little earlier and a little more drearily. In the daytime, all I think about is sleeping. But in the night all I do is try to stay awake.

I go to his quiet shuttered rooms to look at the candle as it gutters in the golden candlestick, burning slowly through the marked hours, though he will never see light again. The servants take a taper to a fresh candle every day at noon; each hour burns slowly away, although time means nothing to him now. Time is
quite lost to him in his eternal darkness, in his eternal timelessness, though it leans so heavily on me. All day long I wait for the slow rolling-in of the grey evening and the mournful tolling of the Compline bell, when I can go to the chapel and pray for his soul, though he will never again hear my whispers, nor the quiet
chanting of the priests.

Then I can go to bed. But when I get to bed I dare not sleep because I cannot bear the dreams that come. I dream of him. Over and over again I dream of him.
All day I keep my face smiling like a mask, smiling, smiling, my teeth bared, my eyes bright, my skin like strained parchment, paper-thin. I keep my voice clear and mellow, I speak words that have no meaning and sometimes, when required, I even sing. At night I fall into my bed as if I were drowning in deep water, as if
I were sinking below the depths, as if the water were possessing me, taking me like a mermaid, and for a moment I feel a deep relief as if, submerged in water, my grief can drain away, as if it were the river Lethe and the currents can bring forgetfulness and wash me into the cave of sleep; but then the dreams come.

I don’t dream of his death – it would be the worst of nightmares to see him go down fighting. But I never dream of the battle, I don’t see his final charge into the very heart of Henry Tudor’s guard. I don’t see him hacking his way through. I don’t see Thomas Stanley’s army sweep down and bury him under their hooves, as he is thrown from his horse, his sword arm failing, going down under a merciless cavalry charge, shouting:
‘Treason! Treason! Treason!’ I don’t see William Stanley raise his crown and put it on another man’s head.

I don’t dream any of this, and I thank God for that mercy at least. These are my constant daytime thoughts that I cannot escape. These are bloody daytime reveries that fill my mind while I walk and talk lightly of the unseasonal heat, of the dryness of the ground, of the poor harvest this year. But my dreams at night are more painful, far more painful than this, for then I dream that I am in his arms and he is waking me with a kiss.
I dream that we are walking in a garden, planning our future. I dream that I am pregnant with his child, my rounded belly under his warm hand, and he is smiling, delighted, and I am promising him that we will have a son, the son that he needs, a son for York, a son for England, a son for the two of us. ‘We’ll call him Arthur,’ he says. ‘We’ll call him Arthur, like Arthur ofCamelot, we’ll call him Arthur for England.’

The pain, when I wake to find that I have been dreaming again, seems to get worse every day. I wish to God I could stop dreaming. For more, click here.

Pages: 528

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron

I don't remember reading anything by this author before.  I really liked this book.  I felt for Diana.  Her husband died on a vacation and she was devastated by it.  So much that she became agoraphobic. She started a new company with her husband's best friend.  Everything was going fine when her sister gets kidnapped.  Diana and her new best friend Pam dig around and find out what happened to Ashley.  Then something happens to change Diana's whole life!

Synopsis from the author's site:
A recluse who works and lives online must brave the “real world” when her sister goes missing. Computer security expert and reformed hacker Diana Highsmith has not ventured beyond her home for over a year – not since that fateful climbing vacation took Daniel’s life.
Diana doesn’t have to shut herself off completely, though; she and Daniel’s best friend run a thriving internet security company. From home, she plies her expertise, assessing security breaches and offering clients a way to protect themselves from hackers – and from the kind of mayhem she and Daniel used to create.
But when her’s sister disappears, Diana is forced to do what seems impossible: brave the outside world. By assuming the identity of her alter-ego, an avatar who is as fearless as Diana herself once was, she finds the courage to set out.
But soon she finds herself wondering: Has she become a character in someone else’s game?

For an excerpt, click here.

Finalist for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award

Pages: 276

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Healing Foods from DK Publishing

Take control of your life and your health through what you eat with Healing Foods — an indispensable resource that shows you exactly what foods are best, and how to optimize their super-food potential.
With more than 200 healing foods, from carrots to clementines, and 150 easy-to-prepare recipes that heal, Healing Foods empowers readers to practice optimum nutrition, and shows how certain foods can be incorporated into daily life to target specific health issues, from the publisher.

There is some very interesting information in this book.  I appreciated the beginning of the book where they list Foods that Heal. They list everything you can think of from fruit to oils and tell the reader what is beneficial for the body and how it can help you.

Then there is a section with recipes.  I especially liked the Almond and Raspberry Cake on pages 286.

Everyone would benefit from this book.  All kinds of eating plans can use the recipes.

Pages: 351

Crystal Clear by Jane Heller

I chose this selection for the Monthly Key Word Challenge. Key Word: Clear

Crystal is cracking up.  Her secretary tells Crystal to take a vacation.  She needs her chakras aligne.  Rona convinces her to go to Sedona, Arizona. Crystal does and runs into her ex-husband Terry on a tour. Then a famous woman from their tour disappears and is assumed to be dead.  Terry and Crystal investigate the murder and fall in love again.

Synopsis from Heller's site:
No one craves order more than Crystal Goldstein does. Partner at one of New York's finest accounting firms, doting daughter to her aging father, and loyal girlfriend to her boyfriend, Steven, her life is completely under control. But when Crystal discovers that Steven has been cheating on her with his ex-wife, that her father has spent his gruff silent years yearning for a brother she never knew she had, and that - thanks to downsizing - her job may be in jeopardy, she is brought up really short.
Suddenly, the 43-year-old nose-to-the-grindstone bean counter has to consider that maybe her best friend Rona - a New Age junkie - is right! Maybe her aura does need cleansing. Maybe her chakras do need balancing. Though never one to follow fads or trends, Crystal unexpectedly finds herself on the ultimate long-overdue vacation in mystic, metaphysical Sedona, Arizona. Amanda Wells Reid, the international jet-setter, consummate party-goer, and darling of the society columnists, is to be Crystal's companion, along with her personal assistant, personal chef, personal trainer, and personal publicist. And when the tour driver appears, he is none other than Terry Hollenbeck, the irresistibly handsome, infallibly charming, totally irresponsible husband Crystal tossed out so many years ago.
It doesn't take a psychic to know that the mix of a reappearing ex-husband whose appeal has only ripened and a millionaire heiress who suddenly vanishes is going to add up to some pretty steamy doings.

Chapter One
It all started when my secretary, Rona Wishnick, told me I needed my aura cleansed.
"My what cleaned?" I asked, then glanced down at my navy blue suit and inspected it for stains. It was 7:30 on a Friday night and Rona had come into my office to say she was going home. Or so I'd thought.
"I didn't say cleaned. I said cleansed," she explained as she stood beside my desk, fingering the angel pendant wedged between her "heat-seeking missiles," as one of the more sophomoric men in the office had nicknamed her large breasts. "And I was referring to your aura, not your outfit."
I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. I was a CPA, for God's sake -- a down-to-earth, practical-to-a-fault, nose-to-the-grindstone accountant. I was a whiz at preparing income tax returns but totally out of my element when it came to making sense of New Age-speak, Rona's second language. By telling me that my aura needed cleansing, was she suggesting that I should switch perfumes? Underarm deodorants? What?
"I've been wanting to talk to you about the problem for a while," she said as I popped two Bufferin, a NoDoz, and a Pepcid AC into my mouth and washed them all down with an Ensure Plus. My dinner.
"Oh, I get it now," I said, nodding. "You want a raise. Or is it more vacation time?"
She shook her head, marveling at my obtuseness. "You're the one who needs more vacation time."
"A trip on the astral plane, right?" I laughed.
"Go ahead. Make jokes. But I'm worried about you, about the pressure you put on yourself. Sure, there's a lot of work to be done around here, but it's Friday night and, once I'm out the door, you'll be the only one left in this office. Even the housekeeping people went home hours ago. The point I'm trying to make is that you're in complete denial of your . . ." She stopped, grasping for the right word, then gave up after several seconds when she wasn't able to seize on it. Rona and I are both in our mid-forties-that age when grasping for the right word and not being able to seize on it starts to become embarrassingly routine. "Look, you're this close to total burnout, okay?" Rona said finally, holding her thumb and index finger about an eighth of an inch apart.
"You're sweet to care, Rona, but I think you're exaggerating," I said, polishing off the rest of the Ensure.
" Oh, really?" she said, tapping her foot on the white Berber carpet that had recently been installed in all the partners' offices. "Then why the canned milkshakes instead of a nice, home-cooked meal?"
"I like the taste of them," I said. "The chocolate one's terrific."
"I'll bet," she said. "What about the headaches, the heartburn, the insomnia? You're telling me you're not stressed out?"
"Of course I'm stressed out. Who isn't?"
"Who isn't? People who have found their center, that's who. People who have achieved balance in their life. People who have evolved."
Rona was, hands down, the most evolved person I knew. She meditated in the office every morning in one of the stalls in the ladies room, was a heavy user of the Psychic Friends Network and quoted frequently and liberally from The Celestine Prophecy. Recently, she announced that she was considering changing her first name to Raven because it sounded Native American and, therefore, more "spiritual." I didn't tell Rona this, of course, but there was nothing remotely raven-like about her; she was a platinum blonde with a body that more closely resembled a bison than a bird.
"What I'm saying" Rona went on, -- "and I'm saying it with love in my heart, okay? -- is that this place has become your entire universe, Crystal, and it's sad."
By "this place," Rona meant the Manhattan accounting firm where we worked, Duboff Spector. By "Crystal," she meant me, Crystal Goldstein. Rona liked to think my name was linked in some paranormal way to the chunk of rock she kept on her desk to ward off negative vibrations, but it was simply the name my parents had given me in memory of my maternal grandmother, Crystal Schwartz.
"Look, hon," Rona said tenderly. "You and I have been together for seven years and in all that time I've seen you successful but I've never seen you happy. Really happy."
"Rona," I sighed, patting her massive arm. She was so much more than an employee to me; she was the closest thing I had to a best friend. "You've been reading too many of those magazine articles about baby boomers who have all the trappings of success but are still searching for Meaning in their lives. Well, I don't have time to search for Meaning or anything else. There aren't enough hours in the day. Besides, I hate people who sit around whining about whether or not they're happy. I'm happy enough."
"Oh, sure," she said skeptically. "You work like a dog, and when you do take ten seconds off, you either shlep up to Larchmont to see your father, who's too busy watching that big-screen TV you bought him to notice you're even in the room, or you grab a few hours with Steven, the man you say you're going to marry but never do. That's not my idea of bliss, Crystal."
I smiled. Rona's idea of bliss involved bathing in aromatherapeutic essences with her husband, Arthur, a manufacturer of doorbells.
"I appreciate your concern, Rona, and I promise I'll think about everything you've said. But right now the IRS is breathing down Jeff Jacobson's neck, and I'm the one he hired to straighten out his books. In other words, instead of searching for Meaning tonight, I'm gonna be searching for a way to keep this guy from an audit. Now, am I excused?"
She nodded grudgingly, then blew me a kiss. "Have a good weekend."
"You, too. Say hi to Arthur."
Read more here.

Pages: 297

Monday, August 26, 2013

Raven Cursed by Faith Hunter

I think this was the best book so far.  Jane is back home in North Carolina, still working for Leo.  A local vampire wants to become the Master of this area and he needs Leo's permission to do it.  Jane is sent with her crew to make sure Gregoire is safe during the meetings.  But as usual something happens.....and Jane is up to her neck in it.  IT involves witches, the grindy and more.  Great story!! I cannot wait for the next one, Death's Rival.

Synopsis by the author:
Jane Yellowrock is a shape-shifting skinwalker and vampire hunter for hire. But lately instead of just slaying vampires, she’s been working for them.
The vampires of Asheville, North Carolina, want to establish their own clan, but since they owe loyalty to the Master Vampire of New Orleans they must work out the terms with him. To come up with an equitable solution, he sends an envoy with the best bodyguard blood money can buy: skinwalker Jane Yellowrock.
But when a group of local campers are attacked by something fanged, Jane goes from escort to investigator. Is it a rogue-vampire, shapechanger, or witch? Or something else magical? Unless she wants to face a very angry master vampire, she will have to work overtime to find the killer. It’s a good thing she’s worth every penny.


Chapter One

 Lots of Things That Go Boom and Kill Bad Guys

I rode into Asheville, North Carolina, for all the wrong  reasons, from the wrong direction, on a borrowed bike, with no weapons, ready  to work for the vamps again. It was stupid all around, but it was the gig I  signed up for, and I was all about satisfying the client, keeping him safe,  eliminating the danger, and finishing the job. Or staking the vamp, depending  on the job description. Finish the Job had become my second mantra, right  behind Have Stakes Will Travel.
I was not at all happy that I’d taken this gig, once again  working for the Blood Master of the City of New Orleans, Leo Pellissier, though  this time was different. Of course, that’s what I always think—that there’s a  new and better reason to keep up a business relationship with the chief  fanghead. Money counts of course, and the MOC pays extremely well, but I’ve  begun to think it’s also because I’m a masochist and curious—as in curiosity  killed the cat.
At the thought, my Beast chuffed with amusement. Not dead.  Am good hunter. Smell cooked meat and running deer and mountains. Free flowing  water. We are home.
Yeah, we are. And that thought put a smile on my face,  despite my misgivings. I’m Jane Yellowrock. I’m licensed and experienced in the  security business but I made my street cred as a rogue-vamp hunter. I am,  according to most, the best in the business. I am also a Cherokee skinwalker living with the soul of a mountain lion inside me, the one I call Beast. I may  well be the last of my kind, since I killed the only other skinwalker I ever  met when he went nutso and started killing and eating people. My occupation has  a definite ick factor.
The job at hand was to set up and provide security for the vamp parley taking place in Asheville, and it wasn’t likely that the location  was accident or coincidence. Lincoln Shaddock, the most powerful fanghead in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, had been applying to Leo for sixty years for the right to become a master of the city. Leo—who was a  lot more powerful, territory-wise than I ever guessed—had turned him down,  until now. Leo always turned down vamps who thought they deserved to be the  master of a city, because he was power hungry and had a god  complex—that was  nothing new. Now the chief bloodsucker of the South was willing to discuss a change in status for a vamp who wanted my hometown? No way was that a total  fluke.
One factor that could have influenced the MOC was that a young vamp in Shaddock’s scion-lair found her sanity in just two years. That was a record. That was huge. Vamps had been trying to find a way to shorten or  defeat the devoveo for two thousand years. But was it huge enough for Leo to  reverse course? I had my doubts. No, there was something else. I just didn’t  know what. Yet.
Leo never had just one motivation for anything, but layered  motives, some focused on his political organization in the world of vamps—like  the parley with the witches in New Orleans, which was not going so well, last I  heard. Some focused on ancient history. And because the chief MOC of the South was intensely curious about me, maybe some focused on me. Vamps, politics,  blood, and sex were all parts of a single whole, and since I was on retainer to  Leo, I was now a part of that political maneuvering. Lucky me. My own curiosity  was sending me right into the middle of it all, maybe because so many things  from the last job seemed like untied ends blowing loose and frayed in hurricane  winds. My life, once so uncomplicated, had become a storm that should have sent  me running away. But I hadn’t run. I had to Finish the Job.
The new bike took the hills of I-40 with a little wobble. It  was a chopped Harley masterpiece named Fang, with a gleaming royal blue paint  job and hand-painted saber-tooth fangs on the gas tank between my legs. It was  beautiful, comfortable, sexy as all get-out, and had saddlebags to hold my traveling gear, but it wasn’t the best bike for mountain riding. I’d not be  buying Fang, no matter how much the owner hoped I would.
My bastard Harley, Bitsa, had sustained damage in service to  Leo and was in Charlotte for repairs at the shop of the Harley Zen-master who  built her out of parts of old bikes. I liked to think of her being in a spa for  some sustained TLC. I wish I was getting some TLC myself. Instead I was riding  into my former hometown on a gig that all my instincts said was dangerous. But  weren’t they all? I’d feel better when I had my weapons back. Most of my guns,  knives, and my wardrobe, were being shipped in on the flight from New Orleans that  would bring the vamp assigned to this parley.
Roaring uphill around a big rig, I gave Fang some gas.  Strands of loose black hair whipped in the truck’s air-wave, pulled free by  road wind. Most of my hair was well secured, braided down my back beneath my  summer-weight leather riding jacket, but the shorter strands flew wild or stuck  to me under the helmet’s faceplate. The September sun beat down on me,  parboiling me in my own sweat.
I was here a day early, meeting the security team, setting  up protocols and methodology, and getting the lay of the land. I had a lot to  do in very little time.
For more click here.

Pages: 368

Macrieve by Kresley Cole

This is a hot and heavy supernatural story of Macrieve meeting his mate Chloe.  Her father is the leader of the Order who is responsible for the murder and torture of many of  the Loreans.  There are a few things that come between them but it's a good story.

Synopsis from Cole's site:

A Beast in Torment

Uilleam MacRieve believed he’d laid to rest the ghosts of his boyhood. But when a brutal torture revives those ancient agonies and destroys his Lykae instinct, the proud Scot craves the oblivion of death. Until he finds her—a young human so full of spirit and courage that she pulls him back from the brink.

A Beauty in Chains

Seized for the auction block, Chloe Todd is forced to enter a terrifying new world of monsters and lore as a bound slave. When offered up to creatures of the dark, she fears she won’t last the night. Until she’s claimed by him—a wicked immortal with heartbreaking eyes, whose touch sets her blood on fire.

A Full Moon on the Rise

With enemies circling, MacRieve spirits Chloe away to the isolated Highland keep of his youth. But once he takes her to his bed, his sensual mate becomes something more than human, evoking his savage past and testing his sanity. On the cusp of the full moon, can he conquer his worst nightmare to save Chloe . . . from himself?

This was probably a bad idea, but at that moment, Chloe couldn’t recall a single reason why. If MacRieve stopped this, she was fairly certain she’d slide-tackle him.
He didn’t stop. His lips were hot on her, scorching a line up her neck.
Excitement drummed through her, her dread completely absent, her senses overloaded. She smelled the rain, the blossoms, his heady scent. How could he possibly smell so good?
When his clever tongue flicked rain from her damp skin, she wondered, Why fight this?
She was as eager as she’d been during her first pro soccer game. She hadn’t let anything stand in her way that day, just surrendered completely to the thrill, the adrenaline, the driving need to experience everything.
She would do the same with this. Don’t be a coward. See where this path leads you.
So far this path was making her question how she’d been living without MacRieve her entire life.
Not living. Simply existing from one game to the next.
He looped an arm around her, dragging her body tight against his, then gently took her earlobe between his teeth. Her knees went weak.
Just as she wondered if he could feel her nipples pressing against his torso, he murmured at her ear, “If this is how you react to a kiss along your neck, I wonder what will happen when I set my mouth to those pretty nipples.”
She gasped, as much from his words as from the burst of lust they caused. She couldn’t think. How did one answer a statement like that? Her mind cried: With a kiss!
He read her thoughts, kissing across her cheek, the corner of her lips, then fully on her mouth. When she parted her lips in surprise, still so unused to all this, he took the opportunity to flick his tongue between them.
Her hands flew to his shoulders, squeezing with delight. Those muscles moved sinuously beneath her fingertips, giving her a preview of what she’d see if he removed his shirt.
With his palm tenderly cradling the entire back of her head, he eased his tongue into her mouth, carnally sweeping it against hers. When she moaned, he did it again. And again. He was teasing her to distraction.
But then he drew back, gazing down at her with a look of . . . longing? .
Click here to read more.  Here's an even larger excerpt from the author's site.

Pages: 358

Thursday, August 22, 2013

300+ books read so far.....


 The first 151 books that I read this year are listed here
152 through 300 are listed here.

I am in a reading challenge on goodreads for 350 books for this year. Since I have reached 350, I have moved it to 375.

I am one of these:
408,318 Participants
23,737,523 Total Books Pledged
58 Average Books Per Challenge
1,591 Challenges Completed

From now on I will be listing my books here.  I know that I will be reading more than 50 books through the end of the year so I will adjust my challenge!

301. Macrieve by Kresley Cole
302. Raven Cursed by Faith Hunter
303. Crystal Clear by Jane Heller
304. Healing Foods
305. Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron
306. The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
307. A Simple Gift by Karyn Witmer
308. The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
309. Leopard's Prey by Christine Feehan
310. The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
311. There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron
312. Second Grave on the Left by Darynda Jones
313. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
314. A Kiss Remembered by Sandra Brown
315. The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
316. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
317. Shades of Grace by Barbara Delinsky
318. Search The Dark by Charles Todd
319. Lady and the Vamp by Michelle Rowen
320. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
321. Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes
322. The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
323. Knit Fast, Die Young by Mary Kruger
324. Shade of the Tree by Piers Anthony
325. Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister
326. Windfallen by Jojo Moyes
327. The Beach Club by Elin Hilderbrand
328. Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
329. Inferno by Dan Brown
330. Blood Memory by Margaret Coel
331. Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle
332. Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt
333. Journey by Danielle Steel
334. Night Road by Kristin Hannah
335. Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
336. The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
337. Thunder Heights by Phyllis A. Whitney
338. Omens by Kelley Armstrong
339. Never Change by Elizabeth Berg
340. Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
341. Wicked Witch Murder by Leslie Meier
342. Help for the Haunted by John Searles
343. Witch by Barbara Michaels
344. Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden by M. C. Beaton
345. A Witch Before Dying by Heather Blake
346. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
347. Never Tell A Lie by Hallie Ephron
348. Waking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong
349. Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine
350. Haunted by Kelley Armstrong
351. Under Gemini by Rosamunde Pilcher
352. So Close To You by Rachel Carter
353. Still Life by Louise Penny
354. Murder on the Cliffs by Joanna Challis
355. The Evil Inside by Heather Graham
356. Death, Taxes and a Skinny No-Whip Latte by Diane Kelly
357. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
358. First Sight by Danielle Steel
359. The Villa of Death by Joanna Challis
360. The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black
361. Agent X by Noah Boyd
362. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
363. Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
364. The Bride Thief by Jacquie D'Alessandro
365. The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice
366. The Last Universe by William Sleator
367. Island Girls by Nancy Thayer
368. The Night is Watching by Heather Graham
369. The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
370. The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood
371. Death's Rival by Faith Hunter
372. Under the Dome by Stephen King
373. The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver
374. Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh
375. Now You See Her by Joy Fielding
376. Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
377. Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
378. The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank
379. The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
380. Ghost At Work by Carolyn Hart
381. The Christmas Thief by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
382. Last Light Over Carolina by Mary Alice Monroe
383. The Christmas Basket by Debbie Macomber
384. Working Stiff by Rachel Caine
385. The Right Address by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman
386. The Nightmare Thief by Meg Gardiner
387. Under the Boardwalk by Carly Phillips
388. Right Next Door by Debbie Macomber
389. An O'Brien Family Christmas by Sherryl Woods
390. A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods
391. The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
392. Christmas in Cornwall by Marcia Willett
393. Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
394. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
395. The Accident by Linwood Barclay
396. The Christmas Hope by Donna VanLiere
397. Knit in Comfort by Isabel Sharpe
398. The Golden Ring by John Snyder
399. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
400. A Seaside Christmas by Sherryl Woods
401. Bloodring by Faith Hunter
402. The Fountain by Emily Grayson
403. Time Flies by Claire Cook
404. Blood Trade by Faith Hunter
405. Winds of Salem by Melissa De La Cruz
406. Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts
407. Lost in Time by Melissa De La Cruz
408. The Irish Princess by Karen Harper
409. With This Ring by Amanda Quick
410. Hope's Folly by Linnea Sinclair
411. Hope in a Jar by Beth Harbison
412. Time After Time by Constance O'Day-Flannery
413. The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne
414. Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier
415. Winter Chill by Joanne Fluke
416. Her Twisted Pleasures by Amelia James
417. Their Twisted Pleasures by Amelia James
418. His Twisted Choice by Amelia James

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

I have read a few books from this series but not this one.  I think I will read them in order. Inspector Rutledge is just back to work after coming home from the war.  He is unsure of himself.  He gets sent to a small town to find a murderer.  After a bit he realizes that his boss sent him there to mess up the investigation so he can fire him.  But Rutledge figures it out and baffles the boss!

Synopsis from Todd's site:
In 1914, Ian Rutledge left a brilliant career at Scotland Yard to fight in the Great War. Now, in 1919, he is back, burdened with a heavy secret: he is still suffering from shell shock. With him almost constantly is the cynical, taunting voice of the young Scots soldier he was forced to have executed on the battlefield for refusing to fight.
In a desperate gamble to salvage his sanity, Rutledge takes up his duties at Scotland Yard. But a colleague, jealous of Rutledge’s pre-war successes, has learned his secret and maneuvers to have him assigned to a case that promises to spell disaster no matter what the outcome. In a Warwickshire village, a popular retired military officer has been murdered, and the chief suspect is, unhappily for the Inspector, a much-decorated war hero and a friend of the Prince of Wales.
Rutledge, fighting his malady and the tormentor in his head (who is the personification of his own doubts and guilt), doggedly goes about his investigation. He digs into the lives of the villagers: the victim’s ward, a young woman now engaged to the chief suspect; a local artist shunned because of her love for a German prisoner; the reclusive cousins whose cottage adjoins the dead man’s estate. But the witness who might be able to tell him the most is a war-ravaged ex-soldier who chills Rutledge with the realization that if he loses control of himself, he could become this man.
A TEST OF WILLS is an extraordinary first novel in a series that combines a unique kind of psychological suspense with vivid atmosphere and a tantalizing mystery.


Chapter One

In this quiet part of Warwickshire death came as frequently as it did anywhere else in England, no stranger to the inhabitants of towns, villages, or countryside. Sons and fathers had died in the Great War; the terrible influenza epidemic had scythed the county—man, woman, and child—just as it had cut down much of Europe; and murder was not unheard of even here in Upper Streetham.
But one fine June morning, as the early mists rose lazily in the warm sunlight like wraiths in no hurry to be gone, Colonel Harris was killed in cold blood in a meadow fringed with buttercups and cowslips, and his last coherent thought was anger. Savage, wild, black fury ripped through him in one stark instant of realization before oblivion swept it all away, and his body, rigid with it, survived the shotgun blast long enough to dig spurs into the mare’s flanks while his hands clenched the reins in a muscular spasm as strong as iron.
He died hard, unwilling, railing at God, and his ragged cry raised echoes in the quiet woods and sent the rooks flying even as the gun roared.
In London, where rain dripped from eaves and ran black in the gutters, a man named Bowles, who had never heard of Colonel Harris, came into possession of a piece of information that was the reward of very determined and quite secret probing into the history of a fellow policeman at Scotland Yard.
He sat at his desk in the grim old brick building and stared at the letter on his blotter. It was written on cheap stationery in heavy ink by a rounded, rather childish hand, but he was almost afraid to touch it. Its value to him was beyond price, and if he had begged whatever gods he believed in to give him the kind of weapon he craved, they couldn’t have managed anything sweeter than this.
He smiled, delight spreading slowly across his fair-skinned face and narrowing the hard, amber-colored eyes.
If this was true—and he had every reason to believe it was—he had been absolutely right about Ian Rutledge. He, Bowles, was vindicated by six lines of unwittingly damaging girlish scrawl.
Reading the letter for the last time, he refolded it carefully and replaced it in its envelope, locking it in his desk drawer.
Now the question was how best to make use of this bit of knowledge without burning himself in the fire he wanted to raise.
If only those same gods had thought to provide a way . . .
But it seemed, after all, that they had.
Twenty-four hours later, the request for assistance arrived from Warwickshire, and Superintendent Bowles happened, by the merest chance, to be in the right place at the right time to make a simple, apparently constructive suggestion. The gods had been very generous indeed. Bowles was immensely grateful.
The request for Scotland Yard’s help had arrived through the proper channels, couched in the usual terms. What lay behind the formal wording was sheer panic.  Read more here.

Pages: 282

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

I enjoyed this book. Charley Davidson is a great character.  Ghosts find their way to her - I will not tell a private investigator she tries to solve their murders or help them get a message to their loved ones. In this story, three lawyers have been murdered and it is relevant with a case that Charley and her uncle Bob are working on. Charley is also working on another case.  One case gets solved and the other does not.  I guess I need to read the next book in the series, Second Grave on the Left.

Synopsis from Jones site
A smashing, award-winning debut novel that introduces Charley Davidson: part-time private investigator and full-time grim reaper.
Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e. murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.



Better to see dead than be dead. —Charlotte Jean Davidson, Grim Reaper
I’d been having the same dream for the past month–the one where a dark stranger materialized out of smoke and shadows to play doctor with me.  I was starting to wonder if repetitive exposure to nightly hallucinations resulting in earth-shattering climaxes could have any long-term side effects.  Death via extreme pleasure was a serious concern.  The prospect led to the following dilemma: Do I seek help or buy drinks all around?
This night was no exception.  I was having a killer dream that featured a set of capable hands, a hot mouth and a creative employment of lederhosen when two external forces tried to lure me out of it.  I did my darnedest to resist, but they were fairly persistent external forces.  First, a frosty chill crept up my ankle, the icy caress jolting me out of my red-hot dream.  I shivered and kicked out, unwilling to acknowledge the summons, then tucked my leg into the thick folds of my Bugs Bunny comforter.
Second, a soft but persistent melody played in the periphery of my consciousness like a familiar song I couldn’t quite place.  After a moment, I realized it was the cricket-like chime of my new phone.
With a heavy sigh, I pried open my eyes just enough to focus on the numbers glowing atop my nightstand.  Four thirty-four a.m.  What kind of sadist called another human being at four thirty-four in the morning?
A throat cleared at the foot of my bed.  I turned my attention to the dead guy standing there then lowered my lids and asked in a gravelly voice, “Can you get that?”
He hesitated.  “Um, the phone?”
“Well, I’m kind of–”
“Never mind.”  I reached for the phone and grimaced as a jolt of pain ripped through me, reminding me I’d been beaten senseless the night before.
Dead guy cleared his throat again.
“Hello,” I croaked.
It was my Uncle Bob.  He bombarded me with words, of all things, apparently clueless to the fact that pre-dawn hours rendered me incapable of coherent thought.  I concentrated super duper hard on concentrating and made out three salient phrases–busy night, two homicides, ass down here.  I even managed a reply, something similar to, “What twirly nugget are you from?”
He sighed, clearly annoyed, then hung up.
I hung up back, pressing a button on my new phone that either disconnected the call or speed-dialed the Chinese takeout around the corner.  Then I tried to sit up.  Similar to the coherent thought problem, this was easier said than done.  While I normally weighed around one twenty-five…ish, for some unexplainable reason, between the hours of partially awake and fully awake, I weighed a solid four seventy.
After a brief, beached whale-like struggle, I gave up.  The quart of Chunky Monkey I ate after getting my ass kicked had probably been a bad idea.
In too much pain to stretch, I let a lengthy yawn overtake me instead, winced at the soreness shooting through my jaw then looked back at dead guy.  He was blurry.  Not because he was dead, but because it was four thirty-four a.m.  And I’d recently had my ass kicked.
“Hi,” he said nervously.  He had a wrinkled suit, round-rimmed glasses and mussed hair that made him look part young-wizard-we-all-know-and-love and part mad scientist.  He also had two bullet holes on the side of his head with blood streaking down his right temple and cheek.  None of these details were a problem.  The problem resided in the fact that he was in my bedroom.  In the wee hours of dawn.  Standing over me like a dead Peeping Tom.
I eyed him with my infamous death stare, second only to my infamous fluster stare, and got a response immediately.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said, stumbling over his words, “didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Did I look frightened?  Clearly my death stare needed work.
Ignoring him I inched my way out of bed.  I had on a Scorpions hockey jersey I’d snatched off a goalie and a pair of plaid boxers–same team, different position.  Chihuahuas, tequila, and strip poker.  A night that is forever etched at the top of my Things I’ll Never Do Again list.
With teeth clenched in agony, I dragged all throbbing 470 pounds toward the kitchen and, more importantly, the coffee pot.  Caffeine would chisel the pounds off and I’d be back to my normal weight in no time.
Because my apartment was roughly the size of a Cheez-It, it didn’t take me long to feel my way to the kitchen in the dark.  Dead guy followed me.  They always follow me.  I could only pray this one would keep his mouth shut long enough for the caffeine to kick in but, alas, no such luck.

Pages: 330

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses

I loved this book. Everyone should get this book!
Ellen's grandmother died and her last request was for Ellen to deliver a letter to Chet in Beacon, Maine.  She drives up there from NYC. Ellen loves to take photos and she walks out on a dock and falls through.  The rip current carries her away.  In her panic she starts swimming but forgets how to swim in a rip current.  Roy comes and saves her.  In her relief, she kisses him. The starts something inside her.

From goodreads:
A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother's hometown.
Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish--to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough. THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE is a warm and delicious debut about the power of a simpler life.

Read the first chapter here.

Pages: 344

12th of Never by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

A lot is going on in this story. Lindsay has the baby. Yuki is on a BIG murder case. Claire's in trouble at work and Cindy's job is interfering with her love life!

Synopsis from Patterson's site:

It's finally time! Detective Lindsay Boxer is in labor—while two killers are on the loose.
Lindsay Boxer's beautiful baby is born! But after only a week at home with her new daughter, Lindsay is forced to return to work to face two of the biggest cases of her career.
A rising star football player for the San Francisco 49ers is the prime suspect in a grisly murder. At the same time, Lindsay is confronted with the strangest story she's ever heard: An eccentric English professor has been having vivid nightmares about a violent murder and he's convinced is real. Lindsay doesn't believe him, but then a shooting is called in—and it fits the professor's description to the last detail.
Lindsay doesn't have much time to stop a terrifying future from unfolding. But all the crimes in the world seem like nothing when Lindsay is suddenly faced with the possibility of the most devastating loss of her life.

I WOKE UP to a sharp report, as if a gun had gone off next to my ear. My eyes flew open and I sat straight up in bed.
I yelled “Joe,” but my husband wasn’t lying next to me. He was in an airplane, thirty-five thousand feet above the heart-land, and wouldn’t be home until the morning.
There was another ferocious crack and my bedroom brightened with lightning that snapped and wrapped around the windows. A boomer shook the window frames and sheets of rain lashed the glass. I was so distracted by the vicious storm that it took me a second or two to register the wave of pain that came from my belly and washed right through me.
Oh, man, it hurt really bad.
Yes, it was my own fault for gorging on refried beans for dinner, then chasing down the Mexican leftovers with riga-toni marinara at ten.
I looked at the clock—2:12 a.m.—then jumped at the next seismic thunderclap. Martha whined from under the bed. I called to her. “Martha. Boo, honey, whatchoo doin’? It’s just a storm. It can’t hurt you. Come to Mama.”
She flapped her tail against the carpet, but she didn’t come out. I swung my legs over the bed and flipped the switch on the bedside lamp—and nothing happened. I tried a couple more times, but damn it—the light wouldn’t go on.
The power couldn’t be out. But it was.
I reached for my Maglite, accidentally knocked it with the back of my hand, and it flew off the night table, rolled under the bed, and went I don’t know where.
Lightning branched down and reached across the black sky, as if to emphasize the point that the lights were out as far as the eye could see.
I grabbed the cordless phone and listened to dead air. The phones were out, too, and now I was feeling that weird wave of stomach pain again. Yowee.
I want to be clear. I was feeling a wave, not a contraction.
My age classifies me as an “elderly primigravida,” meaning over forty, pregnant with my first child. I had seen my doctor yesterday morning and I’d checked out fine. The baby had checked out fine, and wasn’t due for another week.
I had booked a bed on the birthing floor at California Women’s Hospital, and although I’m not the organic granola type, I wanted to have the whole natural childbirth experience. The truth was, this baby might be the only one Joe and I would ever have.
Another wave of pain hit me.
To repeat, it was not a contraction.
I staggered out to the living room, found my handbag—an item I hadn’t needed in several weeks—and dug around until I found my iPhone. The battery bar was showing that I had only 10 percent of a full charge. Too damned little.
I leaned against a wall and went online to see what kind of storm was beating up San Francisco.
The squall was even worse than I thought. Twenty thousand families were in the dark. People were stuck in elevators between floors. Signs and other detritus had been flung through windows. Cars had skidded across roads, crashed, and flipped. All emergency vehicles had been deployed. Emergency rooms were flooded with patients and downed power lines were sparking on the streets.
This was shaping up to be one of the worst storms in SF history. Headlines quoted the mayor: STAY IN YOUR HOMES. THE STREETS ARE UNSAFE.
Martha slunk over and collapsed on top of my feet.
“We’re going to be okay,” I cooed.
And then that pain came over me. And it flipped me out.
“Go away,” I yelled at Martha. “Go away.”
She ran.
“I’m sorry, Boo,” I said to my whimpering dog. “These are false contractions. If they were real, I would know it.”
I grabbed my knees—and that’s when my water broke.
No way!   
Read more here.

Pages: 397

Monday, August 19, 2013

Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is the 22nd Anita Blake novel. Micah's dad has been bitten by a zombie.  They rush to his bedside even though they have been estranged for years.  Anita gets drawn into hunting whatever it is that is creating these weird zombies. She needs to clean this up so Micah's father and the town can be saved.
I enjoyed this book but I felt it was too wordy in some places.  Too much explanation and conversations were too long.  It is a big book!

Synopsis from Hamilton's site:
It’s a typical day at work for Anita Blake, if your day job is raising the dead, and being a U. S. Marshal for the preternatural branch. One phone call changed everything. It was from the mother of one of her live-in boyfriends. Micah Callahan’s father was in the hospital and he was dying. Micah had been estranged from his family for years, but now, his mother wants Anita to bring the prodigal son home for a last good-bye.
Anita thinks it’s going to be a tearful trip down memory lane, until she learns that Sheriff Callahan was attacked on the job by a zombie. The bite is rotting him from the inside out, as if it’s turning him into a zombie while he’s still alive, but Anita knows zombies and they aren’t contagious. But something is killing Micah’s father, and he’s not the only victim. And there are the missing persons, far too many to explain away. While Micah deals with his family, Anita is pulled into a case so terrible she has to call for back up from friends and lovers that are no more human than the some of the monsters they’re hunting, and even that isn’t enough. Edward, Death himself, comes with badge and flamethrower to watch over his friend, Anita Blake, while she fights for her life and the lives of those she loves.

Watch the trailer here.

Pages: 570

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fanged & Fabulous by Michelle Rowen

This is the second in the Immortality Bites Series. Sarah is still trying to cope with her new life as a vampire. She has gotten a reputation as the Slayer of Slayers for killing Peter.  Of course it was just lucky self defense. She shot with with a gun. Now it seems all of the hunters are after her.  Some of the older vamps are wondering if she is a threat to them.  Thierry breaks up with her and Sarah still wants him.

I am really enjoying this series.  It is funny and quirky.  If you like the Undead Series by MaryJanice Davidson you will love these.

Synopsis from Rowen's site:

Just stake me now.
My name is Sarah Dearly, and I’ve got major problems. Last month, I was turned into a vampire by the world’s worst blind date. Then I may have, totally by accident, started a war between the mostly peaceful bloodsuckers and a bunch of sociopathic vamp hunters who have nicknamed me the Slayer of Slayers.
Now I’m being used as bait to draw out the hunters’ bad-ass leader, while my gorgeous 600-year-old boyfriend Thierry seems to be blowing me off, and my sizzle-hot, fanged friend Quinn is trying to turn my self-defense lessons into make-out sessions. So you know what? I’m done. I’ve had it. There comes a time when a vamp has to just suck it up and go after what she wants. And as soon as I figure out what that is, that’s exactly what I’ll do…

C h a p t e r   1
Jogging is great exercise. Running for your life—even better.
At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.
It was the new jogging suit that did it. I felt all J Lo in my fuchsia velour (admittedly a little outdated, but happily on for half price) out for a quick, late-afternoon jog. Feeling good in the cold but fresh February air with my newest pair of very dark sunglasses firmly in place.
I guess I shouldn’t have smiled at the cute young guy by the hot dog cart outside of my apartment building. Firstly, because, hello? I’mtaken, thank you very much.
Secondly, because of the whole “fang” situation.
Fangs never seem to go over very well with vampire hunters.
Next thing I know, instead of getting a modest workout—surprisingly enough, a diet of diluted blood is not calorie-free—I was high-tailing it through a nearly deserted nearby park with a hunter on my Reebok-clad heels.
I shot a look over my shoulder. “Leave me alone!”
“Stop running, vampire!” he hollered.
I eyed the wooden stake he had in his right hand, and then picked up my pace, darting past a couple of speed walkers who didn’t give us a second glance.
Almost an entire month had gone by without seeing a single hunter. A very good month. Enough for me to let down my guard way too much.
Not good.
“I’ll catch you!” the hunter shouted from a few steps behind me. “So why don’t you stop running and save me some time?”
I jumped up as we passed an overhang of evergreens and grabbed the nearest icicle. Then I stopped abruptly and spun around to face him with the sharp piece of ice clenched in my hand.
He skidded to a halt, almost slamming right into me, and looked at me with confusion. “You stopped.”
“I’m trying to be more proactive these days. Come near me and this—” I indicated my drippy weapon while my heart pounded loud and fast in my ears “—is going through your eyeball.”
Hunter-boy was actually kind of cute. Probably in his early twenties, with fashionably shaggy dark hair, a thin but attractive face, and brown puppy-dog eyes. He wore a black leather jacket over… beige Dockers?
I could totally take him.
“Proactive?” He raised an eyebrow, and shifted the stake to his other hand. The frozen air puffed out of his mouth with every breath he took.
I shivered, and it wasn’t just from the temperature. “Yeah, that’s acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty. I looked it up. It means that instead of running like a chicken with my head cut off—pardon the cliché—I will confront my attacker and deal with the situation in a calm yet forceful manner.”
“You’re smart for a vampire,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows at that. “Really?”
“A vampire who’s about to die.”
I tensed and curled my other hand into a fist. I’d been going to self-defense fitness classes with my best friend Amy for a couple weeks. It was true that only a few hour-long lessons probably weren’t going to earn me any major ass-kicking awards, but I felt a little more confident about my current woman-in-jeopardy situation. A little.
Proactive with a capital P. That’s me.
Okay, now I was shivering and sweating. I take it back. I wasn’t confident. Not in the slightest.
Hunter-boy was going to stake me. Easily.
“What’s your name?” I blurted out.
“Yeah. Why?”
“Is that short for anything?”
“Yeah, it’s short for ‘I’m going to kill you now’.” He frowned. “Why are you still talking?”
He kicked the icicle out of my hand. It hit the ground next to me and shattered. I blinked down at it.
I looked at him and held up my shaking hands up that wound up looking like nervous ‘jazz hands.’ “Look…Chad, just walk away now. You do not want to mess with me.” I thought of the first move I’d make to try like hell to get out of this alive. I’d go for the groin. Always a good place to start. And end.
“Let me tell you a little something…” he paused expectantly and raised his eyebrows.
“Sarah,” I offered, without thinking. Stupid.
“The only reason you’re still talking, Sarah, is because I’m allowing it. I might not look it, but I’ve dusted over a dozen vamps, this year alone.”
I swallowed hard and, despite the cold temperature, felt a line of perspiration trickle down my spine.
“Well, if you’ve killed that many,” I said, even less confident now if that was possible. “You should know it’s not really dust. It’s more like goo.”
“Whatever.” He looked down at the stake, ran his thumb along the sharp tip, and then glanced over at me. “Now let’s get this party started.”
Hell, he looked fairly harmless what with the Dockers and all. Guess you can’t judge a man by his casual, stain resistant pants anymore.
I turned and tried to run further into the park along the snow-covered, cobble stone path, but before I got more than a few steps, I felt his hand clamp down on my shoulder, stopping me in mid-flee. He spun me around, then shoved me so hard that I stumbled back and fell to the ground in a heap. I scrambled back a few feet on my butt and looked around frantically. We were all alone. Why were we all alone? Where were innocent bystanders when I needed them?
“I’ll make it quick.” Chad winked at me. “If you stay nice and quiet for me.”
Yeah, like that was going to happen. “Are you aware that you’re the bad guy?”
That stopped him, but his stony expression didn’t change. “What?”
I shuffled back a little more, feeling the cold snow press against my bare hands and tried to look as calm as possible. “Vampire hunters are evil, homicidal bastards who kill for the fun of it. They’re the bad guys. Vampires are completely harmless. Like adorable, pointy-toothed bunnies.”
He laughed a little at that and stepped closer. “Yeah, right.”
I held a hand up in front of me to stop him from getting any nearer and slowly and shakily rose to my feet.
Keep him talking, I told myself.
I tried to smile and felt my cheeks twitch nervously. “Let’s talk big picture here. Do you know what you’d be doing if you murder me?”
Slay, you mean.”
I shook my head. “Don’t try to make it sound all Hollywood. You’d bemurdering me. Just because you think I’m a monster. But I’m not a monster. I’m just a little dentally different than you.”

Read more here.

Pages: 356

Friday, August 16, 2013

Candles Burning by Tabitha King and Michael McDowell

I got this book last month to read for the Monthly Key Word Challenge.  I did not get to it but I still wanted to read it. This is the story of Calley Dakin whose father was murdered in New Orleans when she was 7. The murder was never explained. Calley and her mother escaped from the evil grandmother's house after the grandmother "stole" Calley's brother.  They ended up in Florida at Merrymaking. The owner took them in. Calley grew up being cared for by Merry, sort of. Her mother was a waste. But Calley always wondered the true story of what happened in her life.
I have never read anything by McDowell before so I don't know his work.  I tried to read something years ago by King and did not care for it. I did like this story. I felt for Calley. She really needed some love and happiness in her life but she is surrounded by the strange.

From goodreads:
Known for his chilling Blackwater series, author Michael McDowell left behind the unfinished manuscript for Candles Burning upon his death in 1999. In the spirit of the ghost stories that Michael loved, Tabitha King has taken up where he left off, weaving a Southern gothic fabric of murder, guilt, innocence, corruption, and survival, in the voices of the living and the dead.

Calliope "Calley" Dakin is just seven when her beloved father is tortured, murdered, and dismembered by two women with no discernible motivation. In the aftermath, Calley and her mother find themselves caught up in inexplicable events that exile them to Pensacola Beach, where-in a house that's a dead ringer for Calley's late great-grandmother's house-a woman awaits their presence. For Calley is no normal little girl.

For an excerpt, click here

Pages: 423

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Flaming Tree by Phyllis Whitney

Kelsey's son is killed during a car accident.  Her husband blames her.  They get a divorce and Kelsey goes to California to live with her aunt and get it together.  Her aunt wants her to help a little boy who fell off a cliff.  She is a physical therapist who works with children.  Kelsey goes to see Jody and sees that he is not a vegetable like the doctors told his parents.  She wants to help him and is drawn into the family's problems.  Can Kelsey stop what is happening and save Jody?

From the author's site:
From the jacket
The obscure figure knelt in the shadows, watching the pair running too near the edge of the cliff. For one desperate moment they struggled. And then all was silent, save for the rhythmic pounding of the waves…
When Kelsey Stewart, seeking solace in the wake of her son's death and her subsequent divorce, accepts an invitation to visit a quiet seaside inn, she becomes immersed in the plight of Jody Hammond, the young boy who fell from the sea cliff and is now tragically brain-injured. Kelsey is urged to help in Jody's rehabilitation, and she feels that this may be the key to helping her bring her own troubled heart back to life.
Her determined efforts bring new hope for the boy's recovery. And Kelsey experiences a joyous reawakening of her own spirit, fueled by her growing love for a man who, unexpectedly, rekindles the fires of her long-dormant emotions.
However, as Kelsey's involvement with Jody and his family deepens, an astonishing mystery unfolds, leading Kelsey to suspect that the boy's anguished condition is not solely due to his accident. It is a mystery that will lead Kelsey to a forbidding place known as Flaming Tree-and a dark secret that now lies buried deep within Jody Hammond's tormented memory.

Pages: 278

Deadly Gift by Heather Graham

Eddie is murdered on his boat.  Then Sean, Eddie's partner is taken ill in Ireland. Caer is assigned  to guard Sean.  Sean's daughter, Kat, calls their family friend Zach Flynn to come investigate and bring her father home safely. They go back to Newport R.I. Zach and Caer try to figure out what is going on. They are falling in love too.  Who or what is the evil behind these crimes?

Synopsis from the author's site:
Zachary Flynn is off to Ireland to escort an old friend, Sean O'Riley, home to Rhode Island after a bout of illness in the land of his birth. Zach has no idea he'll be coming home with far more than old friends. While Zach doubts that murder was intended, he must accept the possibility, since Sean's business partner has gone missing. Caer, a woman with an agency in Ireland, knows that Sean's life is in danger, and she takes on the role of Sean's nurse to stay close to him. Zach doesn't trust her anymore than he trusts the third partner in the sailing and charter business, his wife, the cops, or the man in the moon.

But if Sean is to make another Christmas, especially after receiving a strange gift in the mail, he knows he has to find the truth behind the mist that comes in the night, and the strange whispers of ancient Ireland that tease him in the darkness.


Dublin, Ireland


"What's happening? Oh, my God, my husband! Let me get to my husband!"

Caer Cavannaugh was aware of the woman screaming beyond the emergency room curtains, just as she was aware of the triage nurse speaking to the woman in a calming way, trying to keep her from interfering with the doctors who were working desperately over the man.

He had come in with strange symptoms that had apparently appeared within twelve hours of his arrival in Dublin. According to his chart, he was in his seventies, was usually in good health, and he and his wife had checked into their hotel, shortly after which he'd become desperately ill. First he'd complained of terrible pain in his stomach, then of a weakness so overwhelming that it was close to paralysis sweeping over his limbs. And then he'd started having problems with his heart.

By the time he'd reached the emergency room, he'd collapsed. The doctors, not finding a pulse, had started treatment instantly.


The man on the bed bucked, his back arching, and then a reassuringly regular beeping began. His heartbeat was back. Orders were shouted; Caer obeyed them. She'd been summoned to the emergency room just minutes before the man had arrived. In her work for the Agency, she never knew quite where she would be when, or what she would be expected to do, but she'd been well trained to deal with whatever she faced in any new situation.

This, however, was unusual, even for her.

The pulse on the screen jumped erratically for a few seconds, then steadied. The man blinked and looked at her, then smiled weakly. "Angel," he said, and then his eyes closed again and he slept, attached to an IV, a heart monitor and a blood pressure gauge.

The team in the room congratulated one another. A moment later, Caer heard the man's wife, sobbing and still upset, as a doctor explained to her what had just happened, even though they still didn't know the cause of the problem. He told the wife that she needed to calm down and give them some answers. Caer, waiting as orderlies were summoned to take the patient up to intensive care, watched and listened, putting together the details.

The patient was Sean O'Riley; his wife was Amanda, and she was substantially younger than he was.

She was going on and on about their wonderful day and how happy Sean had been. He'd been born here in Dublin, but been living in the States forever. He was always strong and healthy; since he was a charter captain, he had to keep himself fit. When asked what he had eaten, she said they'd had breakfast on the plane, lunch at the hotel, and dinner at a place on Temple Bar. They'd eaten the same thing, and she felt perfectly fine, but it was soon after dinner that he'd taken ill.

"I have to see my husband!" she insisted then.

Soon, she was promised.

Caer studied the woman through the opening in the curtain. She was petite, with a nice figure and disproportionately large breasts. Caer couldn't help but wonder if they were real. Blond hair, pretty hazel eyes, but a slightly sharp look to her. Gold digger? And if so, was she somehow responsible for her husband's condition? But could anyone, even the best actress, fake such a look of tragic hysteria?

The doctor suggested sedation. Amanda nodded, and a nurse gave her a shot.

A police officer arrived. Interesting, Caer thought.


Caer started and swung around to face the male charge nurse who'd called her name.

"You're on. He's assigned to ICU for the next few hours, and you're with him."

"Right. Thanks," she murmured.

He looked at her curiously, as if he wasn't sure he recognized her.

No surprise. It was a big hospital. Anyone could wind up working with anyone else on any given day.

He smiled, as if deciding he'd seen her before after all.

"I'm on it," Caer said, greeting the two orderlies who showed up to move her patient, checking lines and his oxygen intake as they made their way down the hall from emergency to the elevators to intensive care.

He was to be kept alive. There seemed to be no reason for his life to be in danger, but it was, and he needed care and protection.

Zach Flynn was sleeping deeply when his cell phone rang. What might have proven to be a tragedy, the case of a missing boy, had been neatly and happily solved in a matter of days. Sam, the ten-year-old, had been angry. His mother had remarried and had a baby, and the baby had been getting all the attention. He hadn't been kidnapped, despite the open window and the mess in the room. He'd staged the event and gone to hide out in his father's old hunting lodge. When Zach had found him— tracking him down through his emails to an Internet buddy in China—he'd been ready to go home. No heat, running out of food—it hadn't been half the fun he had expected. All had worked out well. Sam's mother and stepfather had been so relieved that they'd welcomed him back with tears and enough love to make him believe he was as cherished as the new baby.

And so, with the "real" business—the private investigations firm he ran with his brothers Aidan and Jeremy—in good standing, Zach had planned on spending a chunk of December on his side business, checking out some of the musicians hitting the Boston clubs. Years ago, he'd begun investing in music studios, producing promising acts on his own label and watching with pleasure when they were picked by the major players. It had made a nice break from his job with the Metro police in Miami, and it was still a good way to wind down from his day job.

He was exceptionally good with computers, and had become their three-man firm's tech guy for his ability to hack into all kinds of systems. His street instincts were good, too, though, and he found his life fulfilling, even if not every case ended as well as Sam's had.

Then again, some of their cases would have made a statue smile, like the time Mrs. Mayfield, of the Mayfield Oil Group, had hired them on for a fantastic sum to find Missy.

Missy was a cat.

Easily done. Missy was found with six little puffs of fur, and the Flynn brothers were all offered kittens.

Music was his love, though. Music was something that pulsed in his blood and echoed in his mind, not to mention the way it eased and cleansed his soul. It was something beautiful when he saw so much that was ugly.

So he'd claimed December for himself—a chance to get back into that other world where no one went missing and no one died.

Last night, after arriving in Boston, he'd started relaxing with a vengeance. Not that he got drunk, because he didn't drink to excess, having learned long ago that the temporary high wasn't worth the loss of control. But he'd run into a bunch of old friends at a pub on State Street and downed a few Boston lagers. Still, he was instantly aware at the sound of his ringer, and he answered the phone automatically. "Flynn."

"Zach, oh, Zach, thank God you're there. Eddie has disappeared, and now Dad is in the hospital over in Ireland. I was going to fly over there, only Bridey said I shouldn't, but Dad—"

"Kat?" he asked, cutting across her uncontrolled flow of words.

"Yes, it's Kat. Oh, Zach, it's awful, you have to help. We don't know what's going on, and my father is all alone over there with her. You have to go over and see what's happening, Zach. I need your help, and so does Dad."

"Okay, slow down and start at the beginning. What's wrong with your dad?" Zach asked, coming thoroughly, instantly awake. Sean O'Riley had been one of his father's best friends. Even after his dad had passed away, though Sean had been in Rhode Island and the Flynns had been in Florida, Sean had been there, like an uncle, ready to offer a hand to Zach and his brothers. Then Zach had gotten involved with Kat. Not romantically, but she had the voice of a lark, so he'd given her some help professionally, put a band together for her, and now she was starting to soar. She was like a long distance little sister, most of the time.
Read more here.

Pages: 395