Christina Babbles

Reader of romance, cozy mysteries, speculative fiction. And sometimes I review.


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2013 FrightFall Read-a-thon
2013 FrightFall Read-a-thon

Hosted by Michelle @ Seasons  of Reading

"Great," Curran said. "Another fine addition to your collection of uncanny misfits."

 -- Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews

Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu

Shadow Touch  - Marjorie M. Liu

Comments: Even though I only just started this series, once I read the first book I knew it would become a favorite. In some ways, it reminds me of Nalini Singh's Psy-Changelings. There are shifters and there are psychics. If I had to compare Artur's talent to the Psy, I would say it comes close to the Justice Psy. Elena's actually reminded me of one of Judd's side talents -- also, what saved Katya at the end of Blaze of Memory.


I really liked the characters. Artur had a hard life in Russia after his mother put him in an orphanage at the age of twelve . He did what he needed to survive. He worked for the mob until he couldn't live with himself anymore. That's when Roland found him and eventually convinced him to join Dirk and Steele. Though he's turned his life around, he still feels that someone like Elena would reject him for his past.


Elena's past isn't as burdened as Artur's. She is such a compassionate person that her first instinct is to save Artur's life, mere minutes after meeting him in the hallway of their prison -- and why she can accept Artur and not hold his past against him. Her nature is the reason Artur can bear touching her -- what little darkness there is, it's nothing compared to the things Artur has seen in others. Elena isn't a meek person and she can hold her own, and a few times that gets her into trouble. During the climatic confrontation near the end of the book, it's Elena that saves the day.


The first part of the book focuses on the pair, individually, as they try to make sense of where they are and why they were kidnapped -- plus be treated like lab rats. Both have desirable skills, but the mysterious head of the organization is desperate to make use of Elena's. She's so important to them, that she's been assigned a bodyguard, Rictor -- a man with his own agenda.


Things pick up when an emergency in the facility presents an opportunity to escape, rescuing two other prisoners in the process. At first, their goals are to stay ahead of the bad guys and get someplace safe, since none of them know exactly where they are. But then Artur learns what the Consortium plans to do and his goal is to stop them. I thought this part of the book was fast paced because the characters are constantly on the move.


There is a major revelation near the end that changes things for Dirk and Steele, and probably drives the overarching storyline of the series. I'm looking forward to reading more.


(Re-posted from my blog)


Start: 18 February 2012

Finished: 20 February 2012


(SOS Bingo Round 4, Team 4 & x-post to blog)


Disclaimer: I purchased this book.

Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

Footsteps in the Dark - Georgette Heyer

Siblings Celia, Peter and Margaret inherited the Priory from their late uncle. It's old, a bit rundown and said to be haunted, but the trio decide to keep it. They along with Celia's husband Charles, their Aunt Lilian, and a pair of servants, move into it for a summer holiday. No sooner do they get settled, then the strange, eerie noises begin. Celia's all for going back to London, but Charles and Peter aren't convinced. Sure enough, they soon discover the source of the noise and are certain that whatever is going on, it's being done by a living, breathing person.


What puzzles the family is, why now? The property stood vacant for years. Why is someone trying to gain access to the house -- and trying to frighten them off -- unless there was something buried or hidden inside or among the ruins? And who is the Monk? There is no end of possible suspects. There's the door-to-door vacuum salesman, the handsome gentleman down on a fishing holiday, and the entomologist who's supposedly chasing after a rare moth at all hours of the night. Or could it someone else, someone who's activities don't seem suspicious at first.


Comments:This is my second Heyer mystery. I really enjoyed the story. I didn't guess the identity of the culprit, though I had my suspicions well before the end. As to "what" was the big deal about the property, I figured it was one of two things. I won't mention what those were, because it's a spoiler. The book had it's creepy moments, and its fun moments. And just like the first one I read, I could picture this as an old black and white movie.


What didn't work for me was the romance. Or I should say, how it was handled. The characters don't get to spend a lot of page-time together, so it was hard to see how they could be in love. Attracted to each other, yes, but I feel the story didn't allow for the relationship to be developed to the point where they're engaged by the end.


Looking forward to reading more of her mysteries.


(Re-posted from my blog)


Start: 15 February 2012

Finished: 17 February 2012


(SOS Bingo Round 4, Team 4 & x-post to blog)


Disclaimer: I purchased this book.

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook

The Iron Duke -  Meljean Brook

Comments: Skimming some of the reviews, just before I began reading this book, I was almost convinced not to even start it. Steampunk is relatively new to me. I'm pretty sure I haven't read any, and some of those reviews had me wondering whether I'd like this author's take on the genre. I've read science fiction and fantasy, so I knew I could do the "suspension of belief" bit and hopefully understand the world she created with minimal confusion. Even so, I went into the book half expecting it to be a 'did not finish'.


Turns out, I worried for nothing. I really enjoyed all aspects of this story. The steampunk parts were interesting and I had no problem following that part of her world.


As to the alternate history, I was very interested in how the author changed thing. The Mongol Horde (or the Horde) controlled England for approximately 200 years before Rhys breaks their control -- so the Horde came some time in the 1600s (Cromwell/Restoration time frame). There was no Glorious Revolution and, ultimately, no Victoria. Also, no Napoleonic Wars. Why bring this up? Mostly, so you get an idea of what's different. England has a king, who's incapacitated thanks to the Horde. He has a regent council since his son is underage. It's like the Regency era got push later a bit on the timeline. So, instead of Napoleon, there's the Horde; instead of Nelson and Wellington, there's Rhys -- doing double-duty as both the naval hero (Nelson) and the Iron Duke (Wellington). Clever. A statue of Rhys stands in the square formerly known as Trafalgar -- I pulled out a tourist map of London to help figure out "the same, but different" parts.


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Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Paranormalcy - Kiersten White

I liked Evelyn (or Evie). She's mostly upbeat and positive, and there isn't a lot of angst. She's mostly content with her life at the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA). Her best friend is Lish, a paranormal who works at the Center, and she has a mother-daughter like relationship with the head of the Center, Raquel. Evie would love to hang around with normal sixteen-year-olds and do normal 16-year-old-type things like go to a real high school, go to the prom, and have a boyfriend, but her unique abilities make her a valuable asset to the Center. She's been doing the 'bag and tag' thing since she was eight years old and she's good at it. Then Lend enters her world and he makes her question her life at the Center, and she learns there are things that Raquel has been keeping from her.


Evie eventually gets her wish and spends time in the mostly normal world that is Lend's. In some ways, Evie reminded me Disney's The Little Mermaid. Like Ariel, she longs to be a part of a world different from her own and she's fascinated by some mundane things that normal people find ordinary. Lend's a great guy and he understands what it's like to be different. Evie can see the real him and likes him regardless, but she also worries that he'll think she's a freak of nature and won't like her as much as she likes him.


Though Evie might not know everything about herself, or everything about paranormals that she needs to know, she's spot on about the trustworthiness of the fae. The IPCA, including Raquel, dismisses Evie's concerns and refuses to believe they could be wrong about their so-called control over the fae. As for Reth specifically, he may be acting in accordance with his own agenda, but I don't think his intent is to harm or hurt Evie. Use and possess her, yes; but looking back at his actions, she's too important to him for him not to care what happens to her, or dismiss her as unimportant like he does everyone else.


Over all, I liked the characters and found the book easy to read and follow. I read it a lot faster than I thought I would, given the fact that I wasn't wowed by it. I'm not in any rush to read the next book, but I will probably listen to the audiobook, if available.


Added to the review on my blog, but not Goodreads: Evie's decisions aren't always the wrong ones and she does try to think things through before acting, most of the time.


Started: 4 February 2012

Finished: 6 February 2012


(SOS Bingo Round 4, Team 4 & x-post to blog)


Disclaimer: I purchased this book.

Unchained by Sharon Ashwood

Unchained - Sharon Ashwood

Possible spoilers for the first two books!


Previously, in Fairview...Ashe Carver -- Holly's older sister -- came to town intent on staking her vampire brother-in-law, convinced he had Holly in his thrall. Instead, she ended up joining forces with Alessandro and Mac to save the Castle from destruction. Holly gives Alessandro some very unexpected news.


Six months later...


Madame Librarian: Ashe has officially retired from the monster slaying biz. She's got her daughter Eden with her now, and she wants to prove that she can be a good mother. To that end, she works at the library, located in the local mall. Now the only battles she routinely engages in are ones with the bookstore clerks, consisting of pranks and practical jokes. But Holly and Alessandro have a new baby in the house, so Ashe is willing to pick up her weapons, on their behalf, to keep Fairview safe for all law-abiding beings. She ends up partnered with Captain Reynard, chasing an invisible and deadly creature through the botanical gardens. And that's just the beginning of their problems.


Captain of the Guard: Reynard is everything you'd expect in a hero from a historical romance novel, as if he had stepped from the pages of one. The second son of British nobility, destined for the army. Unrequited love for a woman who chose another. The rakish good looks and behavior. But life as a Castle guardsman has changed him -- over 250 years in the prison has made him more disciplined, honed his skills and his sense of duty, and smothered all the feelings and desires from life outside the Castle. Leaving the Castle to hunt the creature is dangerous -- the longer he stays in the world, the harder it will be for him to return to the nothingness of his existence in the prison.


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Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy

Hail to the Chef - Julie Hyzy

In the second book, Ollie and the White House staff are preparing for the holiday season and the First Lady is playing matchmaker. The President's single, good-looking nephew, Sean Baxter, is visiting and Mrs. Campbell asks Ollie to convince Sean to spend Thanksgiving at the White House. The First Lady is unaware of Ollie's relationship with Secret Service Agent Tom MacKenzie, who is on the President's security detail. Ollie is gratified to know that Mrs. Campbell thinks so highly of her, but she's stumped on how to diplomatically tell the First Lady she's not interested in Sean and keep her relationship with Tom private.


A security incident occurs and Ollie is sequestered with Mrs. Campbell and Sean until an all-clear is given. She learns that Mrs. Campbell's business partners -- and life-long friends -- are pressuring her to agree to sell the company they jointly own. Sean, as her financial adviser, is telling her she shouldn't sell.


With Thanksgiving and the start of the official holiday season just days away, the staff can't afford to be held up by security threats and bomb scares. Because of the latest incident, the staff has to attend mandatory Improvised Explosive Device (IED) recognition training. Ollie gets off on the wrong foot with the special agent-in-change, and he singles her out at the first meeting. His persistence in making sure she fully understands the gravity of the situation pays off later when Ollie stumbles upon something where it shouldn't be.


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The Mistletoe Wager by Christine Merrill

The Mistletoe Wager - Christine Merrill

This Christmas romance has two couples, Harry and Elise, the Earl and Countess of Anneslea. Harry and Elise are estranged at the start of the book, but are still very much in love with each other. The other couple is Nicholas Tremaine and Rosalind Morley, two people who haven't seen each other in years and have every reason to hate each other. Nicholas is Elise's ex-betrothed and Rosalind is Harry's half-sister.


The book opens with Harry inviting Nicholas to his Christmas house party. Nicholas is a bit of a humbug about Christmas and initially refuses. Since Harry has an ulterior motive for wanting Tremaine to come, he makes a bet and proceeds to invite all within hearing to his house party. To ensure that Tremaine comes, he sweetens the bet by informing Tremaine that he will divorce Elise, if that's what she desires.


Harry believes that the reason Elise has been unhappy is due to the fact that she has come to regret breaking her engagement to Tremaine and accepting Harry's proposal. Harry had hoped that Elise would, over time, come to love him as much as he loves her. He wants her to be happy and if divorcing him will free her to go back to the man she still cares for, then Harry will do it. But not without trying to win her back first by reminding her of all the happy times they had at Christmas. Elise loves the holiday and brought her traditions with her from Germany. Tremaine's distaste for the trappings of the season are well-known and Harry hopes to use that in his favor.

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Holiday with a Vampire II (M. Lovelace & L. Devoti)

Holiday with a Vampire II - Merline Lovelace, Lori Devoti

This anthology features a story by one of my favorite Nocturne authors, Lori Devoti. In a departure from her other Nocturnes, this one is about a vampire, not shape-shifters. Though this is a Christmas anthology, the holiday has very little presence. If you're looking for a book that's doesn't have all the trimmings (carols, gifts, decorating, etc.), then this book is a good choice.


"A Christmas Kiss" by Merline Lovelace

From the Back: Vampire Delilah Wentworth's hunt for a dentist on Christmas Eve lands her in the arms of Sergeant Brett Cooper, a mortal who gave up on the Christmas spirit, and on love, years ago. Incapable of returning home by herself, Delilah needs Brett's protection for the night -- a night that leaves her aching for a forbidden mortal romance, and leaves Brett questioning whether he has truly given up on love after all.


I really liked Delilah. Born in 1888 to a career military officer, her only goals in life were to marry a dashing lieutenant and have lots of babies. She isn't a sultry, bad girl vamp; she's almost ordinary. Delilah only feeds on the willing and only takes what she needs -- not a killer nor in the habit of creating more vampires. She's also compassionate, going -- with Brett -- to the aid of a young, single mother with a case of food poisoning.


I wish the story had been longer. I thought Brett's acceptance of Delilah was too quick. I also would have liked to have seen more of Delilah's sire, Sebastian.


"The Vampire That Stole Christmas" by Lori Devoti

From the Back: On a mission for revenge against his adoptive family, vampire Drystan Hurst needs daemon Aimee Polk to help him put his plan into action. But Drystan doesn't expect to fall in love with Aimee -- especially when it means choosing between her affection and the ultimate family payback he has always dreamed of.


This is a story about two individuals -- a vampire and a daemon -- who must learn to accept themselves for who and what they are. Drystan has a lot of anger and resentment towards the Myhres. He's bent on getting revenge and he sees his foster brother's fiancée, Aimee, as the way to publicly humiliate them. Aimee, a daemon of light, has recently failed to save the life of her most recent charge. She's decided that it's best for her not to be one any longer, and will try to do good through Ben, who is politically ambitious. She senses the darkness in Drystan, and her first instinct is to absorb it, but she knows that won't help him if he doesn't take the first step.


This story was my favorite and I liked that both characters were supernatural. It made their acceptance of each other smoother. I also liked the twist on vampire mythology.


Started: 20 November 2008

Finished: 27 November 2008


Disclaimer: I purchased this book.


(Cross-posted from blog)

Hallowe'en Husbands (Anthology)

Hallowe'en Husbands: Marriage At Morrow CreekWedding At WarehavenMaster Of Penlowen - Lisa Plumley, Denise Lynn, Christine Merrill

I picked up this book primarily for the Christine Merrill short story. I read The Inconvenient Duchess and liked it. I had not read anything by the other two contributors, so this was an opportunity to discover new authors.


"Marriage at Morrow Creek" by Lisa Plumley (Western)

From the Back: The only thing Rose Tillson ever wanted was a life of travel beneath the Western stars -- and to marry secret sweetheart Will Gavigan! All Rose needs is a small dose of Hallow'en magic to make Will realize she's the girl of his dreams.


I did not finish this story. Western-set historicals are not something I usually read, but I figured a short story would be something I could handle. I couldn't get into the story. If the author writes contemporaries or set in other historical subgenres (Regency, Medieval, etc.), I would be interested in trying something else from her.

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Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson

Snowbound - Janice Kay Johnson

Teacher Fiona MacPherson and eight of her students are returning from an academic competition when they are stranded in the Cascade Mountains by a November snowstorm. The forecasters misjudged the speed of the storm, and Fiona had expected to be home long before it was supposed to start. Fortunately, one of the students recognizes a half-buried sign that marks the road leading to Thunder Mountain Lodge.


The lodge doesn't have a phone or internet service, the shortwave radio hasn't been repaired after having coffee spilled on it, and cell phone service in the area is terrible even when the weather is nice. Even so, Fiona is able to make contact with her principal. With no improvement in the weather forecasted for the near future, she and the students are stuck there until the snowplows come.

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Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Sanctuary - Deanna Raybourn

Julia and her brothers Lysander and Eglamour - Plum - are summoned home from Italy by their father, the Earl March. They arrive in time to spend Christmas at Bellmont Abbey, the family seat. However, before the festivities can begin, there is a murder. As with the previous volume, the book introduces other members of the eccentric March family, this time on home turf. And course Nicholas Brisbane is back, and he is engaged to be married.


Julia quickly realizes that Brisbane and her father are up to something. What, she doesn't know. But before she can learn anything, a guest is murdered -- supposedly by one of the March cousins -- and the earl informs Brisbane that Julia will assist in the investigation. Though the March family is used to being the subject of gossip and scandal, the earl wants the matter wrapped up -- while they are snowed in -- as quickly and as discretely as possible. Brisbane isn't happy with these arrangements, but he can't contradict a nobleman in his own home.


I don't want to give anything away, so I won't elaborate on the plot. Julia does learn something of Brisbane's past, however. I wish there had been more interaction between them. It seemed as if Brisbane was barely in the book. As for the March family, I really enjoy meeting them and hearing about their eccentricities. Above all, they are a very close and loving family.


I enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to Silent on the Moor, due out in March 2009.


Favorite Quote:

Now I was more certain than ever of my decision. I could never love a man who did not love Jane Austen.

-- Julia's thoughts


Started: 1 November 2008

Finished: 11 November 2008


Disclaimer: I purchased this book.


(Cross-posted from blog)

The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens

The Devil's Footprints - Amanda Stevens

From the back: In 1922 a farmer in Adamant, Arkansas, awakes to a noise on his roof and finds his snow-blanketed yard marked with thousands of cloven footprints. The prints vanish with the melting snow. . .only to reappear seventy years later near the gruesome killing of Rachel DeLaune. Years after her sister's unsolved murder, New Orleans tattoo artist Sarah DeLaune is haunted by the mysteries of her past. Sarah as always believed that her sister was killed by a man named Ashe Cain. But no one else had ever seen Ashe. He had "appeared" to Sarah when she needed a friend the most, only to vanish on the night of her sister's murder. The past bleeds into the present when two mutilated bodies are found near Sarah's home, the crime scene desecrated by cloven footprints.


Comments: Sarah DeLaune was always an outcast, even in her own family. Rachel was Judge James DeLaune's pride and joy. There was nothing that Sarah could say or do to make her father love her. The only person who understood her was Ashe Cain, the mysterious stranger she met one day while out walking her dog, and never saw again after her sister's murder. Sarah begins to question whether he was real or not, and if he wasn't, does that make her the killer?


Sarah's past comes back, in more ways than one, when her former lover -- and homicide detective -- Lieutenant Sean Kelton asks for help on his new case. The victim has tattoos, and Sarah knows the handiwork of all the local artists. Sean and Sarah had been in in relationship for two years before Sean walked out. Sean had looked into Rachel's murder, but things weren't adding up and Sarah wouldn't confide in him. Sean also has his own troubled past that played a part in his leaving. He still cares about Sarah very much, and neither has really gotten over the other. If they both can overcome their pasts, they might have a second chance at a life together.


Sean and Sarah aren't the only characters with troubled pasts. Nearly everyone we meet has some trauma in their past that helped conceal the identity of murderer. There were several times where I feared for Sarah's safety because the author kept me guessing. I was shocked when I learned the identity. I never would have guessed, and that's rare. Very creepy book, but I enjoyed it very much.


Started: 14 October 2008

Finished: 21 October 2008


Disclaimer: I purchased this book.


(Cross-posted from blog)

Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen

Nightkeepers - Jessica Andersen

From the back: As a Miami narcotics detective, Leah Daniels never knows how her day will turn out. But she certainly doesn't expect to be strapped to a stone altar as a human sacrifice in an ancient Mayan ritual meant to coax a demon from the underworld -- or to be saved by a handsome warrior-priest king, who claims to recognize her from his visions. Striking Jaguar thinks he is the last of the Nightkeeper warrior-priests, but as the end-time approaches, his mentor reveals there are twelve others. In reuniting them, Strike -- king by birthright -- gains the power to summon a Mayan god to combat the demons. But the woman of his visions is the gods' chosen sacrifice. Now he must decide between love and duty. . .or find another way to invoke otherworldly magic in a death-defying race against the end of time.


Comments: This is the first book in a new series based on the Mayan belief that the world will end in 2012, on the Winter solstice. It's labeled as a romance, but if you like your hero and heroine to spend most of the book together, and be the focal point of the story, this may not work for you.

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Possessed by Stephanie Doyle

Possessed - Stephanie Doyle

Cassandra Allen is a medium. She can communicate with the dead. She has learned to control her gift so that the dead don't overwhelm her with their attempts to contact loved ones. However, her quiet, simple life is also very lonely. Cassandra doesn't like large crowds and strives to avoid being touched -- regardless if it's a friendly pat on the shoulder or an intimate caress. She has no social life and her efforts to shield herself have an adverse effect on her ability to keep a job. Eventually her reserved, standoffish and strange behavior gives her coworkers and boss the creeps, and she is fired. And if that doesn't seal her fate, the appearance of a gun-toting and disturbed man showing up at the coffeehouse demanding to speak to her, will certainly do the trick. To offset her precarious employment situation, Cassandra does consultant work for the local police.


Detective Doug Brody, who lost his beloved wife, is Cassandra's one friend. He believes in her abilities and her track record with helping him crack a case is good enough to ensure that the department doesn't baulk too much when she's called in. Her gift allows her to determine if a suspect is guilty or innocent. Doug asks for her help on a new case. A young woman, Lauren, was brutally murdered not far from where Cassandra currently lives. The police have the woman's brother in for questioning. The problem is that Malcolm McDonough has connections and any misstep with him could bring the mayor's office down on their heads. McDonough has been at the station for hours, without calling his lawyer, and the detective can't get a good read on him: his icy behavior could either be his way of dealing with the tragedy or he's a sociopath.

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