January 31, 2015

Steampunk Sundays: Transmuted by Karina Cooper (Chat Edition)

Series: The St. Croix Chronicles 6
Format: eGalley
Release Date: January 26, 2015
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Steampunk
In this final installment of Cherry St. Croix's adventures, only one thing could compel the disgraced countess to return to Society—the threat of immortality.

All is not peaceful in the wake of the Midnight Menagerie's ruin. Although the Karakash Veil has been forced to flee its stronghold, the mysterious head of the criminal organization is not content to fade away.

Above the foggy drift, a priceless diamond vanishes. In the dangerous Underground, a murderous rampage demands retribution. The hunt for the mastermind behind these misdeeds sends me back to Society—and into the unforgiving embrace of the world I'd left behind.

Nothing is what it seems. Enemies, allies—and a man who struggles with a nature even devotion cannot tame. Torn between the scars of the past and fragile new beginnings, I must create balance in the world I have chosen—and with the people I have come to love. The game has changed; should the Veil achieve the immortality it craves, I will have nowhere left to run.

Braine (B): Hi Shelley! Bittersweet moment here, St. Croix Chronicles have come to an end. How do you feel about the whole series overall?

Shelley (S): I really liked the world that Karina created. It’s a fascinating idea to separate London into upper and lower communities, while exploring the world of a collector. I think 6 books was the perfect number of books for this series. Cooper had a chance to explore Cherry’s vulnerability, while allowing her to go full throttle in search of her future without being chased and hounded every 5 minutes.

B: I agree! It’s always a good thing ending a series on a high note than letting it drag and swirl down the drain. Also, I do love the carniepunk feel this series has too.

Let’s break this down for a minute. Cherry’s been through a lot and has come a long way. Part of me wishes she kept her spunk, but at the same time, I can also see how the things in her life has softened her a bit.

S: As for the main character, Cherry has been one of the more interesting characters that I’ve read about. She’s gone from being a cast-off whose own father was a mad man, to London’s only female collector, to marrying and losing a husband almost everything else in the process. She later came to terms with her addictions which she began while a child, and nearly got her killed. She’s found a real family in Ashmore, Mr & Mrs Booth, Fanny, while struggling with her affections for Micajah Hawke. She hasn’t backed down in facing trouble. She’s faced more challenges than you can shake a stick at, and in the end, things find a way of wrapping up in such a way that doesn’t leave room for complaints.

B: Micajah Hawke. I have no words. I don’t know if my memory’s shot or what, but I felt like he’s lost his edge since TEMPERED. I feel thrown off. Cherry and Hawke were hot and heavy in the beginning. I love the tension between them, especially when Cherry was married and widowed on the same night. But after that, things fizzled and Ashmore didn’t help matters either. Again, I don’t mind the absence of hot and heavy romance in my reads, but I do crave consistency.

S: You might be right. Their relationship was dark, sexy as hell, and dangerous. In the end, while Hawke is still dangerous, he’s a pussy cat when it comes to giving his heart to Cherry. I have to say that I was a bit on the hesitant side for awhile when Ashmore arrived, and they sort of caught fire. It was about the same time that I was having some unkind thoughts about Hawke and his actions. In the end, the choice was clearly evident.

B: Pussy! Bwahaha! Ashmore’s presence was a monkey wrench for me. For a while, I rooted for him but obviously the heart wants what the heart wants. I had hoped that after Cherry’s make out session with Ashmore, and realizing afterwards that it's Hawke she really wants, she’ll be hot and heavy with Cage but it never really went that way. Oh well...

I got to admit, I didn’t see that alchemical angle coming! I’m split about this, part of me liked it because I guess alchemy goes hand in hand with Steampunk somewhat while on the other, I did love Cherry being a collector and the simplicity of that gig. Like every book she could be after something without all the complications Ashmore and his science offered.

S: I personally would have loved to see more of the alchemical side of Cherry. Perhaps Ashmore could have arrived sooner, or not. I do like that that she has another side that she can fight against the villains with and save her friends and family. I do agree with you in that the Cherry being a collector storyline was key to me loving this series so much.

B: So what do you think of TRANSMUTED overall? Are you happy with this and how it ended the series?

S: Actually, I am. In the end, TRANSMUTED manages to wrap things up in such a way that left me comfortable and not uptight and out of sight. I enjoyed the banter between Ashmore, Hawke, and Cherry. I loved seeing Cherry show her skills and abilities while not being a weak character who needs to fall back on bad habits now eradicated. I agree with the final decision as to who has Cherry's heart, but also agree that the three are truly inseparable after everything they've experienced. I was saddened by a loss, but I don’t think Cooper could have walked away leaving everyone intact. I liked that she made some peace with her in-laws who have hated her since her husband was murdered. I do wish there had been a bit more emphasis on the missing diamond, but, like I said, I’m with the story overall.

B: I love the ending itself. I thought rebuilding a new life somewhere makes a lot of sense at this point. So many things have happened in London and it's quite impossible to truly recover from it all 100%. In terms of the series ending, I'm satisfied as well and sad to see it go but I'm happy KCooper ended St. Croix Chronicles on a high note.

Thanks for doing this with me, Shelley, we should definitely do more of this!

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Bought, Borrowed & Bagged #136 + iZombie

BB&B (Bought, Borrowed and Bagged) is a weekly meme, inspired my The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie, where we share with you the books that we have bought, borrowed or bagged (won or gifted) plus a recap of the previous week's reviews, upcoming reviews, on going events and book movie or television news. 

BB&B is an homage Barron's Books & Baubles from Karen Marie Moning's smash hit series, Fever. 

from publishers & authors

Big & Small

Rose McIver stars as Olivia “Liv” Moore, a rosy-cheeked, disciplined, over-achieving medical resident who had her life path completely mapped out… until the night she attended a party that unexpectedly turned into a zombie feeding frenzy. As one of the newly undead, Liv has devised a way to resist her baser urges to devour fresh human brains – she’s taken a job in the Seattle coroner’s office. In this appropriately dead-end job, she can secretly snack on the brains of the many Jane and John Doe corpses that make a final stop in the morgue. Liv remains resigned to an eternity without hope or purpose, until she realizes that with every brain she consumes, she retains a portion of that person’s memories, and she begins to experience visions from the point of view of the murder victims. It’s not the same as being alive again, but at least she can find purpose in her undead existence by helping to solve the murders of those who are indeed fully dead. 

“iZombie” also stars Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley and David Anders. Based upon characters created by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, and published by DC Entertainment’s Vertigo imprint. “iZombie” will premiere on March 17 and the series will air Tuesdays at 9 P.M. EST.

Color me curious! Love the concept, will definitely be on the lookout for this!

Last Week's Reviews

It's a new year and there's a new linky for my humble weekly recap meme. Whether you're a return participant or a new hopper, THANK YOU for joining, your participation is much appreciated. 

Also as this is a laid-back meme, please use your LABEL OR TAG LINKS and not your post links that way you don't have to update your linky every week. 

Motivate Me: Follow Your Passion, Find Your Power by Bob Doyle

MOTIVATE ME is a new, and sporadic, feature here in Talk Supe, and something I've been wanting to do for the longest time. 

So what is this about? MOTIVATE ME is inspired by my life's journey. I don't want to get all sappy and personal, the short of it is I started this change in my life a few years back and it's been a long, arduous, and sometimes rewarding journey so far. I'm not at the finish line yet and just like when you run for a marathon, it's all about endurance and perseverance. I have to admit, I've been tempted so many times to just throw in the towel and give up, but looking back I've come a long way and now's not the time to quit. 

So aside from my faith, I turn once in a while to self-help books. Just to give me a little boost of inspiration and at times a dash of courage to continue and maintain my eye on the prize. MOTIVATE ME is really a personal post, something that's more for me, a sort of catharsis if you must and I know YOU, my beloved Supies, aren't the target audience for this so I'd totally understand if you ignore me, that's okay. At the same time, thanks for giving me a hall pass, you have no idea how much this is needed!

Follow Your Passion, Find Your Power: Everything You Need to Know about the Law of Attraction by Bob Doyle
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: James James
Length: 4 hours, 50 mins
Release Date: March 8, 2012
Publisher: Audible Studios
Purchase: Audible

Remember The Secret by Rhonda Byrne? Well I'm one of those people who lapped it up and did my best to imbibe its teachings. See I'm a pessimist by nature, I'm the type who always hope for the best but braces for the worst and though this attitude has its merits, more often than not I come across as a downer. And that sucks when you're around joyful and hopeful people. Now for some changing this might be easy but for me, it was a hard habit to break because thinking the worst case scenario is almost like second nature to me so I decided to seek help and change this part of my life. 

Bob Doyle was one of the featured speakers in The Secret and one of my favorite motivational speaker. You might say that some of the things he's "preaching" is common sense, and I couldn't agree with you more! However when you're down on your luck and swimming in a cesspool of disappointment, common sense stops becoming so common and sometimes one needs a reminder to get things in perspective. 

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: The Law of Attraction is the main focus in Follow Your Passion, Find Your Power and though we've heard a lot of things about this [not so] new age idea, BDoyle took it further and deeper. I especially liked how he addressed the naysayers and shared his two cents regarding attracting negative things. My favorite part are the release exercises, he shared techniques on how to let go of negative thoughts and feelings followed by steps how to stay positive. My favorite and the one I've been doing since is the Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT routine (you may find tutorials on youtube).

NARRATION: I do prefer non-fiction over fiction audio books. The way I process motivational books is the same way I'd listen to a lecture or a sermon, I find myself paying attention more and absorbing what's being said. I guess it's the conviction of the speaker that does it for me. It took me a bit to get into James James' narration, it felt like he was reading off a textbook at first but eventually warmed up. Personally I hope it was Mr. Doyle himself who read the book to us. 

MOTIVATING?: Absolutely! Again I know some of the things he said are common sense but for a pessimist and overthinker like myself, this is a much needed lecture. I've relistened to a few chapters since finishing Follow Your Passion, Find Your Power and I'm sure it won't be the last.

January 30, 2015

Loved It: Keep Me Safe & In His Keeping by Maya Banks

Slow Burn 1 & 2
Maya Banks
10.7.14 | 1.27.15
William Morrow Paperbacks
Romantic Suspense | Psych-Thriller

KEEP ME SAFE: I love a good thriller especially if it involves serial killers with a para-psych twist. Slow Burn 1 started real good and the whole plot of the book is amazing. An empath, Ramie, is telephatically connected to this serial killer who's hunting her. Enter Caleb Devereuax, the kinght in shining armor whose sister, Tori, Ramie saved from his abductor.

I wanted a good cat and mouse chase but I didn't get enough facetime with the killer to make the threat more invasive. Also a few parts in the climax and resolution were glossed over so it dulled the impact of finally catching the bad guy for me. Lastly I did not like the romance here at all. It felt a lot like insta-love and was brought up prematurely in the story.

IN HIS KEEPING: Big improvement from the first one. There's still some insta-love but since this has paranormal elements, I'll give it a pass plus Maya Banks drew the romance out a little bit, giving this a slow burn feel. The plot is really good, it has a foreboding start so the anticipation is high from the beginning. The action is solid, I do love a good chase and MBanks dealt it in spades. The conflict is great too, a science experiment gone wrong and deadly and the resolution was well executed. What I loved most about IN HIS KEEPING is the family dynamic between the Deveroux brothers and Ari's family. Ari's dad, Gerald, is my favorite character, he's the most compelling and his love for his daughter Ari and his wife, Ginger, is very touching. 

SLOW BURN: I didn't like MBanks' Surrender trilogy so I was careful not to expect too much when I started this series. I thought the books were romantic suspense so I was delighted to discover that this was a para-psychological thriller featuring telekinetics, empaths, and the like. Now even if I like this series enough, MBanks' brand of romance isn't exactly my cup of tea, she likes insta-love and you know that's my book pet peeve. Still I can tolerate the love stories because in fairness, the smex is hot and the other aspects of the series are so good, love at first sight is a small price to pay for an action-suspense packed series. Plus these are quick reads too and KEEP ME SAFE and IN HIS KEEPING has a great balance of contemporary romance and paranormal elements so it's one of those genre crossing series we all love.

My name is Maya Banks and I live in Texas with my husband and three children and our assortment of pets. I’m more of a cat person, but my daughter became convinced she NEEDED a dog. So convinced in fact that it became her mission to convince her father and me. She prepared a two page handwritten proposal that detailed WHY she needed a dog, and well, after I sent her to her father (I knew he wouldn’t tell her no) we embarked on the search for the perfect dog. The journey that was two hours away and that I got pulled over for speeding while I was on the phone with my agent who had an offer from a publisher for one of my books… The officer wasn’t impressed. He wrote me a ticket anyway. Thus, I now tell my daughter that her dog turned into one very expensive concession! But isn’t he cute?

When I’m not writing, I love to hunt and fish with my family. We all love the outdoorsMaya's Dog and go on family hunting trips every year. We also love to travel. One of our more recent trips was to Scotland, which was every bit as comical as National Lampoon’s European Vacation. You know the part about “Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament” as they went round and round the roundabouts? Yeah, that was us, only we couldn’t even get out of the airport in Glasgow without hitting three of those suckers.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of a writing career is getting to meet so many wonderful readers. There’s nothing better than dishing books with someone who loves the romance genre as much as I do. Romance readers are passionate and vocal. We love our books, love our happily ever afters, and we love to spend time talking to others about our favorites. THIS is why I love my job so much, and I’m so grateful to readers who gave ME a chance when I began my career. So thank you.


January 29, 2015

Quick Hits: How to Handle a Heartbreaker by Marie Harte & A Single Kiss by Grace Burrowes

How To Handle A Heartbreaker | The McCauley Brothers 2 | Marie Harte
Contemporary Romance | August 5, 2014 | Sourcebooks Casablanca
Bloggy Friend Reviews: Guilty Pleasures & Christy's Love of Books

HOW TO HANDLE A HEARTBREAKER was recommended to me by Bookish Babe Andrea (I miss you, beech!). I read this a while back and realized I have yet to review it so better late than never!

Anyway, Marie Harte is now one of my go-to authors for romcom. I still have to read the rest of the books but I'm sure it'll be worth reading and very entertaining to boot! What I loved about HOW TO HANDLE A HEARTBREAKER is how Marie Harte executed the dual POV brilliantly! Brody Singer's chapters are very playful and stupidly "male" while Abby's are more romanticized and very girly. Also these two started as fluck buddies with Brody serving as Abby's "research specimen" for her erotic novels. The progression of their story was filled with lots of sexy flirting, hot sex, and ridiculous bickering. And even when it got to the heart of things, when Abby and Brody were hashing out their baggage and transitioning from friends with benefits to a committed relationship, it still felt light and sincere. I love the family dynamics and the very light drama, this series is my kind of contemporary romance.

A Single Kiss | Sweet Kisses 1 | Grace Burrowes
Contemporary Romance | January 6, 2015 | Sourcebooks Casablanca

Grace Burrowes is a highly recommended author by my SW, Grace of Books of Love, she loves Ms. Burrowes' historical romance novels and as I don't read much histrom, I thought this new series would be a better fit for me. So trust me, I'm very disappointed that I didn't like A SINGLE KISS

A SINGLE KISS to me was like a cross between The Good Wife and Law & Order: SVU, family drama meets the courtroom. There was a lot of legal jargon that flew over my head and at times I feel like I'm reading the story midway (I checked the prequel novella and it's independent from this). Now these are all minor things compared to the overall picture, something I would dock a cauldron for for subjective reasons. I disliked A SINGLE KISS because: 
  1. Hannah Stark was very standoffish, mysterious, and very defensive for the first half of the book for reasons that are revealed later on in the story and in hindsight, I understand why her demeanor was so. However it took too long for her to warm up and by the time she was showing vulnerability, I was way past the mark where I could've connected with her

  2. Trent Knightley does honor to his name because he's sweet, thoughtful, protective, and just embrace Hannah, secrets and all, from almost the beginning. Unfortunately his loving manners got too much where I found it corny. Braiding Hannah's hair? Cute but not for me

  3. The conflict was shallow

  4. The resolution was so convenient rainbows and unicorns are jumping off the pages in pure joy! It's too neat, too pretty and without preamble except for giving us readers a happily ever after. 
I'll still read the next one because it features a different couple, different story, and I'm hoping A SINGLE KISS is just a one time thing and the rest of the books sweeps me off my feet.

January 28, 2015

Shelley Liked It: In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

Series: The Darkest Minds # 3 
Format: Hardcover, 535 pages
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult | Dystopian
Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire

In The Afterlight is the final installment in The Darkest Minds trilogy, bringing everything to a head. Ruby Daly and the survivors of the attack on the Children's League & Federal Coalition in Los Angeles are fractured, and struggling to survive. Cate and other agents are missing, other agents want to ransom the kids for money to fight President Gray, and Ruby is feeling the loss of a certain character who she was supposed to take care of. 

With President Gray and his thugs squeezing them like sardines, and with broken trust and betrayal on the horizon, Ruby becomes a totally different character. I would say that in many ways, she was as cold as the other side of the pillow, and had the emotional baggage of someone who slept around one too many times. But, we can't expect that Ruby will be the perfect character. If you do, then you didn't pay attention to the previous two novels. She has had to do things in order to survive, including removing Liam's memories, make difficult decisions as a leader, and working with the devil himself, Clancy Gray.

I want to be able say that I had no qualms or problems with this story, but then I would be a liar, and that's just not the way I roll. You want to know what this story really was set up on? Conflicts. Conflicts between Ruby and Cole over the direction they should be heading. Between Cole and Liam because that's how brothers act. Between Ruby and Liam, Vida, Nico, Cate, and especially Clancy who is supposedly the key to finding his mother, and the supposed cure for IAAN. 

It's also a story about struggle and survival. Ruby's struggle with her powers which have grown exponentially. Her struggle to make things up to Liam who she loves, but can't trust herself to ensure that he won't be killed or do something stupid in order to save her. Ruby wants to end the rehabilitation camps, but it isn't until almost the end of the book and a shocking loss before she makes a life or death choice and finds her way back to Thurmond.

I will say this, the last chapters of In The Afterlight truly saved the entire book from being a disappointment for me. There are still a whole bunch of non-answered questions, but that is part of life I guess. I liked that almost every character, including Suzume (Zu) gets their return engagement. I was a bit worried that Bracken had written her off, and actually did a little jig once the original group of Ruby, Liam, Zu, and Chubs were reunited. Add in Vida, and you have a really awesome group of characters.

Since the book is over 500 pages, I would have liked to see more story development from Senator Cruz, Dr. Lillian Gray, and especially Cate who helped Ruby escape from Thurmond. After everything that is said and done, Cate kind of was left out in the middle of nowhere, with no particular storyline to finish, with only a brief nod to thank her for being the only family Ruby had at the time.  

In the end, this series has been filed with heartbreaking deaths, fantastic and often time humorous relationships, frustrating tensions, especially between Liam and Ruby, and an ending that leaves room for the imagination since there are no more books in this series. Oh, and let's not forget my favorite part, Vida and Chubs!!!

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January 27, 2015

Suped Up: Strange Magic 1 by Michelle Mankin

Series: Strange Maigc 1 | The Magic Series
Format: Mobi
Release Date: January 22, 2015 
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: New Adult - PNR
Billy Blade is a hardworking, hard living, razor sharp musical force. Mysterious behind his dark shades, the rough around the edges Texan mesmerizes with his haunting harmonica and tantalizes with his dangerous looks and smooth country charm. His latest album is topping the charts. He’s the newly crowned King of the Bacchus Krewe. He’s definitely living the rock star dream.

Exotic Creole beauty Thyme Bellerose couldn't be more content. She has it all. An adoring grandmother. A handsome Tulane medical student beau. A satisfying job in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Her life is as rich as the ice cream she creates. She’s got everything under control.

But control is an illusion. Dreams can turn into nightmares. And now during Mardi Gras, otherworldly powers stand ready to shape their destinies in ways they could never imagine.

Shadow and light. Magic and mystery. Reality and myth. All come together in a place where rules bend and lines blur. Even those between life and death.

Please note: This is Part One of a Two part novel. It does NOT stand alone. Part Two is available for pre-sale exclusively on Amazon. Recommended for mature readers. 17 and older.

Better late than never! I'm a little "late" for the release day party but I made it just in time to share not only my thoughts about Michelle Mankin's latest project, STRANGE MAGIC, but also to share her epic giveaway below. Aside from her sexy rock stars, scorching romances, Ms. Mankin is a generous party host and I'll be loathe not to share it with you. 


Thyme Bellarose's story will have you glued from beginning to end. I love her spunk and stubbornness, this girl doesn't stand down and rightfully so. She's up for a long hard battle though and I'm anxious to see how she's going to go about it considering she's not necessarily well equipped to fight the people coming after her. Then again, its the reluctant ones that makes for great heroines so let's see what kind of awesomeness Thyme's going to be.

NOLA. Ice Cream. Voodoo. Music. Gods & their progeny. Crazy combo right but trust me it works! This little novella is the backstory to the main arc so it's imperative that you read this otherwise things won't make much sense when part 2 releases. Anyway I love STRANGE MAGIC P1 even if it ended in a big WTF What now?! way. STRANGE MAGIC captured my imagination, gave me a different kind of NOLA where evil hides in plain sight and all kinds of mischief happens in the shadows while  the music blasts and the alcohol flows. It's playful and dangerous at the same time and I love this new musical fantasy MMankin penned for us, I'm excited to read some more!

MICHELLE MANKIN is the author of the Black Cat Records series of novels. Romance with subtext. For many years she worked in the insurance industry as an underwriter. Somehow, the boredom didn't kill her but the hour and hours of looking at facts and figures provided ample time for her mind to wander. Black Cat Records in Vancouver provides the central backdrop for all of Michelle’s current novels. Love Evolution, Love Revolution, and Love Resolution are a Brutal Strength centered trilogy, combining the plot underpinnings of Shakespeare with the drama, excitement, and indisputable sexiness of the rock 'n roll industry. Things take a bit of a darker, edgier, once upon a turn with the Tempest series. These pierced, tatted, and troubled Seattle rockers are young and on the cusp of making it big, but with serious obstacles to overcome that may prevent them from ever getting there. When Michelle is not prowling the streets of her Texas town listening to her rock music much too loud, she is putting her daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends, sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend as she takes the children to school and back. 

Stalk Michelle