Monday, July 28, 2014

Awakened by Virna DePaul

Series: The Belladonna Agency #2
Publisher: Bantam
Available Now
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer for review
Ex-soldier Barrett Miles had no idea that vampires were real—until Belladonna recruits her to serve as a covert agent and infiltrate a murderous sex ring run by the most depraved of immortals, those who feed on the purity and blood of innocents. Their latest victim: a young girl whom Barrett promised to protect. She will be sold—unless Barrett can find her first. Forced to team up with her former lover, Nick Maltese, an undercover sniper, Barrett is caught between fulfilling her personal mission and shielding her heart from the man who betrayed her. 
Nick’s hunting a new breed of vampires and harboring a terrible secret when Barrett finds him. Soon a seething underworld of strange desires threatens to engulf them all. Can he save the girl and reclaim Barrett’s heart? Nick knows he has only one chance to prove himself to her as the hunt begins—and their love forces them to embrace the darkest places in their souls.
My thoughts:
 I did read the first book, but since each book features a couple, it can be read as a standalone. While I did get introduced to Barrett in the first book, it was only a slight introduction so the information I gathered from the first book wasn't major. And while I had some problems with the worldbuilding in the first book (what is the Belladonna agency... exactly?) I didn't get answers here either. I still feel that the books are slowly building to those answers as we keep meeting couples in this world. I am confident that the agency's secrets will be revealed in time.

I did enjoy the characters in this book. Barrett is all determined to rescuing a friend's daughter from a sex/blood ring for vampires. I also liked Nick and even though he was taciturn at the wrong moments, still managed to correct the oversight and tell Barrett how he felt. She took more time in that area, however. It was nice seeing the female as the one who had commitment issues. LOL I also ended up liking Jane, the victim whom they were trying to rescue. I'd like to see her in later installments kicking some arse because of her experience here. I think she has the personality for it.

While I did enjoy how these characters were put together, I did find a bit of a problem with the bad guy. He had such potential in becoming part of a story arc where he is a thorn in their side. However, in the end he just seemed too easy to defeat. I also felt that the main story could have been tightened up a bit and perhaps which would then leave more room for secondary character development... or at least tell us more about the various FBI agencies who seem to be involved. If that is to remain mysterious then I would like to know more about born vampires. I just need more worldbuilding!

I give this book 3 stars. I recommend it to those that enjoy a PNR with a bit of action. Be prepared to be at a bit of a loss with the worldbuilding. ;)
LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Friday, July 25, 2014

Doghouse by L. A. Kornetsky

Series: Gin and Tonic Mystery #3
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: July, 22, 14
Source: From publisher for review
In the third novel in the entertaining (Library Journal) Gin & Tonic mystery series, the stakes are raised when Ginny Mallard and Teddy Tonica stumble on an underground dog fighting ring with bloody consequences. 
Even though she's unlicensed as an investigator, the infamously nosy Ginny Mallard has begun to make a name for herself as an unofficial champion of the tongue-tied. When a mysterious stranger comes to her with landlord trouble, she convinces her bartender friend Teddy Tonica to help her once more. Soon, they realize they might have got themselves tied up in an underground dogfighting ring. With the help of Ginny's pet shar-pei puppy and Tonica's tabby cat, they have to figure out what's going on before someone else gets hurt. Will twelve legs really be better than four?
My thoughts:
This is the third book, but you don't need to read them to start this book. While you might have missed some details about the main characters, the mystery is complete within this book. So it can be read as a standalone.

The mystery actually plods along and you are wondering exactly what you are dealing with in the mystery. You know it has to do with puppies and some illegal activity but no real clues are produced until the end. Even then the mystery doesn't quiet seem clear. The ending is quite messy but complete. It actually feels more realistic and as if in real life it would happen that way. While the story line for the humans seems to be slow, the inner dialog with the animals (yes, you get inside their heads) was quite entertaining. I would have loved to see more involvement with the animals even though they couldn't directly communicate with their humans.

I give this book 3 stars. I recommend it to those that really like animals and cozy mysteries.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by Felix Schienberger

Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Available Now
Source: Blogging for Books for review
A guide that shows painters, drawers, doodlers, and urban sketchers how to bring their drawings to life with colorful, bold, yet accessible painting methods. 
Watercolor sketching is a rapidly emerging technique that enlivens sketches done in pen or pencil with the expressive washes, glazes, and luminous hues of watercolor . This lushly illustrated resource teaches artists on the go how to sketch with watercolor, rendering subjects efficiently and without inhibitions. Readers are guided through all aspects of the medium, from fundamental techniques including wet-on-wet, glazing, and washes; materials and supplies; and little known tips and tricks for getting the most out of watercolor (for example, just sprinkling a little salt on your painting creates a texture that's impossible to achieve with a brush.) A strong focus color theory provides a solid foundation for enhancing drawings with vibrant hues.
My thoughts:
 I'm always on the lookout for inspiration to help me sketch. Confession: I do not sketch but all artists need to sketch. I know this and yet I still don't do it. *hangs head in shame* Since my primary medium is watercolor I was happy to review this book.

The book is wonderful for the beginner. It has some great information including some history of watercolor presented in a way that isn't boring. Plus all the illustrations throughout the book keep the book feeling light and fun. I even learned something. The author suggest using alcohol (yes the kind you drink) if you are confronting bad weather like extreme cold. While the alcohol might dull the colors a bit, you might get some interesting play on the paper. While this was a good epiphany, the rest of the book was a rehash of things I already knew. So, therefore, I would recommend the contents of the book to beginners on the watercolor journey.

I did have few criticisms of the book. One was when the author was describing glazing. This technique is often when you apply one wash of color over a dried wash of color. The author left out some important information in this chapter. One was knowing your staining colors. Those are excellent to glaze over since you won't be picking up paint while going over that color. The other is transparency of the colors. Some watercolor paints (like your cadmiums) are somewhat opaque and will affect your glazing ability. I also would have liked a section for water control. It is important to learn how much water your brush is holding to get the effect you want for your painting. My last criticism is that this book seemed geared for finished paintings and not sketches. While that is usually your goal, it isn't always with sketching. He did give some great advice toward sketching but it kept switching between that and finishing your painting. I think it would have been more effective the book was about sketching and have an ending chapter about finished work.

I give this book 3 stars. I recommend it to those that need a foundation course on watercolor in particular. More advanced artists might enjoy it for the loose sketching and artwork within.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Poison Promise by Jennifer Estep

Series: Elemental Assassin #11
Publisher: Pocket Books
Published: 7/22/14
Source: From NetGalley and publisher for review
Gin Blanco is hard-nosed, sexy, and lethal. Nicknamed “The Spider,” she’s a stone elemental assassin who brings her unique mix of magic and tact to every assignment, no matter the target. 
There’s a new drug on the streets of Ashland, and its name “Burn” sums up the potent effect it has on its users. When one of her restaurant employees is threatened by dealers of the drug, Gin steps in to set things straight…

My thoughts:
 Can you believe this is #11? I am still enjoying this series so much and this is a good addition to the series. I will do my best to not spoil it for anyone since I know that several of you aren't up to this book yet.

As we usually see in the series, Gin is up against a baddie who seems like he could get the best of her. And like the rest of the series I was sucked into the book and it didn't let go until I finished it. The pages flew by and in this book we end up with a new secondary character. I'm quite happy about that since I ended up liking him from close to the start. Don't want to give away more than that. As for the rest of the book, we do get a huge amount of information for the second story arc in the series. It is important and I was surprised we got so much. I think that arc is about to make it's way into being part of the main storyline.

I give this book 4 stars. This is a series I think at times can be read out of order, but I do not suggest it. The storyline arcs throughout the series makes more sense when read in order and so do the characters. Poison Promise is a great addition to the series and it will make you want more without having to indulge in the dreaded cliffie. I recommend the SERIES to people who enjoy UF.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Collection (The Registry #2) by Shannon Stoker

Series: The Registry #2
Publisher: Wm. Morrow
Available Now
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers for review
How far would you go to control your own destiny?

Mia Morrissey has escaped: America, the Registry, and the role she was raised for— a perfect bride auctioned to the highest bidder. She’s enemy number one to the world’s largest power, and there’s no turning back now. 
From the moment she and her friends Andrew, and Carter cross the border into Mexico it becomes clear their troubles are only beginning. The young men are immediately picked up by a violent and omnipotent militia—The Collection—and it’s Mia’s turn to rescue them. 
With time running out, her ex-fiancĂ©’s henchman on her trail, and a dangerous tide shifting back in America, Mia will do whatever she has to. Even if that means risking everything and putting herself back on an auction block. The price of freedom is never too high…but what if the cost is her life?
My thoughts:
I didn't read the first book and knowing this was a trilogy I did worry that I would have trouble following the book. I didn't have problems at all. In fact I forgot this was the second book. There were only a couple of times when I felt as if I missed something, but even then I didn't think what I missed was a big deal for this book. I think that is because this book marks a beginning for all the characters on a new adventure. So yes, you can read this one without feeling lost.

I did like Mia's character. Willing to learn she starts out as a mouse and really starts to grow into her own person. Even when presented with what seems like an incredible offer she stops to ponder what it means for her and her new life. I liked that rather than jumping blindly into things. In fact, she becomes a pretty good strategist. I also like the secondary characters. Riley was my favorite secondary character and I hope we meet her again in the final book. I really want to know more of her story.

My biggest complaint about the book was the focus on the Registry. Yes, I do understand it is a list which promotes and controls young women in this world. However, I don't think that just taking down the Registry would accomplish taking down a whole country. There were more issues and problems and it just seemed to over simplify things. It just did't make sense to think this was solving a much bigger problem.

I give this book 3 stars. If you missed the first book, don't worry you can read this one easily out of order. I am curious to see what happens next and I'm guessing that it would be more important to read this book before reading the last. Things set up the last book too well. I'm looking forward to the trilogy's end.