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Jess Haines

I'm an author, a dreamer, a paperback reader...

Currently reading

Hunter's Moon (Tales of the Sazi, Book 1)
'C. T. Adams', 'Cathy Clamp'

Author Website of Jess Haines

S.E.C.R.E.T. - L. Marie Adeline Short version: Can't recommend this book, will not be reading the sequel.

Long version: I blame myself for not reading the back cover blurb to get an idea of what this story was about before I picked it off the pile of books I got at a convention. I don't usually read erotica, and probably wouldn't have started it if I had realized this was another 50 Shades riff.

At first, the story was intriguing and very engaging. The path of self-discovery through sex with total strangers fulfilling a waitress's deepest, darkest, distressingly vanilla fantasies, all arranged by a secret society, felt a bit... erm... hard to believe. Still, in the beginning, the writing sucked me in.

From the start, I didn't like that Cassie, the MC, was crushing hard on her boss, Will, who owns the cafe where she works. The boss/secretary (or similar) trope squicks me out, and it was even worse because he was in a relationship with another waitress who worked for him. Note that Cassie explains in the narrative that he had asked her out first, but she turned him down--which doesn't make me think very highly of Will, considering he uses his employees as a dating pool. It's a point in favor of the author's skill that she intrigued me enough to stay with the story despite my issues with that type of plot-line and the love interest being in a committed relationship with someone else.

The sexual fantasies were, at first, titillating, but at some point I felt like skimming them because it felt like more of the same. For being fantasies, there wasn't much particularly daring or unusual aside from the fact that Cassie was getting down and dirty with perfect strangers. Once the shock and initial "tee hee!" wore off, most of the time I worried more about whether her partners had been tested for STDs before the hookups than what new aspect of her personality would shine after the latest unlikely scenario.

In the latter third of the book, the writing felt weaker and rushed, the characterization of the MC and a few of the side characters seemed inconsistent with the rest of the book, and the "rival" for the love interest's attention became too cartoonish to take seriously. Which was a shame, because it was off to such a promising start, and there was a great deal to like about the book, such as the diversity, the descriptions of New Orleans, and the main character's decision to take control of her life and sexuality.

Then I hit the "surprise" ending--maybe 5 to 10 pages left--and threw the book. Then picked it up and tossed it in the trash. Hence the DNF. Read below the spoiler alert line if you want to know the specifics.


Once Will breaks up with his girlfriend of 3 years and has sex with Cassie, it seems like all is well and we get the requisite HEA with no unsightly strings. However, the morning after, Cassie goes to work and Will's ex shows up to announce that she's pregnant and Will offered to marry her.

Yeah. I'm done.
My Life as A White Trash Zombie - Diana Rowland Enjoyed this one quite a lot more than expected. Great, smart UF with a mystery that kept me guessing up 'til the end.

Only niggle was that I didn't buy the culprit who was committing the murders. That might seem huge, but compared to the rest of the book and the ending, it wasn't that big a deal. Recommended if you like UF.
Under a Vampire Moon - Lynsay Sands Cute and silly. At times, it got a little too repetitive, and it felt a little too much like Carolyn accepted Christian's lies about his family and sexuality too blithely when he finally got around to coming clean to her. Her doubts about herself and her body were understandable but it did get exasperating after a while. Christian's methods to get close to Carolyn were uncool, but still pretty funny to read about.

A good beach read. Recommend if you're looking for something light and humorous to while away a couple of hours.
Wicked as They Come - Delilah S. Dawson This book was excellent. I read it on my way to the Old City, New Blood convention and couldn’t put it down. I loved it so much that I gave the copy I bought for the trip to my mom, and bought another one just so I could have Delilah sign it while I was at the con.

Most of you know I’m not usually much of a fan of paranormal romance–I prefer my fantasy to be about saving the group/city/world vs. the relationship–but this book was fun, imaginative, and I loved that the heroine didn’t buy into the “fated lovers” spiel in the least. She explored her options, and showed real backbone and fire, plus a sense of humor that was right up my alley.

While Criminy Stain, the wicked Bludman ringmaster and Tish’s love interest, perhaps could have been more menacing in his role, I did well and sincerely believe that he was desperately in love with Tish. Even when she gave him every reason not to. Her reaction when she is transported from the “real” world to Sang, a place of violence and blood/blud, was humorous and believable at once. The sexual tension builds at a realistic pace, and by the time Tish and Criminy do end up together, you have no question in your mind that the two of them were meant for each other. Her initial reluctance and approach to the relationship was a refreshing take on the “fated mate” trope that I’ve seen far too much of, and it was fascinating to see how she came to terms with her attraction to Criminy.

I don’t want to get into the meat of the story in the review because I believe that this is a novel best explored for oneself. It’s passionate and whimsical, at times sexy and intense, and delightfully weird. Strong world-building, vivid, engaging characters, and a clever story make this a must-read for fans of steampunk, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. I’m already chomping at the bit for the next book in the series, WICKED AS SHE WANTS, coming April 30th, 2013.


Originally posted: http://jesshaines.com/blog/2013/03/13/book-review-wicked-as-they-come-by-delilah-s-dawson/
A Hint of Frost - Hailey Edwards I'm torn about this book. To be perfectly honest, if someone whose opinion I trust had not told me that it got better, I would have given up within the first few chapters, maybe sooner.

Before you read my issues with it, I do want you to know that it was a compelling story, and most of the characters were very well fleshed out. The fantasy elements were well thought out, the plot was cleverly executed, and the romance between Lourdes and Rhys was sweet. The ending was satisfying, and the journey to get there was worthwhile.

In the beginning, my knee-jerk reaction when I realized that the story was about a people who can produce some kind of thread from their hands or fingers and with venomous fangs--spider-like traits--was to "NOPE" right on out to the next book. It wasn't clear to me from the back cover blurb, and spiders are high on my meter of "Things That Squick Me Out".

I did stick it out, and I'll admit that in the beginning my arachnophobia contributed to my desire to find a reason--any reason--not to read to the end. The name soup with the people and their clans made it very confusing and difficult to follow at times, and was another issue I had a hard time overlooking. Araneidae, Mimetidae, Theridiidae, Salticidae... Those are just some of the clan names. Some of the character names are tongue-twisters, too. I won't go into that here, but suffice to say it was enough to make me wish for a guide chart of some kind to refer to now and then.

Aside from those issues, the story itself was intriguing. Lourdes made an excellent, strong-willed heroine who used every tool at her disposal, including herself, to solve the murder of her parents and discover whether her sister had turned traitor. The originality and effort that went into the world-building can't be denied. The ending was warm and fuzzy, just right for a sweet romance, and the buildup of sexual tension between Lourdes and Rhys made the ending satisfying.

The road to get to that ending was rocky, with a few stumbles along the way, but once it got going, it was a decent read. I can't in all honesty say that I recommend A Hint of Frost highly, but if you're in the mood for a romance with strong fantasy elements, you might enjoy it.

Blade Song - J.C. Daniels Disclosure: Review copy received from author. This in no way impacted my review or opinion of this story.

My Review:

What a fun book!

Kit Colbana is a half-blood Aneira–something like an Amazon with magical powers–who works as a private investigator in an alternate, present-day Florida. Due to her half-blood nature, her grandmother abused her badly in the process of training her to be a warrior. In the present, Kit uses the skills that were beaten into her to stay alive and help some of the more powerful supernaturals in her community, which is how she came to the attention of the cat shifters. The love interest and an enforcer for the cats, Damon, delivers her up to his alpha, whose ward has run away.

And it’s no wonder the kid ran off. This woman is scary powerful and completely batshit.

The crazy-ass leader of the cats isn’t the only one who has had a family member go missing. The more Kit and Damon dig into the case, the clearer it becomes that young non-humans of all flavors have been disappearing. This strikes a very personal chord for Kit, as she knows what it’s like to be abused, alone, and scared. Her concern for them and drive to find the missing kid(s) leads her to making deals with a vampire, visiting dangerous shifters, and turning to local witches for help.

I really enjoyed this story. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I liked the world building, the way the mystery was set up, and how Kit was very realistically in an emotionally bad place from the start. Her tragic past made it clear that the case was impacting her in a very bad way, and it made the search feel more personal, somehow.

There are a couple of things which did pull me out of the story. The repetition of certain points, particularly near the beginning, and then again towards the end, did make me want to skim some parts to get on with it. While it slowed the pace to a degree, the way the tension kept building as new facets of the case came to light did keep me glued to the pages.

The other thing that bothered me was how much of an alphahole the love interest turned out to be. As hot as Damon is portrayed, and though he gentled towards her later, I didn’t feel there was enough of an apology out of him for assaulting Kit or really any change in him as a person. I’m not convinced that he was such a great guy or that he really grew out of that assholish, abusive behavior where anyone else was concerned, particularly considering how she had to use the threat of leaving him to push him to do the right thing near the end of the book. His change in attitude towards her over the course of the story seemed pretty organic for a shifter finding his mate, and the sexual tension was phenominal… but I’m not convinced that choosing Damon over the vampire, Jude, was really any better for her. If you’ve read the book, you know what a condemnation of his character that is.

Characters making and suffering the consequences of bad decisions is what makes for juicy reading, but there’s a line between alpha and alphahole. Damon has his sexy moments, but the jury (at least in my case) is still out on him for a long-term relationship with Kit. She really rushed into a decision that can’t be taken back, and it really made my respect for her as a character take a nosedive when she chose to tie herself so permanently to Damon in the end.

Aside from that, the author does a fabulous job of building the tension, working the mystery, and tying all the loose ends together. It certainly didn’t turn me off of the story–I devoured half of it in a single sitting. This is a real page-turner, and I do recommend it if you’re in the mood for a compelling, gritty read.

In short, this is a fascinating new urban fantasy with a dash of romance, I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on the next book.
Ashes and Wine - Taryn Elliott I'm not usually a fan of contemporary romance, but I really enjoyed this. A very sweet, heartfelt story, with a number of lush, lovely details that made it so that you could almost taste the various wines roll over your tongue.

Royal's a bit of a pigheaded hero, but that's par for the course in this genre. The only thing I didn't like was that he felt a need to hide his family situation or why he was keeping his distance from the love interest, Tessa. I'm not a fan of dudes hiding their feelings, but I know it happens often in (ahem) Real Life--it was just a personal peeve. Bad enough to deal with it in real life, let alone to see it in fiction.

That aside, it was still engaging, and I loved reading those two together. I also really enjoyed the scene with Tessa and her best friend, Mercy, getting drunk together. Really cracked me up!

Recommended if you enjoy contemp romances that tug at your heartstrings. You might need some tissues to get through this one.

Something Secret This Way Comes (Secret McQueen, #1) - Sierra Dean Once I managed to turn off a very cynical part of myself, this book was just plain fun. I'll admit to rolling my eyes at the heroine's name and herritage at first. My "oh, geez, a half-vampire, half-werewolf? Really?" knee-jerk reaction almost made me put the book down, but because Sierra has always been such a delight to talk to on Twitter, I pressed on--and I'm glad I did. The story and humor were great, even though I do feel the heroine came across as too Mary Sue-ish at the start, and occasionally throughout the rest of the book. I didn't quite buy the soulmate/insta-lust stuff with the werewolves either, but I rarely do in any story, so that's just a personal preference.

After a few chapters, the story hit its stride and the conflict between Secret's dual natures became very interesting indeed. The ending surprised me, and despite how my reaction in the last paragraph might sound, I'm actually looking forward to picking up the next book to see where things go.

Rating: 3.5/5
Attic Clowns - Jeremy Shipp Creepy as hell. If you like reading surreal, scary stories, this book is a decent read. A collection of four short stories, each one has its own macabre charm. GIGGLES was my favorite (4.5/5), PRINCESS my least favorite (2/5), DON'T LAUGH was incredibly strange but compelling (3/5), and THE GLASS BOX was an entertaining but ultimately forgettable read (3/5).

Rating: 3/5
Queene of Light - Jennifer Armintrout This book took me by surprise. It took me a couple of chapters to warm up to it, as the capitalization of certain words and language choice bugged me (e.g., adding "E" to the end of words that don't normally have that letter, like "queene"), but once I got past that nit, I couldn't put it down. The story is gripping, the characters and world-building fascinating, and the setup for the next two books has left me eager to continue the trilogy. I'll give a more detailed review of all three books on my blog once I've finished the other two.

Rating: 4/5
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War - Max Brooks This one was just too long, too repetitive, and the "voices" of the various interviewees all started sounding the same after a while. There are truly some very clever parts, and the reactions/consequences of a zombie apocalypse all read as spot-on observations as to how things would go down, but it lost momentum somewhere along the way. This one was exceptionally disappointing for me because Brooks wrote such a compelling short story for The Daily Beast last year about a vampire trapped in the world where this book is set. That short story was what made me really want to read this book, so you might understand why I was exceptionally unhappy that WORLD WAR Z didn't work for me.

There are definitely parts of this book that were gripping and fascinating, but for the most part, it felt too dry and unrelentingly depressing. I gave up with around 50-75 pages left, once it hit me that I just didn't care enough about the people or situation anymore since, again, the interviews were becoming monotonous, and it felt a little too far removed from the action. In my opinion, the highlight of the book was the interview with the security guard describing his experience in New York.

Dreadful Beginnings - Marty Shaw A small bite of what I hope will be a bigger series, DREADFUL BEGINNINGS is an urban fantasy novella with a very young adult feel to it. The main character, Penny, just graduated high school and is having a heck of a time finding and keeping a job. She likes hanging out in cemeteries, drinking cappuccino at the mall, and basically being a slack teenager. Telemarketing? Working in real estate with her mother? Not so much.

The author did a great job capturing the "voice" of a teenage girl without making her irritating or whiny. My hat is off to Mr. Shaw for pulling that off.

When Penny and her friends accidentally set a demon free while casting a spell which is supposed to bring them luck, wackiness ensues. The demon is pretty freaky, and I had a momentary flashback to one of the R.L. Stine Fear Street novels when the demon trapped Penny in the shower.

The story is fast-paced, the Big Bad is suitably evil, and the Doc remains a mystery. If you're looking for a shorter, self-contained urban fantasy story with a young adult feel, this is a good one, though I didn't find myself emotionally involved during certain scenes. Penny's reaction to the death of her best friend did feel a bit glossed over, and the talk with her mom at the end didn't move me at all, but it still packs a punch considering the length of the story.

In short, this was a tasty treat and I do want more. Hopefully the next installment will be a full length novel!
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir - Jenny Lawson It's like this book was written just for me.

People... oh, people, I was crying with laughter over this entire book. Except for the parts where I was crying happy tears for the people Jenny helped, or gasping with horror at the latest travesty to befall her.

This book is hilarious. I really don't know what else to say. If you know anything about her, you know that Jenny is completely insouciant, and fucked up in the most delightful way. She's also an incredible person who came up with some truly lovely and selfless ways to help others, like the Traveling Red Dress and the James Garfield Christmas Miracle.

If you're not familiar with The Bloggess, read this post, and then decide for yourself if you can deal with her sense of humor. If you find it funny, even a little bit, then chances are you will love LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED.

God, I want my own Beyoncé.
Viking Warrior - Connie Mason I’m not gonna lie—I’ve read a few rape-y bodice-rippers in my time. However, as I’ve grown older, my tastes have changed, and I now find that style of "romance" in a novel involving forced seduction to be incredibly offensive. When the girl is completely unwilling, says "no," and yet the hero continues on as if she'd said, "YEAH, BABY, GIVE IT TO ME", I am not amused. As I have previously noted.

Unlike ADORA, I felt no compunction to finish this novel. See, when I originally purchased it, as silly as it may sound, I was hoping it was a different Viking-finds-love-with-slave-girl novel. There was a very well done book I read in the 90’s that I’ve been on-and-off searching for over the years. Someone mentioned this one on a romance review website, and I was hoping that maybe I'd finally lucked out and found the book I've been looking for.

As you may have already gathered, this was not the story I read in the 90's. (Probably would have saved myself some grief if I'd checked the publication date of VIKING WARRIOR--which turned out to be circa 2008 with Dorchester--before I spent money on it. C'est la vie.)

Since it was already in my hands, I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a shot. After all, I bought the damned thing, might as well get my money's worth out of it.

Alas, once I got started, I was already disinclined to like it when I discovered within the first few pages that the primary source of wangst was going to be the heroine believing the hero was the one who raped her back when her village was sacked and she was originally taken as a slave.

So, does the hero tell her he wasn't the one who played hide the sausage with her way back in the day?


The hero wants to avoid some drama llama within his own family since the guy who actually boinked her was related to him somehow. The sister-in-law's brother or something. I dunno, I wasn't paying close enough attention. Anyway, Wulf thinks it would be best to avoid telling his new thrall that, while he was the one who carted her off and sold her into slavery, it was some other Viking who gave her the slip of his love muscle (sorry, Romance Man, I couldn’t resist using that one) and desecrated her virgin sanctum of honeyed warmth. Or whatever.

So. Moving right along. His brother sees her on the auction block somewhere and brings her home to give her as a gift to the “hero”, Wulf. Said "hero" previously decided that, because Danes killed his wife/unborn child, all Danes are evil--including this woman who (quite strangely, of course) makes something dance in his pants. Therefore he must get rid of her as soon as possible. Or fuck her brains out. One of the two. The dialogue was so stiff and the characters so cardboard, it was a mite hard to tell.

Regardless, I pushed on (I needed to make the most of the $2.50 I spent on this, damn it), and made it all the way to page 62. Then the trainwreck ground to a shrieking halt.

She. Said. STOP. She. Said. NO. She. Said. DON’T TOUCH ME.

Warning: Quotation ahead (excerpt from pages 61-62 of the mmpb) is graphic and will more than likely hit some hot buttons.

I quote:

…But for some reason, Wulf’s caress wasn’t as repulsive as she had thought it would be. It actually felt rather soothing.

But when Wulf turned her around and spread the soap over her breasts, she made a valiant attempt to evade him.

“Hold still. Why are you so skittish?”

Deliberately, she glanced down to where his hands rested on her breasts.

“Your hands are on me.”

Though his hands were gentle, Reyna didn’t trust him. No man was trustworthy. She had to admit, however, that his touch sent subtle shock waves through her body. She felt…strange; her nerve endings tingled and her skin felt tight. When Wulf’s hands continued their downward path, gliding over her stomach to settle between her legs, anxiety and fear made her stiffen.

“Do not touch me there!”

When his fingers slid into the folds of her sex, panic seized her. Then she realized what Wulf was doing to her now was nothing like the first time he had assaulted her. His shockingly intimate foray into her private parts made her hot and shivery.

“I have done nothing yet.”

She raised her hands to his chest in an age-old gesture of protest and felt downy hair curl between her fingers. She jerked her hands away as if scalded. The feel of his hair-roughened skin was too raw, too intimate. Then she felt his finger slide inside her and shock pierced through her.

“Stop that!”

He rested his head against her forehead. “Now I’m doing something. Do you like it?”

“No, I do not. Nor do I like you.”

He wedged another finger in beside the first.

And I’m done.

"Do not touch me" is not slang in Romancelandia (or anywhere else) for “oh, yes, sir, PLEASE FONDLE MY NAUGHTY BITS SOME MORE”. Also, this is a rape victim he's getting handsy with.

Let me repeat. A RAPE VICTIM.

I think you can gather what killed this one for me. I’m done.

0/5 - DNF

Originally posted: http://jesshaines.com/blog/2012/04/18/book-review-viking-warrior/
Bane - H.M. Ward If you can look past the many spelling and grammar errors and have no problem suspending disbelief or logic, I can see this appealing to a younger mind-set. The relationship was very Twilight-esque, though Kahli, the main character, had more backbone than Bella ever did.

Unfortunately, due to many errors, I can't recommend this book. There were an incredible number of homonyms (e.g., "chase" instead of "chaise," "plated" instead of "plaited," "snip-its" instead of "snippets," etc) littered throughout the text. There were a few simple logical fallacies as well (e.g., the heroine knowing what certain flowers--like jasmine--would smell like even though she grew up in a landscape permanently iced over, living off of canned or packaged foods even though this is supposedly set hundreds of years after the cataclysm that changed the climate and landscape, vampires willingly culling their shrinking source of food, etc).

In short, the concept was interesting, but the execution was lacking.