Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blog Tour & Contest: Venom

Elemental Assassin #3
Author: Jennifer Estep
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Pocket
Released: 9/28/2010
Available for Kindle & Paperback

Summary: It’s hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most. To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin.

I reviewed the first book in the Elemental Assassin series back in February (read review), then I bought the second book, Web of Lies. I was especially pumped to be part of the blog tour for Venom, the third book in the series. Gin is one of my favorite urban fantasy heroines, though she would never think of herself that way. In the second book, Gin's life takes some twists and turns that had me feeling frustrated for her. (A sign of a talented writer when you think of their heroine as a real person.) In Venom, Gin may actually get hurt more than in the other books combined, but she also has a solid support group behind her now, and continues to learn about who she is and what she can do magically. This is my favorite book in the series, but it may be because of "sharing" Gin's struggles in the first two books, it made the events in Venom even more pivotal and intense.

Venom is a fast paced, gritty urban fantasy that has kick ass action scenes to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. More than that though, Gin learns to open up, to trust in those who love her, and she comes to some conclusions about herself. As I mentioned in my first review of the author's series, I love that Gin, the former hardass assassin is a gourmet cook. The more stressed she is, the more she bakes. I asked Jennifer if I could share the recipe for Chocolate Chip Pound Cake. Her mother gave her the recipe and had been making it for years, not sure where it originated, which is often the case with well loved recipes. Gin loves to serve the pound cake with a nice cold glass of milk:)

Choco­late Chip Pound Cake

1 (18.25 ounce) pack­age choco­late cake mix
1 small pack­age instant choco­late pud­ding mix
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup veg­etable oil
3 large eggs
1 (8 ounce) con­tainer sour cream
1 (12 ounce) pack­age mini choco­late morsels

Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 10-cup Bundt pan. In a large bowl, com­bine cake mix, pud­ding, and sugar. Add water, oil, and eggs. Beat with an elec­tric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Stir in sour cream and mini choco­late morsels. Pour bat­ter into pre­pared pan, and bake for 1 hour (check at 50 min­utes) or until a wooden tooth­pick inserted in cen­ter comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 min­utes. Remove from pan and let cool com­pletely on wire rack. Sprin­kle with pow­dered sugar, if desired.

There are more recipes in Gin's Recipe Box.

Jennifer Estep has given her readers some wonderful free short stories in addition to the three Elemental Assassin books. Below, I have them in order of their time frame with links to each. The titles in bold are the books available currently, the other two will be available in 2011.

These two take place when Gin was a teenager:
Web of Deceit Read here
Poison Read here

Spider's Bargain: Free here
Book one: Spider’s Bite
Web of Death: Free here
Book two: Web of Lies
Wasted: Free here
Book three: Venom
Book four: Tan­gled Threads (5/2011)
Book five: Unti­tled (10/2011)

The publisher has kindly allowed me to give away one copy of Venom to a visitor. Please leave a comment with the answer to this question:

What do YOU do when you are stressed out?

I will pick one person randomly on 10/15/2010. Please leave your answer and your email if it's not associated with a Google profile.

Happy Reading! ~Brenda

Blog Tour & Contest: Aching for Always

Aching for Always
Author: Gwyn Cready
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: 9/28/2010
Available from Amazon

Summary: In Aching for Always, one map can forever changes the lives of two people--Hugh Hawksmoor, a handsome, determined sea captain who has traveled from the eighteenth century to avenge his brother's death, and Joss O'Mally, whose struggles to keep her mother's mapmaking company afloat ties her to her own past. When they meet, there are fireworks--literally, and Joss finds herself falling for Hugh's ample charms. But when he tricks her into returning to the past with him, each will face the hardest decision each has ever had to make.

I asked to participate in the blog tour for Aching for Always because I had enjoyed the author's last book, Flirting With Forever, and I wanted to check out what she had created for readers this time around. Aching for Always is part time travel adventure and part historical romance. It's an enchanting story revolving around the creation of maps and how a simple adjustment can change the course of history. It takes place in Pittsburgh, which I visited last summer, and loved for it's history and beauty. It's a historic and lovely setting for a romance.

Old fashioned maps have always intrigued me with their beauty and detail. I'd never taken the time to learn more about the making of maps and was taken in by this aspect of the book. The author mixed elements of mystery, adventure, romance and magic together to create a story that captures the reader's imagination and heart. Hugh, our hero, is a brooding naval captain set on revenge, which of course makes him sexy, especially as he alternates between charming Joss and wanting to ring her neck. Our heroine is often like a bouncing ball in the story, not knowing who to trust or give her heart to. Though their romance is very sexually charged and steamy, especially near the end of the book, I actually loved the romance between Joss's mother and Hugh's brother more in some ways. As I was reading, I found myself wishing the author would share more of their relationship. Joss's mother is a passionate mapmaker and Hugh's brother is the man who gives up everything to protect her. Every mention of Joss's mother is captivating and romantic.

The publisher has graciously allowed me to give away one copy of Aching for Always in paperback. I will randomly pick one winner from the comments on October 15, 2010. Please answer this question for me:

Have you read books with a time travel element? If so, is there one you'd recommend to me, and why? If you haven't read any books with time travel, is there a reason you haven't?

Leave your answers in the comments, and include your email if you don't have an email attached to your Google profile.

Aching for Always Launch Contest is going on now too. The prize is a GORGEOUS Kate Spade handbag with a leopard print that evokes the shoes on the cover of Aching for Always. It's easy to enter. Just click here. But hurry, this contest ends October 4, 2010.